Scientists Develop Air "Scrubber" Capable of Sucking Up One Ton of CO2 a Day

klaus lackner CO2 extractor
This sounds too good to be true: a machine that can vacuum the equivalent of a ton of atmospheric carbon dioxide a day in a cost-effective way. We've seen our fair share of CO2 "sucking" devices in the past -- everything from modified plastic membranes to industrial-scale paper mill "scrubbers" -- but they've typically tended toward the expensive or unwieldy. So how does this particular device stand out?

Well, for one thing, its inventors, a team of U.S. scientists led by Columbia University's Klaus Lackner, say they'll be able to get a prototype up and running within the next 2 years. Secondly, they claim that the device, which is small enough to fit inside a shipping container, will be able to capture a ton of CO2 a day from the air -- at a fraction of the cost of similar technologies. The initial cost of the device, roughly $200,000, would be more than offset by the amount of carbon each would trap, they assert. "Our project has reached the stage where it is quite clear we can do it. We need to start dealing with all these emissions. I'd rather have a technology that allows us to use fossil fuels without destroying the planet, because people are going to use them anyway," Lackner told The Guardian's David Adam.

He doesn't expect the device to be the be all end all solution to global warming, of course. As he acknowledges, it would take upwards of hundreds of millions of them to suck up all the planet's excess carbon emissions.

The device's great strength, he says, is its low energy consumption (and, thus, lower cost). Other air capture devices had failed to make headway in the past because they often required large amounts of energy. Lackner's machine, which traps atmospheric CO2 on ion exchange membranes, takes advantage of small changes in humidity to lower its energy use tenfold.

The question then is how to dispose of all that trapped CO2. Lackner and his colleagues have a few ideas, which they outlined in their patent application: use the gas in greenhouses to increase plant growth; or use it to grow algae, which could be used for fertilizer, food or fuel. It looks like we may finally have a serious contender for Richard Branson's $25 million prize.

Image courtesy of The Guardian

Via ::The Guardian: Could US scientist's 'CO2 catcher' help to slow warming? (news website)

See also: ::Suck on this, CO2, ::Micro-Algae In CARS Will Clean Up Tar Sands, Suck CO2, Make Biofuel, Save World

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