AUG 02, 2022 10:00 AM PDT

Capturing carbon from the air using train cars

In a recent study published in Joule, a collaborative research team outlines a cost-saving plan to modify train cars to successfully remove carbon from the air. As a result of climate change, the need to remove carbon dioxide from the environment is becoming more and more necessary, but the this often requires large amounts of energy, which also result in higher costs. Currently, the facilities required to capture air are both stationary and need large areas of land to get the job done, to include equipment storage and the construction of renewable energy sources to support their operations. These facilities also require permits to build, which residents often oppose.

"It's a huge problem because most everybody wants to fix the climate crisis, but nobody wants to do it in their backyard," says Geoffrey Ozin, a carbon dioxide utilization chemist and chemical engineer and director of the solar fuels group at the University of Toronto, and co-author on the study. "Rail-based direct air capture cars would not require zoning or building permits and would be transient and generally unseen by the public."

While current stationary air capture systems utilize energy-intensive fan systems, this new study proposes purpose-built train cars with large vents to intake air. Once a sufficient amount of carbon dioxide is captured, the chamber is closed, and the captured carbon dioxide is collected, concentrated, and stored in a liquid reservoir until it can be unloaded at designated crew-change of fueling depots. The carbon-dioxide-free air then exits either the underside or back of the train car and returns to the atmosphere.

The research team estimates that a freight train utilizing these direct air capture cars are capable of removing up to 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

"We could get a positive-feedback loop where the encouragement of rail to broadly deploy these direct air capture rail cars could even further decrease carbon emissions because rail is about five or six times more efficient than trucks," says Eric Bachman, founder of CO2Rail and lead author of the study. "By increasing rail utilization, you increase the efficiency of the entire transportation system."

Sources: Joule

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”.
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