Collecting carbon in a concrete jungle

November 30, 2011

Land unsuitable for tree planting could still be used to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere thanks to new research.

Microscopic tubes that suck in carbon dioxide from the air are being developed by chemists, engineers and at the University of Edinburgh, with funding from the RCUK Energy Programme, led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Just one 1m2 unit containing the tiny tubes could adsorb (suck in) the same amount of carbon as 10 average trees.

In the future larger versions of the units could be placed alongside places like motorways or on rooftops to make better use of land and spaces in reducing our .

If the technical hurdles are successfully overcome, a patentable unit could be developed and available for purchase within five years.

Each individual tube will be around 1 micrometre long and just 1 nanometre in diameter (1 micrometre is 1 millionth of a metre, 1 nanometre is 1 billionth of a metre). They will be made of pure carbon with some additional chemical groups that will attract and trap the carbon dioxide.

Once saturated with carbon 'used' tubes will be regenerated by a rapid heat pulse generated from a , such as a solar cell, and the carbon dioxide will be concentrated and stored in small canisters. These canisters may be exchanged periodically for fresh ones as part of a regular collection round.

"The tube material will be specially designed at the nanoscale to be highly porous, in order to adsorb as much carbon dioxide as possible," says Professor Eleanor Campbell, who is leading the project. "A key task is to engineer the chemistry of the tubes so that they only adsorb carbon dioxide without taking , for instance, out of the air as well."

The filled carbon dioxide canisters could be transported to a special facility where the carbon can be collected prior to secure disposal deep underground using carbon capture and , the development of which the University is also prominently involved with through the Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage (SCCS) consortium. Alternatively, the could be converted into added-value chemicals using novel catalytic reactions that are currently being developed at the university and elsewhere.

The project team will look at a whole range of issues, such as a unit's potential purchase price, its appearance and its optimum dimensions.

The views of the public were canvassed at an event which took place on 5 November 2011 in Edinburgh.

"In some ways, the unit would work like an artificial tree," says Professor Campbell. "A key advantage of course is that the units could be used in built-up urban areas where tree planting is not possible."

Explore further: Scientists discuss carbon dioxide uses

Related Stories

Scientists discuss carbon dioxide uses

March 13, 2006

The use of environmentally friendly carbon dioxide as a refrigerant instead of ozone-depleting chemicals will be discussed at Purdue University this week.

Carbon capture has a sparkling future

April 1, 2009

( -- New research shows that for millions of years carbon dioxide has been stored safely and naturally in underground water in gas fields saturated with the greenhouse gas. The findings - published in Nature today ...

Synthetic Tree Captures Carbon 1,000 Faster Than Real Trees

July 9, 2009

( -- Scientists have designed a synthetic tree that traps carbon dioxide from the air in an attempt to combat growing emissions. The device looks less like a tree and more like a small building, but it can collect ...

Cutting carbon dioxide helps prevent drying

March 24, 2011

Recent climate modeling has shown that reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would give the Earth a wetter climate in the short term. New research from Carnegie Global Ecology scientists Long Cao ...

Recommended for you

Mysterious deep-Earth seismic signature explained

November 22, 2017

New research on oxygen and iron chemistry under the extreme conditions found deep inside the Earth could explain a longstanding seismic mystery called ultralow velocity zones. Published in Nature, the findings could have ...

Scientists dispute missing dryland forests

November 21, 2017

Scientists are disputing the possibility that a significant portion of the world's forests have been missed in an earlier accounting of ecological diversity.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (4) Nov 30, 2011
Microscopic tubes that suck in carbon dioxide from the air are being developed by chemists, engineers and medical researchers . . .

This sounds like more of the same type of propaganda that has caused society to lose faith in world leaders and in leaders of the scientific community.

Many are also concerned today about implications of the National Defense Authorization Act bill that the US Senate is set to vote on today or later this week:

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
1 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2011
The National Defense Authorization Act:

"requires the military to dedicate a significant number of personnel to capturing and holding terrorism suspects in some cases indefinitely even those apprehended on U.S. soil. And they authorize the military to do so regardless of an accused terrorists citizenship, even if he or she is an American captured in a U.S. city."

That may be used against scientists who criticized world leaders and leaders of the scientific community for joining forces with the climate scientists that fudged global temperature data.

See today's news in:

1. Slate:

2. Canadian Free Press:


3. Huffington Post:

1 / 5 (2) Nov 30, 2011
Earths climate changes because Earth's heat source is unstable and is always changing. For four decades government scientists hid or ignored experimental data and observations in order to promote the illusion that CO2 caused climate change:

Deep roots of the global climate scandal (1971-2011)


That propaganda was designed to unite nations against an imaginary common enemy - global climate change - and to equalize the standard of those living under a one world government.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2011
Oh, here we go. Yet another conspiracy designed to take money from the hard-pressed taxpayers of America. Oh, give me a break. It's not all about you.

The fact is that climate change exists. If you can't see it,have a good look around you. There is more severe weather happening around the world than ever before in human history. And why? Well, whether you believe it or not, a very significant part of it is attributable to human activity. Not all of it, but a big chunk of it.

Yes, there are climate fluctuations that can be attributed to natural processes, such as solar activity, the Souther Ocean Oscillation, El Nino, etc., etc., but let's get real here, folks. In 1824, early in the Industrial Age, when Fourier was researching the greenhouse effect, he calculated the concentration of atmospheric CO2 to be around 200 ppmv. Today, the concentration of atmospheric CO2 is around 390 ppmv. Is that a problem? I should think so ...
5 / 5 (1) Dec 01, 2011
Pardon me ... "Southern" Ocean Oscillation ...

Anyway, long and the short is, like it or not, anthropogenic climate change is just as real as naturally occurring climate change. Scientists haven't figured out yet in what proportion each is attributable to the stuff that is happening gloablly, but it's there for us all to witness. There is a direct link between industrial activity and climate change. Those who deny that are dooming their children, and their children's children, to a terrible future. What's so wrong about sounding the alarm on climate change if it makes us all act a little more responsibly in how we treat the one home we have in the immediately-accessible universe?
1 / 5 (1) Dec 03, 2011
Oliver Manuel's recent efforts to plaster and other public news sites with his theories and personal URLs are a bit puzzling, as scientists have a variety of publications available to communicate directly to each other in. My best guess is that he is desperately trying to prop up his legacy in light of his arrest in his university office on 7 charges of rape and sodomy based on allegations by 4 of his own children. The charges have been reduced to one count of felony attempted sodomy, not necessarily because of his innocence, but because of the statute of limitations. One can only guess how the recent charges and decades of family strife have affected his ability to reason rationally and to remain objective while defending his unpopular theories

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.