Artificial Trees for Carbon Capture

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has produced a report on possible “geo-engineering” solutions to the problem of the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere:

What can be done to prevent this rise? For many years, governments have primarily focused on climate change mitigation: reducing the amount of CO2 each nation emits into the atmosphere. More recently, climate change adaptation has been embraced: an approach which sets out to ensure that critical assets, such as power generation, transport links and the urban environment, are redesigned and rebuilt to protect against future changes in climate.

A third, less explored approach, is geo-engineering: where technology is used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, or where the planet is cooled by reflecting solar radiation back into space. Geo-engineering could be another potential component in our approach to climate change that could provide the world with extra time to decarbonise the global economy.

The complete report is here (PDF). It’s short, punchy, and interesting.

One of their proposals is for a network of artificial trees. The picture above is of the presumably imagined deployment of these artificial trees along a roadway. You can click on it for a larger image. The trees are the fly-swatter shapped things and the large fans appear to be a combination of power supply and method for directing air into the artificial trees. As air moves through the fluid-filled tubes it is scrubbed of carbon dioxide which is collected for removal and storage. These artificial trees would have an ability to capture carbon dioxide thousands of times greater than natural trees and, consequently, fewer of them would be needed.

Their estimate is that artificial trees would cost about $20,000 each, 100,000 of them would be enough to offset the UK’s non-energy production of carbon dioxide and 5 million would be enough to offset the entire world’s production. I think some limited year-long pilot programs to measure the impact of these devices in a number of different environments would be interesting, worthwhile, and not particularly expensive.

Further, it seems to me that active approaches to carbon reduction are more likely to garner support than passive approaches. For example, the report strongly implies that current automobile production plants could be converted to producing artificial trees.

4 comments… add one
  • Clearly this sets the stage for the day when robot armies destroy plant life (and by extension all life) by capturing all the CO2 in the world.

    I don’t understand why you would side with armies of murderous artificial tree robots, Dave, I just don’t.

  • Brett Link

    How good is the actual capture ability? If I remember right, that’s the devil in the details for most of the carbon-capture plans.

  • Diana Link

    These artificial trees would save Texas from drought and the intense heat it is getting in the summer.

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