US carbon dioxide supply is a bottleneck for Covid-19 vaccine distribution

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Over the last few months, industries in the US have had to contend with a troublesome carbon dioxide shortage. From May to July, beer brewers and soda makers across the country were at a loss to source the fizzy stuff.But as summer turns to fall, a lack of CO2 could cause an even more problematic shortage: one of dry ice.In early September, the New York Times reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects that at least two Covid-19 vaccine candidates will require dry ice, the solid form of carbon dioxide, for transportation. In order to ship those vaccines, distributors will need to make sure industrial chemical plants can supply enough CO2 gas.Dry ice is an ideal refrigeration tool for food and medical supplies: At ambient air pressure, it’s a chilly -79 °C (-110.2 °F). To make it, producers put purified CO2 gas under tremendous pressure.It’s hard to come by huge quantities of pure carbon dioxide, though. It’s largely a byproduct of industrial chemicals like ammonia, ethylene oxide, and bioethanol—a slightly greener fuel created from corn. Plants that manufacture these products capture their excess carbon dioxide and sell …

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