Scientists have found a rapid way of producing magnesite, a mineral which stores carbon dioxide. If this can be developed to an industrial scale then it can help offset global warming. A tonne of naturally-occurring magnesite can remove around half a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Using polystyrene microspheres as a catalyst, magnesite would form within 72 days. The microspheres themselves are unchanged by the production process, so they can ideally be reused. This process takes place at room temperature, meaning that magnesite production is extremely energy efficient.
This is far faster than the natural process which takes hundreds of years.
Magnesite can be formed via talc carbonate metasomatism of peridotite and other ultramafic rocks. Magnesite is formed via carbonation of olivine in the presence of water and carbon dioxide at elevated temperatures and high pressures typical of the greenschist facies.
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