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Removing CO2 From the Air Efficiently

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the install-anywhere dept.

Earth 487

Canadian scientists have created a device that efficiently removes CO2 from the atmosphere. "The proposed air capture system differs from existing carbon capture and storage technology ... while CCS involves installing equipment at, say, a coal-fired power plant to capture CO2 produced during the coal-burning process, ... air capture machines will be able to literally remove the CO2 present in ambient air everywhere. [The team used] ... a custom-built tower to capture CO2 directly from the air while requiring less than 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity per tonne of carbon dioxide."

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487 comments

Natural device? (5, Insightful)

TheMidnight (1055796) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215031)

Don't we have a device that removes CO2 from the air? I thought they were called "trees."

Re:Natural device? (5, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215115)

Oh honestly, you green bottomed hairy hippie! Why plant trees that will cleanly and effectively remove the carbon from the air, when we can invent a MACHINE to do it that will use electricity and require parts and labour and all that? You greenies and your whacky nature ideas. Honestly! How exactly do trees generate jobs?

I suppose you eat dolphin safe tuna as well?!

Re:Natural device? (5, Funny)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215547)

How exactly do trees generate jobs?

Well...people could be paid to plant them. Yeah, I know that trees can do this on their own....but can they do it in nice neat rows?

Re:Natural device? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215121)

They won't be making a pile of cash out of trees.

Can't resist:

1) Identify a possible source of trouble
2) Invent a fix, no matter how convoluted it is
3) Patent it and market it
4) Profit

Just wonder how much do we have to wait for a fart capture device (cow farts are actually a major source of trouble)

Re:Natural device? (3, Informative)

citizen_senior (1372475) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215275)

Just wonder how much do we have to wait for a fart capture device (cow farts are actually a major source of trouble)

This has already been done in Holland - no waiting required, therefor - a university study group has work in progress on the subject of cow farts. There are groups of cows standing around with cylinders strapped to their backs in order to (forgive the word) fuel this study. Saw it on /.

Re:Natural device? (5, Funny)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215123)

Don't we have a device that removes CO2 from the air? I thought they were called "trees."

I hooked a tree up to 100kW, and it added CO2 to the air instead.

Re:Natural device? (5, Interesting)

TarrVetus (597895) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215177)

This may be Bad Math, but... The article says, "The tower unit was able to capture the equivalent of approximately 20 tonnes per year of CO2 on a single square metre of scrubbing material -- which amounts to the average level of emissions produced by one person each year in North America." A page I dug up [carbonify.com] claims a single tree removes "on average 50 pounds (22 kg) of carbon dioxide annually over 40 years."

The scrubber sounds pretty effective. No waiting for it to grow, and it's more space-efficient, which is good for cities and industrialized areas.

Re:Natural device? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215243)

This may be Bad Math, but... The article says, "The tower unit was able to capture the equivalent of approximately 20 tonnes per year of CO2 on a single square metre of scrubbing material -- which amounts to the average level of emissions produced by one person each year in North America." A page I dug up [carbonify.com] claims a single tree removes "on average 50 pounds (22 kg) of carbon dioxide annually over 40 years."

The scrubber sounds pretty effective. No waiting for it to grow, and it's more space-efficient, which is good for cities and industrialized areas.

Yep, and we only ned 450,000,000 of them to keep up with the carbon output of the denizens of North America.

It's not clear from the wording whether that includes the output of North American industry, or just the habits of individuals.

Re:Natural device? (3, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215257)

And trees which are being GM'ed to grow faster and/or remove more CO2 are under attack by eco-terrorists.

I'm not going to search, but I'd thought that grasslands were more efficient CO2 sinks than trees

Re:Natural device? (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215323)

For comparison:

Poplar trees are about 10 tons per acre. Which is about 2.5kg of wood per square meter.

From: http://www.physorg.com/news75568548.html

And oil palms produce about 0.6 kg of oil per square metre.

Re:Natural device? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215355)

So we just have to build a tower for every North American and the problem is solved?

Nice to see the tech developing, though.

Re:Natural device? (1)

Candid88 (1292486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215389)

Yea but planting a few billion tree's and letting them grow themselves is a heck of a lot easier than building hundreds of millions of these towers.

Re:Natural device? (4, Funny)

beav007 (746004) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215485)

Strangely, typing "trees" instead of "tree's" is both easier, and correct, and you haven't done it. I'd say our Canadian friends are on to something.

If apostrophes meant "ZOMGHereComesAnS", we would type "treeZOMGHereComesAnSs", but they don't, so we don't.

Re:Natural device? (1)

Peaker (72084) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215633)

The ratio seems to be 1 to 40,000.

If you need to plant billions of trees (consider the amount of land required, too...), then you would only need to build 10,000's of these machines.

Re:Natural device? (2)

jambox (1015589) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215471)

Yeah trees grow real slow. But over the years a tree will still soak up tons of CO2, plus they cost nothing, there's no maintenance and you get a useful resource out of them at the end. Also you can pollard them to speed things up.

Re:Natural device? (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215561)

This may be Bad Math, but... The article says, "The tower unit was able to capture the equivalent of approximately 20 tonnes per year of CO2 on a single square metre of scrubbing material

How often are you going to have to remove this material? Probably fairly frequently considering that it is going to be accumulating something like 55kg per day.

The scrubber sounds pretty effective. No waiting for it to grow, and it's more space-efficient, which is good for cities and industrialized areas.

Trees are fairly "low maintainence" and produce at least one useful by product. Some (including one which should be obvious to Canadians) produce more than one useful product.

Re:Natural device? (3, Insightful)

bakuun (976228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215183)

Don't we have a device that removes CO2 from the air? I thought they were called "trees."

Yes, but when the trees eventually die they are decomposed and release the CO2 into the air again (or in the case of biofuel, they release it into the air again when burned). It is a carbon-neutral system, both when left alone and when used as a fuel.

I imagine an approach like this would be considerably less efficient than, say, putting CCS devices on coal plants. If it "costs" 100 kWh / tonne of CO2 at a normal location, you'd most likely get better efficiency if this was done where the air concentration of CO2 was high. Such as.. at the top of a coal-plant chimney where the CO2 concentration is going to be a great deal higher than the average concentration in the atmosphere.

Re:Natural device? (1)

afc_wimbledon (1052878) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215313)

Yes, but when the trees eventually die they are decomposed and release the CO2 into the air again

There are proposed schemes to bury (fairly deeply; on the order of tens of metres IIRC) trees when they die as a method of carbon sequestration. Of course, that uses machinery that in turn produces CO2, so even that has some energy input, like this scheme, and may well need a lot more labour. AND look pretty ugly (think large, VERY large, scale open cast mining in reverse).

Re:Natural device? (1)

bakuun (976228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215615)

Err.. The idea being then that at those depths, bacteria wouldn't get to them? Or that with no oxygen available, decomposition would be infeasible? I have to say, it sounds like an awful lot of work - first to do the digging, and secondly to actually place the cut-down trees in these deposits.

Re:Natural device? (1)

ceeceekay (892744) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215327)

are these people related to this? "That's why our innovators at COyou Ltd have developed a revolutionary new product that gives the power to individuals to stop climate change." http://www.cou2.com/ [cou2.com]

Re:Natural device? (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215507)

Don't we have a device that removes CO2 from the air? I thought they were called "trees."

Any green plant will do. How difficult would it be to pipe the exhaust from a coal fired powerstation through some greenhouses. Which is the obvious place to put a "greenhouse gas" in the first place :)

Re:Natural device? (1)

Spacelem (189863) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215559)

Trees actually emit CO2 at night when there is no light for photosynthesis. Amusingly enough, the hotter the climate, the more CO2 they produce, and another few degrees would be enough to make them net CO2 emitters, rather than the absorbers they currently are.

Re:Natural device? (3, Insightful)

archeopterix (594938) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215627)

[...] another few degrees would be enough to make them net CO2 emitters, rather than the absorbers they currently are

I call bullshit on this one. As long as plants need carbon to build their bodies, they will be CO2 absorbers, at least until they die and decompose.

Re:Natural device? (4, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215603)

And now the catch ... while this tower is beyond inefficient :

Coal produces 2.117 pounds per kwh.
= 0.000960255047 tonne per kwh.
= 1041 kwh per tonne Co2

This needs about 10% of that power, combined with some 15% transmission loss, and the fact that this is a lower bound over time (obviously if we lower athmospheric co2 this cost will raise).

That means we need 23% or about 1/4th of total energy to merely break even. Petroleum and gas aren't that much better, and aren't feasible over even the medium term anymore. To actually make a difference we'd need 50% of all energy produced, which means our generating capacity needs to rise by 100% (and not 50% because if we raise it by 50% we'd have 1.5 times the energy which would be divided into 0.75 for carbon nonsense and 0.75 for us. So we'd need 200% of the energy making it 1 unit for us, and 1 unit for co2 nonsense).

That's not exactly good news, is it ? It gets worse.

Trees are much worse in efficiency than this. Yes, they do produce their own energy. They're however 2% efficient solar panels (so in reality a tree presents lost energy, in that a solar panel could have been standing where the tree stood and produce about 20 TIMES more energy, making these towers more efficient even if trees were 100% efficient chemical machines, since that would only give them 5% of the efficiency of the solar panels).

Well trees do about 650 kg per tree per year. Needless to say this is beyond pitiful. Using solar panels to power a tower like this would replace a forest in about 100 square meters. Combine this with the need to double generating capacity in order to make the towers work and you'll see exactly where this would be going in the real world.

Just stop exhaling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215033)

After awhile, we will be dead and won't contribute to CO2. The plants will thrive and re-balance everything out.

Truth be told, I really don't believe in trying to undo things that we have caused. We don't really know how big or small our footprint is. Let's continue to be dumb about it and when we do start dying off because of things that we do, balance will be attained.

it this (0, Redundant)

doubtless (267357) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215041)

A really big electric tree? :D

Re:it this (4, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215213)

Only a lot more efficient. An average tree will use roughly 22kg of CO2 per year. These things are estimated to remove 20 tonnes per year per square metre, so it's in excess of 1000 times more effective. Even after you factor in the CO2 produced to provide the power needed for these things, you're still likely coming out way ahead.

Is it effective? (2, Insightful)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215043)

Yeah, but how much energy does generating one tonne of CO2 give? It still just capturing CO2, they need still more energy to eventually convert it to fuel [wired.com]

Re:Is it effective? (1, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215063)

I assume that this device would be used with clean renewable energy sources to remove CO2 we've already pumped into the atmosphere. So, you'd run this thing at night when energy prices are low (around 1-2 cents/kwH) to help bring the atmosphere back into balance (and of course, you must be using wind or some other non-fossil fuel for electicty, duh).

A couple of these machines by themselves won't do much, but hundreds of thousands of them powered by coastal wind farms or solar farms in the desert could definitely reverse some of the damage we've done (in conjunction with moving from coal to nuclear for base load power; electrification of transportation; etc).

Re:Is it effective? (3, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215073)

I almost forgot, these machines and the clean energy they need could be paid for using carbon credits. Nuclear energy in Northern Illinois (where I live) can be had for about a penny per kWh between midnight and 4 am (when base load is extremely low). So, if they can pull out a ton of CO2 from the atmosphere for 100 kwH of energy, you're looking at between $1-$2/ton in energy costs (capital costs for the equipment needs to be considered, as well as people to maintain everything).

Re:Is it effective? (1)

Dragar (1375943) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215611)

Having a scrubber that is effective at normal atmospheric concentrations is very interesting. As mentioned above, it could be located at a source of readily available clean energy, or run in off-peak hours, using waste electricity that is going to be generated anyway. I'd be interested to know what form the scrubbedc arbon is in, assuming a solid powder or something similar it could be a lot easier to store than when it has to be compressed for geo-sequestration. That process comrpesses CO2 to very high pressure at considerable energy cost, and due to the high pressure is an escape risk. If it is instead in a stable solid form it should be a lot easier and safer to store it, simple burial for example. Further benefit is that clean coal etc can at best reduce the amount of new carbon we emit into the atmosphere. That is the first issue to solve, certainly, but its nice to know that someone is working on ways (more efficient than trees) that can pull it out of the atmosphere once there.

Re:Is it effective? (1)

zobier (585066) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215107)

Yeah, but how much energy does generating one tonne of CO2 give?

Given approximately 1.5 lb CO2/kWh, somewhere around 1400 kWh.

Probably Not, IMHO (2, Insightful)

Gazzonyx (982402) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215137)

You mean, do the laws of thermodynamics still apply?
Yes.
It will always take more energy to convert from one form of energy to another; the trick is using 'free' energy with minimal impact for a catalyst and accepting that the return is always marginalized. We also get diminishing returns on our attempts to make more efficient systems... the energy to create the systems climbs as the returns on said systems becomes less. Just gotta' accept that part of the game, 'cause you can't not play.

Mine is far more efficient (2, Informative)

JumperCable (673155) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215053)

It's solar powered. No need to pay any electric bills. Maintenance & care is cheap dirt.
http://pws.byu.edu/tree_tour/images/tree116small.jpg [byu.edu]

Re:Mine is far more efficient (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215083)

G-God? Is that you?

Re:Mine is far more efficient (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215093)

Trees suck up large amount of CO2 when they're growing and convert it into plant matter. When they reach adulthood, the amount of CO2 they process drops off.

Re:Mine is far more efficient (1)

BlackMesaLabs (893043) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215195)

Then we can chop them down, make them into paper, and replant.

The paper gets the TPS report printed on it, then gets buried in landfill, thus sequestering the CO2 safely in the earth until it gets converted back into fossil fuel in the distant future.

Re:Mine is far more efficient (1)

Petersson (636253) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215413)

Trees suck up large amount of CO2 when they're growing and convert it into plant matter. When they reach adulthood, the amount of CO2 they process drops off.

Well, explain that to trees in my garden. The bastards just keep growing and growing, it simply sucks to clean all the old leaves and cut new branches every year.

hmm (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215059)

I heard recently of a similar but cheaper form of air capture machines, they call them "trees"...

atmosphere processor from LV-426 (1)

dhart (1261) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215067)

"[The team used] ... a custom-built tower to capture CO2 directly from the air..." Is it just me, or did everyone else also receive that instant mental image of the [nuked] atmosphere processor from LV-426?

Counterproductive (5, Funny)

invisibleairwaves (1266542) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215097)

> Canadian scientists have created a device that efficiently removes CO2 from the atmosphere.

As a Canadian, I have to say I'm disappointed in my fellow countrymen. Just when you thought global warming would make our climate mildly tolerable, they go and mess it all up.

Thanks, guys. I'm sure you'll regret this in a few months. No, I will not shovel your driveway.

100 kWh per tonne of CO2 (1)

viking80 (697716) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215099)

Since a coal fired power plant produces 100kg of CO2 to produce the electricity to remove one ton, you will have to remove that to, or 1,111kg. And then you will have to store it for a billion years.

Reference point to CO2 emissions (5, Informative)

Hays (409837) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215105)

Assuming that 1 tonne = 1000kg, this machine requires approximately 1 kilowatt hour of electricity to remove 10kg of Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere. How efficient is this?

From http://www.glumac.com/section.asp?catid=140&subid=152&pageid=564 [glumac.com]

"For home energy use, carbon dioxide emissions vary widely from state-to-state and from day-to-day. The national average is about 1.3 pounds of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt-hour of electricity used in your home."

Not bad. If it really works, you can redirect 10 to 15% of your electricity to achieve Carbon neutrality.

Re:Reference point to CO2 emissions (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215433)

You've still got the energy cost of disposing of the CO2, by burying it or whatever. It has to be taken out of the carbon cycle completely.

Re:Reference point to CO2 emissions (3, Insightful)

jimdread (1089853) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215491)

You've still got the energy cost of disposing of the CO2, by burying it or whatever. It has to be taken out of the carbon cycle completely.

Then only way you can take it completely out of the carbon cycle is to blast it into space on a rocket. Carbon, being the fourth most abundant element in the universe, is everywhere on the planet. Fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are made of fossilized plants and animals. In other words, fossil fuels are just as much part of the carbon cycle as carbon dioxide, plants, limestone, marble, kittens, and methane. Think about how the carbon got into the coal. It's part of a cycle. A very long cycle.

Re:Reference point to CO2 emissions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215593)

No need to put it in a rocket! Carbon is does not undergo chemical transformations under normal conditions. It won't go back to gaz or whatever without help. You can simply store it. Yet we have to calculate the storage volume that would require...

Natural Gas Processing Plants? (1)

TFGeditor (737839) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215131)

I have always found it curious all the attention to coal-powered generating plants re: CO2, but nobody ever mentions the fact that natural gas processing plants extract--and release directly into the atmosphere--tons of CO2 every year.

Re:Natural Gas Processing Plants? (3, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215329)

Probably because that gas was coming out anyway, as the wells are tapped for the oil in them. The only thing the natural gas plants do is reduce the overall need for the oil (by taking up some of the load) and convert greenhouse gases into weaker greenhouse gases.

Re:Natural Gas Processing Plants? (2, Informative)

rukcus (1261492) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215419)

Energy generation can't be measured in total emissions, but rather by emissions per unit energy produced.

Coal: 1160 g of CO2/kWh
Gas: 400 g of CO2/kWh
PV Solar: 120 g of CO2/kWh (manufacturing)
Nuclear: 55 g of CO2/kWh
Biomass: -4 kg of CO2/kWh

Of course, nuclear has its own special disposal requirements, but it is less polluting in terms of green house gases.

Source: Wiertzstraat, Wise, Coming Clean: How Clean Is Nuclear Energy? Stichting GroenLinks in EU; Brussels, Belgium. Oct 2000.

Re:Natural Gas Processing Plants? (2, Informative)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215429)

When you burn gas you get less CO2 for the same energy output than you do from coal because part of the reaction is reacting the hydrogen in the gas with oxygen which produces water so gas plants arn't quite so bad for the enviroment.

CH4 + 2O2 -> CO2 + 2H20

Coal however is almost 100% carbon (apart from some minor impurities).

interesting, but... (1)

Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215135)

"requiring less than 100 kilowatt-hours of electricity per tonne of carbon dioxide" how many kilowatt hours does it take to produce a tonne of carbon dioxide using a gas / oil / coal powerplant?

Re:interesting, but... (2, Interesting)

Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215157)

shoulda googled before i posted:

*snip*
According to these studies, a new coal fired power plant will release between 1.96 (PLC) and 2.09 (DOE) pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour of operation. For our report, we assume that any given coal-fired power plant will emit 2 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt hour.
A power plant with a one megawatt (1,000 kilowatts) name plate capacity will produce the equivalent of 8,760,000 kilowatt hours annually at full operation -- that is, 8,760 hours multiplied by 1,000. At this rate, such a plant would emit an estimated 17,520,000 pounds, which is the equivalent of 8,760 short tons or 7,947 metric tons of CO2.
*snip*
from : http://209.85.173.104/search?q=cache:3Lo6hNKC2UwJ:www.seen.org/pages/db/method.shtml+co2+per+kilowatt+hour+coal+powerplant&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=au [209.85.173.104]

so these devices will suck up about 1.5 months worth of C02 emissions at a miniscule amount of the energy. awesome.

Re:interesting, but... (1)

pradeepsekar (793666) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215369)

2 pound per KWH emitted implies 200 pounds (91Kg) emitted for the 100KWH, which cleans up 1 Ton from the atmosphere. A 9% cost to just remove the CO2 produced is 'decent', but definitely not awesome. I'm not clear where the CO2 finally goes - is it stored as a carbonate, or what. We really need to see where it ends up if we are to compare it with other 'solutions' proposed.

I have seen a number of proposals before... (2, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215147)

I have seen a number of proposals before that make the very basic mistake of using a material to absorb C02 that gives of C02 during manufacturer. Until I see details I will take this with a pinch of salt.

If I had a penny every time someone says "just absorb it all with lime" I would be able to afford a chocolate bar. Besides which, looking at emissions per kw/h [npcil.nic.in] you had better not use coal or oil to power this, and even with Gas produced electricity the benefit is marginal.

Canadian Scientists eh? (1)

GlobalColding (1239712) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215161)

Don't mind me, I am just having a huge Bob & Doug McKenzie flashback... Too much Molsons, Strange Brew, eh! Canadian Scientists heh heh, damn.

Re:Canadian Scientists eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215295)

What about methane [slashdot.org] then? Hosers.

(note to non-Canadian folk: you don't use "eh?" when it is semantically relevant, like after the question shown above, eh?)

Nevermind CO2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215173)

While CO2 is an important greenhouse gas, methane is going to be a bigger problem now the arctic warming is releasing it into the atmosphere.
Are there efficient ways of removing methane?

Re:Nevermind CO2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215251)

Are there efficient ways of removing methane?

Farting!!

Cheaper way. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215191)

I still think creating a time travel device, going back and assassinating Al Gore and IPCC key members will end this global warming problem.

While we're at it, I hope you won't mind if we put two leads in Col. Korn's head. Later, I'd like to murder Havermeyer and Appleby. After we do those two, we can kill McWatt.

Re:Cheaper way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215449)

I think the current headlines show us the downside of "everyone gets a share", even if you have cornered the market on Egyptian cotton.

If they want to remove CO2... (5, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215199)

Goto where the farmers are burning down the rain forests, teach/give/train them how to plant high yield crops and stop them from clear cutting/burning them down. And shock...you'll get somewhere.

Sometimes the most obvious solutions are sitting in front of their faces.

Re:If they want to remove CO2... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215461)

Teaching people would work as a solution?

You must be new here... and I mean the planet.

Re:If they want to remove CO2... (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215517)

What happens to those crops once they're destroyed? How do the crops get to wherever the market for them is?

A good laugh (1)

Bazar (778572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215215)

A company could, in principle, contract with an oilsands plant near Fort McMurray to remove CO2 from the air and could build its air capture plant wherever itâ(TM)s cheapest -- China

I had to laugh at that, for once its not because of cheap labour that the jobs are being outsourced.

It does raise the issue however, china is already let off the Kyoto treaty as its considered a developing nation, now are they are going to reap economical benefits of other developed nations by outsourcing their CO2.

Seems like a double win for China for all the wrong reasons.

Space missions (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215267)

expedient and efficient removal of CO2 at atmospheric concentrations could have profound implications in space.

Currently, CO2 is scrubbed using lithium salts, which are not only heavy, but also caustic, and have a limited service life before requiring replacement.

A purely electric, and solid state device capable of continuous operation would allow for superior space vehicle designs which could theoretically operate much longer than currently available ones.

If they discover a way to electronically reduce the carbon dioxide into elemental carbon, things will be even more interesting.

Re:Space missions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215325)

You are aware of the fact that combining carbon with oxygen releases energy and the fact that separating them costs energy correct? If both processes are less than 100% efficient your perpetual motion machine will cease to function.

Re:Space missions (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215367)

Who said anything about purpetual motion? Space vehicles have power generation systems on board. This kind of system would be for something like that hypothetical mission to mars, which would be 6 months in duration, and quite distant from resupply for lithium salts, and oxygen tanks. Also, such a vehicle will likely sport a nuclear reactor of one sort or the other. The carbon dioxide produced inside a space vehicle is created by HUMAN OCCUPANTS. Try to lay off the sarcasm from now on, K?

Storage Issue (3, Insightful)

3HackBug77 (983153) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215281)

But the big question is where is all this CO2 going to go. We have the ability to store CO2, but eventually we are going to run out of room to store it all, and even worse, if it leaks you've screwed over the area around the storage. I can't imagine that storage containers would last forever too, eventually, we would have to do something with it all.

Re:Storage Issue (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215319)

Simple enough. Just bubble it up through the ocean.

The ocean is a natural "Carbon sink"-- EG, the minerals (salts) dissolved in the ocean form carbonate mineral complexes when they are exposed to dissolved CO2. This is how all that loverly limestone forms on the bottom of the ocean.

Places with access to "very very deep" ocean trenches are the ideal locations for CO2 sequestering facilities, since the CO2 can be pumped underneath several kilometers of ocean water, and pushed through a bubbler. Most of the CO2 will become dissolved into the ocean water, and precipitate out as limestone and related minerals, and lie harmlessly on the ocean floor.

Re:Storage Issue (1)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215617)

Where do you think it came from? It was buried deep in the earth in the form of fossil fuels.

Carbon sequestration schemes usually involve injecting the C02 back into the same sorts of geological structures where, under substantial pressure, it is rendered back into a liquid and contained by the geological formations.

It may seem counter intuitive but so far studies have shown promising results for long term containment.

Caution (2, Interesting)

bytesex (112972) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215289)

I really, really wouldn't do all this 'CO2 from the air removing' until we're 100% sure that 1) it causes global warming, 2) global warming is bad and 3) our natural mechanisms are somehow inadequate at the moment. And even then, I mean, sure - put a filter on that chimney, but don't start removing it from places where trees (or plankton) might be hungry for it, making our ecosystem even more unstable.

Re:Caution (2, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215451)

1) CO2 does cause heating of the atmosphere. Thats basic physics and is not up for debate.

2) Global warming might not be bad in the long term scheme of things but its bad for the enviroment (and ourselves) as we know it.

3) Given that current natural mechanisms can't cope with the amount of CO2 we're chucking into the atmosphere then its pretty obvious they're inadequate to the needs of clearing up our mess.

Re:Caution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215549)

By that logic we really really shouldn't be putting any CO2 in the atmosphere in the first place.

Now that we have...

And what do we do with the CO2? (5, Interesting)

scottme (584888) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215293)

This extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere is all well and good, but are there any reliable and cost-effective ways to store it or dispose of it?

LImestone (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215459)

All we need to do is persuade plankton to go on a binge.

Re:LImestone (2, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215539)

we can do this by pumping the carbon dioxide down deep under the ocean surface into the deep, mineral rich water below. The bubbling action will not only dissolve a goodly portion of the CO2 into the ocean water, but will also bring those deep minerals to the surface, which would initiate a kelp and algae bloom. It could have neat fringe benefits in that it could be used to promote commercial fisheries.

Re:LImestone (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215597)

Yeah , but it would acidify the water (which is already happening to a small extent) and have who knows what knock on effects.

Re:LImestone (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215631)

Indeed, however, it already occurs (at rates that put industrial disposal to shame) naturally in deep sea vents where volcanic gasses containing not only carbon dioxide, but also sulfur dioxide (and friends.) Sulfur dioxide promotes the formation of sulfates, rather than carbonates, which greatly acidifies the water in comparison to CO2. I dont mean to bubble the stuff down at the surface, I mean bubble it down VERY VERY deep-- like methane hydrate deep. :D

Re:And what do we do with the CO2? (-1, Flamebait)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215487)

We distribute it among congregations in the bible belt in 3 LB cylinders, brightly colored, with the words "kids! puncture in a small room, then wait 15 minutes for an awesome surprise!"

it's a WIN-WIN for the worldwide populace!

Scrubbing is one thing ... (2, Interesting)

Per Abich (45614) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215349)

... but what will they do with the CO2 once they have it? Storing it under ground would solve the problem for us (maybe), but what of future generations. If they however would be able to "turbo grow" trees from it, or make some industrial breaking up of the molecule efficient, then I see some use in it.

Better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215411)

By not putting there in the first place?

Re:Better idea (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215443)

Oh the irony... Such a post coming from a person using the internet... I suppose your computer is powered by a bicycle?

Do androids dream of electric sheep? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215589)

And if an electric tree falls in the forest, and there is no-one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

What use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215431)

What use is removing CO2 from the atmosfere?

There is a reaction equilibrium of forming CO2 (by burning fuels, breathing, etc) and forming O2 by plants. We should restore that equilibrium, not plunder resources at one side. Because if you plunder resources at one side, you plunder the other side too. In effect, what you REALLY do with this is removing oxygen from the atmosfere.

According to "The Science of Discworld", this was what made biosphere 2 fail. So we did the experiment, know how it ends, and now it is time to learn from it.

Re:What use? (1)

Per Abich (45614) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215609)

So you are saying, we should just remove all oxygen from the athmosphere, and our CO2 problems solve itself?

Many (1)

mqduck (232646) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215521)

I suppose I'm being a troll, but how many of these CO2 removing thingies have to be invented till they exist somewhere outside Slashdot?

Use them on Mars! (1)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215527)

I say, let the terraforming begin!

Place these things all over the martian surface and make em solar powered!

Won't CO2 scrubbers kill plant life? (1)

Tyrannicalposter (1347903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215533)

Won't CO2 scrubbers kill plant life by sucking up all the CO2 in the area? Or at least enough to harm the plants. Sure doesn't sound very eco friendly.

Re:Won't CO2 scrubbers kill plant life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25215571)

Well CO2 is building up in our atmosphere, so obviously the plant life can't keep up with the amount we are producing. These could be a way of balancing the system so our CO2 output is neutralized in a combination of plant life and machinery. What could happen is that these could be used in densely populated areas with little plant life, to affect the surroundings by as little as possible. You do bring up a good point though, in that it would be intresting to see if these suck up C02 too quickly for the surrounding plant life to get their fix, or whether it works slow enough that it reduces the excess C02.

But what do they do with it afterwards (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 5 years ago | (#25215579)

Removing the CO2 is hard but the hardest problem is what to do with it once you have removed it. I haven't RTFA yet but I'm guessing it's going to be the old pump it under the ground solution. That's great but if you want to store a lot of CO2 that way you need to compress it and that is going to use a lot of energy.

Personally I think a better idea would be to make charcoal and bury that. Genetically engineer a very fast growing tree, turn it into charcoal after a few years and spread it on fields or just dump it in old mines.

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