Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Giant Vacuum Cleaner

Imagine a giant vacuum cleaner for the atmosphere. Al Gore Friday helped announce a project to spur innovation in combating gases that contribute to global warming.

The British billionaire Richard Branson and Al Gore, the former vice president, aimed for just that on Friday when they announced a $25 million prize to meet possibly the biggest challenge faced by humankind: to reduce the planet’s warming gases that have collected in the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution
(via NY Times)
I have always wondered about such a giant vacuum cleaner. Suck the excess amounts of green house gases out of the atmosphere. I now have 25 million reasons to wonder and dream about it some more!

Present day sequestration ideas all run the risk of leakage that could have disastrous results. What we need is permanence.The NY Times article mentions a study by Klaus Lackner, a professor at Columbia University.
Lackner presents a more permanent method of CO2 disposal through neutralization in carbonate form. This could be accomplished by injecting CO2 into alkaline mineral rich layers of the Earth. When exposed to alkaline minerals, CO2 gas reacts with the alkaline mineral to form carbonates or bicarbonates
Lackner goes onto explain how this principle can be applied to power plants. I don't think anybody took him seriously before. That might change pretty soon, thanks to the prize tag!

Anyway, my little idea (possibly stupid) is this ....What if we all had a vacuum cleaner (as in the photograph) that uses Lackner's idea. It would have a filter made up of alkaline minerals. It would be sitting out in the sun (as in the photograph) when it is not being used indoors. It would use solar energy(somehow) to channel air through the filter and off goes the CO2!

CO2 cleaners are only a fix. Ultimately, we all have to start living on renewable energy. There is no other option.

PS: In case you are wondering, the orange in the photograph represents a warming planet :) The snow represents the desired state of cooling. The vacuum cleaner is of course the CO2 cleaner. Weird crazy abstract :)


Anand said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anand said...

LOVed your abstract symbolism!! I think you have way too much time :) But I am glad you spend it constructively.

The article is quite interesting. I believe most solutions are simple, although as you mention, this is only a patch job.

I've read an article long ago about an Indian company that pumped its CO2 exhaust through water; yielding Carbonic Acid that they sold. Eventually CO2 gets into the atmosphere, but this might be an easy way to capture and solidify CO2 at source.

Riot said...


Glad you liked the abstract :)
Please do let me know if you run into that article again.

Alex said...

Interesting thought.

Hope something like this materialises.

Anand said...


I had read that article several years ago. I don't even remember the source.

Rugs said...

You would need to have control of any attempts to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We would have to be very careful not to remove more then we add. Though there is strong consensus that we are adding too much to the atmosphere we know for sure the planet wouldn’t live without it. It is tree aspirant. If we suffocate trees they wouldn’t produce oxygen. So having the means of reducing it spread out in millions of hand could be risky. If it were significant enough to reduce it appreciably it also runs the risk of reducing it too much.