Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Public Carbon Capture

PostedMay 28, 2020

Lede: The National Science Foundation recently announced finalists of a public competition for bold ideas to guide their long-term planning. One of the Grand Prize winners wants to get us all involved in tackling climate change.

Randy Atkins: What if things we use every day could also scrub the air of excess carbon dioxide, a major cause of climate change? Karin Pfennig, a University of North Carolina biology professor, says, while this isn’t really her area of expertise, the idea struck her while throwing out a bag of trash.

Karin Pfennig: I thought, well, if we can make those trash bags out of materials that absorbed carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, even a little bit, and sequestered that in a landfill, what other kinds of things could we do at that same level?

Randy Atkins: She imagined things like carbon-grabbing home air filters.

Karin Pfennig: And then, as a biologist, I started thinking about genetically modifying plants or crops that are better able to pull carbon dioxide in.

Randy Atkins: Pfennig admits that some of this will require engineering breakthroughs, but says even modest levels of success multiplied by many millions of people, could make real progress in addressing climate change. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.