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Vacuum Up that Carbon! by George Ropes, ClimateYou Senior Editor

Learn this new phrase: direct air capture. It’s a process being developed that does what trees do, take carbon dioxide out of the air. Direct air capture is a radical variant of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Several start-up companies are pursuing this technology, and both are out of the lab and into the pilot plant phase of development.

Reported by Akshat Rathi in the digital news outlet, Quartz, companies piloting the CO2 capture are Switzerland’s Climeworks, Canada’s Carbon Engineering, and the US’s Global Thermostat; all are building machines that, at reasonable costs, can capture CO2 directly from the air.

In the spring of this year, Climeworks set up its first commercial unit near Zurich, Switzerland, that can capture about 1,000 metric tons of CO2 from the air each year (equivalent to 20 US households’ annual emissions). According to Rahti’s article, “the captured CO2 is sent to a nearby greenhouse where a high concentration of the gas boosts crop yield by 20%.”

graphic courtesy of Climeworks

Also, this innovative technology is projecting price targets at a scale that imply viability. If their early success generates more investor interest, both the number of business ventures and the pace of technological breakthroughs should follow. That’s important because reducing carbon emissions alone may not proceed fast enough and go far enough to avoid catastrophic climate change; removing significant amounts of CO2 from the air can help deter or delay the worst consequences of climate change.

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One Response

  1. Hi George! Very interesting technology! A couple questions from a concerned environmentalist!

    Does this fall under the category of carbon capture and storage?

    Also you’d presumably need energy for this tech. Is there a plan in place to remove carbon without burning carbon?

    Finally, I can see this as an aggressive and ‘fast’ way to alleviate climate change while we get society together in reducing overall emissions. But what about reforestation? Are we putting our resources in the right place, rolling out this technology instead of recovering our forests? Please explain! Thanks
    -paul

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