Researchers are working to make fuel out of carbon dioxide pulled from the sky.

By removing emitted carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it into fresh fuels, engineers at a Canadian firm have demonstrated a scalable and cost-effective way to make deep cuts in the carbon footprint of transportation with minimal disruption to existing vehicles.

Their method of ‘direct air capture’ uses giant fans to draw ambient air into contact with an aqueous solution that picks out and traps carbon dioxide.

Through heating and a series of chemical reactions, that same carbon dioxide is re-extracted and ready for further use as a carbon source for making valuable chemicals like fuels, or for storage via sequestration.

Carbon Engineering's facility in British Columbia is already achieving both CO2 capture and fuel generation.

After conducting a full process analysis and crunching the numbers, Carbon Engineering chief scientist David Keith and his colleagues say creating direct air capture on an impactful scale will cost roughly around US$232 per ton of carbon dioxide captured.

That price-point is low enough to use direct air capture to start tackling the roughly 20 per cent of global carbon emissions that result from driving, flying, trucking, and other ways of getting people and goods around.

“After 100 person-years of practical engineering and cost analysis, we can confidently say that while air capture is not some magical cheap solution, it is a viable and buildable technology for producing carbon-neutral fuels in the immediate future and for removing carbon in the long run,” Keith said.

More information is available here.