Our earth’s atmosphere is currently so damaged that we need a multi-pronged approach to begin to reverse the damage and clean it up.
- Cutting emissions isn’t enough.
- Reforestation helps but is only part of the solution.
What else can we do? Humans are so innovative that we’ve now come up with ways to literally pull carbon pollutants out of thin air and put them into usable products. Sounds like science fiction? Read on for the remarkable new technology that is helping to clean up our skies.
An article published by Earth911 shared details from some of the companies currently in this carbon manifesting business. The group’s panel was titled “Mining the Sky: Making Consumer Goods out of Captured Carbon” and explained the process and results behind the consumer goods being created from captured carbon.
How Is Carbon Captured For Reuse
While Europe is already running these types of carbon capturing plants, America is in the process of building its first large-scale plant now. This amazing process is called Direct air capture (DAC). Essentially, chemicals are used to remove carbon dioxide from the air and during this process it gets concentrated.
- There are two types of carbon capturing systems; one uses liquid solvents and the other uses solid adsorbents (like a chemical sponge).
- Once the carbon solution is captured it gets heated for reuse.
For it to benefit the climate, the capture process has to be eco-friendly so to speak. This works if the source of the energy used is clean and if the captured carbon is stored properly.
- The energy used for carbon capture must come from renewable energy, waste heat, or nuclear energy to significantly reduce atmospheric carbon.
- Once the captured carbon is made into a consumer product, the lifespan of the product then determines how long that carbon remains trapped or used.
- For example, carbon captured and used to make concrete could remain stored for an extremely long time. Then there are one-time-use items like a carbonated beverage that immediately returns the carbon back into the atmosphere.
What’s Being Made From Captured Carbon
Laundry: A new laundry capsule from Unilever recycles captured industrial carbon emissions. Although only currently available in China, it will hopefully soon become an option for everyone looking for a greener way to wash their clothing.
Soap: This line of soaps, called CleanO2, is also made with potassium carbonate captured from natural gas heating appliances and incorporates materials made from carbon dioxide emissions.
One of the earliest and most promising consumer applications of captured carbon is in concrete production.
- Used in huge quantities, concrete is at least long-lasting.
- On the negative side, during the production process, it causes 4% to 8% of the world’s CO2 pollution.
- Using captured carbon in concrete helps offset the energy costs of producing concrete by up to 48%.
- It also reduces the cost of capturing carbon by sidestepping the purification stage.
“Meat made from air”- that’s the tagline of the California company Air Protein who uses air, water, and a renewable energy mixed with bacteria cultures that ferment and turn into protein. Dried and turned into flour that can then be made into meat-like looking and tasting products.
- Solar Foods in Finland are also in this field.
- Deep Branch in the UK and Netherlands are focusing on animal feed ingredients. These products could replace pea and soy protein isolate in processed foods or even be used as a feed for the cultivated meat industry.
- Treated with heat and pressure, it can be eaten like a tasty slab of steak or tofu.
- Four pounds of CO2 makes a pound of the product and it has been submitted to food regulators in Europe and the UK for novel food approval.
Air Company’s products transform carbon dioxide (CO2) into impurity-free alcohols for use in these consumer goods.
- Hand Sanitizer
Aether diamonds takes the extremely unethical process of diamond mining and turned it into an eco-conscious lab-grown process. Diamonds are pure carbon and traditionally have a huge carbon footprint because they are made from methane and require tremendous energy to produce.
- These lab-grown diamonds use DAC carbon as source material and renewable energy to power their process.
- Each carat produced removes 20 metric tons (22 U.S. tons) of CO2 from the atmosphere.
- Bag hardware (zippers)
- Coaster set
- Jewelry- ring, bracelet
- Watch parts
- Yoga mats
These are a few of the items made by Oco who partnered with Expedition Air. Although the scale of this business is small and not likely to make a significant difference in climate change, it’s more about building awareness and starting the conversation of what’s possible. Another part of this company’s mission is to host artists in a residency program and showcase their works made with carbon capture technology. From T-shirts to landscape paintings, each piece tells an environmental story.
Made in facilities powered by renewable energy, AirCarbon is a plastic substitute. After 10 years of research, they found a regenerative material that can replace synthetic plastic.
- Renewable power and naturally-occurring microorganisms from the ocean are used in large saltwater tanks to produce AirCarbon.
- This is then turned into a pellet form.
- These pellets are melted into strong high-performance shapes, like straws or forks.
- The resulting plastic-like material turns into cutlery under the brand name Restore. Although single-use products like these have little value for carbon sequestration, their replacement of disposable plastics is still a significant win for the oceans.
The cost of carbon capture will drop as new DAC facilities are built and increase the capacity of the technology. As carbon capture scales up, the number and type of captured-carbon consumer products will change. This product class could shift from conversation-starting novelties to one among many strategies for substantially reducing atmospheric carbon concentrations.
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