Alternatives to Carbon Dioxide

By Victoria L.

This odorless, colourless, gas makes up 0.038% of the atmosphere, but if changed, whole atmosphere shifts with it. Unlike nitrogen or oxygen, CO2 absorbs and traps heat, creating a greenhouse effect. The best way is to cut down on consumption of the fossil fuels, which is the main producer of CO2 in the atmosphere. effects.However at this point, just cutting down isn’t going to be enough to even counteract the CO2 already in the atmosphere. Global warming and water levels rising effects have been pressuring scientist to find a new way to rid of CO2.

1. Carbon Dioxide Capture and Sequestration (CCS)

This is when the carbon dioxide is captured even before it can reach the atmosphere. It is a technology that reduces the emissions from already existing fuel powered plants. There are three steps: firstly, capturing the CO2 from power plants or industrial processes. Secondly, transporting the captured, and compressed gas. This is usually done with pipelines, but can also be transported by train, truck, or ship. Lastly, to inject the CO2 deep underground under rock formations (sequestration). The formations are generally a mile below the surface of the earth, and consist of porous rock that can hold the CO2. Places that are suitable for this are depleted oil and gas fields, coal seams, and saline formations. On top of these rock formations are impermeable, non-porous layers. These layers trap the CO2 underground, and prevents it from traveling upwards to the surface again.

The CCS helps keep greenhouse gas emissions in check, while enabling low-carbon electricity from power plants. This technique is being used all over the United States of America. It is further being developed and tested in the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters . CCS is able to reduce the CO2 dramatically, taking out 80-90% of the CO2 from power plants. The effects are similar to planting over 62 million trees and waiting 10 years for the to grow, or, avoiding electricity emissions for over 300 thousand homes.  It could also be used to reduce emission for industry use, for example factories.

2. Artificial trees

The director of Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy in Columbia University, Klaus Lackner, thinks that he has a technique that could solve global warming. There are many techniques out there, such as the CCS, which helps but cannot remove what’s already in the air. Scrubbers, which are mounted on chimneys, also have a similar issue. The only way to take it out of the air is for a plant to do photosynthesis, which takes out CO2 and puts in oxygen. Therefore, Lackner has made a artificial tree that soaks up the CO2 1000 times more effectively than a actual tree would. These fake plants do not need sunlight or water. The leaves can be closer and overlapped, for conserving space.

The leaves are a thin plastic, that is coated with a resin containing sodium carbonate. It pulls the CO2 out of the air and stores it as a bicarbonate on the leaf. It then will be rinsed off and stored. The winds will dry naturally to then suck more CO2 from the air. It’s calculated that 100 million trees would be able to counteract all our CO2 emissions currently.

Where does the CO2 go after? Scientist think that we will run out of room using the CCS technique. Using peridotite, which is a combination of serpentine and olivine, it is a better storer for CO2. It seals the CO2 in a magnesium carbonate mineral. Lackner states that he wants to use the CO2 in other ways. For example for a new fuel source. CO2 can react with water to make carbon monoxide and hydrogen, also known as syngas. It can then be turned into a hydrocarbon fuel like diesel. However this process needs energy. The energy in will create more CO2 than breaking down. Lackner believes that we can still do it, by using renewable resources, such as wind or hydropower.

Using these two ideas, it can help resolve some of the issues of global warming The water levels rising is due to the CO2 in the atmosphere, but if we use trees to suck out CO2 and we stop CO2 before even leaving the power plant with CCS then the air quality will definitely go up. Doing so will help the global warming case and water levels rising. Maintaining a stable environment for the future generations is crucial.


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