SocraticGadfly: Car CO2 emissions problem solved?

July 19, 2007

Car CO2 emissions problem solved?

A trio of Welshmen claim they have invented a carbon dioxide capture box that, when attached to a car’s tailpipe would capture 85-95 percent of its CO2 emissions.

Now, right now, it’s about the size of a barstool, but they claim they can get it small enough to be realistically used on a car.

That said, how’s it work? It uses algae; the group stumbled upon the idea while experimenting with using CO2 to boost algae growth for fish farming. The CO2 is contained in the box, which replaces a muffler. At each gasoline fill-up, the gases are exhausted out into an algae tank. The algae are eventually crushed and distilled into biodiesel.

The inventors believe they can also capture nitrogen oxides; they also believe that their invention can eventually be used for power plants.

And, they have talked to GM and Toyota, they say.

Now, a couple of questions.

• How long does it take to vent out this green box? If it takes 10-15 minutes, people aren’t going to want to do that while they’re getting gas.
• What’s the cost, even when it’s scaled into commercial production?
• How long does a unit last?
• If it replaces a muffler, what about noise issues in urban areas? Can it be further engineered to instead combine with a catalytic converter? Or would that cause back-pressure problems?
• And, I have the first three questions in spades about trying to ramp this up to a coal-fired electric power plant.

I don’t mean to be pooh-poohing it; I am legitimately curious, especially if they can meet their claim that they can install it in power plants, and do so economically.

Here's a diagram of the process:


angelfast said...

Best cars for me are those with features of ‘nature friendly element’…A good catalytic converter will always be a plus point. Good to hear that this one has an updated auto parts…an excellent catalytic converter and oxygen senor will not only lessen our gasoline consumption but also minimize air pollution. Good thing my Volvo catalytic converter never fails me..Anyway, nice post…Good luck and all the best!=)

Anonymous said...

Isn't this man made CO2 issue in part caused by catalytic converters in the 1st place? To my understanding a CC basically converts 3 toxins (Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxide and Hydrocarbons) into CO2 and water vapor (the latter being by far a much more prevalent Greenhouse Gas than CO2). This is a perfect example of unintended consequences caused by the best intentions. We legislatively corrected an environmental issue (which indeed needed to be corrected) by mandating the use of Catalytic Converers and now 33 years later we find ourselves faced with another environmental boogey man potentially caused by one of our previous attempts to correct an environmental injustice.

Gadfly said...

Anon, I do think that's how a converter works. That said, it's not a question of water vapor being so much more prevalent than CO2, since our current atmosphere is in equilibrium with the naturally-caused water vapor already in place. It's a question about whether the converter process is adding significant amounts of water vapor to the atmosphere, and I'm thinking it isn't.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gadfly, thank you for the comment (and the discussion). Not being an expert I just looked up how a CC works and the references are pretty much all in agreement. Here is the Wikipedia explanation:
[edit] Three-way catalytic converters
A three-way catalytic converter has three simultaneous tasks:

Reduction of nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and oxygen: 2NOx → xO2 + N2
Oxidation of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide: 2CO + O2 → 2CO2
Oxidation of unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) to carbon dioxide and water: 2CxHy + (2x+y/2)O2 → 2xCO2.

Basically they are taking gasses that are not GG's (though admittedly pollutants) and converting them to the now dreaded man made GG's.

I agree that the amount of water vapor added to the atmospere by cars is negligible. Where the prevalance of natural water vapor as the vast majority of GG's is relevant however is how it renders the effect of using man made CO2 as a "control knob" for world temperture negligible. Basically man made CO2 is such a miniscule percentage of GG's (due to the fact that the vast majority of Greenhouse Gasses are comprised of water vapor) that we can cut back on CO2 all day with next to zero effect on temperture.

Gadfly said...

Well, THERE, I and plenty of minds more scientific than mine will disagree with you. CO2 is not a minuscule percentage of greenhouse gases.

I guess this is where you were coming from in your initial post.

Anonymous said...

Actually I said MAN MADE CO2 s a miniscule percentage of GG's (which is a true statement). The point I was making with my first post was that cars didn't produce CO2 until we decided to do the environmentally correct thing and make laws forcing manufacturers to put CCs on cars. Good intentions - unintended results.....

Anonymous said...

Actually when you look at the composition of GG's CO2 is at about 25% with man made CO2 making up about 5% of that. Not to steal your phrase but there are plenty of scientific minds out there who believe that man isn't causing this warming period- you just won't be finding their conclusions in the media.

Gadfly said...

First, simply not true. Nitrous oxide is 300x more effective a greenhouse gas than CO2. Take a look here.

Even the EPA, the BushCo EPA, admits this. Look here.

carbon monoxide is combined with various nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere.

(The Google search "nitrogen oxides" + "cause" + "global warming" returns 272,000 hits, not all directly relevant, of course. (Fortunately, N2O is much less common than CO2.)

Second, thanks for being kind enough to confirm my suspicions.

Third, I know, it's all a media conspiracy, that's why the alternative reports haven't been written up.

So, nice try, but now that you've confirmed where you're coming from, you're just plain wrong.

Gadfly said...

Sorry, forgot to paste the intro to the third link:

The American Geophysical Union says the concern is greatest when carbon monoxide is combined with various nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere.