Mechanical shafts that suck C02 from the atmosphere for a first major test
Mechanical trees that suck CO2 from the atmosphere 1,000 times faster than real ones could be as common as cars within two decades, their developer said.
In 1999, Professor Klaus Lackner became the first scientist to argue that reducing carbon emissions would not be enough to prevent catastrophic climate change and that CO2 should also be removed from the air.
He has since been developing the mechanical shaft with the prototype about to be launched on the Arizona State University campus, where he works.
The prototype tree is a “concertina” column that is 10 meters high when fully extended and 1.5 meters wide, with a 2.5 meter wide drum attached to the bottom.
The column contains 150 circular horizontal discs coated with chemicals that capture CO2 when the wind passes through them.
If all goes according to plan, the prototype trees will fill with CO2 every 30 to 60 minutes, when they are accordion-like in the drum, and the CO2 will be collected and stored or sold for use in industrial applications, including making carbonated drinks, creating fuel and extracting oil.
“If you add up the amount of carbon we need to take from the atmosphere, we just don’t have enough land to grow trees,” Professor Lackner said. I.
“We are very close to having a prototype running on campus and when we do our first job is to help us design a better, cheaper and faster one for number two,” he said. declared.
Professor Lackner is convinced – although by no means certain – that he may have the first mechanical shafts ready for deployment within a year or two and that we could have a billion of them worldwide within two decades. . This compares to 1.2 billion cars today.
“Our goal is to make these mechanical shafts in factories and make them by the hundreds of thousands. I can put at least tens of thousands in a square mile and eventually I see these things on the scale of a car, ”he said.
“I think the transition to mechanical shafts is near, unless we fall prone, which is honestly a possibility. People have accused me of making promises that I cannot keep. And I pointed out that I never made any promises, I just said, “You have to invest to find out.
“But I think the odds of it being successful are pretty darn good, but there’s no guarantee. And there’s a good chance we could get a price well below $ 100 a tonne” – the price at which it becomes a commercially viable technology.
While the evidence so far suggests that the technology will work on a large scale and may be affordable, the bigger question is how efficiently the huge amounts of captured CO2 can be removed.
Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, who is not involved in the project, said: ‘I have a lot of respect for Klaus, but the problem is with mechanical shafts you capture the carbon dioxide and do something with it. This is the challenge.
Professor Lackner replies: “Sir David is of course right, mechanical shafts are the first step in a chain of events. They collect carbon from the air, they can operate at the scale needed to extract enough CO2 to make a difference. But these machines only collect CO2. Now you will have to do something with it.
“There are several options that can probably work on the scale you need. One option is to store the carbon in geological formations. Another outlet is to view the carbon collected as a resource to produce the things we use fossil carbon for today. If we can substitute CO2 for oil, coal or gas, we no longer need fossil carbon, ”he added.
Professor Lackner is working with Carbon Collect in Dublin to commercialize and deploy his mechanical shafts.