Researchers led by Professor Ian Power from Trent University in Canada have found a way of making magnesite, which absorbs carbon dioxide, in a matter of days rather than the hundreds of thousands of years which it takes in nature.
A tonne of naturally-occurring magnesite can remove around half a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere but the rate of formation is very slow.
The researchers have found that, by using polystyrene microspheres as a catalyst, magnesite would form within 72 days. The microspheres themselves are unchanged by the production process, so they can ideally be reused. This process takes place at room temperature, meaning that magnesite production is extremely energy efficient.
Currently, this is an experimental process, and will need to be scaled up before magnesite could be used in carbon sequestration. But, if the process can be scaled up, it has the potential of offering a benign and inexpensive route to carbon storage and even direct CO2 removal from the atmosphere.