Making Plastic from the Air

I found this video from the CBS This Morning show interesting. A California company called Newlight Technologies has developed a process for extracting carbon from the atmosphere to make plastic at efficiencies that seem to be making business sense. The company uses a proprietary biocatalyst to separate carbon from the air and reassemble it into long-chain polymer that can be used to create plastic products like furniture and plastic bags.

The idea of extracting carbon from the atmosphere is not new, but it’s interesting to see a commercial plant in operation, and Newlight seems to be getting some large companies as customers like Dell and KI. I’m not sure how competitive this method of plastic production is compared to traditional methods, but the environmental appeal is probably something that people and companies would be willing to pay a premium for.

Looking to the future, I would expect that this would be quite an energy intensive process, and as energy becomes cheaper, processes like this will become more cost effective and attractive from an economic, as well as an environmental standpoint.

  • Alan DeAngelis

    I’ve come to the right place then.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QdY4gfR7iY

  • Alan DeAngelis

    You might also find this one interesting.
    “Enron’s Global Warming Scam Survived It’s Bankruptcy”

    http://my.telegraph.co.uk/reasonmclucus/reasonmclucus/15835722/enrons-global-warming-scam-survived-its-bankruptcy/

  • Heath

    Sorry, I’ve seen others make that comment so thought I would throw that in ;). My feeling generally is, global warming or not, we dump a great deal of stuff into the atmosphere compounded by the needs and wants of billions of people. And companies do it because it’s easy or cheap. I’d rather see us collectively work to end this because it may not turn earth into a vast desert, but it can’t be good overall.

  • Alan DeAngelis

    Using Petroldragon technology.

  • Alan DeAngelis
  • GreenWin

    Rog, I think I’m blushin’!!

  • Fisher

    Plastics are already too much of our future. If we stopped using them today they would
    be still around causing problems for hundreds of years more. We’re turning our
    oceans into garbage cans filled with plastic bloated and sickly life forms. Two
    Texas sized garbage patches, one in each ocean, are already swirling around
    like aquatic, poisonous islands. Hurry up, e-cat! We need you!

    • Heath

      I agree that plastics by themselves pose a massive problem to our oceans as it eventually breaks down to small bits and is ingested by ocean animals and birds and is one of the reasons that California has banned plastic bags from grocery stores, shops, etc. This does not solve that problem as far as I can tell but I hope that the recycling of this AirCarbon is just as feasible and cost effective or at least is much more bio degradable.

    • US_Citizen71

      The keys are biodegradable plastics and recycling for the plastics that aren’t. There are several biodegradable plastics we know about they are just more expensive to manufacture. If they replaced our current plastics in temporary usage places such as shopping bags and drink bottles we would be 95% there. The rest can come through recycling it. Make it a crime to dispose of non-biodegradable plastic in the garbage, give a financial reward like a deposit, publicly shame those that litter or throw in the garbage non-biodegradable plastic on the back of milk cartons, whatever it takes in the societies around the world to cause the recycling of what will not degrade safely. Plastics are responsible for are quality of today as much as electricity hey are not going away.

  • malkom700

    My opinion is that carbon is necessary to quickly extract of the atmosphere because otherwise we lose the hope that there will be not a disaster. It is the main immediate advantage LENR more important than other benefits, such as political. When using LENR would ever prevent the Ukrainian crisis.

    • bachcole

      I don’t suppose you watched the video that GreenWin presented: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2qVNK6zFgE

      This Summer here in Colorado Springs most days I couldn’t hardly justify wearing my workout shorts when out and about shopping. It has been so cool.

      • Alain Samoun

        Fortunately you can have a smoke (legal) to forget your misery bachcole ;-)

      • Heath

        Climate data is the aggregate of weather over a period of time. What happens one summer in a particular area does not mean things are cooling or heating up–it’s about change over time.

      • Bernie777
        • bachcole

          1. It should be investigated whether the nutritive value of plants goes up or down in a higher CO2 environment. I read of a study that hinted that although the plants grew faster, they were much more pale. But one study on such a complicated matter does not a fact make.

          2. I got far enough in the article that you suggested to see that it was still biased, even though they tried to not be biased. Since they screwed up so badly with the Wright Bros., their credibility for being unbiased has been in serious question.

          3. I don’t recall that they apologized for their screw up with the Wright Bros., unlike the Catholic Church that apologized about Galileo. This is an example of what I have said, that moral sensibilities among scientists is less than it is among the general population.

  • theBuckWheat

    What is the net carbon footprint of the process compared with just using carbon found in hydrocarbon feesdstock like petroleum? Or is this just a novelty that plays to people who fret about climate change? (and thus who would be exploited useful idiots if the total carbon footprint was a net positive)

    • nickec

      Quoting this page: http://www.newlight.com/aircarbon-thermoplastic.php

      “Carbon-Negative. AirCarbonTM is an independently-verified, cradle-to-grave (including all energy inputs, transportation, and end-of-life) carbon-negative material, quantifiably reducing the amount of carbon in the air in every ounce of AirCarbon we make. “

      • theBuckWheat

        Upon what basis do we determine if this is good or bad?

        For example, the average climate of the northern hemisphere is so cold as to cause the ground to be buried under a thousand feet of ice. The cycle of glacier on/glacier off takes place every several hundred thousand years and can be clearly seen in many ways. Even as the science is settled that glaciation has taken place, the causes are still undergoing vigorous debate.

        With respect to the idea that humans are causing harmful changes to the climate at this very moment, I am waiting for some peer-reviewed papers that proposes what the optimum climate is for our biosphere. The first question that would naturally flow would be where is our current climate and trend in relation to this finding.

  • bachcole

    But I don’t want CO2 extracted from the atmosphere. We need about 1000 parts per million. We just passed the 400 ppm level, and we have a ways to go.

    • Alan DeAngelis

      If carbon dioxide levels fall too low, it could cause the extinction of C3 plants that would not be able to compete with C4 carbon fixating plants for CO2? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C4_carbon_fixation

      • Heath

        I’m not too sure if the levels would fall too low–but it is something I’ve thought about with the energy breakthroughs that split water. What is frightening is how much CO2 the oceans are absorbing and the imbalance they are causing in the pH levels. It’s not about if the ocean ecosystem can adapt, it is about how quickly it can adapt–we’ve learned to depend on such things. And with that, it matters how quickly WE can adapt to negative changes (ie deadzones, algae, jellyfish). Species do come and go, but the ecosystem does move toward balance in it’s own time but perhaps not in our time.

    • Alain Samoun

      bachcole,you should be called Mister Entropy.

  • Alan DeAngelis

    Yeah that’s nice but how much methane did the herds of farting buffalo that roamed North America before Europeans came on the scene put into the atmosphere? Should we really be
    worrying that much about it?

    • http://www.backlash.com Rod Van Mechelen

      The massive herds of North American bison were an anomaly that resulted when their primary predators–humans–were killed off by the European diseases that devastated the Plains tribes. What really put carbon in the air were the prairie fires used to keep the woodland under control, and when these stopped–again due to the epidemics–the resulting drop in carbon output exacerbated the Little Ice Age. References: 1491and 1493, both by Charles Mann.

      • bachcole

        Interesting.

      • Alan DeAngelis

        Ah, so this could trigger an ice age!

    • bachcole

      My only worry is that worry-warts are going to try to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and ruin a perfectly green and lovely trend.

      • Mr. Moho

        A well known cold fusion proponent suggested that once cheap access to outer space becomes available, “excess” CO2 could be purged there.

      • Alan DeAngelis

        But those damn plants will make more of that toxic gas, oxygen.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen#Toxicity

    • theBuckWheat

      It doesn’t take much digging on the Great Goog to see that in terms of sheer tonage of bovine flesh, the tons of Bison who used to range the Great Plains is within a factor of two or three of the tons of cattle now being raised in the Great Plains.

  • qcjym

    WOW!

  • Alan DeAngelis

    This is nothing new. We get lumber from trees.

    • Alan DeAngelis

      Pardon me, it’s methane they’re using.

      • Asterix

        …and methane (“natural gas”) is a fuel. Most plastic today is made from ethane and/or propane, so this isn’t quite the breakthrough that it would appear to be from all of the publicity. Nobody is talking about taking CO2 and using it.