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This tiny, emerging technology could solve the carbon capture and storage problem.
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This tiny, emerging technology could solve the carbon capture and storage problem.

Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor


Carbon capture and Storage (CCS), has been cited repeatedly as one of Australia’s most important technologies to help it achieve its climate goals. and features heavily in the federal government’s plan for net-zero emissions by 2050.

CCS is generally whenEmissions are captured at the source (e.g. from a coal-fired electricity station), transported to a remote location, and stored underground.

But critics say investing in carbon capture and storage (CCS) means betting on technology that’s not yet proven to work at scale. Technology-wise, the creation of effective carbon-capturing substances, both liquid and solid, has been a difficult task.

So could it ever be a viable solution to the fossil fuel industry’s carbon dioxide emissions?

Emerging overseas research shows “liquid marbles” – tiny droplets coated with nanoparticles – could possibly address current challenges in materials used to capture carbon. And our modelling researchYesterday’s publication,, brings us one step closer to making this futuristic technology become a reality.

Carbon capture issues

Its. Technology Investment RoadmapThe Morrison government regards CCS as a matter of public policy. priority low-emissions technology, is investingIt will cost A$300 Million over ten years to build.

However, CCS’s efficacy has been surpassed by its efficiency. long been controversialDue to its high-operational cost and scaling-up problems for a wider application.

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An ongoing problem, more specifically, is the effectiveness of materials used to capture the CO₂, such as absorbents. One example is called “amine scrubbing”, a method used since 1930 to separate, for instance, CO₂ from natural gas and hydrogen.

Aminode scrubbing is not for everyone. It can be expensive and can cause corrosion-related problems. high losses in materials and energy. Liquid marblesThese challenges can be overcome.

This technology can be nearly invisible to the naked eyes, with some marbles measuring less than one millimetre in diameter. The liquid it holds – most commonly water or alcohol – is on the scale of microlitres (a microlitre is one thousandth of a millilitre).

Marbles have a layer of nanoparticles on the outer layer that forms a porous shell and prevents liquids from leaking. They can behave like soft, flexible and stretchable solids with a liquid core, thanks to this armour.

Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor

Although carbon capture and preservation is a priority technology for the federal government, some critics believe it will only allow the fossil fuel sector to continue polluting.
AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

What does CCS have to do with marbles?

Liquid marbles can float, roll smoothly, and can be stacked one on top of the other.

Other desirable properties include low friction and resistance to contamination. This makes them ideal for gas capture, drug delivery, or even miniature bio-reactors.

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In the context of CO₂ capture, their ability to selectively interact with gases, liquids and solids is most crucial. The key advantage of liquid marbles is their shape and size. Large reactors can easily install thousands of spherical particles that are only millimetres wide.

Gas from the reactor hits the marbles, where it clings to the nanoparticle outer shell (in a process called “adsorption”). The gas then reacts with the liquid within, separating the CO₂ and capturing it inside the marble. Later, we can take out this CO₂ and store it underground, and then recycle the liquid for future processing.

This process can be a more time and cost-efficient way of capturing CO₂ due to, for example, the liquid (and potentially solid) recycling, as well as the marbles’ high mechanical strength, reactivity, sorption rates and long-term stability.

So what’s stopping us?

Despite recent advances, many properties of liquid marmalades remain elusive. What’s more, the only way to test liquid marbles is currently through physical experiments conducted in a laboratory.

Physical experiments have their limitations, such as the difficulty to measure the surface tension and surface area, which are important indicators of the marble’s reactivity and stability.

A liquid marble with lines indicating its internal flow.
Nam-Trung Nguyen, Author provided

Our new website is designed to address this need. computational modellingThis can enhance our understanding of these properties and help us avoid expensive and time-consuming experiment-only procedures.

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Another challenge is the development of practical, rigorous and large scale methods to manipulate the liquid marble arrays in the reactor. Further computational modelling we’re currently working on will aim to analyse the three-dimensional changes in the shapes and dynamics of liquid marbles, with better convenience and accuracy.

This will open up new horizons for a myriad of engineering applications, including CO₂ capture.

Beyond carbon capture

Liquid marble research began as an inquisitive topic some 20 years ago. However, it has become a sought-after platform with many applications beyond carbon capture.

This cutting-edge technology will not only improve our ability to solve climate problems, but also help us solve environmental and medical problems.

For example, magnetic liquid marbles have shown their potential in biomedical proceduresBecause they can be opened and closed with magnets outside the body, liquid marbles are used for drug delivery. Liquid marbles can also be used for gas sensing, acidity sensing, or pollution detection.

After more experiments and modeling, the next step would be to scale this technology up for mainstream use.


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