The accidental discovery of a bowl-shaped molecule that pulls carbon dioxide out of the air could offer new possibilities for dealing with global warming, including genetically engineering microbes to manufacture these CO2 “catchers.”
J. A. Tossell, of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of Maryland, explains that another scientist discovered the molecule while doing research unrelated to global climate change. Carbon dioxide was collecting in the molecule, and the scientist realized that it was coming from air in the lab. Tossell recognized that these qualities might make it useful as an industrial absorbent for removing carbon dioxide.
Tossell’s new computer modeling studies found that the molecule might be well-suited for removing carbon dioxide directly from ambient air, in addition to its potential use as an absorbent for CO2 from electric power plants and other smokestacks. Living organisms that are capable of emplacing structurally ion receptors within their cell membranes may also be developed.