Oct 25, 2011Science and Technology
Air capture technology ready by 2018: UK engineers

LONDON (Reuters) - Geo-engineering technology to absorb climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere can be rolled out by 2018, the UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) said.

The institution is demonstrating the air capture technology on Wednesday evening on a small scale as the UK government and academics meet to discuss its potential.

The device, resembling a giant fly swat, is a thousand times more effective at absorbing carbon dioxide from the air than a tree of about the same size, according to the IME, whose members are developing it.

Once captured, the CO2 could be used in industrial processes or safely stored underground.

"Apart from being a vital technology for dealing with difficult-to-manage emissions like those from aviation and shipping, this technology could also be a vital tool for setting a definitive price for CO2," said Tim Fox, head of environment at the institution.

"This could help provide more investor certainty for companies wanting to invest in big projects like building new power stations, wind farms or factories," he added.

Geo-engineering solutions to counterbalance rising CO2 emissions, such as air capture devices, are relatively undeveloped, and their exact cost is a matter of debate.

But as international climate talks look unlikely to deliver a legally binding deal to cut emissions, geo-engineering technologies are being looked at as a way to manage them.

This week an international survey showed that over 70 percent of respondents were in favor of research into engineering to combat global warming.

Many experts view such solutions as a "last resort," however, and say governments should focus on proven technologies such as wind, solar power and energy efficiency.

IME said the CO2 air capture devices can be rolled out at less cost and at a smaller scale than other climate change mitigating technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage     (CCS).

The UK government last week canceled plans to fund a CCS demonstration project in Scotland, signaling the technology is too costly.

"As this device shows, this breakthrough technology works. What we need from government and industry isn't vast amounts of funding, but strategic direction of where this technology could fit into the strategy for dealing with climate change," said Fox.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney, editing by Jane Baird)

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