Climate change is one of the gravest issues facing our planet. One solution scientists are investigating is how artificial trees planted to reduce carbon emissions from the atmosphere could help us to stop dangerous global warming.
But, what are carbon capture trees and are they going to end our climate woes?
CO2 and the Fight Against Climate Change
Carbon capture is the process of using a carbon dioxide filter to take CO2 from our atmosphere. But why would we want to remove CO2?
Carbon dioxide is an insulating gas, meaning that it traps heat. This drives global warming and climate change.
Still, our planet has a great way of dealing with carbon emissions: trees. Forests are a natural CO2 filter. They take carbon dioxide from our air and replace it with oxygen. Our trees can then store that carbon.
Some trees are better at this than others, but having biodiverse forests are considered best for carbon capture using trees.
But now scientists hope they can help boost this process with synthetic trees.
Artificial Trees for Carbon Capture
Carbon capture tree technology comes in several different forms, but they all aim to do what nature does, just better.
Take scientists like those at Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University who are developing artificial trees that use a special resin to absorb carbon dioxide. They coat the resin on the leaves of the trees.
Once used, that resin can be removed and stored, trapping the carbon. Scientists then clean the plastic leaves of the trees, re-coat them and put them back to work gobbling up carbon dioxide and reducing carbon air levels. There are some big advantages to this process.
Some carbon capture synthetic trees do not need sunlight, so scientists can pack them close together. This means that per plot we could remove a lot more carbon dioxide than we would through planting real trees.
In fact, faux tree projects could be up to 1,000 times more effective at CO2 capture from air. Some oxygen tree tech projects also produce byproducts like methane which can be used to create carbon neutral aircarbon plastics. Scientists behind nanotree tech have also used this process with chemical engineering to generate thermal energy.
That makes us ask then, why aren’t synthetic trees everywhere?
Money and Resources
Synthetic carbon capture trees are expensive. Figures of $20,000 (around £16,824) per unit are not unusual.
Some environmental groups argue it would be better to invest this money in creating green energy alternatives like wind turbines and not retrofitting fossil fuel power plants with a carbon dioxide detector and carbon filters.
Recently, scientists have developed synthetic carbon capture trees with lower costs for production and installation, and the international carbon credits market could further reduce costs. But, this does not change the fact we need to shut down fossil fuel plants.
As such, carbon capture trees will not be the only solution we need to tackle temperature rise and climate change. However synthetic trees could play a part in the fight to curb climate change’s worst effects.