On paper, the idea is brilliant: Capture carbon dioxide molecules from a power plant’s emissions before they reach the atmosphere, while also generating power.

The concept, formally known as carbon capture, is simple. Its execution, though, is challenging.

Despite the challenges, could fuel cells help cut global emissions?

ExxonMobil scientist Tim Barckholtz thinks so. Along with FuelCell Energy, Barckholtz and his team at ExxonMobil are researching the potential of utility-scale fuel cells to capture carbon emissions at natural gas power plants. The process is promising because, unlike other carbon capture technologies, the fuel cells would capture the emissions from a natural gas-fueled plant and generate additional power, rather than consume it.

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Molecule by molecule: How carbon capture cuts CO2 emissions