ClimeWorks Will Harvest Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere

ClimeWorks carbon dioxide capturing process

Swiss start-up ClimeWorks uses new technology to harvest carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. It first large scale facility is under construction now and should be complete by the middle of this year. Using its patented technology, ClimeWorks takes in air from the surrounding environment where it is absorbed in a reusable filter. When heated, the filter releases pure CO2 gas.

And what can you do with CO2 gas? You can sell it to a local greenhouse to help it grow hydroponic vegetables faster. Or you can sell it to the local bottling company to put the fizz in its carbonated beverages. Neither use is ideal, since the vegetables and the soda simply return the carbon dioxide to the atmosphere when they are consumed. But it’s a start.

“If CO2 captured from air goes in your Coca-Cola, once you open the bottle, the CO2 goes back in the atmosphere,” says Dominique Kronenberg, COO at Climeworks. But early customers will help the startup test their technology.”In the short term, our focus is developing the technology, scaling it up, and bringing the costs down.”

The first plant will be able to capture 900 tons of carbon dioxide in a year. That is a pittance compared to all the CO2 that finds its way into the atmosphere every year. It is about as much as 200 cars with internal combustion engines would create.

The ClimeWorks facility uses quite of bit of energy. The company plans to co-locate their operation next to a biomass facility that creates electricity and waste heat. Eventually, the company plans to combine the CO2 they manufacture with water to create a synthetic, carbon neutral fuel with the help of renewable energy.

It also thinks more alternatives will become apparent after the operation proves it can work effectively. “We have a fundamental belief that things can’t go on the way they’ve been going on—more and more oil pumped out of the ground,” Kronenberg says. “There will be an end sooner or later.”

Once the demonstration plant proves the process works, ClimeWorks says similar facilities could be built wherever there is a source of inexpensive renewable energy. “You can put it wherever you like,” Kronenberg says. “The concentration of CO2 is pretty much the same all over the planet.”

ClimeWorks carbon dioxide capturing plant

Photo credits: ClimeWorks

About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.
  • GeraldWilhite

    “The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened … ” – James Lovelock

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