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Taking Sir Richard’s Prize

Authors note: This article was written very early in the stream of technical and scientific work that precedes the technology in its current state. It is being published now to credit the genius that inspired the inventor and demonstrate how the evolution of technical innovation and problem solving works.

Sir Richard Branson has offered the world a brilliantly conceived challenge that if successful can be used in conjunction with conservation and other means of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere to stem the on rush of climate change. It is the elegance of the rules that not only define a positive out come to the Challenge, but makes inventing the solution a daunting task.

As James Lovelock, one of the judges put it: “To escape the consequences of global heating we need far more than Kyoto, far more than renewable energy and sustainable development. What we need is a near miracle to undo the harm that we have done….”

To win the prize the inventor must device an environmentally benign means of taking one billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere per year for ten years. Sir Richard insightfully understands that only an actionable solution that can be rapidly implemented responds to the impeding consequences of run away climate change. He requires that the winner of the prize invent a technology that can be practically implemented to provide a solution. In this case the large scale removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and thereby directly mitigate a cause of global warming. These wonderful rules define the nature of the technology required. They define the problem an inventor must solve.

How do you get carbon out of the atmosphere? A quick look at the energy required and the available sources narrows the problem somewhat. Any process that requires hydrocarbon combustion as an energy source will not work. It dramatically impacts any net gain in carbon sequestration. Combusting, hydrocarbons to provide energy to remove the byproducts of hydrocarbon combustion from the atmosphere doesn’t make any sense, even if it could be done in an environmentally benign way, which it can’t.

You could try to do the job with nuclear energy, but fission is dirty and practical nuclear fusion has not been invented yet. That leaves renewable energy as the only viable source of energy in put into an atmospheric scrubbing process. Solar energy is the only source of energy that exists everywhere. CO2 in the atmosphere exits everywhere! And solar is the only renewable energy that can be concentrated sufficiently to produce the temperature and radiation frequencies required to break the covalent chemical bond of CO2. Highly concentrated solar energy presents itself as the only viable energy option.

If intersecting streams of highly concentrated solar energy and atmospheric gas could be created and they could be by means of an interiorly reflective cavity open to both streams. They could be caused to act in a manner that would disassociate CO2 into the gaseous elements carbon and oxygen. Adding solar energy breaks the covalent bonds of the compound, CO2. Now, we have the beginnings of a contraption to do the job. It is the primary concentration of solar energy into a conduit that further concentrates energy and mixes it with air, resulting in hot air with no covalent compounds.

If we set up the means to rapidly and precisely cool the stream of atmospheric gases as it exists the conduit. What about a venturi nozzle that creates a pressure and temperature drop in an exhaust stream? Gaseous carbon could be made to sublime to a solid and precipitate out into a filter. We get air without carbon, clean air. Admittedly there are some details to work out but the basics of an invention that fulfills the requirements for winning the Virgin Earth Challenge prize are all there.

The use and concentration of renewable solar energy, a means to intersect a stream of atmospheric gases containing carbon with the concentrated renewable energy source and a means to condense or sublime carbon from the product of the intersecting streams of energy and matter. Such an apparatus could remove carbon from atmosphere.

As to Sir Richard’s other difficult but critical requirement of sequestering one billion tons of carbon per year for ten years, it is simply a function of the square feet of solar concentrator that can be built and deployed. The yield in tons of carbon per year will equal the percent of CO2 in the atmosphere times the volume of air moved through the process of the apparatus times the energy put into the process. Energy into the process is related directly to the square footage of primary concentrator distributed and in use. This is more a commercialization and marketing problem then it is a technical problem. But this invention responds, it is simple, easily and inexpensively manufactured, and could be rapidly distributed through existing commercial channels in volumes sufficient to meet the requirements for winning the prize.

The brilliance of Sir Richard Branson’s challenge is the elegance with which he has defined the only possible solution. He has demonstrated the critical importance of asking the right questions.

About Author: Warren Cooley is an inventor leading a global collaboration of scientific and technical experts to complete design specifications and prototyping of an Atmospheric CO2 Cleaner. The invention harvests CO2 from the air and produces carbon monoxide that can be used as a commercial product or alternative fuel source. More details disclosing the invention are available at http://www.livingry.us

Collaborators and investors interested in participating in the development of this technology as a means of mitigating global climate change are invited to visit the Livingry website or inquire by email to: warcooley@comcast.net

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