Carbon Capture

262: MechanicalTree


Natural trees and plants are limited in the quantity of CO2 they are able to sequester.


For two decades, Klaus S. Lackner (ex Los Alamos National Laboratory), and sustainability scientist, Allen Wright collaborated in a mission to create a machine that worked like a tree but was one thousand times more efficient.

From 2000, Lackner and Wright, based at the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at the Earth Institute and Faculty in the Earth and Environmental Engineering department at Columbia University in the City of New York worked with Mario Caceres and Christian Canonico of Influx Studio, set up the Boston Treepod Initiative.

Their mission was to develop a faux tree, bio-mimicking the form of the dragon blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari),in view of its wide branches and umbrella style of tops that can support the bigger sized solar panel that power the tree.

Treepod leaves would be made of papery plastic coated in a resin containing sodium carbonate, to pull CO2 out of the air then stores it as a bicarbonate (baking soda) on the leaf.

To remove the carbon dioxide, the leaves are rinsed in water vapour and can dry naturally in the wind, soaking up more carbon dioxide. Such leaves could be much more closely spaced and overlapped – even configured in a honeycomb formation to make them more efficient.

Lackner calculated that the treepod could remove 1 tonne of CO2 per a day. Ten million of these trees could remove 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – equivalent to about 10% of our global annual carbon dioxide emissions. Total emissions could be removed with 100 million treepods, 1,000 times that in real trees would be required to have the same effect.

In 2014 Klaus Lackner and Allen Wright moved from Columbia to the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions in the School of Sustainable Engineering, at Arizona State University. There they also co-founded Global Research Technologies (GRT)—in Tucson, Arizona where they demonstrated the moisture swing.

In February 2020, working with ASU, Silicon Kingdom Holdings (SKH) in Dublin, Ireland agreed to build and deploy 12 clusters of treepods. Each cluster comprises 12 sorbent-filled columns and can remove one metric ton of CO2 per day. SKH will deploy the technology in a pilot farm targeting 100 metric tons of CO2 per.

The technology will then be deployed to large-scale farms of up to 120,000 MechanicalTrees capturing some 4 million tons of CO2 annually and occupying a land space of just 2 to 3 square kilometers (0.8 to 1.2 square miles) per farm. in multiple locations, each capable of removing 3.8 million metric tons annually.. The released gas is then collected, purified, processed used for other solutions as described elsewhere in 366solutions.

Discover Solution 263: Oceanic thermal energy collectors (OTECS)

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