Capturing CO2 from the Atmosphere May Be More Feasible Than Once Thought

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It’s no secret that the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is steadily rising. A variety of factors contribute to this increase but one thing is for sure: It’s kind of a drag. However, we aren’t totally screwed quite yet. Researchers at the Georgia Institue of Technology have not only developed techniques for absorbing CO2 directly from the atmosphere, but have also determined that these techniques are much more economically feasible than originally anticipated. Learn more about the logistics of Georgia Tech’s methods below.

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The level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere hovers around 400 parts per million as of 2012 and has been projected to follow the trend of recent years by increasing. As a greenhouse gas, CO2 in the atmosphere has a number of effects on the planet’s climate and is frequently blamed for global warming.

A team at Georgia Tech has been developing methods to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the air for several years. With the help of funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the team has developed an absorbent material that can extract 90% pure carbon dioxide from air containing flue gas. The extracted carbon dioxide could then be put to industrial use in such areas as fuel production using algae and enhanced oil recovery.

Sounds expensive, right? You’d be surprised. PhysOrg reports:

In a detailed economic feasibility study, the researchers projected that a CO2 removal unit the size of an ocean shipping container could extract approximately a thousand tons of the gas per year with operating costs of approximately $100 per ton. The researchers also reported on advances in adsorbent materials for selectively capturing carbon dioxide.

Christopher Jones, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, estimated that once the process is refined and perfected, it would prove even cheaper than the estimates in the study. It should be noted that the study did not consider the capital cost of the capture facilities or any materials required for said facilities.

Although we are a long way from seeing any CO2 units implemented, this is a step toward reducing carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. Hopefully, this innovation will serve as inspiration for other researchers to devote their energy to finding methods for lowering CO2 levels in the air.


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