TEMPE, AZ — A major breakthrough in the battle against climate change is nestled among the trees on ASU’s Tempe campus.
“It’s not good enough anymore to just stop emitting,” said Dr. Klaus Lackner.
Dr. Lackner is referring to human caused greenhouse gases. More specifically carbon dioxide, which is the primary factor driving the climate crisis.
“In other words, we need to pull carbon dioxide out of the environment again in order to balance the books,” said Dr. Lackner.
For two decades, he’s worked on a solution to do just that.
It’s called the Mechanical tree. A prototype machine that removes CO2 directly from the air.
“So here we are, this is a main drum,” said Reyad Fezzani pointing to a large metal canister nine feet tall.
Fezzani, the Vice Chairmen with Carbon Collect Limited helped bring Dr. Lackners vision to life. Inside that drum contains a column of 150 large disc shaped filters that perform the magic once hoisted in the air.
“There’s a material inside the disks that attracts the CO2, a little bit like magnet,” said Fezzani.
As they float in the air about 30 feet above the ground, those disks begin to capture the carbon dioxide. After about an hour, they’re lowered back into the canister where the gas is then removed. It’s a process real trees do naturally but at a much slower rate.
“For a tree of equal size to this thing, we are about a thousand times faster at removing CO2 from the atmosphere,” said Dr. Lackner.
One it’s captured, it can provide a source of green CO2 for a range of uses in food & beverages, industrial applications, construction, and agriculture, replacing CO2 manufactured from fossil fuels, and eliminating transport and logistics.
Humans currently release about 36 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. While this one mechanical tree removes about 73,000 pounds annually, its creators one day envision forests of them running 24/7.
“When we get to that level, then we’ll be able to really impact climate change much more fundamentally,” said Fezzani.