CO2 Captured from Air to Feed Greenhouse Plants

The CO2 can increase crop yields up to 30 percent.

Humans scowl at excess amounts of carbon dioxide in the air, but plants thrive on it.

A Switzerland-based company known as Climeworks saw the opportunity, and is building a machine designed to pull CO2 from the air and feed it to greenhouse plants, according to New Scientist.

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The demonstration system, set to come online by October 2016, is designed to pull air from a municipal waste incineration company called KEZO, filter out the carbon dioxide and deliver it to Gebrüder Meier, a local agricultural company.

Cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce grown in the greenhouse will benefit from a constant stream of CO2. Research shows that crop yields can increase up to 30 percent.

The filter (close-up image above) does the heavy lifting here. It contains fibers that have been infused with chemicals derived from ammonia, which bind to CO2 molecules. As the air moves through the filter, only the CO2 molecules become trapped in the filter.

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There are systems designed to remove CO2 from from flue gases of industrial facilities and power plants, but Climeworks captures it from ambient air.

"The advantage of taking it out of the ambient air is that you can do it wherever you are on the planet," chief operating officer Dominique Kronenberg told New Scientist. "You don't depend on a CO2 source, so you don't have high costs transporting it where it is needed."

When the filter is full, it's heated and the CO2 molecules release and are shuttled through a pipe to the greenhouse. In the meantime, the filter can be reused.

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According to Climeworks, the demonstration plant could capture "up to 900 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, which is a sufficient amount for the 4-hectare greenhouse."

That's a lot of cabbage.

Photo Caption: Fibers in the patented filters capture only carbon dioxide molecules (red and white) from the air; other air molecules flow through.

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