Liquid Chimney Could Reduce Global Warming

Turn global warming gases into coral beds? Could this be real? Tom Kiser, who made his reputation working together with William McDonough on the greening of the Ford River Rouge plant, claims to have a smokestack which will capture the gases which cause greenhouse effects and turn them into harmless material, which could even be deposited in the ocean to restore coral reefs.The full report at CNN Money is worth reading, as much for the interesting profile of a man driven to solve the technological problems of waste as for information about the system Kiser dubs a "liquid chimney". But the issue which concerns us is: could this work? The picture shows Kiser standing on a pile of stainless steel rings which the article claims help to filter out greenhouse gas. In fact, what Kiser has in mind sounds a lot like what is commonly referred to in industry as a "scrubber" or a "gas washer". The principle involves routing the waste gas flow into a chamber packed with some objects such as the steel rings Kiser is standing on. The steel rings provide a large surface area for a liquid, sprayed in at the top of the chamber, to flow over. At the surface of the liquid, particles or gases are trapped and either dissolved in the liquid or reacted to a harmless (or less harmful) substance, depending on which technology is being used. The technology is probably in use in many businesses in your own home town, keeping odors or dust or harmful chemicals out of the air you breath.

The trick is that gases such as carbon dioxide do not stay dissolved well (think about what happens when you open a bottle of soda). And they are usually produced in such large quantities, that the idea of reacting them quickly proves uneconomical. Common chemicals such as sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) or potassium hydroxide (potash) can react with carbon dioxide. In the case of sodium hydroxide, the product formed is sodium carbonate, a harmless chemical--so harmless, it is in fact the chemical which makes ramen noodles "instant". But imagine the cost of buying the sodium hydroxide, and then disposing of the carbonate afterwards.

So it appears Kiser's secret is finding a way to make this process cost effective. Our conclusion: it can work. Is Kiser the man who can make it work at a price which will not drive energy prices too high for a person heating their house on a pension? We'll be watching Kiser; his company, Professional Supply, Inc. (PSI); and his customer, POM Wonderful. Good luck guys.

Via ::CNN Money


treehugger slideshows