A Planetwide Air Purifier
Far-Out Plans for Taming Our Weather
Here’s a lung-stuffing fact: Each year, factories, automobiles, and other belchers of carbon dioxide spit 36 billion tons of the heat-trapping gas into our atmosphere. Cutting back on those greenhouse emissions is key to cooling the planet.
Unfortunately, we’re not cutting fast enough. That’s why companies in the U.K., the U.S., and Switzerland are building plants that can soak up CO2 with direct aircapture machines. They work like this: Enormous fans blow air past a filter infused with a CO2-bonding chemical, such as potassium hydroxide. Once saturated, workers can heat the filters to remove the CO2, which we can use to feed plants, carbonate beverages, and create useful minerals.
But you’d need a massive scaling up to impact the climate: 10 gigawatts of power (enough to fill your flux capacitor to get your DeLorean back to the future seven times) to run the millions of DAC machines necessary. Still, the Swiss and Canadian governments are investing in the technology. Noah Deich, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Carbon Removal, says, “I expect to see a lot more R&D support for direct air capture in the coming years.”