Sci-tech

Harward researchers claim technology to change carbon-dioxide into fuel

Harward researchers claim technology to change carbon-dioxide into fuel

"What we've done is build a [direct-air capture] process that is-as much as possible-built on existing processes and technologies that are widespread in the world", said David Keith, a professor of applied physics at Harvard and the lead author of the new study.

The company envisions building large-scale plants near wind and solar facilities, which will provide clean energy to enable the carbon capture process, he said.

CE is a privately owned company and has private investors that include Bill Gates and Murray Edwards.

The latest tests and cost analysis were conducted by Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company trying to commercialize CO2-extraction technology.

Oldham said he's in talks with oil and natural gas companies interested in using his fuel in markets with carbon restrictions.

What if we could directly capture Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn that into fuel? "Today, we're actively seeking partners who will work with CE to dramatically reduce emissions in the transportation sector and help us move to a carbon-neutral economy". Our technology is scalable, flexible and demonstrated. And a spokesman for the firm said it can readily scale up using off-the-rack hardware, The downside is that the plant is now using some natural gas for power, but the goal is to switch to renewable electricity. "So we hope it is really a turning point". The problem has been finding a way to drop costs and then make it work on a large scale. That gives it a carbon footprint 70 per cent lower than a fossil fuel, he said.

While past estimates of direct air capture have run as high as $1,000 a metric ton, according to the paper, Carbon Engineering's technique comes in at $94 to $232 a ton.

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This image shows Carbon Engineering's clean fuel, synthesized from carbon dioxide captured from the air and hydrogen split from water.

The fuel can now be produced at a cost that would not raise the prices to consumers at the pump, he said, and "as with anything, if you build lots of something the cost will come down". The projects consists in capturing the Carbon dioxide from the air directly.

That's in the ballpark of the figures offered by Carbon Engineering. Daniel Friedmann left MDA in 2016 and has joined the start-up company as board chairman; he in turn recruited Steve OIdham, who was vice-president for strategic development at MDA, to become its chief executive last January.

What makes DAC so useful is that it's completely scaleable - so rather than having to develop new technologies to make it bigger, you simply build lots of them. However, the plant is not a complete small-scale version of a commercial plant. But Carbon Engineering say that by adapting existing technologies they have been able to slash this significantly.

To date, Keith and the Carbon Engineering team have raised about $30 million.

The company says their immediate goal is to produce synthetic liquid fuels made from carbon and renewable energy. Finally, the carbon pellets are heated in a kiln originally designed for roasting gold, and transformed into pure carbon dioxide gas, which can be turned into synthetic fuel. "By making the fuel carbon neutral, the entire transportation sector can become carbon neutral without changing all of the infrastructure - we don't all have to get a new auto, we don't have to replace every gas station with an electric grid for charging".