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'Dry water' could be used to store carbon dioxide

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August 25, 2010

Dry water has been found to have several potential environmentally-friendly uses

Dry water has been found to have several potential environmentally-friendly uses

You know, I’m pretty sure I remember a Far Side cartoon or something, where someone was selling powdered water – “Just add water!” Well, dry water isn’t quite the same thing. It’s 95 percent liquid water, but that water takes the form of tiny droplets each encased in a tiny globe of silica. The resultant substance is dry and granular. It first came to light in 1968, and was used in cosmetics. More recently, a University of Liverpool research team has been looking into other potential uses for the substance. They have found several, but most interesting is its ability to store gases such as carbon dioxide.

In laboratory experiments, study leader Professor Andrew Cooper and his team found that dry water absorbed over three times as much CO2 as uncombined water and silica in the same amount of time. The gas combined with the water molecules to form a storable hydrate, which Cooper believes makes it ideal for reducing global warming.

The Liverpool team also found that dry water could be used to store methane gas. As methane is a component of natural gas, they believe this discovery could make natural gas a more environmentally-viable energy source. They suggest that dry water could be used to absorb and transport the methane from stranded deposits of natural gas, or as a storage medium for methane fuel for cars.

Another use that was discovered for dry water is as a catalyst to speed up reactions between hydrogen gas and maleic acid to produce succinic acid, a feedstock or raw material widely used to make drugs, food ingredients, and other consumer products. Hydrogen gas and maleic acid traditionally have to be stirred together to create a reaction, so by eliminating the need for mechanized stirring, maleic acid-infused dry water would allow for a more energy-efficient production process of the products.

In yet another possible application, potentially harmful liquid emulsions could be transformed dry water-style into a dry powder, making them safer to store and transport.

The team is now seeking commercial or academic collaborators to further develop the technology. "There's nothing else quite like it," said researcher Ben Carter. "Hopefully, we may see 'dry water' making waves in the future."

The research was reported this Wednesday at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
4 Comments

I wonder how much energy it takes to make this "dry" water, and how much CO2 that gives off...

Adrien
26th August, 2010 @ 06:10 am PDT

What's wrong with planting a tree?

PeetEngineer
26th August, 2010 @ 06:30 pm PDT

I am just am getting this. Methane is almost insoluble in water, about 40 ppm at 0 C. If "dry water" is 95% liquid water, how can it store any substantial amount of methane?

ralph.dratman
8th January, 2014 @ 04:12 pm PST

ralph.dratman:

The article says it would absorb three times more than uncombined water and silica, not that it would absorb three times of the volume of the solid water. That means that in that 5% which is not water, it could absorb 1250 times more than those 40ppm (the normal absorption you mentioned). That's enough to make up for all the variables I don't even know as a regular non-chemist person :)

Sergio Zambrano
25th January, 2014 @ 06:12 am PST
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