Quoting Jonathan Hines at the Environmental Resilience Institute: "Chen Zhu, a globally recognized geologist and professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences within the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, has been awarded $736,000 from the National Science Foundation to solve long-standing gaps in scientists’ understanding of CO2-water-rock interactions that naturally remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, limiting global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C requires the storage of hundreds of gigatons of CO2 in aquifers, soils, and oceans in the next few decades. As the US and other countries accelerate efforts to decarbonize the global economy and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, strategies to remove carbon from the atmosphere are increasingly viewed as an essential part of the solution.
Zhu’s team is particularly interested in investigating basalt-CO2-water interactions, which have shown potential for rapid, long-term carbon storage. Basalts, dark volcanic rocks commonly found around the world, have long piqued the interest of climate researchers. Their high concentrations of ionized calcium and magnesium act as CO2 magnets, binding with the gas to form calcite, dolomite, and magnesite. In one experiment conducted at a geothermal power plant in Iceland, 90% of carbon dioxide—dissolved in water and injected underground—transformed into minerals in just 2 years.