Let’s face it, we’re not leaving Earth anytime soon. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to our way of life and our natural instinct is to run from a problem. However, there’s no where to run. The closest Earth like planet is light years away. Terra-forming Mars is out of the question too, because that will take anywhere from hundreds of years to thousands years and by that point we’ll be long gone. Our only option is to clean up our air.
There are a few institutions who have found ways to turn carbon dioxide back into oil. From this they are also able to make plastics as well. Carbon Engineering, UC Berkeley, and UNSW Sydney have made reactors that do the same primary function of stripping carbon from oxygen. All three of them have their own methods yet yield the same results.
The Vancouver based company, Carbon Engineering, has been working on building a larger scale operation. They already have a plant up and running converting carbon dioxide into calcium carbonate pellets. This works by running air through a contactor and combining it with a liquid solution. The pellets are then heated to release carbon dioxide at full concentration. From there, renewable energy is used to power the processes of splitting hydrogen from water. The Hydrogen two is then combined with the pure carbon dioxide to make fuel.
At UC Berkeley the same results are achieved by using an altered process. Rather that turning carbon dioxide into calcium carbonate pellets, a metal contact is used to break the molecules down into their base atoms. A metal catalyst made from nano particles are used to reform the atoms into sixteen different chemicals depending on the shape of the nano particles and the type of metal used in the catalyst.
The engineers at UNSW Sydney developed a completely different technique to capturing carbon than their Canadian and US counterparts. An open flame is used to burn zinc at two thousand degrees Celsius creating nano particles that are then used as an electrode in an electrolyser. When carbon dioxide and water come into contact with the electrode, syngas are formed. The syngas, which is a mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, are able to be reformed into a multitude of products just like the UC Berkeley reactor.
Our fate is in our hands and we have the power to put a halt to climate change. Money is always a factor, but paying a little bit extra to prevent a mass extinction is worth it. We are well past peak oil so it would be insane for big oil companies to pass up an opportunity to pull their product from thin air. Greed clouds judgment, and the appeal to tradition will most likely be the final nail in the coffin for the human race if nothing is done.
For more information on UNSW Sydney: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/engineers-find-neat-way-turn-waste-carbon-dioxide-useful-material
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