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Scientists across the world have been working hard to create technological solutions to tackle climate change. One cutting-edge technology is Direct Air Capture (DAC).
In April 2021, despite a year rattled by the COVID 19 pandemic, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record high. Ultimately, greenhouse gas emissions have climbed to alarming levels, and we’re already confronted with multiple global crises that climate change poses – widespread flooding, forest fires, biodiversity decline, and ever-increasing numbers of climate refugees - to name a few.
Recently, we visited the Science Museum in London to learn all about the role carbon capture can play in ‘Our Future Planet’. The exhibition, which is running from now until 2022, showcases educational videos, bitesize information as well as rock samples, carbon capture machines and consumer products made from carbon. It provides a fascinating insight into the potential DAC and nature-based solutions have for fighting the climate emergency.
As part of our Better Than Net Zero policy at Organico Realfoods, we’ve made a donation to Climeworks, a Swiss company working at the forefront of DAC technology. They have 15 DAC sites across Europe and the Science Museum currently exhibits one of their carbon capture units. Each site contains 18 units like the one below and each unit captures 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
While this might sound small, there’s massive potential to upscale DAC sites such as in the form of DAC farms, and scientists across the world are calling for funding and policy to expand this potentially transformative technology.
What is Direct Air Capture? The concept is literally as it sounds – a technology that extracts carbon dioxide from the air and locks it away permanently. There's space in geological formations such as in rocks and beneath the sea or carbon dioxide can even be used in its pure state to manufacture consumer products such as yoga mats, toothbrushes, jewellery and fizzy drinks.
How does DAC technology work?
There are various technologies across the world, but at Climeworks, they have built highly advanced machines, containing an innovative piece of technology called a carbon dioxide collector. Using a fan, ambient air is drawn into the collector where carbon dioxide is separated using a selective filter.
When enough is collected, the machine is closed and heated to around 100C, isolating the carbon dioxide. The isolated carbon dioxide is mixed with water and injected deep underground, where it materialises and can be stored indefinitely. Watch Climeworks’ here video for a visual illustration.
However, as with any solution to climate change, critics are concerned DAC could be used as a licence to continue exploitation of the planet and burning of fossil fuels. It is, of course, most important that reductions are made at the source first and foremost. Nonetheless, levels of carbon dioxide emissions are so immense, tackling existing carbon in the atmosphere needs to be a priority too.
DAC won’t solve climate change alone, but it is an exciting and ground-breaking technology to be used in conjunction with other channels of carbon removal and reduction. For decades, we’ve been extracting carbon dioxide from the earth. Now is the time to put it back.