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29 Oct 2010 11:10:44

Eggs could be the next CCS technology

Indian scientists claim egg membranes could store up to seven times their own weight in carbon emissions.

Scientists in India have discovered that eggshell membrane – the thin film on the inside of eggshells - could be the next carbon storage technology. They claim that egg membrane can store up to seven times its own weight in carbon emissions.

Basab Chaudhuri, from the University of Calcutta, teamed other researchers to investigate eggshell membrane, which measures just 100 microns thick. The substance consists of three layers: an outer cuticle and two inside layers, containing protein fibres bonded with calcium carbonate.

While eggshell membrane has the potential to storage carbon emissions, there are numerous technical challenges faced by the project, not least separating the membrane from the eggshell. According to the researchers, a light acid solution can help remove the thin filmy substance from the hard shell, but it is unclear if or how that could be scaled to commercial levels. As such a mechanical process might need to be developed to extract the material.

The world market could reach 1,154 billion eggs by 2015 as an impact of the use of eggshell membranes for carbon capture and storage

Apart from eggshell membranes, other materials have been proposed as sustainable means of capturing and storing carbon emissions, with media ranging from basalt rock through to cement, and passing by chilled ammonia and electrically charged chemicals. But, this is the first time that inside of eggs has been acknowledged as a potential capture and storage mechanism.

Once captured, the carbon can be used for industrial processes such as carbonating drinks, or for plant growth by pumping it into greenhouses.

However, it is still to be seen if egg membranes can ever be commercialised as a means of carbon capture and storage. In the meantime, Chaudhuri advises people to expose their used eggshells to the air, so that the membranes can absorb carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

The impact of such a move could be larger than people think, as the world market for eggs could reach 1,154 billion eggs by 2015, according to a report published by Global Industry Analysts Inc. Forty per cent of that market exists in China, where a growing middle class is increasing in buying power.

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