Photo: Carbon Engineering

Scientists Have Built a Machine That Takes Carbon Dioxide Out of the Air and Turns It Into Clean Energy

by Matt Hershberger Aug 26, 2015

A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR IN THE EARTH’S ONGOING climate change is the human emissions of carbon dioxide. Not only do humans themselves emit carbon dioxide when they breathe out, but our vehicles and many of our energy sources emit carbon dioxide as well. The result of this increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been global climate change, which this writer is experiencing right now by sweating profusely in his un-air conditioned, sauna of an apartment. But it’s not just me: last month (July 2015) was the world’s hottest month ever recorded.

There are a lot of possible policy fixes to climate change — decreased use of fossil fuels, better stewardship of the environment, decreased total emissions, etc. — but some scientists are coming up with scientific fixes as well. Like the people at the Canada-based Carbon Engineering. They have created a system that captures carbon dioxide from ambient air and then turns it into sources of carbon-neutral energy.

Carbon capture technology is not necessarily new. Factories that are sources of carbon dioxide may be fitted with carbon capture technology which then stores the carbon in the ground, rather than releasing it through smokestacks into the atmosphere. But a large portion of carbon dioxide isn’t released through fixed places like factories — it’s released through vehicles like cars and planes. This carbon could only be removed using either trees or a system like the one designed by Carbon Engineering. Carbon Engineering’s system, though, would require far less space than trees, and could be placed virtually anywhere, and not just in certain environments.

Their system basically takes in air, which is then pushed through a system that contains a solution which converts the carbon dioxide into liquid form, and then removes it from the air. The system absorbs around 80% of the total carbon dioxide that goes through it. The carbon that is captured could later be turned into fuels, which would re-release the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but which could also then be reabsorbed by the system, creating a more sustainable system.

While the creators of the system say that the technology still has ways to go before it can deployed all over the place, it’s a promising start: while it’s not going to solve climate change, it’s a step towards a more sustainable world.

h/t: Upworthy

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