16 Negative Emission Culture
Climate change is an incontrovertible reality. 17 of the 18 warmest years ever recorded came in the 21st century.
To counteract this development, climate-friendly processes that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases are only a beginning. Even innovative, completely climate-neutral processes and products are now no longer enough to effectively slow down global warming. The growing awareness in society of the implications of climate change has led to more customer groups demanding climate-neutral products and services.
If certain products or services cannot be produced or provided in a climate-friendly manner, companies will have to use accompanying services to cut their CO2 output in order to ensure their climate neutrality. Indeed, the climate neutrality aspect of each company will become an important success factor in the future.
Actively reducing or binding the levels of the greenhouse gas CO2 in the atmosphere must become the main priority of both nations and companies if they really wish to make an effective contribution to protecting the climate. A technical solution is available in the form of so-called carbon sequestration. This involves using specific technologies to capture CO2 during industrial production processes and permanently storing it in underground reservoirs. Another approach for actively reducing CO2 views the CO2 available in the earth’s atmosphere as a valuable resource. Using an air capture method, the CO2 is taken as a raw material and then used, for example, in the production of fuels.
All these various levels of developments not only highlight the growing awareness of climate change and its consequences, but are also signs of a developing culture of actively reducing emissions – the beginning of the “Negative Emission Culture” era.
Etsy is the first e-commerce platform to offset all of its shipping-generated carbon emissions. Both Etsy sellers and buyers will be spared the costs for this project. Instead, the company will work with 3Degrees to buy verified emissions reductions for every item purchased in order to compensate for the resulting emissions. 3Degrees uses this revenue to finance environmental projects. To get things started, Etsy will offset shipping emissions for the entire US e-commerce sector for a whole day.
The Malta-based start-up Ecoingot offers users an app that helps them to change their shopping behaviour by enabling them to check the carbon footprint of products better. For this purpose, Ecoingot uses a combination of RFID and blockchain technologies, which make use of the wireless smart retail label network, among others. All product information will become available via the products' labels and packaging. Customers can then accept any greenhouse gases related to the product or buy tokens to compensate for their carbon footprint.
In Seattle, Lyft is testing the introduction of a "Green Mode" that lets users of the Lyft app choose electric and hybrid vehicles. This initiative aims to contribute to reducing the emissions of the ride-hailing fleet and harnessing people's interest in sustainability. To offer the company's drivers a financial incentive, Lyft is planning to incorporate thousands of electric vehicles into its rental program "Express Drive". In addition, Lyft announced that it will take part in other projects based on renewable energies in an effort to reduce CO2.
Valser Mineralquellen GmbH, a Swiss subsidiary of Coca-Cola, has partnered with the start-up Climeworks to reuse CO2 in the air. This is enabled by technology known as "Direct Air Capture", which filters carbon dioxide in the air and then makes it available to the chemical industry, among others. The drinks industry is now also set to profit from this form of sustainable CO2 generation. Coca-Cola will be the first company to use carbon dioxide from Climeworks to add carbonic acid to mineral water. What's more, Climeworks offers to neutralise its customers' emissions.
The start-up bioMason has reinvented the production of bricks and developed a climate-friendly alternative to traditional clay brick production. Instead of hardening the clay bricks in a firing process and emitting CO2, they are "built" by bacteria into a hard material made of sand. The sand is filled into a special mould, and the bacteria Sporosarcina pasteurii and calcium-rich water are then added to it. The calcium ions adhere to the cell walls of the bacteria and increasingly surround the sand grains, resulting in biological cement.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a self-healing polymer that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air in order to grow, strengthen and repair itself. The material features a gel-like structure and a basic framework of the polymer aminopropyl methacrylamide (APMA), glucose, the enzyme glucose oxidase and chloroplasts obtained from spinach leaves. The material initiates a chemical process that – similarly to plants – converts carbon dioxide into biomass in combination with sunlight. The researchers believe that the material could be used as a repair material or for protective coatings.
The Canadian company Carbon Engineering has developed a process called "Air to Fuels" (A2F) that absorbs the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the air and converts it into oil. The method uses an air capture process that extracts carbon dioxide from the air, thereby purifying it. Electrolysis powered by renewable energy is also used to produce hydrogen from water. The hydrogen and carbon dioxide are then combined through a thermo-catalytic process and synthesised into liquid fuels such as petrol and diesel. This almost climate-neutral fuel represents an alternative to biofuels.
A pilot project has been going on for some time at the Icelandic geothermal power plant Hellisheidi. It is run by the Swiss startup Climeworks and uses a filter system and the “Direct Air Capture” method to transform CO2 into stone. The technology collects CO2 from ambient air onto a patented filter, binds it to water, and then pumps it 700 m underground. On contact with the deep basalt rock, the CO2 solution quickly forms into a carbonate mineral, binding the carbon dioxide underground for at least 1 million years.
The Swiss start-up Climeworks has opened the world's first commercially used CO2 filter plant that extracts CO2 from the air around it and sells it as fertiliser. The ten metre high filter plant is on the roof of a waste incineration plant and comprises three freight containers each fitted with six CO2 collectors. The plant ventilators suck in the surrounding air while cellulose filters absorb the CO2. The filter material is then heated to 100 degrees Celsius. This releases the trapped CO2, which is sent to a nearby greenhouse.
Virgin Atlantic, as part of its partnership with the biofuel manufacturer LanzaTech, has for the first time used its fuel produced from industrial waste on a regular flight. LanzaTech converts exhaust gases from steel mills into ethanol, preventing them from being released into the atmosphere. The fuel used for aircraft has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to 70 percent compared to regular fossil fuels. Virgin Atlantic now wants to secure its first production facility in Great Britain.
The US start-up Locus Agricultural Solutions offers the probiotic mixture "Rhizolizer", which is intended to make agriculture more productive. It consists of the fungus Trichoderma harzianum and the bacterium Bacillus amyloliquefaciens and is produced in a local plant. "Rhizolizer" helps vegetables and fruit to grow better, taste more intense and the soil to absorb more carbon dioxide. With using "Rhizolizer" the start-up was able to increase the harvest of a 15-hectare orange grove by 14 percent and in another case made it possible to absorb an additional 4.38 tons of carbon dioxide per acre of land.
The start-up Gensoric has developed a fridge-sized system called Willpower Energy for private homes and it uses electricity and water to convert CO2 from the surrounding air into the fuel methanol. Enzymes are responsible for the conversion to methanol and Gensoric provides them as a replaceable cartridge system. The device also enables the energy to be stored and used in a micro cogeneration unit or in a fuel cell. In this way, users can become more independent of energy providers, suppliers and elements such as the weather.
A team of researchers from UNIST in South Korea and Georgia Tech in the US has developed a so-called hybrid-Na-CO2 system that absorbs CO2 in the atmosphere and generates clean energy. The system works similarly to a large liquid battery: when the absorbed CO2 enters the liquid electrolytes, they react with the cathode to form an acid solution from which electricity and hydrogen can be generated. According to the researchers, the system can run with a conversion efficiency of 50% for more than 1,000 hours and thereby remove 150 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year.
The scientist Daniel Nocera from Harvard University has developed the bacteria "Ralstonia eutropha" which uses targeted genetic modifications to absorb CO2 and hydrogen from the air to produce different ethanol fuels. Each Kw/h of energy produced absorbs 237 litres of CO2 from the air. The alcohol created by the bacteria can be immediately burned for energy production. The burning process re-releases the CO2 removed from the air, resulting in a climate-neutral source of energy.
While trying to convert carbon dioxide into fuel, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US state of Tennessee have discovered an efficient method to produce ethanol from the greenhouse gas, which can then be used as fuel. A mixture of carbon and copper particles are applied to a silicon plate. The resulting nanospikes are only a few atoms thick and form a highly concentrated electrical field which acts as a catalyst that immediately converts CO2 into ethanol.