A new direct air capture technology could be useful for sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
In nature, as it is known, trees act as great carbon dioxide suckers and therefore are very useful to fight climate warming. Thanks to their efficiency, therefore, some scientists are seriously thinking of creating a “mechanized version” of them. Robotic trees are able to suck CO2 from the atmosphere.
In a recent interview published in Inverse, Arizona State University professor Klaus Lackner, a pioneer in direct air capture and carbon storage, explained that his lab is looking for a way to develop mechanical trees. These could represent the future of CO2 captured directly from the air, thus helping to curb the problem of climate change.
Not just “robot trees”
Talking about mechanical trees is not referring to fake trees with branches joined with bolts, but more like cylinders much more similar to common heaters. In fact, these are tall vertical columns of disks coated with a chemical resin. About 1.5 meters in diameter and with the disks about 2 inches apart. When air blows through, the surfaces of the discs absorb CO2. After about 20 minutes, the disks are precooled and sink into a barrel below. Then water and steam are sent in to release the CO2 into an enclosed environment. The result would then be a low-pressure mixture of water vapour and CO2.
Lackner explained how his mechanical trees would use less energy than other high-intensity carbon capture projects. But he also cautioned that better carbon storage will have to be key, or else in the future humans may find themselves battling another problem – that of captured carbon once it escapes.
An increasingly confirmed trust.
Lackner also said he is concerned about the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) approach.
In July 2021, Arizona State University announced that Lackner had received $2.5 million in funding from the Department of Energy to work on its CO2 capture devices. Lackner has already built three farms capable of absorbing 1,000 tons of CO2 per day, and the first of those will open for business in April of this year.
Below are other insights on all the tools and disruptive innovations that the science of the future is developing to save the planet: