Wouldn’t it be great if we could just suck the CO2 out of the air and generate energy from it? Sounds crazy, but it could soon become reality.
CO2 is contained in the air we breathe, is a greenhouse gas that helps make the earth habitable, and plants produce oxygen from CO2 in the process of photosynthesis. In addition, CO2 is naturally produced during cellular respiration of living organisms, volcanic eruptions, and the decay of organisms.
However, since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere has been steadily increasing mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels or wood.
Scientists believe that global warming is largely caused by greenhouse gases emitted by humans. To stop global warming, world leaders and politicians have agreed with the Paris Climate Agreement to get global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrialization levels.
CO2 neutral fuel
In Germany, researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology are developing a liquid fuel that is extracted from the air. More precisely, the CO2 that is present in the air. The principle is the same as photosynthesis in plants. The researchers see potential uses for the fuel in aircraft and heavy industry.
Nasa has also found a way to produce fuel from CO2. Nasa uses solar-powered thin-film cells to turn CO2 into methane. In addition, Nasa claims that this technology is a low-cost alternative.
The sugar alternative
Nasa is looking for a way to extract sugar from CO2, using plants and microbes as models. The technology is to be used on Mars, as there is plenty of CO2 in the Martian atmosphere. Astronauts could use the extracted sugar to make useful things such as fuel, food, or medicine.
Nasa had organized a competition for this in which various teams from the U.S. participated. The results were more than successful as one team was able to turn CO2 into methanol. Other teams found ways to make glucose.
Oxygen from CO2
Another Nasa project has shown that it is possible to produce oxygen from CO2. A Mars rover was able to produce breathable oxygen for about 10 minutes. With this technology, it could be possible one day to produce oxygen for astronauts who are on Mars.
Taking Mother Nature as a model for increasing CO2 emissions sounds like the logical consequence of fighting global warming. As technology advances, more and more alternatives will be discovered and sooner or later will be ready for mass production. Whether on Earth or Mars, the technology to convert CO2 into other useful substances will open more doors for mankind.