A CAS lecture on China’s road to carbon neutrality






Addressing climate change and protecting the Earth’s home is becoming a common concern for all mankind. China has announced that it will strive to achieve carbon peaking by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060. This means that, as the world’s largest developing country, China will complete the world’s highest reduction in carbon emission intensity in the shortest time in global history.

What is less known is that in this “carbon” road, scientific researchers have long opened their own exploration.

Carbon dioxide actuarial calculations, industrial emission reduction, clean coal, carbon satellite monitoring, ecological carbon sequestration, solar power and carbon dioxide starch production …… In the recent double carbon lecture held by Chinese Academy of Sciences, these topics, which involve different disciplines such as engineering thermal physics, atmospheric physics, geography and biotechnology, appeared under the same roof. under the same roof.

“The first way to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 is to reduce emissions and replace fertilizers and fuels with sustainable energy sources; the second way is carbon capture, utilization and sequestration; and another way is to use carbon sinks on land and in the ocean.” said Park Se-ryong, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. His research areas, among others, include the carbon cycle in terrestrial ecosystems, climate feedbacks from land-use change.

Zhu Qingshan, a researcher at the Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, focuses on fluidization, process intensification, and resource chemistry. He and his research team are working with Ansteel on a 10,000-ton demonstration project, a project that has received much attention at home and abroad, which will use a set of processes such as wind power electrolysis of water for hydrogen production and fluidized bed hydrogen direct reduction for iron making to explore the path of low carbon reinvention of Chinese industry.

From how carbon satellites provide insight into the global carbon footprint, to the importance of solar photothermal power in the future power grid, from the latest achievements in clean burning and low carbon utilization of coal, to how to turn atmospheric CO2 into starch needed by humans. Different paths point to the same goal – carbon neutrality and carbon peaking.

Figuring out China’s carbon footprint

“(Carbon dioxide emissions) are like a cotton jacket for the earth.” Zhu Qingshan stood at the podium of Gezhi Theory and started with carbon dioxide, “So we have to try to raise the temperature of the earth and control it within 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the core of it is actually to control the concentration of carbon dioxide.”

He explained to the audience that carbon dioxide concentration rises because humans emit more carbon dioxide than humans consume, and for it not to rise, emissions and consumption must be equal.

“This is what we call carbon neutrality.” He explains.

The examples on the projection turn page by page. Zhu Qingshan said that the current domestic carbon emissions are about 10 billion tons, of which the first is electricity. Next is industry, which accounts for 39%. Industry is further subdivided, and can be roughly divided into iron and steel, non-ferrous, chemical and building materials. The process of iron making can be understood as the removal of oxygen from ferric oxide to obtain metallic iron, the traditional blast furnace iron making method is to use carbon combined with oxygen, in Zhu Qingshan’s words, this process “will produce carbon dioxide.

The same is true for non-ferrous, building materials and chemical industries. The process of making hydrogen will produce carbon dioxide, and the decomposition of calcium carbonate will produce carbon dioxide. The current industry is supported by fossil energy, and the process of providing energy will also produce carbon dioxide.

Zhu Qingshan envisions an industrial low-carbon reinvention process that erases as much carbon dioxide as possible, from energy sources to raw materials to processes.

“With the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Foundation, our country has conducted a lot of research in the past decades, which has also provided the key scientific support for our country to reach the carbon neutrality target and participate in global climate governance.” Park Se-yong said. In his speech, he introduced how to “calculate the ecological carbon balance and map out China’s carbon footprint”.

What hard-core technologies can come in handy

Another researcher on the road to “carbon” is Qinggang Lv, a researcher at the Institute of Engineering Thermophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. As the special leader of the first pilot project of CAS “Double Carbon” strategic action plan, “Coal Clean Combustion and Low Carbon Utilization”, Lv Qinggang must think about how to break through the technical threshold of coal combustion and utilization to ensure the energy and industrial chain of China. security.

Lv Qinggang explored the road to clean coal, described in one sentence: how to make coal cleaner and more efficient.

Can we make coal as good as gas fuel? Qinggang Lu asked himself. Through thinking and research, he and his team worked for more than 10 years and did hundreds of large-scale tests, accumulating more than 3,000 hours of test time, to find a way to make coal “burn better”: pulverized coal preheating combustion technology. Now, they have already realized the application in industrial boilers.

In the just-concluded 24th annual meeting of the Chinese Association of Science and Technology, 10 industrial technology issues with a leading role in industrial development were released, including “how to achieve low-carbon development in the thermal power industry in the context of carbon neutrality”. This is exactly the problem that Qinggang Lu is seeking to solve.

“Modern coal-fired power plants, of which there are more than 1,000 in our country, are clean and efficient, achieving ultra-low emissions of conventional pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and dust, and reaching advanced levels in the world, but thermal power is also a real carbon emitter.” Qinggang Lu said. Currently, they are using preheated combustion technology to address thermal power to support grid-connected renewable energy generation and promote low-carbon electricity.

He hopes that by 2060, with the development of technology and progress, the grid can really open its arms to accept 100 percent of renewable power, no more “abandoned wind” “abandoned light” phenomenon, significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality The goal is to achieve carbon neutrality.

“To achieve carbon neutrality, we need hard-core technology.” This is the sentiment of Zhu Qingshan.

The “sword in the fight” of the best fighters

“For a long time. Scientists are exploring ways to make iron without blast furnaces, and have proposed non-blast furnace routes. Our fluidized bed direct reduction technology is a non-blast furnace method. We have been working on this for several generations of researchers.” Zhu Qingshan told CYN.

In this “carbon” road, in addition to industrial emissions reduction, clean coal in the conventional way, the development of science and technology has also shown a side beyond the imagination of many people. For example, Cai Tao, a researcher at the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, shared how to turn carbon dioxide into starch for human needs at the podium of the Gezi Forum.

This technology is like a “sword-slashing” move in a martial arts competition about carbon.

“Carbon dioxide” and “starch”? These two words sound even a little bit sci-fi when combined. This news has sparked a lot of attention at the end of last year, and once became a “hot” words.

According to Cai Tao, the original intention of the synthetic starch project is to turn the agricultural process of starch production into an industrial process.

“Humans walk and run with primitive legs, the ceiling of speed may be Bolt’s 100 meters in 9 seconds, I race with him, the results speak for themselves. But if I am given a fast horse or a sports car, I can easily surpass him, and this is the charm brought by the paradigm change.” Cai Tao said.

Cai Tao and his team members hope to make starch directly from carbon dioxide in the air, and they have named the project “Made from Air.

For the team, thinking about the source of raw materials is equivalent to thinking about “where does carbon dioxide come from”. According to Cai Tao, the country’s thermal power plants and cement plants emit about 4 to 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, “we can easily get the high concentration of carbon dioxide”.

In six years, Cai Tao and his team members used 33 books of experimental records to record their pursuit and exploration of starch artificial synthesis in more than 2,000 days and nights. There were joys of success and frustrations of failure. After the initial achievement of the goal, many people asked him, “Can the starch you synthesized be eaten? Cai Tao admitted that he could not answer this question yet, because the starch synthesized in the laboratory now is only about 1 gram or so.

“We are not afraid to eat it, but we really can’t afford to eat it!” He said jokingly.

The next task is how to speed up the project and solve many of the underlying scientific problems. Cai Tao hopes to one day produce kilograms or even tons of starch in the lab. He admits that there are still many difficulties and challenges to be faced from the laboratory stage to the realization of industrial applications. But that doesn’t stop him from thinking about exactly what impact this technology can have on human life in the future.

“With CO2 as a raw material, starch can be produced, as well as a variety of chemicals, so that a CO2-based, new industrial route can be established.” Cai Tao said.

Carbon neutrality needs young people to make it happen

In September 2020, the Chinese government proposed at the 75th United Nations General Assembly that China will increase its independent national contribution, adopt stronger policies and measures, strive to peak CO2 emissions by 2030, and work to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. in February 2021, the State Council issued the “Guidance on Accelerating the Establishment of a Sound Economic System for Green, Low-Carbon and Circular Development, In July, the Ministry of Education also issued the “Action Plan for Carbon Neutral Science and Technology Innovation in Higher Education Institutions”.

In July, the Ministry of Education also issued the “Action Plan for Carbon Neutral Science and Technology Innovation in Higher Education”. This year’s “618”, carbon neutral has also become one of the hot topics of the e-commerce platform, an e-commerce platform, consumers purchase products marked with “green goods”, or choose simple packaging when buying goods, you can get “green moving paradise” of The “little green flower”, used to exchange for environmental goods or participate in public welfare.

As the youngest member of both academies, Park has been popularizing “carbon” on the Internet for years, discussing the function of carbon sinks in terrestrial ecosystems and their role in the “carbon neutrality” goal.

According to Park, China’s forest cover has increased from 12% in the early 1980s to 23.04% at present, and the forest stock has increased to 17.56 billion cubic meters. The national urban built-up area greening coverage rate, also increased from 10.1% to 41.11%. The area of young forest in China’s forest resources, accounting for 61% of the forest area, is at a high growth stage, with a high rate of carbon sequestration and a large potential for carbon sink growth.

He also tried to emphasize that the ecosystem is like a container that is now being filled up continuously. If one day this container is full, there is a possibility that it will never be filled again. Carbon sinks are a similar process.

In his opinion, it is very necessary to build a management system of bio-ecosystems and carbon sinks that are integrated between sky and earth.

“Does carbon neutrality have anything to do with me?” Zhu Qingshan has seen some people ask this question. His answer is that carbon neutrality is relevant to everyone, and everyone should pay attention to it.

He calculated that he would be retired by the time the “carbon summit” was achieved. By the time “carbon neutrality” is achieved, those students who have just graduated from college will probably be retired by then. But in his vision, this “carbon” road, the next few decades may produce some new tracks, bring new opportunities.

“These need to be seized by young people, to achieve.” Zhu Qingshan said.

A CAS lecture on China’s road to carbon neutrality
Scroll to top