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IU Scientists Win Grant To Study Carbon Recycling

Steve Tait

Two Indiana University scientists are working to recycle the pollutant carbon dioxide into plastics, like Tupperware. As Indiana Public Broadcasting Nick Janzen reports, they just won a half a million dollars to build on their preliminary research.

Indiana University chemistry professor Steve Tait is leading the study on carbon recycling.  He says the goal of the project is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions—the primary source behind man-made climate change.  

“So carbon recycling, it’s not going to solve the entire problem on its own,” Tait says, “but I think it’s an important component.”

Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a gas released when fossil fuels are burned for energy. Carbon recycling takes CO2 out of the atmosphere and transforms it into something new, like building materials, fuel, or even consumer products like Tupperware sets.

“We’re taking CO2 out of the atmosphere, putting it into a fuel, then when it burns it would go back into the atmosphere,” Tait says, “or we’d pull the CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into plastic or some product like that, so that the net effect is that there’s no new carbon that’s being introduced into the environment.”

The $525,000 grant runs until 2019, when Tait and his collaborator, chemistry professor Ken Caulton, hope they’ll have accomplished enough research for the National Science Foundation to renew it.