The world is facing a major blow due to global warming and air pollution. It is costing world hundred billions of dollars and millions of death yearly.

Purify the Atmosphere
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So the question is, can we use technology to purify the atmosphere and reverse global warming?

Can We Purify Atmosphere And Reverse Global Warming?

How long can you hold your breath? Half minute or one minute or some more minutes? You may live for days without water but you cannot live even some minutes without air. Air is one of the most important elements required for life. But human activities have a harsh impact on air and air quality is deteriorating each day.

Although some countries have improved their air condition in recent air, growing air pollution in developing countries has made it one of the major problem of the modern world. The adverse effect of it is seen on the climate and health of people. Climate is changing, lands are facing drought and millions of people die each year due to pollution. As of 2015’s data presented here, one in every six death in the world is due to air pollution, resulting in more than 9 million deaths per year.

Also, global warming is real. 19 of the warmest year till date are recorded on the 21st century and we have passed only 20 years. The increase in global temperature is accelerating and it is bringing change in global climate. Glaciers and polar ice sheets are melting inducing rise in sea level.

Present Status of Air

The major pollutant in the air is carbon dioxide. It is emitted by burning any kind of organic materials, plastics, coal, fuels, etc. Vehicles and industries have a major share of carbon dioxide emission. It is a green house gas and is the major cause of global warming. Other air pollutants can be Sulphur oxides (SOx), Nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), ammonia, volatile organic compounds, dust particles, etc.

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At present, the yearly carbon emission of the world has reached 33,000,000,000 tonnes from 20,000,000,000 tonnes in 1990. This is going to have a severe impact on the world’s climate, the lifetime of polar ice will be further decreased and survival of mankind will be in jeopardy. Global warming must not only be stopped but must be reversed by reducing carbon emission.

What about other pollutants? Sulphur is an impurity in coal and thus burning coal can lead to the production of oxides of sulphur. It can narrow down the size of air pipes inside us and cause respiratory disease. Similarly, Carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides are produced from vehicles and the burning of fuels, which are toxic in nature and can cause several diseases. The concentration of these pollutants has decreased in recent years but still today, a large volume is produced on a  daily basis. So, the world must focus on the use of technology to purify the atmosphere.

Technology to Purify the Atmosphere

Different technological innovations such as machines and vehicles has made our work easier and faster but they have a serious drawback, they emit air pollutants. Modern machinery are more environment-friendly than previous ones and are attempting to reduce pollution. Scientists are not only concentrating on the reduction of pollutants by using environment-friendly machinery but also trying to purify the atmosphere.

The purification of atmospheric air or outdoor air can be done by the method of Direct Air Capture (DAC). This method comprises of huge fans powered by energy prepared from waste materials to capture atmospheric carbon, carbon dioxide. DAC machine developed by Climeworks, Switzerland is capable to capture 900 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Not only Climeworks, but other start-up companies are also making their investment on DAC. As stated above, 33 billion tonnes of carbon is produced yearly and capturing 900 tonnes is very less in comparison to it. However, a significant improvement of these machines are being sought by researchers and still, this could be a major step towards decreasing global warming.

The idea of photocatalytic and electrochemical catalysis methods to purify air is getting popularity these days. These methods are tested in small scale like indoor air purification but some day they might be able to purify outdoor air as well as purify the atmosphere. But these machines are expensive, the price of capturing each ton of carbon dioxide by Climeworks is $ 600.

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Recently, MIT has developed an electrochemical catalytic device which can capture carbon dioxide more efficiently than others in terms of both money and volume. This could give rise to machines which can reverse global warming by capturing carbon dioxide.

How Can We Purify the Atmosphere?

The mass of the atmosphere is 5,150 trillion tonnes, which is quite large. Purifying such a large mass of air is a laborious task. Also, we cannot put the purified air somewhere in a separate containment. Yes, air is mobile and carbon dioxide rich air may be replaced. But, if we are able to capture carbon dioxide on a large scale for a particular area, can it have a severe impact on the vegetation around that place? It might because carbon dioxide is an essential compound for plants and they might suffocate.

So, we have to do this task carefully. Firstly, we have to enhance the ability of large scale carbon dioxide capture which we can implement to purify the atmosphere, not just indoor air. This can be done by increasing investment in such research. Secondly, we have to halt the production of carbon dioxide from factories and machines by fitting carbon capture machines in their exhaust pipes.

And lastly, we must use the carbon capture machines by carefully monitoring the carbon dioxide levels within and around that place. This could eventually reverse global warming but what about other pollutants?

Other pollutants can also be removed using the technology of electrochemical catalysis. We just have to use the material which has high affinity with the component to be removed. Also, nanoparticles of titanium oxide enhanced with other chemicals can be used for photocatalytic action in order to remove organic air pollutants.

Reviving the Earth Through Technology

This technology of catalytic purification can be extended to a wide range. Not just air but it can also be used to purify water. With better air to breathe and water to drink, we can re-imagine the future of Earth. A better future can be waiting for us on contrary to those shown to us by futuristic movies.

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People think that technology can only exploit nature but the truth is technology can heal nature too. With the advancement of these innovations, we may be able to purify the atmosphere, reverse global warming and live in a healthy environment in the coming future.

Drop of increase in production of carbon dioxide from major countries in recent years shows the sign of beautiful clean future. And with the help of technology, only technology, we will revive Earth to its former beauty.


Ashwin Khadka is a Physics graduate from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is a science enthusiast, researcher and writer. Apart from writing he is also a researcher, with specialization on thin films for electrodes in solar cells.

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