There have been a wide assortment of innovative solutions proposed to combat the climate crisis. While most of these technologies offer low carbon alternatives to existing technologies, others actually remove greenhouse gases (GHGs) like carbon right out of the air.
Some innovations use renewable energy to power traditional technologies like air conditioning and water desalination. Others use structures in novel ways like rotating power-generating buildings and skyscrapers.
Microsoft founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates advocates creative renewable technologies like solar chemical power, in which sunlight converts water into hydrogen fuel. Gates is also a fan of high-altitude wind power, which uses the intense energy of jet stream 20,000 feet above the ground. Another novel approach involves generating electricity with orbiting solar arrays. While these approaches are feasible they are still years away.
We need technologies that can be implemented in the short term. Some agricultural innovations are already a reality like vertical farming. Other innovations are adaptations to a warmer world where we can expect much higher sea levels. This includes things like floating houses and even floating cities.
There can be no doubt that the best way to reduce the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere involves not putting them there in the first place. However, the next best approach seeks out ways of siphoning GHGs directly from the air.
Carbon sequestration is a problem because even if it can be done cost effectively, where to put all the of the CO2 once it’s been captured. Some suggest that we can recycle carbon instead of mining fossil fuels.
One possibly groundbreaking approach was created by a Canadian company called Carbon Engineering. They have created a wall that can suck carbon dioxide straight out of the air and convert it into fuel. As shown in the video below, air flows through the row of fans. They are connected to a carbon dioxide-rich solution, which absorbs carbon compounds out of the air. The solution is purified, with the carbon dioxide within it extracted, and then purified again for reuse.
There are a number of other innovative inventions that remove carbon from the air including tiny silicon capsules that employ bicarbonate (baking soda) to dissolve CO2. This process is called encapsulated liquid sorbents.
Scientists at the University of Southern California, have used a cheap and easy to synthesize polymer called polyethylenimine (PEI) to filter carbon from smokestacks or right out of the air. The polymer coated with a substance called fumed silica can be packed into columns, which can be inserted into flues and chimneys in factories and power plants. Carbon is collected and when it becomes saturated, the PEI device is replaced. When the PEI device is heated above 100 degrees Celsius, it releases the carbon. This is easy way to collect and concentrate carbon dioxide so that it can be reused as fuel.
Graphene is another material capable of sequestering carbon that may indeed prove to be a game changer. Although these technological innovations may prove invaluable, we should realize that forests are by far the most powerful source of carbon sequestration currently existing on earth. Oceans also sequester carbon, although this causes acidification which has a destructive and costly impact on marine ecosystems. New research reveals that deserts also sequester carbon.