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Mechanochemical processing of silicate rocks to trap CO2


Milling minerals rich in magnesium and iron within CO2 gas has been proposed to capture carbon as metal-carbonates. We conduct milling experiments in CO2 and show that polymineralic rocks such as granite and basalt, whether high or low in carbonate-forming metals, are more efficient at trapping CO2 than individual minerals. This is because the trapping process is not, as previously thought, based on the carbonation of carbonate-forming metals. Instead, CO2 is chemically adsorbed into the crystal structure, predominantly at the boundaries between different minerals. Leaching experiments on the milled mineral/rock powders show that CO2 trapped in single minerals is mainly soluble, whereas CO2 trapped in polymineralic rocks is not. Under ambient temperature conditions, polymineralic rocks can capture >13.4 mgCO2 g−1 as thermally stable, insoluble CO2. Polymineralic rocks are crushed worldwide to produce construction aggregate. If crushing processes could be conducted within a stream of effluent CO2 gas (as produced from cement manufacture), our findings suggest that for every 100 Mt of hard rock aggregate sold, 0.4–0.5 MtCO2 could be captured as a by-product.

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Fig. 1: Carbon captured by mineral composition.
Fig. 2: Rock and mineral leaching results.
Fig. 3: Thermal desorption profiles of rock samples.

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All data that support the findings in this paper are available within the article and its Supplementary Information.


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This work was part-funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s Doctoral Training Awards Grant EP/M506643/1. R.J.L. is funded by a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair. We thank W. Sloan for his helpful input on the manuscript. For the purpose of open access, the authors have applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising.

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Authors and Affiliations



M.S. and R.J.L. conceived the concept for the article and designed the experiments. M.S. performed the experiments. Results were analysed and interpreted by M.S., R.J.L. and Z.K.S. R.J.L. supervised the research. M.S. and R.J.L. co-wrote the manuscript with significant contributions from Z.K.S. All authors discussed the results, commented on and reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Mark Stillings.

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Nature Sustainability thanks Ioannis Rigopoulos, Allan Scott and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–4 and Tables 1–7.

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Stillings, M., Shipton, Z.K. & Lunn, R.J. Mechanochemical processing of silicate rocks to trap CO2. Nat Sustain 6, 780–788 (2023).

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