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Science The world’s first Swiss CO2 washing machine

A machine that cleans the air of carbon dioxide with countryside and a farm in the background

The Zurich-based company Climeworks washes carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, from the air. It is located on the roof of the a waste disposal site near the city.

(Keystone/Gaetan Bally)

Christoph Gebald and Jan Wurzbacher, who met at ETH Zurich in 2003, started research into ‘direct air capture’ in 2007. Their quest with Climeworks: to reduce negative emissions and supply to greenhouses through replacing the fossil industrial CO2, which is currently being used.

Unfortunately for Gebald and Wurzbacher, they hit set-backs at the 2009 Climate Conference in Copenhagen, due to the disbelief that their invention wouldn’t have the desired effects – being too little, too late. The first prototype could only wash one gramme of CO2 per day from the air. Today they can filter 900 tonnes of CO2 per year.​​​​​​​

Climeworks was chosen as one of 20 companies to present its technology as a potential solution to meeting climate targets at the COP22 UN Climate Change Conference 2016 in Marrakech. And now, the new plant, situated in Hinwil near Zurich, has 18 collectors that will eventually be set up to work 24 hours a day, seven day a week. They comprise of ventilators, which suck the air in. Inside the collectors, a filter material chemically binds about 50 percent of the CO2 to a specific surface. Freshly ‘washed’ air is released again.



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