Scientists at the University of Newcastle in Australia said they have used tiny structures found in clay as a ‘template’ to create a new material capable of capturing carbon dioxide emissions.

The process uses Australian Kaolin clay, which contains tiny tubular structures called Halloysite nanotubes (HNT).

Due to their unique structure, HNT have amazing properties making them ideal for binding to a range of molecules and effectively ‘cleaning’ by absorbing, the University of Newcastle said in a statement.

Lead Researcher, and Director of the Global Innovative Centre for Advanced Nanomaterials, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, Professor Ajayan Vinu, said his team had developed unique ‘nanotemplating’ skills that enabled the HNT nanotubular framework to act as a kind of mould, which could then be coated with carbon-based materials to create a ‘super material’.

“By taking high performance materials such as carbon nitride and the structure of HNT we create ‘HNT-carbon hybrids’, which we’re investigating as a new solution for removal of carbon dioxide from air and purification of water from heavy metals, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), dyes, pharmaceuticals and pesticides,” said Vinu.

Over the next three years, this project will move to producing trial quantities of HNT-carbon for commercial testing.

This will assess the benefits to potential end-users like wastewater treatment and carbon dioxide capture industries.

Professor Vinu said these two industry sectors represented major current and upcoming global commercial opportunities.

“We will build a pilot production plant to refine the process so that our partner companies - Andromeda Metals, Minotaur Exploration and their joint R&D company Natural Nanotech can explore moving into large-scale production of HNT-carbon,” said Vinu.

The pilot production plant will be built thanks to $1.5m in funding from the partner companies.