Clean Process Demonstrated Creating Carbon Fibers from Atmosphere

A team of researchers at George Washington University report success in creating carbon fibers (also known as graphite) from atmospheric carbon dioxide, using a solar array as a heat and electricity source. Carbon is seen today as being both a curse (as a greenhouse gas), and a critical material for use in high tech products (e.g. carbon nanotubes, graphene).

An article from the MIT Technology Review explains the process:

The process requires molten lithium carbonate, with another compound, lithium oxide, dissolved in it. The lithium oxide combines with carbon dioxide in the air, forming more lithium carbonate. When voltage is applied across two electrodes immersed in the molten carbonate, the resulting reaction produces oxygen, carbon—which deposits on one of the electrodes—and lithium oxide, which can be used to capture more carbon dioxide and start the process again.

Head researcher Stuart Licht, a chemistry professor at GWU sees the potential for this process to be used as a means of reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere while at the same time being a source of a raw material that could one day be used to replace steel, aluminum and concrete due to superior strength, lightness and conductivity.

Having a clean energy source is essential if one of the goals is to reduce atmospheric carbon. This could be another future application for LENR if it comes online commercially.

  • nkonyaman

    I think that non-LENR postings decrease the signal-to-noise and consequently the quality of this excellent blog.

    • GreenWin

      Carbon fiber and graphene will likely play a future role as nanomaterial substrates for LENR. This blog’s author Frank Acland implies that by including the article here.

      • Frank Acland

        My main point in including this here is that it illustrates just one thing that can be done with an abundant supply of clean inexpensive energy.

        • f sedei

          Fascinating breakthrough technology to know in the LENR quest. Thank you for sharing.

        • Michael S

          Maybe somebody could do the Math until the end and calculate how much energy would be needed to extract a significant amount of CO2 in order to curb/compensate global heating (I can not) ? Order of magnitude of course only ;-). That effort spread over 30-80 years. That plus assumptions of declining CO2 production thanks to shift to non CO2 producing energy source could maybe deliver a hopeful result. After all it’s “only” compensating 150 years of rising air pollution (peak being now)…

  • Christina



  • Obvious

    Another example of dumb smart people, or smart people scamming for more funding.
    Neat process, but will never contribute to carbon as a raw material in a remotely significant way, unless the world needs carbon at $10,000/ton.
    They had better come up with a better use for the process.

    • USSSkipjack

      I fully agree! This is absolutely idiotic.

  • USSSkipjack

    CO2 makes 0.04% of the atmosphere. Yes there is another zero after the comma. Now do the math and think about how large a volume of air you have to constantly move in order to extract commercially relevant amounts from it? Now think about the energy just that takes (not even counting the energy that is needed by the process itself). How would this achieve anything?

    • MWerner

      Your detailed evaluation of this process is enlightening. Were you at MIT in 1989 also?

      • USSSkipjack

        I dont have to have been at the MIT in order to do a simple math exercise. If you have to process tens of thousands of liters of air in order to get one gram of carbon fiber, you have an obvious problem.
        It might make sense if it was combined with a carbon capture system at a coal power plant. I dont quite know about that to be sure, though.

    • monti

      In 1 liter of air there r 0.16 grams of carbon. If u take some conversion factor of 0.1 for the reaction (which is taken just as an example. I have no idea how high or low the conversion factor might be) u can extract 0.016 grams per liter. so if u want to extract 1 kilo u have to extract 62500 liters of air. Which is 62,50 m³ wchich translates to an air cubus of roughly 4 meters of length.

      • Obvious

        That seems like too much carbon per litre. Is that C or CO2 you started with?
        (Quickly calculating, I got 0.02 g/L carbon in air)

        • monti

          to be honest i was asking wolfram alpha for it.

          but i think theres a mistake.

          If i do the math by hand:
          1 liter is the 22.4th of a mol. multiplied by 0.0004 for the 0.04 percent of CO² and multiplied by 12 for the atomic weight of carbon in the CO² i get:

          • Obvious

            I used 1.19 g for one L of air, standard conditions, 0.06 wt % CO2, and 0.3 C in CO2… Not very precise… I think you have the volume figure ( 400 ppm), while I used 358 ppm volume , converted to volume %, but averaged up to make it closer to 400 as I did the calculations.

      • USSSkipjack

        This is most likely wrong. Todays CO2 concentration is about 0.0383% by volume (383 ppmv) or 0.0582% by weight.
        One liter of air weights 1.2 grams. According to my math, one liter of air yields you 0.0006984 grams of CO2. Now not even all of that is carbon (some of it is oxygen). Now think about how many thousands of liters of air you have to move for a single gram of carbon fiber. It seems impractical. I think it could make sense if it was put together with a carbon capture system at a coal power plant but I dont know enough about both processes to say for sure.

  • Axil Axil

    Scientists find possible replacement for platinum as catalyst

    This is another application of the superatom process. Molybdenum and carbon can replace palladium because the carbon provides an isoelectric equivalence between Molybdenum and carbon to mimic palladium. A laser can create a super-catalyst when nanoparticles of Molybdenum are added to a graphene substrate. This might be a good route(AKA inexpensive) to LENR. In the Lugano test, Molybdenum and carbon were found in the fuel load but not the ash.

    Molybdenum + Carbon = Palladium

  • Herb Gillis

    Another way to look at this is as a way to store heat energy. Assuming lots of cheap heat energy at the appropriate temperature CO2 can be converted to C. The CO2 could come from a conventional power plant. If the conversion is efficient enough the C resulting from this process could then be converted by well known methods to calcium carbide- – a precursor (when mixed with water) to H2.

  • Obvious

    I used 1.19 g for one L of air, standard conditions, 0.06 wt % CO2, and 0.3% C in CO2… Not very precise… I think you have the volume percent figure ( 400 ppm), while I used 358 ppm volume %, but averaged up to make it closer to 400.