Imagine for a moment that we could buy ourselves some time in this climate change debacle by vacuuming greenhouse gas emissions out of the sky. Sucking CO2 from the atmosphere might be the ultimate green dream technology, with the capacity to solve all of our climate change problems. But, could it really happen? A group of scientists from Columbia University think that this ultimate solution might actually be a possibility.
The team, led by Klaus Lackner, have patented a device that they claim can remove CO2 from air. The innovation, as designed, would be able to capture the CO2 from the atmosphere by using absorbent plastic sheets, similar to the ion exchange membranes used to purify water. This is the easy part, as capturing CO2 has been doable for a while now. The problem was that there was no energy efficient way to separate the CO2 from the membranes, which meant that the membranes couldn’t be reused. The scientists’ breakthrough has to do with humidity. What the team discovered was that by changing the amount of humidity in the air, the membranes will effectively exhale the pure CO2 gas.
But before you go around thinking that the world is saved, and exclaiming to everyone that they can stop following this “green fad,” realize that even the scientists don’t believe that this is the panacea to all of our problems. The planned prototype, which will be finished in two years, will cost 100,000 GBP (near $200,000 USD), be smaller than a shipping container and be capable of eliminating around 1 ton of CO2. To put this in perspective, 1 ton of CO2 is about the same amount that a person generates by flying from London to New York, once.
Powerful tool if it comes to pass. However, we think that it is best if we still follow the only real solution to climate change: reduce, reuse, and recycle.