If cleaning carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was easy, we’d already be doing it. But carbon capture has proven to be a tough technology to feasibly roll out on a grand scale, and that means all the things we do that produce carbon dioxide emissions--which seems to be just about everything these days--are still roughly as bad for the planet as they were several years ago.
Susannah Tringe spends a fair bit of her work time, currently for the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, in the fragrant, murky wetlands of California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. Thriving microbial communities there could be the key to understanding how wetlands mitigate or exacerbate greenhouse-gas levels in our atmosphere. Tringe is cataloging the genetic fingerprints of the entire microbial ecosystem to determine how these wetlands work and if we can tailor them while restoring drained wetlands to absorb more greenhouse gas than they emit.
Common geothermal electricity setups generally involve extracting hot water from subterranean rock formations deep inside the Earth’s crust and using that heat to turn turbines. Common carbon sequestration schemes involve pumping carbon dioxide from the surface deep into the ground to prevent it from becoming atmospheric CO2. I think you can see where we’re going here.
It's not exactly rocket science, but the same company that builds the rocket boosters that launch the Space Shuttles into orbit has a novel idea for bringing down the cost of carbon capture. Aerospace and defense company ATK wants to pressurize the exhaust emissions from such high-carbon polluters as coal-powered electrical generators and run it through rocket nozzles that will freeze the CO2 into dry ice, causing it to fall out of exhaust gasses.
Since untold quantities of oil started flowing into the Gulf, there's been a lot of talk about bacteria that eat oil. While those microbes might help remediate those millions of barrels of crude, one geoscientist thinks we might be able to use them to keep oil in the ground in the first place.
Bacteria naturally turn carbon dioxide into methane gas over billions of years. Now Japanese researchers want to give that process a speed boost, to help counter global warming and create some much-needed natural gas. Agence France-Presse reports that Japan hopes to reduce the transformation period from billions to about 100 years.
Among the hot new ideas afloat in the world of geoengineering is biochar, a form of charcoal that some say could significantly help in carbon sequestration in the future. Re:char, a fledgling company working out of a corner of a cluttered warehouse in a shared artist loft in Brooklyn, New York, is experimenting with biochar production on a very small scale.
Trees are great absorbers of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and inhibitors of climate change -- that's why treehuggers hug them so much. But leave it to humanity to engineer a better tree. A synthetic tree, currently being tested as a prototype, ensnares carbon about 1,000 times faster than a real tree.
Russ George knew how to fight global warming: Grow rainforests' worth of plantlife in the open ocean, plantlife that would suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. He had the boat, the money and the team to make it happen. Everything was going according to plan—that is, until the environmentalists mobilized
By Kalee Thompson
Posted 07.01.2008 at 11:53 am 9 Comments
When the Weatherbird II cruised up the Potomac River and into the nation's capitol in March of last year, spirits were high. The freshly painted 115-foot research vessel was about to set sail for what would be the world's first for-profit effort to "fertilize" the ocean with iron, growing a vast forest of marine plant life that would pull the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The lap through Washington was an effort to drum up support for the voyage to the iron-deficient waters west of the Galápagos Islands.
A maverick group of engineers and scientists at the University of North Dakota's Energy & Environmental Research Center looks beyond corn and other food crops for biofuel production
By Michael Belfiore
Posted 04.15.2008 at 7:39 pm 6 Comments
Today's New York Times has a front-page story about how biofuels are driving up food prices around the world and how they therefore may not be a such a great idea after all. That could be true if the only feedstocks available for producing biofuels were food crops, as the article implies, but that's far from the truth.
British scientists try to engineer soils that suck carbon out of the air
By Gregory Mone
Posted 03.31.2008 at 12:24 pm 0 Comments
Getting carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is just one step. After plants and trees pull CO2 out of the air, some of the surplus carbon is funneled down into the soil, where it can then re-enter the atmosphere or seep into groundwater. To trap this excess carbon, Newcastle University scientists are trying to design new kinds of soils that would transform the stuff into calcium carbonate, keeping it down in the ground.
In recent months, PopSci has covered various scientists' plans to curb global warming through carbon sequestration, mainly by feeding it to algae to make biofuel, or burying it underground.
Today, a company called Skyonic announced a novel new system, Skymine, which uses the carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks to make baking soda. According to Skyonic CEO Joe David Jones, the system will be powered by waste heat from factories, and will produce food-grade baking soda.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.