Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have proposed using asbestos to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But instead of developing filters with a new filler, they propose to use asbestos directly for these purposes in the process of its extraction in mines. Going forward, this will help breathe new life into a fading industry.
In past years, asbestos was highly valued due to its heat resistance, strength and special fibrous structure, which made it possible to create a refractory woven fabric from the mineral. Alas, these same fibers have proven to be a key factor in the development of lung cancer, mesothelioma or asbestosis. People began to treat asbestos with great caution, mass mining declined, and many mines were closed.
The discovery of American scientists is that precisely carcinogenic types of asbestos, due to the huge surface area on their countless fibers, are excellent at absorbing carbon. The material is especially effective in absorbing carbon from air or dissolved in water (for example, contained in atmospheric precipitation). Upon contact of asbestos and carbon, magnesite compounds are formed, stable and inert, which do not pose a danger. Thus, two tasks are solved - the atmosphere is cleaned and hazardous asbestos is neutralized.
The problem is that to effectively clean the air, you need to filter huge volumes of gas, for which you need to extract a proportional amount of asbestos, which, before entering into a reaction, is still extremely dangerous. Therefore, to reduce the risk, scientists have proposed upgrading the mining technology so that asbestos captures carbon directly in the mine. All the most dangerous things will happen inside, and only neutral magnesite will come out. The technology is not yet ready, but engineers are already conducting experimental work in one of the closed asbestos mines.