A German-Israeli startup chose Earth Day to announce plans to launch a daring carbon capture plane with balloons. High hopes believes that the proposed solution will make it easier and cheaper to extract large volumes of CO2 from the air. The company has only launched a few trial missions to test its theory so far, but it is sufficiently encouraged by them to go public with its idea.
Carbon dioxide freezes, to make dry ice, at minus 78 degrees Celsius (-109 Fahrenheit), which requires a lot of energy. High Hopes founder Eran Oren says a smarter, less energy-consuming method can be created if you get nature to do most of the work for you.
At certain altitudes, atmospheric temperatures drop, such as at the Tropopause, the border between the troposphere and the stratosphere. the says the average temperatures there drop to an average of minus 60 degrees Celsius (-76 Fahrenheit).
Oren thinks that it is enough to cool the CO2 a few more degrees and it becomes a solid. This solid CO2 is then introduced into a pressurized container (turning into gas when it heats up) and returned to the ground.
These pressure vessels can then be stored or passed on to companies that use CO2 in their processes, such as for agriculture or chemical manufacturers. Hell, you could even sell it to dry ice companies, although that wouldn’t do anything for the climate impact of the project.
So far, the company has developed a smaller version of its airborne compressor and sent it into the air. These early experiments used weather balloons, but the hope is that we will eventually see custom High Hopes balloons in the air.
Oren is aiming for a system capable of extracting one ton of CO2, per balloon, per day, at a cost that makes the sale of carbon credits viable. Since the planet is currently emitting over 117 million tonnes of CO2 each day, High Hopes is going to need a lot of balloons.
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