Start-Up Wants to Save the World by Sucking CO2 Right Out of the Atmosphere

#Environment

Thu, Oct 9th, 2014 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

With the ultimate goal of being able to control the temperature of the entire planet, two-year-old startup Global Thermostat is planning on deploying technology capable of sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere at a very competitive price. Understandably, many people in the scientific community are skeptical of its success to deliver.

[...] A 2011 report by the American Physical Society identified key physical and economic challenges. The fact that carbon dioxide will bind with amines, forming a molecule called a carbamate, is well known chemistry. But carbon dioxide still represents only one in 2,500 molecules in the air. That means an effective air-capture machine would need to push vast amounts of air past amines to get enough carbon dioxide to stick to them and then regenerate the amines to capture more. That would require a lot of energy and thus be very expensive, the 2011 report said. That’s why it concluded that air capture “is not currently an economically viable approach to mitigating climate change.”

The people at Global Thermostat understand these daunting economics but remain defiantly optimistic. The way to make air capture profitable, says Global Thermostat cofounder Graciela Chichilnisky, a Columbia University economist and mathematician, is to take advantage of the demand for the gas by various industries. There already exists a well-established, billion-dollar market for carbon dioxide, which is used to rejuvenate oil wells, make carbonated beverages, and stimulate plant growth in commercial greenhouses. Historically, the gas sells for around $100 per ton. [...]

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