Clean Alternative Fuels from Carbon Dioxide?
Climeworks, a technology company based in Zurich, Switzerland, has found a way to produce alternative fuels from carbon dioxide that it captures and collects from the air. Founded in 2009 by Jan Wurzbacher and Christoph Gebald, the company developed their own air capture technology which also has the capability to create renewable energy.
According to the founders, the company has two main goals. One is to become the leader in the supply of atmospheric carbon dioxide as a feedstock for liquid fuel synthesis while improving energy security. The second goal is to help in stabilizing the global emission of carbon dioxide. To attain these goals, the company often collaborates with other institutions like Venture Kick and ETH Zurich.
The process of transforming carbon dioxide into alternative fuels is very complicated. However, Climeworks was able to simplify the process by using only CO2, water, and electricity as the main components. These three serve as the only inputs in producing what is called synthetic fuels or synfuels. The electricity used in the process can come from renewable energy sources like the sun, wind, or hydro-electric power plants. Basically, what Climeworks does is combine carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and electricity and process them inside a fuel synthesis plant. After processing, the synthetic fuels will be delivered straight to where they are going to be used like manufacturing facilities and transportation centers.
The synthetic fuels that Climeworks produces have two major benefits compared to other fuels of its kind. First of all, they are carbon neutral which means they have a net carbon footprint of zero. In other words, they are very clean and they don’t pose any danger to the environment when consumed by the end-user. And secondly, putting together the synthetic fuels is an effective way of storing and transporting renewable energy. This can be done either through a battery or through a liquid fuel.
The company’s capture technology is different because it makes use of the resorption or cyclic adsorption process. They utilize a filter material to collect and chemically bind atmospheric carbon dioxide. When the filter material gets saturated, it will be heated for up to 95 degrees Celsius to separate the carbon dioxide from the other components. When the entire process is done, pure carbon dioxide is collected while the purified air is released back to the atmosphere.
The great thing about the technology developed by Climeworks is that it cleanses the atmosphere while utilizing renewable energy. This is very important today considering the current issue of climate change. There are two ways of addressing the mounting amount of carbon in the atmosphere. One way is to reduce emissions. The second way is to remove some of the carbon dioxide that’s already in the air. Climeworks has found a way to accomplish both of these things with just one technology. The company has built three air capturing machines to perform these tasks.
Two of these are mobile which means they can be easily moved from one location to another. Their capture plants are also scalable because they feature a modular design.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.