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Incredible Breakthrough That Could Turn Back Climate Change

Australian scientists have turned carbon dioxide back into coal, in what is being touted as a possible rewind of the emissions clock.

Researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne spent 12 months developing a new technique that can efficiently convert the gas into solid particles of carbon.

"While we can't literally turn back time, turning carbon dioxide back into coal and burying it back in the ground is a bit like rewinding the emissions clock," researcher Dr Torben Daeneke said.

"It's the crucial first step to delivering solid storage of carbon."

Scientists are "rewinding the emissions clock". Photo: Supplied.

Levels of carbon dioxide are higher now than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years, according to NASA. This has been widely accepted by the climate science community as a key factor in climate change.

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The implications of this new development are far-reaching, from safely converting and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide to potentially powering cars of the future.

Long-term, it could be used to safely store carbon dioxide, or -- theoretically -- make renewable energy out of coal, lead researcher Dr. Dorna Esrafilzadeh told 10 daily.

Dr Torben Daeneke (left ) and Dr. Dorna Esrafilzadeh. Photo: Supplied.

"Long term it could be a potential technology to just replace the current [driver of energy], going in to green technology," Esrafilzadeh said, saying she could see it as a potential key energy source in Australia's future.

It essentially works by dissolving the carbon dioxide in a specially-designed liquid metal which, when charged with an electric current, converts the carbon dioxide into solid flakes of carbon.

Daeneke said this transformation has been possible before, but only at extremely high temperatures, making it "industrially unviable".

Countries must massively ramp up their action to cut emissions to prevent global temperatures rising beyond dangerous thresholds, a UN report warns. Photo: AAP.

“By using liquid metals as a catalyst, we’ve shown it’s possible to turn the gas back into carbon at room temperature, in a process that’s efficient and scaleable," he added.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming report last year, warning the world has just 12 years left to made radical changes or suffer the permanent consequences of global warming.

Esrafilzadeh couldn't comment on whether her technology could be rolled out in time to meet that 12 year deadline, but said more research is crucial.

"We can get closer to reaching this goal."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au