How ordinary rock found in New Zealand could be answer to combating climate change

An ordinary rock could hold an extraordinary answer to combating climate change.

A Christchurch geologist has discovered a way to use olivine to sequester 1000 years' worth of the world's anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide.

You may not recognise or have even heard of olivine rock.

"It doesn't look extraordinary... its chemistry is just magnesium, iron, silica and oxygen," said Aspiring Material co-founder Chris Oze.

Most of it is found deep in Earth's mantle.

In Southland, it's used to make roads. Next, it could become an effective tool to combat climate change.

"A lot of us realise that there's a lot of potential for this rock to be a game-changer," said Oze.

"For every one tonne of rock, we can displace three tonnes of CO2 [carbon dioxide]."

Here's how. The rock is ground up, it's then digested in acid which forms an elemental soup, producing minerals including iron, silica and magnesium.

"This is our magnesium product and all you have to do is add water and it takes the CO2 out of the air and it turns into this [product]," said Oze.

Which can then be used in hundreds of different things, including gib board - all while absorbing CO2 from the air.

The compound could replace, for example, traditional cement - our second most-used substance in the world - and a large CO2 emitter.

"We want to make a difference as far as replacing the products that produce lots of CO2 with ours that don't produce CO2," Oze said.

As well as launching a product that can sequester CO2 from our atmosphere and factories.

Right now we rely heavily on trees to sequester carbon dioxide, but with a life span of roughly 100 to 200 years, there are questions around where that carbon goes once the tree dies.

Olivine, however, is the world's most prolific rock.

"There's enough rock there to sequester all the world's CO2 released by people for well over 1000 years and that's just one site," Oze said.

Aspiring Materials is currently a start-up. The next step is a pilot plant and eventually industrial scale.