A lot of people have been curious about why we cannot put CO2 from the atmosphere into a lab, break it down and release the O2 back into the air. Others are wondering why we cannot just fix all of nature’s problems like this.
The first question (“Why can’t we collect CO2 from the atmosphere, break it down in a lab and just release the O2 back into the air.”) is very interesting. It seems like a no-brainer that if we can suck it out of the air, why can’t we just put it back?
In a sense, you can think of O2 as a chemical that is used to build humans and other animals from scratch and replace molecules that are broken down each day. In other words, O2 is a reagent that is very important to us.
But, O2 is also dangerous. If it gets inhaled into the lungs, its can kill people. For example, too much O2 in your lungs can lead to oxygen toxicity.
We have a lot of problems with this chemical that is absolutely essential for our existence.
The second question (“Why can’t we just fix all of nature’s problems like this.”) is also very interesting. In a sense, we are doing that by studying the biology of trees and other plants. Basically, trees are the source of O2 and CO2 in the atmosphere today. Trees are also the source of a variety of other chemicals including many that eventually get converted into food for humans and other animals.
The tree is our “catalyst” for treating CO2.
In other words, we are using trees to convert CO2 into food for humans and other animals. There are many similar processes that take place in nature that are working in our favor. What we need to do is to identify which of these processes is most efficient. To do this, we need to study the biology of trees and other plants.
There is a lot of interest in developing new technologies to capture CO2. There are many different approaches being studied right now. For example, captured CO2 can be used to make plastics and other products that humans enjoy using every day.