A Quest to Erase the Carbon Footprint of Human Civilization

Mar 24 2017


Climate Changemakers is a series highlighting the extraordinary people on a $20 million quest to save the planet through carbon conversion. This guest post is written Team Breathe, from India. Breathe is one of 27 semi-finalist teams competing in the $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.

About 4.7 billion years ago, from the Supernova, our Sun lit up for the first time. And gravity played with the mixture of dust, gases and chemically enriched debris, the solar nebula, to build the Earth. The million-degree temperature ball having dense water vapour, nitrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2) as its atmosphere, slowly cooled down with the water vapour condensing as seas, and the excess CO2 fossilizing to create the perfect planet with just the right amount of atmospheric GHG balance to create and flourish life. Eventually, through a long process of evolution, human beings came into existence, and due to the unparalleled flow of intellect and pressing need to innovate, 200 years back, the industrial revolution happened. While that period is the basis of modern human civilization, it is also the time when humans started rolling the natural wheel of balance backwards. With the industrial revolution and the consequent boom of technological innovations, we started contaminating the atmosphere of our perfect planet drastically. As a result, over the last 200 years, the global temperature of earth has increased by 1.53oF. The impact of climate change is severe, wide spread and fast. Thousands of human lives perish away every year since the late 90’s owing to heat waves, glaciers have melted by kilometres or vanished all along the world (Agassiz Glacier-Montana, Pasterze Glacier-Austria, Parang and Chorabari-India), air borne diseases have increased, drought and unpredicted rains have hampered agriculture and natural disasters have become a regular phenomenon. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done fast enough. Human community has become concerned more than ever before and many endeavors are being made in recent times to undo or halt these atmospheric and climate changes arising from human activities. It is a new story of a global endeavour that has to be written in the coming decades, of reversing the effects of climate change and undo the carbon footprints of human civilization.

CO2, the highest oxidized product of any carbon compound is the biggest culprit (72%) of all the GHG emissions of human civilization. The worldwide increase in per capita output and relatively moderate population growth overwhelm projected improvements in energy intensity and carbon intensity. With dependence on fossil fuels and the natural carbonaceous emissions of most of the industrial processes, there will be huge increase in the global CO2 emissions. We, the team Breathe, pledge to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, thus leaving the air healthy and breathable for the present and future and protect the access to electricity from coal for the developing nations. We are a group of young scientist and engineers from India who wants to reimagine CO2 and convert it into value added products. Our technology of converting CO2 will be carbon neutral and will produce value added products like methanol, which is projected as the next generation fuel. Methanol is one of the biggest chemical industries with the global demand reaching 70 million metric tons in 2016-2017. The demand of methanol, owing to recent developments of its application in energy sector (40%) and chemical industry is expected to increase manifold in the coming years. Breathe dreams of utilizing the huge reserve that we have in the form the GHG, CO2 to solve the major energy problems of the world in the most novel and innovative ways. We are developing, integrating, and commercializing technology-based solutions for industrial and societal problems in areas like CO2 capture and its conversion into useful chemicals. We are first in India to propose such a business oriented technological model for solving energy and environmental issues at one go.