This week’s sciku is a reminder that getting serious about reducing atmospheric carbon has to focus on nuclear energy. There’s so much we can do, including turning carbon into useful materials like silicon carbide—but they require large amounts of power, and renewables like wind and solar create too much waste at this scale. It’s not a technological or behavioral problem, it’s a physics problem. The energy found in sunlight and wind and waves is just too diffuse.
This week, researchers at the Salk Institute published a promising analysis on the production of silicon carbide from plant matter. SiC is a valuable superconductor useful both for electronics and structural ceramics. We can turn CO2 into materials like this, locking up 14% of what the plants have pulled from the air, but the process requires heating the material to 1,600 C in a furnace—and we still mostly do that by burning carbon. Put a compact fusion reactor like SPARC next to the factory, though, and we’d actually be getting somewhere.
all that carbon
to capture carbon