“(…) Combatting climate change by capturing carbon isn’t just about saving a polar bear or a glacier. It’s about saving human lives.”
– Jennifer Wilcox
As fossil fuel consumption increases relentlessly, global greenhouse gas emissions also continue to rise. According to several estimates, a person produces more than 20 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. That is 4 times more than what is produced by the average inhabitant (4.5 tons). The earth naturally removes CO2 from the air, for example by seawater, soils or rocks. Although scientists are working hard to accelerate the CO2 absorption from the atmosphere, it won’t be enough to stop the major player of global warming.
400 parts per million
While countless reports of the negative consequences can be read, research on CO2 reduction seems relatively minor. The concentration of CO2 in the air today is 400 parts per million. This means for every 400 molecules of carbon dioxide, there are another million molecules of nitrogen and oxygen. Removing a significant amount of CO2 involves moving large volumes of air through thousands of capture machines. Sounds like a pretty difficult thing – right? A tricky task that also chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox has also committed herself to.
An insight into the future
Wilcox is working on a way to test carbon capture methods to minimize the negative effects of climate change coupled with society’s dependence on fossil fuels. In her TED Talk, Wilcox presents an amazing technology that can scrub carbon from the air by using chemical reactions that capture and reuse CO2. She explains the invention and leads the viewer into her idea of a synthetic forest – where the CO2 is recycled in the same way like trees do, but at a vast scale. She tells us the current state of this technology and outlines future perspectives. This inspiring and informative talk gives an overview of the promise and the pitfalls and underlines the importance of this thesis.
Just see for yourself how this breathtaking technology could help us tackle future problems: