The world’s first commercial carbon-capture plant has begun operating in Hinwil, Switzerland (near Zurich). In this plant, carbon dioxide is extracted from the air and transferred to a nearby vegetable farm, where it is used as a greenhouse fertiliser. 18 collectors continually suck in the ambient air and filter out the carbon dioxide. It is then released by the filters for interim storage in liquid form. The developers of the Climeworks start-up, which was sparked by an enterprise challenge project at a Swiss Technical University (ETH), anticipate an annual output of 900 tons of CO2.

Projects like these may be a further key means of reducing global warming by lowering the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, if emission reduction alone proves insufficient. Research into ‘carbon capture und storage’ (CCS) is continuing worldwide, with capture proving to be a far less difficult task than storage.

The Hinwil plant dispenses with the need to store the carbon dioxide by passing it on directly to a willing buyer. The energy for this carbon capture plant, which is installed on the roof of a waste utilisation plant, comes from the exhaust heat released during the waste combustion process. The founders of the start-up see great commercial potential for their invention. The carbon captured in this way could also be used to fertilise plants in other greenhouses, to carbonate beverages or to create dry ice for cooling purposes. The idea of producing climate-neutral fuels from it is even being explored.

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