A compound that can absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has been developed by a team of researchers, who made their breakthrough after studying the molecules present in urine.
Researchers found that for every molecule of urea in urine, one mole (a chemical unit used to measure the quantity of a substance) of ammonium bicarbonate is produced along with one mole of ammonia, which could be used to absorb one mole of atmospheric CO2.
"For every molecule of urea in urine, one mole of ammonium bicarbonate is produced along with one mole of ammonia, which could be used to absorb one mole of atmospheric CO2," said Manuel Jiménez Aguilar, researcher at the Institute of Agricultural and Fisheries Research and Training of the Regional Government of Andalusia.
Researchers claim that after ammonia absorbs the CO2, the resulting ammonium bicarbonate could be used as a base for nitrogen fertilisers. China has been using ammonium bicarbonate as a nitrogen fertiliser for 30 years.
To help the potion retain its effectiveness, the researchers added a small amount of olive waste water, a byproduct of olive oil production. They found that the olive waste water acts as a preservative. As a result, the mixture can absorb various grams of CO2 per litre in a stable manner and over more than six months. According to Jiménez Aguilar, "CO2 emissions could be reduced by 1%."
Researchers believe that the new potion could be used in domestic and industrial chimneys so that when greenhouse gas passes through the liquid, the potion will absorb the CO2.
The new treatment could change forever the way industrialised countries treat waste water and solid waste, encouraging the development of new waste recycling and management systems.
"In developing countries this nutrient recovery system could be implemented thanks to its environmental advantages," Jiménez Aguilar said.
"Furthermore, urine recycling in every home would allow for nutrients to be recovered, leading to a lesser need for artificial fertilisers and if urine and faeces are recycled there and then, as much as 20 litres of water per person per day could be saved and this would reduce waste water treatment costs."