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Synchrotron Catalyzed Sulfur BiCarbonate

Just the right nudges, and lock 6 CO2 molecules to 1 sulfur atom
  [vote for,

See first link about a synchrotron projection TV, because we need something like that light-source here, and see the second link about carbon bicarbonate, because it provides the background chemistry that this Idea is about (and sulfur is mentioned in an annotation, too!).

OK, the main problem with making carbon bicarbonate is that the carbon atom is a quite-small atom (significantly smaller than oxygen). I suspect this is the main reason why there is no such thing as "poly-CO2" (see link) except under extreme pressure. Therefore, even if we could catalyze the formation of carbon bicarbonate, with its central carbon surrounded by and single-bonded with 4 oxygen atoms, it probably could not be expected to persist.

Sulfur, however, is nicely different. While not as plentiful as carbon, it could be plentiful ENOUGH (see link). Certainly it is routinely extracted from carbon-containing fossil fuels (to mostly prevent acid rain). It is a much larger atom than carbon (significantly larger than oxygen, also), and likely can accommodate 6 single-bonded oxygen atoms (its "chemical valence" is occasionally +6, as in "sulfur trioxide"). Sulfur BiCarbonate would have the formula S(HCO3)6.

In more detail, consider how one BiCarbonate group would extend from one of those six oxygen atoms. That oxygen's second bond would connect to the carbon atom in the BiCarbonate. That carbon atom is double-bonded to a second oxygen, and single-bonded to the third oxygen. That last oxygen's second bond is connected to the hydrogen atom. I'm fairly confident there is enough space surrounding a sulfur atom for 6 BiCarbonate groups.

The next problem concerns the "electronegativity" of Sulfur. See link. In general, to make a BiCarbonate molecule, you need Carbonic Acid to react with something. Carbonic Acid has two hydrogen atoms; the second one is connected to that first oxygen atom described above (when there is no Sulfur attached to that oxygen). So, this means we need to replace the chemical bond between that hydrogen and that oxygen with a new chemical bond between that oxygen and the Sulfur atom.

So, compare the electronegativities of Hydrogen and Sulfur. The desired reaction could occur spontaneously if Sulfur had a LOWER number than Hydrogen, but it doesn't; Sulfur actually has a higher electronegativity than Hydrogen. Therefore it is necessary to catalyze this reaction, if we want it to happen.

Note that the electronegativity numbers indicate the same would be true if we wanted to make Carbon BiCarbonate. At the time of writing that Idea I wasn't aware of any catalyst that could do it, but now I think I've identified one. I'm focusing on sulfur here because, as mentioned above, it may be superior to carbon for the purpose of sequestering carbon dioxide.

I'm planning on employing a special PHYSICAL catalyst, not any sort of chemical catalyst. This catalyst is the synchrotron light source, which can very efficiently generate quite bright light of just about any pure frequency we want. I'm quite certain it can generate the light-frequencies needed to do the thing I'm about to describe, even if I don't know the exact frequencies needed.

The subdivision of Physics known as "Spectroscopy" deals with reactions between atoms and photons, which cause those atoms to become either "excited" or "ionized". An excited atom is one in which an electron is boosted from its normal "orbit" to a higher orbit. An ionized atom is one in which the electron is boosted to a kind of "escape velocity" --it leaves the vicinity of the atom altogether.

Now consider an ordinary sulfur atom in its "ground state", with all its electrons orbiting as close-in as they can get. The Electronegativity value of Sulfur is based on THAT atom. If we boosted an electron to a higher orbit (by giving it an appropriate photon to absorb), it would be less-tightly-bound to the sulfur atom, and could participate more easily in a chemical reaction. In effect, the electronegativity of that sulfur atom would be temporarily reduced (it is temporary because after some time passes the electron falls back down to its original lower orbit, releasing the previously-absorbed photon).

The overall CO2-sequestering apparatus can now be described. We start with the gas and pressure-dissolve it in water, which will cause lots of Carbonic Acid to spontaneously form. I will ASSUME that the special light-frequencies we want to generate can be transmitted reasonably efficiently through water. It won't have to go very far if our water container is shaped something like the child's science toy known as an "ant farm", only VERY long.

We will grind sulfur to a fine powder and mix it with the water at one end of the long container, as a fairly dense "suspension". The water needs to be agitated lightly to keep it in suspension, but that's OK because we also want to pump the water SLOWLY through the long container. When first started, our clear acidified water container will contain a yellow cloud, of suspended sulfur particles, at one end. We imagine that long container as having 6 segments. We may need 6 different frequencies of light, one for each segment --the synchrotron can be 6-sided, of course-- and light should be shone through both sides of the water container (use mirrors or even two synchrotrons).

From Spectroscopy we know that if an atom encounters a photon of just the right frequency, it will be strongly absorbed. This means we should be able to efficiently boost the first electron of each of many sulfur atoms to a high-enough orbit that the Carbonic Acid molecules in the water can now react with those sulfur atoms. Also note we want that reaction to proceed "cooly"; only a very tiny amount energy should be released when it happens. SOME MUST be released, else the reaction will hardly take place at all, but we don't want to be wasteful! A long-enough water container can offer plenty of room for a slow reaction rate.

As the reactions happen, Hydrogen atoms will be released (one from each Carbonic Acid molecule) and will bubble upwards, where they can be captured and sold as fuel. Note that as Carbonic Acid in the water is used up, becoming combined with sulfur atoms, more can continue to be formed if we keep applying CO2 gas pressure to the water container (and agitating the water).

According to the Electronegativity numbers, the amount of energy needed to cause the hydrogen to be released is related to the numerical difference between Hydrogen and Sulfur, but the amount of energy we can GAIN from combining that Hydrogen with more Oxygen (from the air) is related to the numerical difference between Hydrogen and Oxygen (about 3 and 1/2 times as much energy!).

We should probably combine them in a fuel cell that generates electricity (one of the most efficient ways known, to do that), and use it to run the synchrotron, and the water agitator/pumps, and the CO2 pressurization stuff. Overall, but mostly depending on the efficiencies at which we produce the necessary light-frequencies, this could be anything from a low-cost to an actually-profitable way to sequester CO2!

When a molecule of S(HCO3)1 forms, this will have different physical properties from sulfur, and this is the reason why a different-energy photon is likely required, to boost the next sulfur-atom electron to a sufficiently high orbit for another Carbonic Acid reaction to occur. That's why I described the water container as having sections; the 2nd section is where we want to concentrate light of that frequency, to operate on all the molecules that were formed in the first section. In this section, of course, we want S(HCO3)1 to become S(HCO3)2.

We repeat the preceding for the next 4 sections, after which, hopefully, allmost all the sulfur that started at one end of the water container has been chemically combined with Carbonic Acid, yielding S(HCO3)6. Then we extract it from the water and sequester it (it will most certainly be a solid!), perhaps in abandoned open-pit mines.

Vernon, Aug 13 2011

Synchrotron Projection TV Synchrotron_20Projection_20TV
As mentioned in the main text. [Vernon, Aug 13 2011]

Carbon BiCarbonate Carbon_20BiCarbonate
As mentioned in the main text. [Vernon, Aug 13 2011]

Poly-CO2. Poly-CO2
As mentioned in the main text. [Vernon, Aug 13 2011]

Table of Electronegativities http://chemed.chem....ativities-1060.html
The numbers in this table are related to chemical reactivity. The bigger the difference between two numbers, the more likely will the associated substances react. [Vernon, Aug 13 2011]

Abundances of the Elements http://en.wikipedia...e_chemical_elements
Sulfur is about 1/10th as common as Carbon. We want to tie six carbons to one sulfur. This could work! [Vernon, Aug 13 2011]

reduction in energies for pushing two or more carbons together http://phys.org/new...mical-reaction.html
might have some application for [Vernon], if not in this idea then maybe others. [4whom, Apr 18 2012]

Sizes of atoms http://www.crystalm...micradii/index.html
As mentioned in an annotation. [Vernon, Apr 18 2012]

(?) Sizes of ions http://materias.qi....micos_e_ionicos.pdf
As mentioned in an annotation [Vernon, Apr 18 2012]


       No multi CO2: No, not because its significantly smaller than Oxygen. (8 to 6 is significantly smaller?)   

       The reason for no multi CO2 is as follows:
C has 4 "binding electrons" (well almost 4, one is created by hybridizing during connection).
O has 2 binding electrons.

       CO2 is built from two double bonds to oxygen. That takes quite a bit of energy to break them down. So basically CO2 is low in energy. It's like trying to light a burnt match. You cannot light a burnt match. It won't burn anymore.   

       The reason the match burned in the first place was because it had single Hydrogen and single connections in the Carbon chains. These are easily broken when there's a bit of heat, and then the protons (what we call "Hydrogen atoms") quickly connect to oxygen creating water, and the Carbon connects to the Oxygen creating CO2.   

       While breaking up, a lot of the energy put into making the wood is released. Matches are made of wood, the energy for creating wood came from the sun, the materials mostly from the carbon in the CO2 that's in the air, and from water sucked up from ground. The energy that is released throws the atoms into high speed erratic movement, which we call HEAT, which causes more parts of the wood to break up, turn to gas phase, and reconnect with the Oxygen in the air.   

       The reconnecting of these gasses (usually CO) with O, creating CO2 is what we call "fire".   

       The reason water doesn't burn is because there is an extra strong connection between the MOLECULES of water, called a "hydrogen bond". So water is resistant to chemical breakup by heat (what we usually call "burning"), and will only break up when an electron is "shot" into it, by creating a current (and adding salt or some other mineral melted into it).
pashute, Apr 18 2012

       2 things: 1: I wonder if there is really room around S for 6 HCO3s. Sulfure hexafluoride exists so the idea of valence 6 is right for S, but I could not find even hexamethane.   

       2: Really the idea here is that of a light catalyzed reaction. Light can be involved in reactions but if I read this right, the idea is that _any_ chemical reaction could be catalyzed by a burst of radiation of the correct frequency. The sulfur shenanigans are just one application. Or is there precedent for "what is the frequency" catalysts and you are just applying that technology to the reaction you hope to produce?
bungston, Apr 18 2012

       //Sulfure hexafluoride exists// Yes, but fluorine forms bonds with argon, so that doesn't mean a lot. AFAIK, only fluorine, oxygen, and chlorine are electronegative enough to form stable S(6-) compounds.
spidermother, Apr 18 2012

       [pashute], there are a couple of incorrect things in what you wrote. First, UNCOMBINED oxygen really is actually a smaller atom than carbon (link added). But when they combine, the sharing process tends to make the carbon get smaller and the oxygen get bigger. An oxygen ion, with two outright-stolen electrons, is MUCH larger (another link added).   

       Next, oxygen is perfectly capable of forming a single bond with a carbon atom. ALL carbonate molecules have one carbon with TWO single-bonds to two oxygen atoms, and a double-bond with a third oxygen --I can write a generic xxCO3 for carbonate, in which the "xx" represents the OTHER two single bonds of those first two oxygen atoms --if they were combined with hydrogen, the result is H2CO3, carbonic acid.   

       So, to imagine "multi-CO2", or "poly-CO2", you simply imagine one carbon that is single-bonded to 4 oxygens, and the other single bonds of those oxygens are bonded to 4 more carbons, each of which has 3 remaining bonds for single-bonding to 3 more oxygens, and so on. Just exactly like ordinary "silicon dioxide" can do (potentially endless chains of single bonds, alternating between silicon and oxygen atoms).   

       Nevertheless, carbon does NOT single-bond to 4 oxygen atoms in any ordinary situation. And I think the reason is the relative sizes of the atoms (while silicon is larger than oxygen, so has room around it for 4 of them). Remember that poly-CO2 CAN exist under high pressure. See the link.
Vernon, Apr 18 2012

       Chemically reactionless.
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 18 2012

       Agreed, this is going to take some very badass photons.
WcW, Apr 18 2012


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