• Agathe Gellé

Mechanical trees: imitating forests to save the planet

Reducing CO2 emissions is a global issue that has encouraged impact startups to find new innovative solutions. Recently, Silicon Kingdom Holdings, an Irish company specialising in Carbon Capture and Storage has developed a new alternative, which may prove very efficient to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, the concept of Global Warming has been a hot topic. Consequently, companies such as Silicon Kingdom Holdings have invested in a brand new and innovative technology: Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS). This is linked with the project Net-Zero to reduce urgently the global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere: the goal is to prevent an increase of 2.0°C in global temperature that could have devastating consequences for the planet.

(Source: UN Global Impact)

The purpose of the CCS system is to capture the molecules of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, then the technology stores them to transform later.

In other words, those mechanical trees follow the same principle as organic trees while being 1,000 times more efficient than a single tree!

(Source: Financial Times)

This year, the company will experience a dozen of its MechanicalTrees capturing 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide and they would like to accelerate the process with CO2 capture farms of 120,000 machines in a few years.

The operation is simple: the technology is composed of sorbent tiles which are collecting CO2 and ambient air out of the atmosphere. Once saturated with CO2, the top of the structure goes down into the white chamber at the base of the cylinder, where the CO2 is extracted and stocked. Once the storage process is over, the structure extends once again, working in cycles.

(Source: Arizona State University; Silicon Kingdom Holdings)

The positive aspects of Silicon Kingdom Holdings:

  • Use of the "Passive Direct Air Capture" technique: the air is carried into the structure by the wind and does not require any other technology to collect the ambient air out of the atmosphere. Therefore, the CO2 capture costs are lower for Silicon Kingdom Holdings than for others companies specialised in the CCS industry.

  • The MechanicalTrees can be located in any place of the world as the carbon dioxide is evenly distributed in the atmosphere.

The number of companies trying to find the most efficient and economical solution to carbon capture is increasing. For instance, Charm Industrial converts the CO2 into biomass, to bio-oil, and then sells it to the agriculture sector as a fertilizer or to the food industry for fizzy drinks.

A key question is how to make these high-cost technologies more cost-efficient and profitable? Although CO2 emissions are becoming a major concern, it is important to keep in mind that those technologies are expensive and not available at scale for the moment. The cost per ton of CO2 captured ($100 to $500) is still very high and planting and using natural trees remains more cost-effective at this stage ($10/ton), hence the importance to save and develop our forests too.

In this context, Elon Musk committed to giving 100 million dollars for a startup to find a large-scale solution to capture carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as well as in the oceans, which is an even more complex process. (Source: The Guardian)

To find out more about Capture Carbon, you can check this paper on Charm Industrial: https://www.scsengineers.com/charm-industrial-announces-method-for-capturing-carbon-emissions/

To know more about Silicon Kingdom Holdings, you can visit their website: https://mechanicaltrees.com

And for further information: https://www.statepress.com/article/2020/10/spbiztech-the-worlds-first-mechanical-tree-is-to-be-built-at-asu-by-next-year

These companies contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 13 - "Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts".

The Dauphine Futuria Team.

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