Removing CO2 from the air: How does it work?

Our aim is to suck 100 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere, and prove to the world that technology already exists that can mitigate against the amount of CO2 being pumped into the air, and be part of the solution in the fight against climate change. Though there are various technologies in development, the first to market was produced by Climeworks, an innovative Swiss Startup. It was the launch of their carbon capture plant in Switzerland, the first commercial plant of its kind in the world, that inspired us to begin this campaign.

The Climeworks plant was built in Hinwil, in the heart of the Swiss countryside. Surrounded by beautiful surroundings it is attached to premises of Kezo, a waste incineration company, and close to the huge greenhouse of Gebrüder Meier, who grow cucumber and tomatoes. The reasons of this strategic location will become evident later in this blog, but take notice that the Climeworks carbon capture plant is not located near a power station or an inner city. the plant captures carbon efficiently no matter where it is placed or how fresh the air is.

The system, the first of many planned, draws the air into a vacuum, where the CO2 is chemically bound to a filter. The filter, which is made out of porous granulates modified with amines, which bind the CO2 in conjunction with the moisture in the air, is the Climeworks invention that makes this technology work. Once saturated with CO2 the filter is heated up to 100 °C, releasing the CO2, which is then captured, ready to be stored underground, or sent as a raw material to customers. The filter, which can be used in over a thousand cycles, then releases CO2 free air back into the atmosphere. 

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Climeworks filter 

The question you may be asking is, how much energy do they use to run the plant, and heat the filter up to 100 degrees? Well, very little! As the plant is situated at the site of Kezo incinerating plant, most of the energy required comes from low-grade/waste heat. The plant can use waste heat or even renewable energy to keep its carbon footprint to the absolute minimum. The plant is capable of removing 900 tons of CO2 from the ambient air annually. As it is a modular system, it is easy for this to be scaled up to much larger amounts and put anywhere in the world. Pollution or no pollution, the plant is as effective.

Now we come to the other part of Climeworks’ strategy for their first commercial plant. They needed a customer! And that is where the green house of Gebrüder Meier comes in. A long the few hundred metres between the Climeworks plant and the greenhouse, runs a pipe which delivers the freshly captured CO2 directly into the greenhouse. The greenhouse already used CO2 to enhance its growing by up to 20%, so it was easy for them to use the CO2 Climeworks have captured from the air using the same infrastructure.

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The Gebrüder Meier Greenhouse, taken from the Climeworks plant

Using the CO2 as a raw material in the Gebrüder Meier greenhouse, or in carbonated drinks, food packaging, or to create synthetic fuels means creating a circular economy. By ‘mining’ CO2 from the air, it will end the reliance on fossil CO2. Eventually, we only need to put into the air, what we take out from the air!

In our case, we want to take out of the air completely and store it safely underground. We need your support to do this. To support us in this mission, please go to our crowdfunding page on WeMakeIt! Thank you!

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