What if we could stop making plastic out of oil, and start making it out of carbon pollution floating around in the atmosphere?
That’s a good question. What if we could use all that Carbon? There are a number of different approaches to this, some of which are potentially useful high tech solutions. The article quoted above is about Newlight’s AirCarbon, which is captured atmospheric Carbon that’s been turned into plastics.
The NewLight system took years of hard slogging to develop but the basics are relatively simple. Emissions are funnelled into a patented conversion reactor and carbon and oxygen are separated out, then reassembled into long chains of molecules called polymers, aka plastic.
One issue with Carbon capture has been the amount of energy required to do it. If the conversion reactor is relying on a coal fired power station to do this work, it’s not really saving much. It’s the sort of thing a Cleanergy system would be very good for, as it’s sustainable energy that doesn’t have a big Carbon cost itself.
Carbon fibre is increasingly being used in 3D printing applications that require light weight and flexibility. It will be interesting to see the adaptation of captured Carbon for use in 3D printing.
Newcastle Uni had a new system coming up that stored atmospheric carbon in building bricks, which can do a similar job of Carbon sequestration with less overheads.
The ultimate goal is to transform the captured CO2 emissions into carbonate rock ‘bricks’ for use in the construction industry, therefore both dealing with carbon storage needs and introducing new green building materials.
In Texas, Rice University, in affiliation with the fracking industry, uses a similar system to polymerise Carbon at the well head and use it or store it underground.
The potential for capturing atmospheric Carbon to use as long chain polymers for any number of applications is fantastic. Industrial chemistry students all over the planet have their choice of thesis subjects in this sort of future technology. And it’s not going to stop any time soon. Humanity now has the capability to manipulate these polymers at the molecular level and design textiles for specific applications.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you won’t be surprised by my take on all this. Why capture Carbon at the well head? Why dig the well in the first place? Algae can be used to create bio-fuel and a hectare of hemp takes 22 tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere during its 90 day growing season. And it can be processed into silky fibre for clothing, bricks or hempcrete for building or seed food products. You can wear your Carbon sink investment to work every day.
Those who rely on the mainstream media for news and ideas may not have heard of any of this. That’s the main thing that’s keeping Australia on the go slow in this regard. We simply aren’t aware, on a day to day basis, that Asia is producing many more highly intelligent and well educated people than the West, which continues being whipped along in an austerity fervour by Murdoch’s minions. Don’t get left behind, Australia. Paul Keating observed that the 21st century will be the Asian century and that Australia is very well positioned to do business in Asia. He was right.