Gallery: Could we solve global warming by sucking CO2 from the air?


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.

+ Could US scientist’s ‘CO2 catcher’ help to slow warming? @ The Guardian


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  1. Peter Griffiths July 16, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    There’s a lot of speculation and dreaming about saving the planet from a disaster of epic proportions.
    We are faced with an environmental disaster of epic proportions! – did you know it so grave that China is commissioning one new CO2 emitting Power Plant each and every week.

    Our mission is to ensure survival of life on this planet – and to our knowledge no other practical universal solution free of bi-products and not requiring further capital expenditure on buildings and treatment plants for waste from the reduction process exists to limit emissions exists.

    We are interested to partner with like-minded, existing well financed and honest government agencies, and businesses with R&D / Engineering capability, interested to deeply and rapidly penetrate target markets globally. Your enquiries and expressions of interest are welcomed.

    Your help is needed.

    Peter Griffiths – for details

  2. Peter Griffiths July 16, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    The fundamental to handle the CO2 problem is to confront it and actually cut the CO2 emissions.
    The primary driver is fast action in reducing CO2 emissions.

    Our own purpose is clearly stated:

    – “Saving the planet from an environmental disaster of epic proportions is an urgent matter and needs collaborative effort” –

    People and organizations with a similar purpose to our own will actually make something happen to
    to save life on the planet.

    Unlike the Y2k computer problem we do not have a definite date to work toward to save the world from disaster..

    Peter Griffiths

  3. jaz June 13, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    IT’s been unseasonably cool here in denver so far this spring.

  4. * Arctic Times * | arct... June 13, 2008 at 9:06 am

    […] Inhabitat highlighted the story of a very ingenious solution to the threat of global warming: Co2 suction from the atmosphere. A group of scientists from Columbia University think that this ultimate […]

  5. hambargarz June 12, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    water vapour? isn’t water vapour also a greenhouse gas?

  6. Scott June 10, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    water vapor or not, what do you do with the CO2 that you had absorbed and then removed from the sheet. Where do you remove it to? why not just move it to the place you need it immediately? my sci-fi reader brain has a carbon refinery next to the power plant that takes the carbon from the exhaust and turns it into carbon fiber to replace plastics and metals. either that or it pumps the air across pools of photosynthetic bacteria that clean the air and produce more electricity. 😉 keep dreaming right…

    Hey BJ do you think Jorge is hot? and blond? thats cute. 😉

  7. rh June 10, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    apparently trees only absorb CO2 during the first 55 years (roughly) of their life…

  8. Barbara P. June 10, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Isn\’t that what trees are doing ? Sucking CO2 out of the air!

  9. BJ June 10, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Hey, what do you expect from the web’s hottest eco-blonds. 😉

    Sheldon Says: +0June 9th, 2008 at 8:07 am
    …the propagation of “mis-information” is a touch frustrating in helping the true cause. The top photo is of water cooling towers which are emitting water vapour, not CO2!

  10. cpine June 10, 2008 at 3:40 am

    …and there is a problem with attempting to do reforestation in areas that are depopulating? THAT is really a “green” way of sequestering CO2!! Looking at this techno-babel, is it the un-spoken notion that this technology would “make up” for ripping out more rainforest or bog or whatever. Put the converters on the roof of the “tree museums” and use “carbon credits” to pay for them? What humbug!

  11. Brian Lang June 9, 2008 at 11:39 am

    $200K per ton of CO2 to start. That would come down if they choose to mass-produce. Also, is there not an X-Prize for this kind of technology?

  12. Snark June 9, 2008 at 8:13 am

    “Powerful tool if it comes to pass.”

    Except not really. $200k per ton of CO2 equates to a mist-droplet in a bucket. For the price, you could save an order of magnitude more carbon from ever being emitted by refitting an older house with vacuum glass and good insulation, or by fitting a few city buses with hydraulic hybrid setups.

    Nothing meaningful will ever come out of ways to suck carbon already emitted out of the air. It’s being added far faster than it will ever be sequestered. Best to concentrate our efforts on ways to prevent it from being emitted in the first place, rather than trying to stuff the genie back in the bottle.

  13. Sheldon June 9, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Although this article and the technology behind it appears sound, I find myself having to point out the propagation of “mis-information” is a touch frustrating in helping the true cause. The top photo is of water cooling towers which are emitting water vapour, not CO2!

    The tower which emits all the harmful nasty stuff at coal (and other fossil fuel based) power stations are the tall thin ones that emits little sign of visible smoke. Please don’t give the non-believers more ammo by using incorrect “shock” pictures to try and promote reasons for change.

    (similar comments about this lack of global warming information are discussed at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s website: )

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