Artificial trees to capture carbon

Artificial trees to capture carbon

Posted on 08. Oct, 2010 by in innovation, odd stuff, products & innovation

Artificial trees as a way to remove CO2 is an old idea that seems to have moved slowly forward since it was first discussed and in some ways has not highlighted what seems a blindingly obvious message, but more on that later.

The premise is that an artificial tree as mentioned at a conference in the USA in 2003 has now moved into a prototype stage, but it will be several more years before it goes into production.

The ‘tree’ is probably not the best way of describing it… it’s more like a giant flyswatter.

Something that plants do naturally, absorbing CO2 and storing it are the 2 major problems for any artificial tree.

The original design had limewater extracting CO2 and creating limestone deposits which are removed and stored away. Other designs have an “algae based photo-bio-reactors” which would remove carbon during photo-synthesis of the algae… as with the limestone it then has to be taken away and stored.

Of course this technology doesn’t have to be confined to artificial trees but can be used on rooftops or built into the design of new buildings.

Now the rub for me would be that any manufactured item apart from the cost of production and erection has to consume energy and materials to build plus the basic fact in constructing anything is that the construction produces CO2. These ugly structures require maintenance, the filter materials require replacing, the locked carbon requires removal, transporting and it needs storing in some facility or purposely designed hole.

Initial figures suggest that one synthetic tree could remove 90,000 tonnes of CO2 in a year – the emissions equivalent of 15,000 cars. Certainly impressive … The equivalent of tens of 1000’s of real trees that would be needed to be planted. Of course in urban location trees don’t just remove CO2 but other nasties as well.

Roughly it is estimated that every tree planted in the humid tropics absorbs 50 pounds (22 kg) of carbon dioxide every year for at least 40 years – each tree will absorb 1 ton of CO2 over its lifetime!

Now where open space is a premium in cities, I can live with CO2 absorbers being incorporated into building design, with the algae being recycled to produce bio-fuels. But in the country I would much rather see a massive tree planting program by the side of motorways in particular.

The added benefit for me is that tree planting is labour intensive. How more beneficial would it be, for money to be spent on people to plant trees in (say)Nigeria, this would help combat so many different problems, not just CO2 removal.

The alternative is to give to pay companies to produce expensive and high maintenance CO2 absorbers, and increase their bottom line profit.

A fact is that in the western world, we are more likely to involve ourselves via technology, rather than doing things naturally. It is if we feel planting trees using manual labour is so 18th century in this 21st century technologically advanced world. Really both these options and others need to be engaged.

Of course a third part of this multi faceted jigsaw puzzle is that we are devastating the planet with one hand and trying to find solutions with the other… Madness

Quick Question … How quickly is the rainforest — the most threatened eco-system on Earth — being destroyed?

Every second of every day, a slice the size of a football field is mowed down. That’s 86,400 football fields per day. Seven days a week.
The Nature Conservancy

Is replacing real forests with artificial ones a future any of us want for our children?

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses to “Artificial trees to capture carbon”

  1. Raleigh Latham

    02. Mar, 2011

    This is THE most promising climate change solution which can be implemented on a global scale. With the permafrost and artic methane close to releasing hundreds of gigatons of CO2 in the coming century, we need a way to remove and store HUNDREDS of BILLIONS of tons of CO2 on a massive scale, and these artificial trees are the most promising idea I have heard.

  2. Isabel

    05. Oct, 2011

    Very interesting. I wonder how well it works and if can be regularly maintained. How cost efficient is and who is developing it.

    BTW, the number about the rain forest. That number can not be right. That kind of math is the one that make people think that we the environmentalist are making most of the stuff up. But, well, that is my humble opinion.

    GP: Agreed, it might not be true at the moment but the best I can now find is at least 1 acre when the question ….How much of the Amazon rainforest is cut down each day? Is asked…. still too much whichever way we look at it…. Thanks for dropping by.

Leave a Reply