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Direct air capture machines absorb carbon dioxide from atmosphere. Are they part the solution to climate change

Direct air capture machines absorb carbon dioxide from atmosphere. Are they part the solution to climate change

An industrial facility with sheds and metal boxes in a green field

On a barren lava plateau in Iceland stands an entirely new kind of industrial facility that sucks carbon dioxide from the air and traps it in stone.

The world’s first commercial direct air capture (DAC) plant is designed to remove thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gas every year and then inject it deep underground.

Technology like this has been mooted for years but faced huge engineering challenges and, until recently, was dismissed as a costly fantasy.

The first plants are now available online. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC), recognizes that, even if the world reduces its ongoing emissions as quickly as possible, there will still be too much CO2 in the atmosphere to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

An industrial facility with sheds and metal boxes in a green field
The first commercially-operated DAC plant in Iceland has been opened.(Supplied: Climeworks)

In short, the IPCC says, the world needs to both reduce future emissions AndTo create a safe environment, you can remove old ones.

Experts say DAC could become a trillion-dollar global industry — if it can be deployed at scale.

So how does DAC work, what’s the future of the carbon removal industry, and is this an opportunity for renewables-rich Australia?

Why not plant more trees instead?

When Deanna D’Alessandro, a professor of chemistry at the University of Sydney, encountered the idea of mechanical carbon removal, she wondered if there wasn’t a simpler solution.

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