ASU’s Air Capture Technology collects carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using a technique that literally scrubs it from the air and then captures it so it can be reused at an affordable cost — a carbon dioxide recycling program.

How exactly can fuel be pulled from thin air? The materials work on a moisture cycle, attracting carbon dioxide from the air when they are dry, and then release it at an enriched concentration of CO2 when they become wet.

The enriched CO2 can be put to several uses, like feeding algae, that thrive on CO2. “Those algae, can then be used to make biofuels,” Lackner said. “You could have fuels without any petroleum.”

With CO2 levels at an all-time high of 400 parts-per-billion in the Earth’s atmosphere, the technology can also address the critical environmental need of CO2 reduction.

“In some ways, air capture is the capture of last resort, and I think that’s why the potential of this technology is so powerful,” Lackner said. “Give it a few years, and the technology will be fully demonstrated.”

The team is currently building the first prototype of the system to begin evaluating its performance over several months outdoors, first growing algae in a rooftop 75-liter photobioreactor, and second, in 1500-liter raceway ponds out at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) national testbed at ASU’s Polytechnic Campus.

“We are now poised to see how the technology fares outside of the laboratory, which is critical to identify areas we still need to improve to make the technology commercially viable,” Rittmann said.

And that could mean a huge “green” benefit, for the economy and environment.

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences), Media Relations & Strategic Communications

480-727-4858