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Sea urchin nickel ‘trick’ could be key to capturing carbon

Researchers from Newcastle University have discovered that sea urchins use the metal nickel to convert carbon dioxide into bony shell. Like many sea creatures, sea urchins convert CO2 into calcium carbonate–essentially chalk. However, researchers found sea urchins use nickel in this process and that by adding extremely small particles of nickel to a solution of carbon dioxide and water, more calcium carbonate could be formed than usual. According to scientists from the research group, this has major implications for carbon capture technologies–instead of capturing carbon from power plants or other emissions sites and storing it underground, carbon could be “locked” into a substance like calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate. While a similar process already exists, the sea urchin’s nickel method would be significantly less expensive than the current procedure which uses the enzyme carbon anhydrase.

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