Cornell University scientists have developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester the carbon dioxide and produce electricity.

The group's proposed cell would use aluminum as the anode and mixed streams of carbon dioxide and oxygen as the active ingredients of the cathode. The electrochemical reactions between the anode and the cathode would sequester the carbon dioxide into carbon-rich compounds while also producing electricity and a valuable oxalate as a byproduct.

One of the roadblocks to adopting current carbon dioxide capture technology in electric power plants is that the regeneration of the fluids used for capturing carbon dioxide utilize as much as 25 percent of the energy output of the plant, seriously limiting commercial viability of the technology.

"The fact that we've designed a carbon capture technology that also generates electricity is, in and of itself, important," said Lynden Archer, the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering.

The group reported that their electrochemical cell generated 13 ampere hours per gram of porous carbon (as the cathode) at a discharge potential of around 1.4 volts. The energy produced by the cell is comparable to that produced by the highest energy-density battery systems.

As many aluminum plants incorporate the power-generation facility into their operations, the technology could assist in both power generation and reducing carbon emissions.

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