How to take carbon dioxide out of the air

by Antonio Pasolini on August 4, 2010

Via Earth Institute

Can you imagine if we could find a way to get rid of carbon dioxide emissions?

The August issue of National Geographic magazine has a story about physicist Klaus Lackner’s idea to develop filters to scrub the sky of the greenhouse gas. The thing is, removing CO2 out of the air might be easier than building jets and cars that don’t emit it.

The idea is to suck CO2 out of the air with “artificial trees” that operate a thousand times faster than real ones. Alongside Allen Wright, Lackner is experimenting with bits of whitish-beige plastic that work as artificial leaves. The plastic is a resin of the kind used to pull calcium out of water in a water softener. When Lackner and Wright impregnate that resin with sodium carbonate, it pulls carbon dioxide out of the air. The extra carbon converts the sodium carbonate to bicarbonate, or baking soda.

Lackner’s says his plastic offers two advantages over schemes that other labs are working on. “It sponges up CO2 quickly— the porous material has lots of surface area to contact the air – and holds on to it lightly. The latter is crucial. The CO2 must be separated from the sponge for disposal, and in most schemes that step takes a lot of energy. But Lackner and Wright just rinse their plastic with water in a vacuum chamber, and the CO2 comes off”, says the report.

To read the full story please go here.

To take part in the National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge, go here.

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