SHEFFIELD, U.K. — A report on recent research published on The University of Sheffield website indicates modification of rail cars, including expanded use of regenerative braking systems, could provide a significant weapon in the fight against negative climate change. The following is the post:

Modified rail cars clean air of CO2 and help mitigate climate change

Rail systems around the world could help mitigate climate change and clean the air of CO2 by capturing the sustainable energy generated when trains brake and decelerate.

U.S.-based startup, CO2Rail Company have been working with a world-renowned team of researchers, including engineers from the University of Sheffield, to design Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology that removes carbon dioxide from the air, which can be used within special rail cars placed with already running trains in regular service.

The DAC rail cars work by using large intakes of air that extend up into the slipstream of the moving train to move ambient air into the large cylindrical CO2 collection chamber and eliminate the need for energy-intensive fan systems that are necessary with stationary DAC operations.

The air then moves through a chemical process that separates the CO2 from the air and the carbon dioxide free air then travels out of the back or underside of the car and returns to the atmosphere.

After a sufficient amount has been captured, the chamber is closed and the harvested CO2 is collected, concentrated, and stored in a liquid reservoir until it can be emptied from the train at a crew change or fueling stop into normal CO2 rail tank cars. It is then transported into the circular carbon economy as value-added feedstock for CO2 utilization, or to nearby geological landfill sites.

Each of these processes are powered exclusively by on-board generated, sustainable energy sources that require no external energy input or off-duty charging cycles.

When a train pumps the brakes, its energy braking system converts the train’s forward momentum into electrical energy in much the same way as a regenerative electric vehicle. Currently, this energy is dissipated on trains in the form of heat and discharged out of the top of the locomotive during every braking maneuver.

Professor Peter Styring, Director of the UK Centre for Carbon Dioxide Utilization at the University of Sheffield and co-author of the research, said: “Currently the enormous amount of sustainable energy created when a train brakes or decelerates is simply lost. This innovative technology will not only use the sustainable energy created by the braking maneuver to harvest significant quantities of CO2, but it will also take advantage of many synergies that integration within the global rail network would provide.

“The technology will harvest meaningful quantities of CO2 at far lower costs and has the potential to reach annual productivity of 0.45 gigatons by 2030, 2.9 gigatons by 2050, and 7.8 gigatons by 2075 with each car having an annual capacity of 3,000 tons of CO2 in the near term.”

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