Harnessing Carbon, Artificial Trees, A New Frontier In Mitigating The Effects Of Climate Change

Numerous efforts have been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. One innovative approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been the development of artificial trees, which are engineered to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in place of real trees. This article will explore different types of artificial trees, their mechanisms for carbon capture, the costs and effectiveness of this technology, and the energy needed for their operation.

Types And Examples Of Artificial Trees

Carbon Capture Trees (CCTs): These devices utilize the principle of adsorption to capture CO2 from the atmosphere. CCTs are typically composed of a porous material, such as activated carbon or metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which capture CO2 molecules through weak chemical bonds. Examples of CCTs include the Climeworks Direct Air Capture (DAC) system and Global Thermostat's technology.

Using Bioenergy To Capture And Store Carbon: Bioenergy technology combines biomass energy production with carbon capture and storage. These systems grow biomass plants, trees, or algae that absorb high concentrates of CO2 through photosynthesis, then burn the biomass for energy production. The CO2 emitted during combustion is captured and stored, usually in underground geological formations. An example of BECCS technology is Drax Power Station in the United Kingdom.

Mechanical Carbon Sequestration

Artificial trees rely on various methods for mechanical carbon sequestration:

mechanical tree

Adsorption: As mentioned earlier, adsorption-based artificial trees use porous materials to trap CO2 molecules. Once the material is saturated, it can be heated and treated with a chemical solution to release the captured CO2, which is then stored. This process involves capturing CO2 by dissolving it in a liquid solvent, typically an amine solution. The resulting solution can then be processed to separate and store the CO2. An example of absorption-based carbon capture is CarbonCure Technologies, which uses CO2 to improve the properties of concrete.

Cost vs Real Trees

Artificial trees are more expensive than their natural counterparts. Natural trees can sequester carbon dioxide at an estimated cost of $10 to $50 per metric ton, while artificial trees range from $100 to $600 per metric ton. However, artificial trees can capture CO2 more rapidly and efficiently than real trees, encouraging developers to continue to work on more cost-effective technologies.


The effectiveness of artificial trees depends on their capture rate and the technology employed. Climeworks' DAC system, for example, can capture approximately 50 tons of CO2 per year per unit. The Global Thermostat system can capture up to 3,000 tons of CO2 per year per unit. In comparison, an average mature tree can sequester around 22 kg of CO2 annually.

Number Of Mechanical Trees Needed To Sequester A Ton Of Carbon

The number of artificial trees needed to sequester a ton of carbon depends on the specific technology and its capture rate. For instance, using Climeworks' DAC system, approximately 20 units would be required to capture one ton of carbon per year, while Global Thermostat's system would require less than one unit.

Cost To Operate

Operating costs for artificial trees vary based on the technology and location. Factors such as energy prices, labor, and maintenance costs can influence the overall cost to operate these systems. For example, the Climeworks DAC system has an estimated operating cost of $100 to $200 per ton of CO2 captured.

Energy Required To Operate

Energy consumption is a crucial aspect of artificial tree operation. The energy needed to power these systems varies depending on the type of technology deployed. For example, adsorption-based artificial trees typically require thermal or electrical energy to release the captured CO2 from the adsorbent material. In the case of the Climeworks DAC system, it requires approximately 2,500 kWh of thermal and 380 kWh of electrical energy per ton of CO2 captured.

Absorption-based systems, such as those using amine solvents, require energy for the solvent regeneration process, which involves heating the solution to release the captured CO2. The energy consumption for these systems range from 1,500 to 3,000 kWh per ton of CO2 captured.

One challenge of artificial tree implementation is the need to utilize low-carbon or renewable energy sources to power these systems. If these are not applied, the CO2 emissions generated by the energy production process could negate the benefits of carbon sequestration.

Artificial trees represent a promising technology in the fight against climate change. While they currently have higher costs and energy requirements compared to natural trees, their rapid and efficient carbon capture capabilities may make them an essential tool for large-scale CO2 removal. Further research and development in this field could lead to more cost-effective and energy-efficient carbon capture solutions and help mitigate the impact of climate change.

Artificial Trees, Article Posted Sept 7, 2023