Synthetic Tree Captures Carbon 1,000 Faster Than Real Trees (July 11, 2009) — Scientists have developed and designed a synthetic tree that traps carbon dioxide from the air in an attempt to combat growing emissions. The device looks less like a tree and it can collect carbon about 1,000 times faster than a real tree.
One synthetic tree could absorb one ton of carbon dioxide per day, an amount equivalent to that produced by about 20 cars, on average. After being trapped in a chamber, the carbon would be compressed and stored in liquid form for sequestration.
Professor Klaus Lackner of Columbia University has built an early model and hopes to have a fully working prototype within three years. Each synthetic tree would cost about $30,000 to build.
He said this technology is similar to that used at coal plants to capture carbon from flue stacks, but can be used anywhere.
He said, half of carbon emissions come from small sources, including cars and airplanes, and is impossible to collect. But since the carbon dioxide in the air is actually very concentrated, the device required to collect it can be fairly small. His goal is to make the synthetic tree highly efficient for its size.
Since the device requires energy to operate, it also generates some carbon itself if plugged into the power grid. For every 1000 kg of carbon dioxide the synthetic tree collects, it emits 200 kg, so that 800 kg are considered true collection.

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