TEMPE, Az. - Twelve hundred "mechanical trees" will suck carbon dioxide from the air as part of a joint effort between Arizona State University and Ireland-based Silicon Kingdom Holdings (SKH).
The 1,200 carbon-cleansing metal columns, built by Silicon Kingdom to help put a stop to climate change, would allow for the cheap removal of nearly 8,000 cars' worth of CO2 emissions per year. The technology was invented by ASU's Klaus Lackner, who directs the University's Center for Negative Carbon Emissions.
CO2 is an odorless, colorless gas that is a byproduct of burning fossil fuels and other natural processes. Humans release more than 36 billion metric tons of CO 2 into the atmosphere annually, says ASU.
"The situation has gotten to the point where we need to stop talking about it and start doing something about it,” said Lackner. “Carbon dioxide is a waste product we produce every time we drive our cars or turn on the lights in our homes. Our device can recycle it, bringing it out of the atmosphere and either bury it or use it as an industrial gas,” added Lackner, who will serve as the chief scientific adviser to SKH.
SKH says the columns can remove CO2 more cheaply than other methods, as they do not need to draw air through the system mechanically - instead utilizing wind to blow air through the system. SKH says this makes the technology passive, relatively low-cost, scalable, and commerically viable.
Carbon sequestration, the act of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away, is gaining momentum. Oil and gas companies, including Shell, are investing billions to develop plants that store CO2 in reservoirs around the planet. It is a very expensive process - requiring carbon dioxide to be compressed into liquid and injected into rocks. Heavy subsidies or a carbon tax could be required for it to be commercially viable.
The SKH and ASU technology would mitigate that. SKH plans a two-year pilot that's estimated to capture more than 36,000 metric tons of CO2 - or around 7,750 vehicles - per year. If it is a success, a full-scale farm would be considered, which would be 100 times bigger.
Once captured, SKH says it would form CO2 into a compound that can be sold for use in industrial applications, including making drinks fizzy, creating fuel and extracting oil.
“Our goal is to accelerate the global climate effort set out in the Paris Agreement to contribute to reversing global carbon emissions in the next 10 to 15 years,” said Pól Ó Móráin, CEO of SKH. “Our passive process is the evolution of carbon capture technology which has the ability to be both economically and technologically viable at scale in a reasonably short time frame,” added Ó Móráin.
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