Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have recently unveiled a groundbreaking method to effectively remove methane from the air, a significant contributor to climate change. Methane, the second-largest greenhouse gas, is considerably more potent than carbon dioxide. This new approach, involving a methane-cleaning reactor, has the potential to address emissions from various sources, including livestock housing, biogas, and wastewater treatment plants.
Challenges in Methane Emission Reduction
Methane emissions, largely originating from human activities, pose a considerable challenge in global efforts to combat climate change. While the gas can be burned off when its concentration exceeds 4%, the majority of emissions are at much lower concentrations, making effective removal a complex task.
The Breakthrough: Methane-Cleaning Reactor
Led by Professor Matthew Stanley Johnson, the research team developed a novel reaction chamber that simulates methane’s natural degradation process. Using chlorine and UV light, the researchers triggered a chain reaction, causing methane to break down and decompose into carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrogen (H2). This process mimics the natural atmospheric degradation but at a staggering speed—approximately 100 million times faster.
Key Findings and Potential Applications
The study demonstrated that the reaction chamber could eliminate 58% of methane from the air, with subsequent improvements bringing the efficiency to 88%. The researchers envision applying this technology to livestock housing, biogas facilities, and wastewater treatment plants. Livestock farms, equipped with advanced air purification systems, can integrate this methane-cleaning reactor to reduce emissions significantly.
A larger prototype of the reaction chamber is expected to arrive at the university soon, with plans to connect it to the ventilation system in a livestock barn. The collaboration between the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University, Arla, Skov, and UCPH spinout Ambient Carbon has paved the way for a groundbreaking solution to a pressing environmental challenge.
This very innovative methane-cleaning reactor holds promise in contributing to global efforts to reduce methane emissions and mitigate the impact of livestock and other sources on climate change. The study detailing the research is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.