Synthetic Trees and Carbon Dioxide
Earth is considered to be millions of years old. Humans, as major living creatures are harming Earth with different types of pollution and industrial production. The Earth’s temperature is rising from climate change. We could argue about whether it is a short term or long term trend, or whether it’s natural variation or anthropogenic, but nothing changes the fact that the Earth is warming. It is the greatness of nature for Earth to correct itself to maintain a balance. Human beings haven’t given much in return in terms of Earth’s resources, rather we face extreme weather events with an increasingly changing climate. We are facing the wrath of mother nature in the form of floods, lava eruption, drought and famines. It’s our responsibility to pay something in return to alleviate the harsh effects we’ve put the Earth through. An everyday person can help simply by planting a tree because trees absorb carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas. Scientists are working to form an artificial substitute for trees that can capture C02 to decrease the drastic effects of global warming.
The idea of a synthetic tree was given by geoscientists and environmental experts but mainly finalized by Dr Klaus Lackner, of Columbia University. According to him; “although they do not look like real trees, they could performed like them very efficiently except for storing biomass as a tree normally would and we could use that in the form of food and other purposes.“
Synthetic Trees Like HEPA Filters?
These synthetic trees were designed looking like a large box with filters fibers through which the air travels…kind of like a HEPA filter. If air going into the box has 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2, the air coming out will have about 300ppm or even 200ppm. We wouldn’t want to remove all the CO2 because our goal is to reduce CO2 levels, not to make CO2-free air (we still need some in our atmosphere).
These “synthetic trees” were being experimentally planted at the start of 2010 in the prototype stage by professor and inventor Klaus Lackner, in the United Kingdom.
One of these “trees” can absorb up to ten tons of carbon dioxide a day, a thousand times more than a single live tree. Each tree would cost approximately 24,000 dollars and forests of hundreds of them are being planned, estimated to reduce the United Kingdom’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60%. Sodium hydroxide is used in this process to convert carbon dioxide to sodium carbonate.
In the effort of re-using and recycling, the captured carbon dioxide could be used in small markets which need CO2 to run businesses, for example dry ice producers, greenhouses, algae ponds and enhanced oil recovery.
Synthetic Trees to Absorb Tons of Carbon Dioxide a Day
The study also calls for pots of algae that absorb CO2 from the atmosphere to be used to line buildings. Algae could then be used as green bio fuels for cars. Some scientists say that just one synthetic tree, which could be about one third shorter than the average wind turbine, could capture and store up to ten tons of carbon dioxide from the air every day, which would make it thousands of times more efficient at absorbing CO2 than a real tree.
The trees, which could cost around £15,000, would be coated with special synthetic materials that absorb CO2, which would then be stored underground in old used up oil fields and old used natural gas reservoirs. As mentioned before, they could also be sold to businesses that could use the material.
As work continues in this field of study, scientists are quite satisfied from their experiments. In other countries this is also suppose to be a workable solution as well. Geophysicist Klaus Lackner from Columbia University wants artificial trees to restore the balance. If the synthetic trees are seen as a problem solver for climate change, bigger countries like the United States or Australia might adopt the use of them.
Documentary Discussing Carbon Synthetic Trees
Global Warming: The Signs and the Science on sale at Amazon.com. It was one of the first films I watched when I was learning about the effects of global warming five years ago. I highly recommend watching the film, as it’s educational, and it sort of inspires hope that mankind will solve the pressing issues to live more sustainable lives.
Written by Naseem Sheikh
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