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IPFS News Link • Climate Change

Why Big Tech Is Throwing $1 Billion at Sucking CO2 From the Air

•, Imad Khan

A pair of 2,000-gallon water tanks standing 15 feet tall occupy a cordoned-off portion of a parking lot down the street from Georgia Institute of Technology's Carbon Neutral Energy Solutions Laboratory. They're being used to grow algae, but in an extreme and novel way.

Clear bags filled with a green, mucousy substance float in water while hanging from metal pipes nearby. The bags have tubes sticking out of them, being fed both water and carbon dioxide. That substance, algae, is the key to this whole experiment.

Algae are photosynthetic organisms found in water that, like plants, eat up carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Algae alone produce 50% of the oxygen in our atmosphere. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as Georgia Tech, are seeing if it's possible to take existing carbon dioxide in the air, capture it and feed it to the algae. Once the algae is refined, it can be used in things from food to fuel.

As an environmental catastrophe looms, researchers are looking at unique solutions such as Georgia Tech's algae experiment to combat climate change. The UN is urging governments to bring carbon emissions down to net zero by 2050, a difficult task considering that 84% of the world's energy comes from the burning of fossil fuels, which is a significant source of the greenhouse gas emissions driving the climate crisis. Letting emissions get out of hand could lead to famine and more extreme weather events, but a rising population and increasing energy demands make it difficult to curb our output.

Direct air capture, or DAC, is a technological process that sucks carbon dioxide out of the air and serves as one part of a multifaceted approach to combat climate change. While the DAC industry is still in its nascent stage and has been criticized as too expensive, it's already embedding itself as an important technology, having secured support from governments around the world.