Mad Carbon Sucking Project Takes Another Leap Forward

By James O Malley on at

What's the best way to tackle climate change? Well, we could reduce carbon emissions and build more sustainable technologies... But that's too boring. Instead what we should do according to one Canadian company is build giant arrays of carbon sucking fans to extract CO2 from the atmosphere instead.

Business Insider reports that Carbon Engineering, based in Calgary, have been working on the technology for a number of years now and have come up with plans fans that literally suck Carbon Dioxide out of the air. The idea is that there will be huge banks of fans (like that in the simulated image above) which take the air, and push it into a "contacter" - PVC sheets coated with an absorbent liquid that will suck out the CO2 and turn it into a salt-like carbonate. This carbonate is then mixed with liquid to transport it out of the structure. The carbon dioxide is then filtered out using existing paper industry techniques for doing this, and the absorbent liquid is sent back to collect more carbon. The oxygen, of course, is then released into the atmosphere for us to breath.

But what to do with the captured carbon? The company reckons that it could be combined with hydrogen generated through renewable energy sources to create new hydrocarbons - or fuels - for aircraft and the like. The emissions from which will then be captured again. Apparently 20,000 of the fans could handle carbon emissions from as many as 300,000 cars (just don't mention the fact there's 253m cars in America alone).

It sounds almost too good to be true - as given that CO2 is everywhere, fans can be positioned anywhere on earth and will do a useful job. The company even reckons that they would be more efficient at turning CO2 back into oxygen than old-fashioned trees.

This has been the plan for a few years. The significant milestone this week is that the company's prototype pellet reactor has gone online at their test site. This is the system that will take the absorbed carbonate, extract the harmful CO2 and send the absorbent liquid back to capture more - a crucial component.

The company explained:

"The core purpose of the pellet reactor system is to take the CO2 that has been absorbed from the air into liquid at the air contactor and transform it into a solid pellet that is then easily dried and sent downstream to the calciner for CO2 release and purification. The system consists of a fluidized bed of pellets – all jostled around (aka fluidized) by slowly upward flowing liquid - where CO2-rich liquid from the air contactor and chemicals are fed into the bottom, a chemical reaction takes place in the bed to precipitate carbonate onto the solid pellets, and CO2-lean liquid leaves from the top where it then heads back to the air contactor to once again absorb CO2. The solid pellets are intermittently discharged, washed and sent to the calciner where the solids are heated to release the CO2, after which the remaining solid chemical is sent back to the pellet reactor system for reuse."

So it appears that progress is being made - but whether it is ever going to be viable, I'm not scientifically qualified to comment. Let us know what you think in the comments. [Business Insider]