How scientists in Iceland turned harmful greenhouse gases into rocks.

For a modern-day climate scientist, this rock could be magical.

A basalt core with carbonate crystals growing inside. Photo from Annette K. Mortensen/University of Southampton.


Humans release at least 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, which can be tough on the environment.

But what if, alchemy-like, we could take all that carbon dioxide and turn it into rock?

At Iceland's Hellisheidi power plant, that's what they've been trying to do.

Photo from Árni Sæberg/University of Southampton.

Hellisheidi is a geothermal plant, which means it uses volcanically-heated water to run turbines, but the process isn't perfectly emission-free — it can bring up volcanic gases, including carbon dioxide.

And while the amount of those gases it generates are only a tiny fraction of what a coal plant would produce, the power plant still wanted to get rid of it.

So in 2012, they started a pilot program, Carbfix, to try putting that carbon back in the ground.


An early injection site. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

How do they do it?

They capture the plant's carbon dioxide, mix it with water, and inject it nearly a half-mile down into the volcanic basalt.

This futuristic-looking space bubble is actually the newer injection site for the Carbfix project. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

There, the carbon dioxide reacts with chemicals naturally found in the basalt and turns from a gas into chalky, white carbonate.

University of Iceland geologist and study co-author Sandra Snaebjornsdottir holds up a piece of basalt covered in carbonate deposits. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

Some previous projects have tried pumping carbon dioxide into sandstone or aquifers, but that was essentially just hiding the carbon dioxide. This process transforms it.

That's great! But the truly amazing thing is that the process works hundreds of times faster than anyone predicted.

Two scientists inspect some of the rock samples. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

We knew this chemical reaction was theoretically possible, but previous studies guessed that it'd take hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years to work.

But Hellisheidi blew that timeline away. Within two years, 95% of the carbon dioxide pumped down had been turned into rock. The researchers just published these astounding findings in the journal Science.

This is amazing because it's not just Iceland that can do this. We could do this anywhere there's basalt.

At Iceland's Black Falls, water pours over columns of pure basalt rock. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

Basalt is formed from volcanoes. Most of the sea floor is made of basalt and about 10% of continental rocks are too.

The Iceland scientists aren't being too hasty though. The next step is to try again at a larger scale.

The Hellisheidi power plant from a distance. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

The project is currently injecting 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. They're planning to double that rate this summer and see how it works.

They're also being careful about any unintended consequences.

A rock core covered in slime. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

Some of the cores contained a greenish slime, for instance, which may be biological. Microbiologists are going to study this slime to learn how the Carbfix process might affect underground microbes.

And all of this research is key if we're going to stop climate change.

Carbon capture is a needed bridge to help us while we transition to clean energy.

The 38th Session of the IPCC. Photo from Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images.

In 2014, the International Panel on Climate Change included carbon capture in their list of options to help us limit climate change.

There's still a lot we need to do to stop climate change, but this technique could be a huge step forward.

There are many things we can personally do — such as limiting energy use and using our cars less — but we need action at the systematic level too.

"We need to deal with rising carbon emissions," said Dr. Jeurg Matter, lead author of the paper, in an article from Columbia University.

"This is the ultimate permanent storage — turning them back to stone."

Heroes
Facebook / Amazinggracie.ga

A disabled dog with no front legs can now run and play thanks to a 12-year-old volunteer at an animal shelter who built her a wheelchair out of Legos.

One-year-old Gracie was dumped at a veterinary clinic when she was a baby. She was covered in maggots and was missing hair under her eyes and on her feet and tail. She was also missing her two front legs due to a birth defect.

The vet reached out to a local rescue called Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue, in Kennesaw, Georgia, who took Gracie in to help her find a new home. The Turley family, who runs the shelter, loved Gracie so much, they decided to adopt her for themselves.

Gracie loves to play with her fur siblings, including a dog who is paralyzed in his hind legs and likes to pull her around, and on who has three legs. While Gracie can get around OK on her own two hind legs, her mom, Tammy, was worried about her getting injured so they enlisted the help of Dylan, 12, a volunteer at the shelter.

RELATED: This adorable Twitter thread captures a woman's surprise reunion with her foster dog

Amazing Gracie Intro- 12 year old builds LEGO wheelchair for 2 legged puppy www.youtube.com

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Vaping 360

A young doctor has taken to TikTok, the new social media app popular among Gen. Z, to share information about important health issues, including the negative side effects of vaping.

Dr. Rose Marie Leslie, 29, is a second-year family resident at the University of Minnesota Physicians Broadway Family Medicine Clinic.

When she first joined the platform six months ago, she initially started sharing videos about her hectic life as a resident. But whenever she'd share videos with medical facts, she noticed more comments and likes.


Dr. Leslie on TikTok www.tiktok.com


Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Gina Rodriguez doesn't exactly have a great track record when it comes to talking about black representation. There was that time when she (incorrectly) said that Latina actresses are paid less than black actresses. Or that time when she interrupted an interviewer for saying her co-star, Yara Shahidi, was a role model to black women. Or that time when she tried to make "Black Panther" about her. Now, Rodriguez is under heat again, this time for rapping the n-word and being "sorry, not sorry" about it.

Rodriguez posted an Instagram story of herself singing along to "Read or Not" by the Fugees while getting her hair and make-up done. In the short video, she can be seen singing the lyrics, including the n-word, and laughing. Rodriguez deleted the video quickly, but not quick enough. Twitter was, to say the least, not pleased.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

There's nothing like a good reunion story to get you misty in the ol' tear ducts. Kate Howard, the managing editor of Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, shared a story of randomly running into the dog she used to foster on Twitter. You know all those dog reunion movies? The ones with names like A Dog's Hope and A Dog's Sloppy Kiss? The ones that make you cry buckets no matter how hard you think your heart is? Well, this is that, but in real life.

Keep Reading Show less
popular