Carbon compounds are our main enemy in the fight against climate change. If you beat it, you could possibly win the whole war to save the planet.
Here are 3 steps to defeat carbon dioxide in particular.
Step 1: Suck It
The first step towards reducing the excess carbon is to suck it out from the atmosphere. Scientists advocate for large-scale carbon capturing projects and technologies to achieve ‘negative emissions’, which means cutting down emissions is no longer enough, we’ve got to suck up the carbon that we’ve already emitted as well. One way to do this is planting trees since they take in carbon and give out oxygen naturally. To suck in all the carbon we emit, we’d need to plant 400 million trees, and we just don’t have enough extra lands for that.
Enter air capture technology – just like trees this can trap the CO2 from the air and the best part is it can be built on non-cultivatable lands, like desserts. One air-capturing plant in Switzerland uses small fans to pull air into a sponge-like collector to soak up carbon dioxide. It can capture up to 900 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. If built on a massive scale (ie 7,50,000), they could capture 1% of the global emissions.
Step 2: Bury It
Once absorbed, the excess carbon can be buried deep underground via Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). This technology can capture up to 90% of CO2 produced during electricity generation and industrial processes.
Here’s how it’s done – first they filter the carbon from the other emissions. Then it is compressed at high temperature and transported via trucks, tankers or pipelines to be stored permanently deep underground. This is known as geosequestration. Storage sites which have many porous rocks, which act as a sponge, once the compressed CO2 is injected into it.
One of the world’s largest CCS project has transported 10 million tons of CO2 to its destination since the past one decade.
Step 3: Convert It
Instead of just burying it, carbon dioxide can also be put to productivity by re-using, recycling and converting it into plastic, fuel, fertilizers, concrete etc. One such useful product is carbon nanofibers converted using an electrochemical process. A team of chemists at the George Washington have successfully converted carbon to these nanofibres, which were then used in various industrial products like wind turbine blades, sports equipment and airplanes. (Read more about the project here)
A team from the University of British Columbia created an electrochemical cell that uses CO2 to desalinate wastewater and creates useful chemicals. Carbon Cycle, a U.K. company, uses CO2 to produce ammonium sulfate fertilizer and precipitated calcium carbonate, a product used in the paper industry.
With these new innovations and technologies, we can not trap all the excess carbon but also can make a better use of this waste product.