CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused
website
 in the world. Subscribe today!


Air Quality Solar Today magazine

Published on April 26th, 2008 | by Michelle Bennett

11

CO2 Capture and Technology of the Future

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

April 26th, 2008 by  

Solar Today magazine

Today’s topic is inspired by Solar Today magazine. “Scrubbing Carbon from the Breeze” was written by Rona Fried, Ph.D., president of SustainableBusiness.com in the May/June 2008 issue. Unfortunately this particular article is not available online.

As climate change become a more central issue for people and governments around the globe, a lot of people are looking for solutions – fast solutions. If there were a quick and inexpensive way to dramatically reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, we should go for it right? Well a number of “quick fix” solutions, which have centered around hacking the environment to fight climate change, have been floating around for years. One strategy is to capture the CO2 with plankton and bury it in the ocean (which is much easier and cheaper than pumping it into the ground). Another is to change the composition of our atmosphere to reflect sunlight. Others tend to be more sci-fi and outlandish – but all of them might just turn out to be disastrous.

Even with more realistic alternatives, like carbon capture and sequestration from coal plants, have drawn criticism. But that hasn’t stopped some of the world’s wealthiest and most outspoken environmentalists from offering millions of dollars for a feasible and fast solution that captures CO2 out of the air after it’s released.

No wonder some are trying to use technology to solve our CO2 problem. While renewable energy and energy efficiency help prevent more CO2 pollution, several companies are looking to make money off off the inert gas. Not to be confused with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), these focus on the technology and economics of only capturing CO2. What we do with the carbon next is an open question. Fortunately “CO2 is the 19th largest commodity chemical in the United States”, according to the DOE, with numerous industrial, agricultural, and everyday uses – you can even make fuel out of it. So whoever first manages to harvest it cheaply could make a lot of money, even without millions in prize money.

Universities and academic collaborations compete with scientists and businesses to reach this goal. The Green Options network has featured promising technologies from Sandia National Labs before. While many are still in design or prototype stages, others are already being commercially demonstrated. Dr. Rona Fried points out in her Solar Today article that the technology is not new. Submarines and spacecraft use scrubbers and filters to protect their crews from their own exhalations. There’s even a famous scene in the movie Apollo 13 about repairing one such device in 1970.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/0dJUm73OFt0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

A better way to absorb CO2 on a larger scale is to use chemicals called sorbents. They soak up carbon dioxide on contact like a plant or sponge; then the CO2 can be separated from the sorbent and used. The trick is to build a machine that can do both without requiring excessive operation costs. If it needs too much energy, maintenance, etc., it simply won’t be profitable.

ACCESS devicesA company called Global Research Technologies (GRT) believes they have designed a viable system in that works at ambient temperatures (no cooling required) and uses about the same amount of energy as a power-plant flue scrubber – the type already available to clean power plant emissions. They call it the ACCESS (Atmospheric Carbon CapturE SystemS) device, which has already been demonstrated, and it’s exciting because it could be located almost anywhere. They could line our highways, form rows like wind farms, or be installed near industrial facilities that use or produce CO2. Better yet, the technology is scalable, so the larger you build them the more CO2 they collect. One such ACCESS device the size of a tree could capture 1,000 times more CO2 than a tree. Global Research Technologies even claims that 250,000 such models, each about the side of a wind turbine, would neutralize the CO2 we’re currently emitting. GRT hopes to produce 100 of these devices within 5 years. Unfortunately they’ll be expensive, about $250/ metric ton of CO2 captured, but like any industry, economies of scale could dramatically reduce that cost to $30-$50 per ton. GRT hopes their technology will be competitive on the carbon offsets market.

Klaus Lackner, a professor of geophysics at Columbia University, helped found GRT and design the ACCESS device. From the article: “Lackner outlined the potential of carbon capture as one piece of the portfolio of carbon reduction strategies”, which means of course that this is not THE ANSWER to climate change. We cannot and should not rely on this or any one solution to “solve” our CO2 problem. We still need to increase our energy efficiency, invest in renewable technologies, and work towards more sustainable lifestyles. But with all the depressing facts, figures and discussions surrounding our rising CO2 emissions and climate change, this is one technology among many that provide a ray of hope. Maybe, just maybe, with the plethora of resources at our disposal, we can begin to build a technological infrastructure that will not come back to haunt us with half-acknowledged or poorly understood consequences of unbridled development.

Images courtesy of

Solar Today

Physorg.com

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

Share on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookPin on PinterestDigg thisShare on TumblrBuffer this pageEmail this to someone

Tags: , , , , , , ,


About the Author

is an environmentalist who loves to write. She grew up across the southeastern USA and especially love the Appalachian mountains. She went to school in the northeast USA in part to witness different mindsets and lifestyles than those of my southern stomping grounds. She majored in English Lit. and Anthropology. She has worked as a whitewater rafting guide, which introduced her to a wilderness and the complex issues at play in the places where relatively few people go. She also taught English in South Korea for a year, which taught her to take nothing for granted.



  • Pingback: UCLA Scientists Create Carbon-Capturing Crystals That Mimic DNA : CleanTechnica

  • Pingback: Tech Today or Tech Tomorrow? Energy Debate 1 : CleanTechnica

  • Pingback: Deptartment of Energy to Provide $36 Million for Carbon Capture Projects : Red, Green, and Blue

  • Aaron

    Jesse… I’m going to guess that you’re not an engineer. Ever heard of entropy? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entropy Check it out, it’s a law and also the reason your ideas won’t be any more efficient than current processes. Where does the electricity come from to power all the electric motors you’re replacing fuel engines with? We’re all dumber for having read your comment.

  • Aaron

    Jesse… I’m going to guess that you’re not an engineer. Ever heard of entropy? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entropy Check it out, it’s a law and also the reason your ideas won’t be any more efficient than current processes. Where does the electricity come from to power all the electric motors you’re replacing fuel engines with? We’re all dumber for having read your comment.

  • MichelleBennett

    @ Jesse:

    Interesting; I’d love to read more. Do you have any links?

  • MichelleBennett

    @ Jesse:

    Interesting; I’d love to read more. Do you have any links?

  • Peter Hamilton

    CO2 capture and reutilization equipment is definitely something for the future. In Sweden there is an interesting project, funded by the government, where renewable fuel is to be produced from CO2 (from the air) and hydrogen. The small-scale would make it possible to do it at home.

    Check it out here:

    http://renewabletech.blogspot.com/2008/04/is-domestic-fuel-production-feasible.html

  • Peter Hamilton

    CO2 capture and reutilization equipment is definitely something for the future. In Sweden there is an interesting project, funded by the government, where renewable fuel is to be produced from CO2 (from the air) and hydrogen. The small-scale would make it possible to do it at home.

    Check it out here:

    http://renewabletech.blogspot.com/2008/04/is-domestic-fuel-production-feasible.html

  • Jesse

    We have been fooled into dependency on fossil fuels. Take the fuel motor out of a hybrid and replace it with an electric motor and the vehicle becomes regenerative. Add regenerative brakes(some come factory)and solar panels for optimum efficiency. Add a generator to an exsisting electric vehicle or conversion kit,so on. Take the fuel motor off a home generation system,replace it with an electric motor,then you have regeneration without fuel use. Run power plants with electric drive systems. Yes it is that easy. Tesla knew this that is why some of his work is classified. This information is free to all.

  • Jesse

    We have been fooled into dependency on fossil fuels. Take the fuel motor out of a hybrid and replace it with an electric motor and the vehicle becomes regenerative. Add regenerative brakes(some come factory)and solar panels for optimum efficiency. Add a generator to an exsisting electric vehicle or conversion kit,so on. Take the fuel motor off a home generation system,replace it with an electric motor,then you have regeneration without fuel use. Run power plants with electric drive systems. Yes it is that easy. Tesla knew this that is why some of his work is classified. This information is free to all.

Back to Top ↑