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OSU chemist developing ways to extract carbon dioxide from the air

A researcher at Oregon State University is leading a national effort to fight climate change by helping develop ways to capture and store carbon.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — People use filters all the time to make air cleaner and healthier to breathe. For example, when it's smoky, filters can help clear the smoke. Filters are even starting to be used to remove carbon from the air to help curb climate change. 

Facilities that filter CO2 from the air are springing up around the globe. The world's largest opened this month in Iceland. Over the next year, the plant expects to capture as much CO2 from the air as the annual emissions from about 800 cars. 

The technology is still new. But it is about to get a lot better.

"I am excited to work on a very important problem," said May Nyman, a chemistry professor at Oregon State University. 

She was just selected to help lead a $24 million federal effort to develop ways to extract carbon from the air.

"We are studying many different molecules that have never been used for carbon capture technology," she said.

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Simply put, Nyman and her team will look at developing a molecular mixture that would react with and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

"So if you leave this sitting on your lab bench or, if you will, in your carbon capture plant, it just takes carbon dioxide right out of the air."

The technology could then be used in filters in facilities like the one Iceland.

Nyman said it's an opportunity to teach future generations of scientists how to help solve our climate problems and hopefully help slow down the warming.

"We're at the beginning stages of studying this chemistry and I'm excited to understand the chemistry and how it works," she said. "I really hope that someday it could make a difference."

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