A hilarious new use for those old AOL discs – carbon sequestration

From the American Chemical Society

How unwanted CDs and DVDs could help cut carbon emissions

AOL-discs

Now that most consumers download and stream their movies and music, more and more CDs and DVDs will end up in landfills or be recycled. But soon these discarded discs could take on a different role: curbing the release of greenhouse gases. In the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, scientists report a way to turn the discs into a material that can capture carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, and other compounds.

Mietek Jaroniec and colleagues from Poland and the U.S. note that manufacturers typically use natural sources, such as coal and wood, to make activated carbon. The material is then incorporated in a wide range of applications from decaffeination to gas purification. More recently, scientists have been preparing activated carbon out of everyday plastic products. Jaroniec’s team wanted to try this with optical discs, a fast-growing part of our waste stream.

The researchers processed disc fragments into two kinds of activated carbon with high surface areas and large volumes of fine pore. These key characteristics allowed the materials to capture carbon dioxide. They also adsorbed hydrogen gas and benzene, a carcinogenic compound used in industrial processes. The researchers say that in addition to carbon capture applications, their materials could be used to separate volatile organic compounds and store hydrogen.

###

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Science Centre of Poland.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: Twitter Facebook

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Now that most consumers download and stream their movies and music, more and more CDs and DVDs will end up in landfills or be recycled. But soon these discarded discs could take on a different role: curbing the release of greenhouse gases. In the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, scientists report a way to turn the discs into a material that can capture carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, and other compounds.

Mietek Jaroniec and colleagues from Poland and the U.S. note that manufacturers typically use natural sources, such as coal and wood, to make activated carbon. The material is then incorporated in a wide range of applications from decaffeination to gas purification. More recently, scientists have been preparing activated carbon out of everyday plastic products. Jaroniec’s team wanted to try this with optical discs, a fast-growing part of our waste stream.

The researchers processed disc fragments into two kinds of activated carbon with high surface areas and large volumes of fine pore. These key characteristics allowed the materials to capture carbon dioxide. They also adsorbed hydrogen gas and benzene, a carcinogenic compound used in industrial processes. The researchers say that in addition to carbon capture applications, their materials could be used to separate volatile organic compounds and store hydrogen.

###

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Science Centre of Poland.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: Twitter Facebook

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

Advertisements

98 thoughts on “A hilarious new use for those old AOL discs – carbon sequestration

  1. This is crazy talk. How many discarded CDs will make any measurable difference? Most CDs are not discarded, but are in someone’s closet or drawer, garage, attic, or storage area…

      • Yes, they make great coasters. I use the Martha Stewart method, using a sheet of green felt and spray on glue and pressing the discs label down, then trimming with an Exacto blade. They’re much more useful in combating the environmental scourge of rings on the coffee table.

    • Besides, CDs are shiny on one side. It would be a shame to destroy all those handy potential solar mirrors, that could be set up to focus the sun’s rays on birds; excuse me, I meant to say on a barrel, to make heat for steam energy.

  2. How does collecting and processing CDs compete with petroleum coke and coal as raw materials for activated carbon. I’m flabbergasted that unicorn chemistry has invaded the august American Chemical Society. Engineers have been a bastion against sciency stupidity but it seems to be crumbling lately

  3. This isn’t the first study I’ve seen proposing the same thing. But news for the researchers, the era of the CD is at an end. In a few more years CD’s, DVD’s, BluRay’s, etc, will be as obsolete as the floppy disk. They are researching a way to recycle something that won’t be produced anymore in order, and hence has an on going recycling potential of zero.

      • “We’re approaching peak optical disk”
        Approaching? We blew past that years ago. CD capacity is a measly 740 MB of data, and a DVD is only 4.7 GB (9.4 GB double sided). 8GB thumb drives are $6, 32GB are around $12.
        Even 1/4 TB thumb drives are only $80. That’s the same storage capacity as 345 CD’s, or over 25 double sided DVDs.
        Remember when a CD held a lot of data?

    • Why not just bury the discs themselves in a mine. All of that carbon will be sequestered with minimal processing!

  4. Activated charcoal for industrial use is usually from coconut shell. ‘Manufactured’ carbon generally has a higher attrition rate and often lower activity. Most gold mines use carbon to recover the dissolved gold. They buy it by the tens of tons. That portion of carbon fines that can be recovered are usually sent to a smelter, so the carbon is destined to become carbon dioxide.

  5. I must have missed a meeting.
    Here I thought we were finished carbon sequestration from the last ice age and were creeping forward, liberating that carbon for the plants and animals.
    (I finally burned my last brick of punch cards this winter in the wood stove.)

    • “(I finally burned my last brick of punch cards this winter in the wood stove.)
      Say it ain’t so, Bubba! Say it ain’t so! (sob!)

    • I love it!
      “I’m not a denier….I’m a carbon liberator”
      I’m printing bumper stickers. I think carbon black on a snow white background would look good…

      • Yup. I forget now how we interrupted those infinite loops (wasn’t alt-ctrl-del) might have been hard switch flipping on the ole IBM 360’s – had to be tough on them however. Ah, grad school nights running our own crap on admin machines. Maybe that’s what started all this climate strange??
        Yes, H.R. it’s so. but I believe I still have some 5 1/4 floppies. Have no idea what junk is on them.

      • Let’s just say we wouldn’t be mired in all this modeling madness if the Greens still had to use punch cards. They’d be forced into a bit more humility.

      • I still have a working Commodore 64 with some engineering programs in the basement. Should have recycled it years ago along with Frogger, WWI biplane fighters and …
        Something visceral just stops me from throwing out the machine that taught my kids programming and hacks.

      • That Junk as you call it Bubba is iron oxide. We are going to need that to make more battle ships.
        g

    • Well that’s that then, no more use for my Hollerith card gauges to make sure the holes are in the right places. Still, they’re kind of pretty. I also have a print drum which someday I’ll use to make alphabet sugar cookies.

      • Can I buy them? i remember our computer department absolutely going bonkers when a paper punch tape would break ( was that before cards?) I was really young then and the comp whizzes were “gods” in the research station! But the attrition rate was astounding , mental breakdowns were the main reasons for sick leave.

      • Paper punch rolls were common on remote dial up terminals in the 70’s and 80’s at least where I worked. We put structural input on paper tape for recording and uploading to a remote mainframe on dial up and T1 lines if my memory is correct.

        • My first mainframe was a cluster of four Control Data 1604’s with several smaller CDC 160’s for print management, disk management. The disks were huge mechanical IBM, hydraulically actuated, 50 platters (two groups of 25 vertically stacked if I remember right). We had about 30 IBM 729 tape drives; every once in a while one would malfunction with both servos going in opposite directions at the same time, stretching and then snapping the magnetic tape. Once a reel popped off during rewind which is really fast; rewinds a 2400 foot tape in 20 to 30 seconds. They had very big, very expensive DC servomotors and those things could scream.
          It was all TTL logic. Open the cabinets, turn out the lights and it was fantastic to watch. Millions of wire-wrapped connections, most with diagnostic lamps.
          It’s clock speed was amazingly slow in the kilohertz range. Even so it was a marvel of efficiency.
          That’s where I got my start in machine language programming, right at the console, entering bits. I was amazed when my tiny program added two numbers and displayed the result. By the time I soldered together a kit of the Altair 8800 I decided that entering bits via switch was “no fun”.

    • Oh my. I just burned the last of mine this winter as well. What took a 6 inch stack of punch cards and access to a multi million dollar mainframe 50 years ago can now be done on a hand held programmable calculator. Amazing advancements in technology. In some fields. But GIGO still applies. (CAGW)

      • Another walk down memory lane — before working on the CDC mainframe I programmed IBM 407 Accounting Machine. What a beast. It weighs over a ton. It’s mechanical but quite sophisiticated for all that.

  6. How were the discs processed? Maybe there were heated using coal-generated electricity?

  7. As holder of several recent US patents on new activated carbons for advanced energy storage (supercaps), let me assure all here that this post’spaper is beyond stupidity. Once some material is carbonized (we use cellulose in the form of chemically purified Tencel rayon made using the lyocell nmmo process from dissolving wood pulp precursor–wood pulp with most hemicellulose and lignin pre removed), the additional activation mass loss to optimal performance is about 65%. So 2/3 of the purified resultant carbon is converted to CO2 via the activation process no matter whether physical or chemical activation. By definition, this is 45% ( ordinary phosphoric acid water filtration) to 85% ( steam pharmaceutical purification). The remainder activated carbon cannot capture as much CO2 back as is released during activation. Simple mass balance/ Languimur absorption considerations. Geez.
    I can assure all here that if waste DVD/CD plastic had been a more economical precursor than used lingerie made from rayon, we would have gone there along with the Office of Naval Research, who supported the patent materials development to the tune of $1.8 million.
    And, all activated carbons can store some hydrogen. Just not usefully. More than 1.5 decades of reseach into that, including my own. See essay Hydrogen Hype for more amusing details.
    The stupid here burns.

  8. If they want to sequester carbon, just outlaw paper recycling – collect old paper and bury it in old coal mines.

    • Build houses and other structures out of wood and paper instead of concrete and bricks, that would achieve the same end, and house the homeless into the bargain. Oh wait a minute that’s what they are already doing …. and have done for hundreds of years in Japan and elsewhere.
      One renowned architect in this field is Shigeru Ban, known for his innovative work with paper, particularly recycled cardboard tubes used to quickly and efficiently house disaster victims.
      http://www.shigerubanarchitects.com/works.html

  9. Gary Pearse  April 8, 2015 at 4:12 pm
    ” Engineers have been a bastion against sciency stupidity but it seems to be crumbling lately”
     Being a mechanical engineer for many decades, please don’t tar us all with
    the same brush. The vast majority I’ve worked with over the years are pretty conservative and highly skeptical of everything. It’s genetic I think

    • Take heart, O Wonderful* Engineer!
      Engineers are still very much viewed as disciplined thinkers who are not easily swayed by emotional pleas which are ILLOGICAL and run counter to data and or measured evidence (non-logical pleas are another matter — most engineers do have great hearts, too!).
      Proof: any continuing legal ed. course on jury selection ALWAYS encourages criminal defense counsel in nearly every type of case to use peremptories (if possible) to get engineers off the panel (and in civil matters, too, for some plaintiff’s personal injury or medical malpractice counsel). Engineers are too focused on facts and logic, lol.
      *(the 3 dearest men on earth to me are engineers)

      • Anyone can obtain a degree in any field if they have the time and money today. Think about that the next time you see your physician.

      • Janice, yup, as an engineer I have never actually served on a jury, been called for jury duty several times, always got sent home by the defense attorney.
        Cheers, KevinK

      • Oh, maybe bringing a copy of Mien Kampf along while in the jury waiting room and holding it clearly in sight so everybody could see what I was “reading” helped get me booted out of the jury pool….. Ha ha.

      • I think you must have something, being an unemployed land surveyor, I got picked for a murder trial in Chicago.
        The defendant (after sitting through the jury selection, etc.), somehow crashed a car into a building, rendering himself unfit (hospitalized) for the trial.
        I spent 4 days of my life waiting to judge this man, he played the system, the Judge finally let us jurors go home.
        She admitted that the man had been playing the system for years, and she just wanted to get him off her docket. (She kept us an extra day, hoping for his quick recovery).
        She was really sharp !!,
        Tear any one of us a new one.
        Just sayin.

      • Same is, or used to be, true so us scientists (me, biochemist). Every time I’ve been called to jury duty I’ve been excused. Seems the lawyers don’t wqnt anyone they think might weigh the evidence in a logical manner.

  10. Enviroprofiteers, Inc. Announces Its Latest Marketing Strategy!

    :
    Advertising campaign slogan (based on the l1e that CO2 is “a key greenhouse gas“: “Sequester your dangerous CO2 for just pennies per month!”
    Goals:
    1. A market for CD/DVD inventory sitting in warehouses and for the raw materials and WIP (work in process) already in the production pipeline.
    2. Promotion of windmill/solar sc@ms by asserting that CO2 is bad.
    My guess is the #2 is the main driver, here, thus, this is most likely, at bottom (at the slimy, swamp-mud, bottom) being pushed by the windmill/solar “‘investors” trying to shore up their permanently negative ROI (but for tax subsidies, traditional power rate surcharges, and Envirostalinist regulations) projects.
    ****************************
    {Also, unfortunately
    (they do not NEED to do this — nuclear power, an excellent source of power, needs only to be deregulated in the U.S. to be a terrific, economically viable, power source),
    the nuclear power industry seems to sometimes be inclined to resort to this slimeball tactic as well — their goal: demonize fossil fuels to create market share by regulation instead of simply working for the deregulation that would allow nuclear power to gain share by honest competition. And shame on them for doing so.}

  11. If it absorbs Hydrogen well that would be great for fuel cell powered cars! Metal Hydride storage is too heavy for a car but plastic or carbon hydride?

    • Then again you can just have cylinders of hydrogen gas.
      You can even “store” hydrogen in a volatile liquid, under
      ordinary atmospheric pressure. With this process CO2
      is continually recycled, as of course is the hydrogen.
      Naturally there is an energy input cost, and it remains
      to be seen whether this is economic commercially, when
      not State Grant Aided !
      “The team at Air Fuel Synthesis believe there is a strong case, based on energy security and ambitious carbon reduction targets, to develop a drop in, near carbon neutral, aviation fuel using low carbon electricity, hydrogen, and atmospheric carbon dioxide.”
      http://www.airfuelsynthesis.com/
      There are many similar proposals, but all do depend
      largely on grants and tax breaks from state governments.

    • Wun Hung Lo wrote
      “The team at Air Fuel Synthesis believe there is a strong case, based on energy security and ambitious carbon reduction targets, to develop a drop in, near carbon neutral, aviation fuel using low carbon electricity, hydrogen, and atmospheric carbon dioxide.”
      Do me a favour , this is a pop up company in Darlington, in an area I know well.
      A quick check with companies house shows that It has no assets and operates
      out of a small rented industrial unit. It shares this palatial residence
      with the following companies
      Air Fuel Synthesis Holdings Limited
      Air Fuel Synthesis Finance Limited
      Air Fuel Synthesis Energy Limited
      Afs Fuels Limited
      Afs Farming Limited
      Afs Developments Limited
      Afs Capture Limited
      Avocet Fuel Systems Plc
      None appear to have existed before 2014 and no accounts have been filed.
      There does not appear to be room in this unit for more than a desk and a phone.
      Caveat Emptor

      • @Keith Willshaw
        You are on the face of it correct, such companies as you describe do exist. I did check with the UK authorities at your suggestion, and I am told that in the UK this is quite usual, nothing out of the ordinary, and not illegal. Businesses do this to spread tax liability and because different groups of directors may be involved in different ventures outside the business of the “AFS” company in this instance.
        I have my own views on this apparently obfuscatory interlocking of different businesses, with pooled financial resources. Still this is a legal method of doing business in the Great Britain. Go figure.
        Leaving aside the structure of the AFS businesses, the method of the process is well founded, though perhaps not strictly speaking “economic” as others have pointed out. The company claims that this is a good method of storing otherwise unwanted electricity, generated during the night from wind turbines, that would otherwise be wasted, as well as being a drop in replacement fuel for existing internal combustion engines.
        Of course the process itself is not new and similar projects were used by the Axis powers in WW2, Since then, as late as 2005 the US Government (Dept of Navy) has formalized and patented the process to provide a method of manufacturing hyrdocarbon fuels, on board ships at seam from spare electrical power generated by onboard nuclear rectors. In such circumstances however, economic viability is not the prime consideration. Self sustainability of fuel for helicopters, motor launches and similar is the prime motivation. Perhaps AFS would do well in a similar field, and of course we don’t know whether in fact they are?
        Here are the details of the current US Patent on the process.
        Process and System for producing synthetic liquid hydrocarbon fuels
        Abstract
        A process for producing synthetic hydrocarbons that reacts carbon dioxide, obtained from seawater of air, and hydrogen obtained from water, with a catalyst in a chemical process such as reverse water gas shift combined with Fischer Tropsch synthesis. The hydrogen is produced by nuclear reactor electricity, nuclear waste heat conversion, ocean thermal energy conversion, or any other source that is fossil fuel-free, such as wind or wave energy. The process can be either land based or sea based.
        Inventors: Hardy; Dennis R. (Alexandria, VA), Coffey; Timothy (McLean, VA)
        Assignee: The United States of America as represented by the Secretary of the Navy (Washington, DC)
        Appl. No.: 11/108,149
        Filed: April 12, 2005
        http://www.patents.com/us-7420004.html
        The Patent also goes hand in glove with this NASA Funded
        project, in collaboration with a 30 year old Catalyst company..
        http://sbir.nasa.gov/SBIR/successes/ss/9-070text.html
        Interestingly according to AFS website today :
        “Air Fuel Synthesis has been successful with a Joint Venture funding bid in Round 4 of the Regional Growth Fund applications. AFS will design and build a commercial scale Methanol to Petrol processing plant producing (initially) 1.2m litres of Bio-Fuel annually. The plant will be located at a site in Peterlee and will create 82+ jobs over the project duration …. The total grant value is £2.7m against a total Capital Expenditure of £9.0m over the next 3 years and this will be the first installation of this type in the UK.” Maybe if you live near Peterlee, you will pop along for us, and tell us how the AFS project is progressing?
        Essentially this is the same process as patented by the US Navy, and in that it seems technically genuine and feasible, however it can never be truly economically viable, and will always have to rely on subsidised electrical generation. Still it is a method of storing electricity, though I don’t know why they feel the need to go beyond Methanol synthesis.
        My point was really not to promote AFS group, but to illustrate that there are alternatives to electric vehicles powered by batteries, and we don’t need some groundbreaking new technology to do this, as was suggested by using “carbon hydride” made from old CD and DVD disks.

  12. With very few exceptions, most of the CD’s and DVD’s produced today belong in a landfill anyway in terms of the quality of their contents.

    • …. or…… use them in a little game of CD bowling #(:))
      like these guys …. (youtube)

      {WARNING: The word “c-r-a-p” is used in the above vid. That’s a BIG DEAL to some people. Heh.}

    • You got that right.
      Even in Mozart’s day, most of the stuff most of the guys were writing was total junk, and it is still junk today. But KDFC in California has the world’s largest collection of that junk, and they play it incessantly on their radio station.
      If you ever hear some 19th Century German Romantic music, you better call the cops, and report a break in at KDFC.
      g

  13. Can’t you guys take a joke? This is in the same vein as “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline”. Probably first published in The Peruvian Journal of Scatological Research (definitely peer-reviewed).

  14. I haven’t checked recently but old AOL discs or floppies were a collector’s item, I have a bunch somewhere, my first few years back in the early 90’s was on AOL, back when they charged by the hour! Ouch.

  15. “In the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, scientists report a way to turn the discs into a material that can capture carbon dioxide ….. The researchers processed disc fragments into two kinds of activated carbon with high surface areas and large volumes of fine pore. These key characteristics allowed the materials to capture carbon dioxide.”
    What is the chemistry involved here ?
    How exactly does this “activated carbon” “capture” carbon dioxide ?
    in the Abstract to the paper, the authors state that ..
    “The excellent adsorption properties of the prepared carbons
    render them as potential adsorbents in CO2 capture and storage”
    though they don’t say exactly how this is achieved,
    and a user will have to pay $35 to read the full paper.
    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acssuschemeng.5b00036
    in another paper it is explained that this is mostly not a chemical bonding process….
    “the CO2 adsorption capacity of both solid adsorbents decreases with temperature, and it implies the existence of physical adsorption (physisorption) between the CO2 molecules and carbonaceous adsorbent. Maroto-Valer et al. (2005) reported that physisorption process involves high surface adsorption energy and molecule diffusion at elevated temperatures, which results in instability of the adsorbed gas on the surface of activated carbon and consequently, desorption process will occur”
    CHEMICAL ENGINEERING TRANSACTIONS
    VOL. 35, 2013
    Kinetic Studies on Carbon Dioxide Capture using Activated
    Carbon
    Nor Adilla Rashidia, Suzana Yusupa, Lam Hon Loongb
    http://www.aidic.it/cet/13/35/060.pdf
    there is no charge to read this paper !
    I wonder if you notice a pattern. That “new” and controversial hypotheses are often flagged up by some pseudo-scientific-journal, and to read the full story and results, a user must pay a considerable fee, only to find out that the process is either hokum, or not new at all. On the other hand we see published, in full, and free of charge explanations which are seemingly far more honest about their aims and results, even if their initial premise is unproven, and seems flawed. ie. “Global warming and global climatic changes resulted from anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has become the main issue recently.”

  16. That’s what I love about this website: Just when you think curbing or sequestrating CO2 emissions, to mitigate a non-existent problem, couldn’t get any more stupid or expensive; it does!!

  17. So put them at the top of the smokestack and they will soak up CO2. The CO2CD will then fall to the bottom of the stack. Something like a restaurant buffet plate caddy design will put the next CD in line.

Comments are closed.