Capturing carbon dioxide from air

Klaus S. Lackner, Patrick Grimes, Hans J. Ziock

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


The economic stakes in dealing with climate change are big and costs could escalate dramatically, if the transition to a zero emission economy would have to happen fast. Abandoning existing infrastructure is prohibitively expensive and as long as new technology is not yet ready to be phased in, improvements and additions to the existing infrastructure will tend to perpetuate the problem. For this reason alone it is important to consider the possibility of capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air [1-4]. If capture from air would prove feasible, one would not have to wait for the phasing out of existing infrastructure before addressing the greenhouse gas problem. Technology for extracting CO2 from the air could be deployed as soon as it is developed; it could deal with all sources of CO2, and it even could be scaled up to reduce present levels of atmospheric CO2. Deployment of air extraction technology need not interfere with other approaches to the problem. Avoidance of emissions, either through capture at a plant or switching to non-carbon based energy sources would still make sense, but one would not have to abandon existing infrastructure or construct a complex CO2 pipelining system in order to get started. For In this paper we argue that capture of CO2 from natural airfl ow is technically feasible at a rate far above the rate at which trees capture CO2. The photosynthesis by plants seems to be more limited by sunlight than capture of CO2. We will provide a rough estimate of the expected cost and the scale of operation required to deal with the world’s CO2 emissions. Finally we will discuss the benefi ts of the approach and how this approach would fi t into a no-regret strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCarbon Capture and Storage
Subtitle of host publicationCO2 Management Technologies
PublisherApple Academic Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781482250619
ISBN (Print)9781771880213
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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