Watch These Synthetic Leaves Suck CO2 Out of the Sky

We’ve added more than half a billion tons of carbon to the air since the industrial revolution. This device could help clean it up.

This Scientist Made a Super-Tree to Fight Climate Change

What about all the carbon we've already poured into the atmosphere? If only there were a device that could take some of it back out.

Researchers at Arizona State University’s Center for Negative Carbon Emissions are working on one. They discovered a commercially available resin that can grab carbon dioxide at low concentrations when the material is dry and release it when the material is moist. The CO2 it collects could be stored underground, used in greenhouses, or fed to algae for biofuel production.

"Right now, we are taking carbon out of the ground. We then convert the energy into something useful. Then there’s a third step that we ignore—namely, to clean up after ourselves," said Klaus Lackner, the center’s director.

Critics warn that carbon cleanup technology could weaken the political will to move away from fossil fuels. On the other hand, we’ve added more than half a billion tons of carbon to the air since the industrial revolution, and the resin is the basis for an artificial tree the researchers say can collect roughly 1,000 times as much CO2 as a real tree of comparable size. 

The lab has been experimenting with different ways of fabricating the stuff to maximize its capacity, including running it through a pasta maker and weaving it into a rug.

For more of the Unsolvable series, see: The Bio-Plastics Revolution Starts in This Lab