Scientists around the world are working on artificial methods to trap CO2, a harmful greenhouse gas. Mineral magnesite, which can be used as a long-term storage solution for harmful CO2 in the atmosphere.
With this, we could slow or reverse the tide of climate change. The mineral has the chemical formula MgCO3 (magnesium carbonate). It forms slowly in nature, presenting issues around using the mineral to deal with atmospheric CO2. Magnesite occurs as veins in and an alteration product of ultramafic rocks, serpentinite and other magnesium rich rock types in both contact and regional metamorphic terrains. Magnesite is also present within the regolith above ultramafic rocks as a secondary carbonate within soil and subsoil, where it is deposited as a consequence of dissolution of magnesium-bearing minerals by carbon dioxide in groundwaters.
Now, researchers have presented a way to rapidly increase magnesite formation. If in nature magnesite requires hundreds or thousands of years to crystallize the process was reduced to 72 days using the scientists’ method. Polystyrene microspheres offer the solution, serving as a catalyst that results in relatively rapid formation. The microspheres may be reusable, helping keep costs down.The information was presented in Boston recently at the Goldschmidt conference, by Professor Ian Power of Trent University, Ontario, Canada. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set the legal limit (permissible exposure limit) for magnesite exposure in the workplace as 15 mg/m3 total exposure and 5 mg/m3 respiratory exposure over an 8-hour workday.