CO2 emissions
Global carbon dioxide emissions are projected to rise in the coming yearsCreative Commons

A Canada-based energy company claims that it is possible to pull carbon dioxide (co2) directly from the air and transform it into useable fuel. In the near future, it might be possible to run cars on gasoline that was literally harvested from the atmosphere.

Carbon Engineering (CE), a company that is partly owned by Bill Gates has partnered with a team from Harvard University to develop this technology, which the company says can now directly capture co2 from the atmosphere for less than $100 per ton in a method they call Direct Air Capture (DAC).

Lead author of the research David Keith, speaking of the tech spoke of how carbon dioxide generated by direct capture from air, "can be combined with sequestration for carbon removal, or it can enable the production of carbon-neutral hydrocarbons," he said.

This same method can also be seen as "... a way to take low-cost carbon-free power sources like solar or wind and channel them into fuels that can be used to decarbonize the transportation sector," he explained.

In a release put out by CE, they claim that eventually, it could be possible to shift to a "net zero" world. This could avoid the negative impact of climate change while delivering clean energy at the same time. As of now the atmosphere has record levels of carbon dioxide, so the resource as such is aplenty. 

The way it works is exactly how it sounds, reports Large fans suck in air and pass it through a liquid solution that traps only the co2. Later, through a few simple chemical reactions, the carbon dioxide is harvested again and is now ready for use. The carbon thus extracted can be converted into valuable fuel as well as other chemicals. Conversely, it can simply be stored as co2, safely, away from the atmosphere.

What comes out of this chemical process is fuel that can be used with existing transportation infrastructure like diesel, petrol, and jet fuel. This method, while not an entirely new one –Elon Musk actually wants to do something similar on Mars, is the first time it has proven to be viable from a cost to benefit point of view.

Researchers working on this product believe that this tech could help keep sectors that are difficult to electrify relevant as well as carbon-zero. "Direct air capture technology offers a highly-scalable pathway to removing carbon from the atmosphere," said Noah Deich, Executive Director, Center for Carbon Removal.

The study was first published in the peer-reviewed journal Joule.