Human Achievement of the Day: Human Nature

Leave it to man to improve upon mother nature. Sure, she’s got trees of every shape color and size, they rustle in the breeze, and produce life-giving oxygen, but can her trees produce jet fuel? Now, ours can:synthetictree

Over at Columbia University, professor Klaus S. Lackner has one-upped the natural world by coming up with a synthetic tree that can absorb carbon dioxide 1000 times faster than “old-style” trees and hundreds of times faster than windmill generators.

The “tree” uses plastic leaves that capture the carbon dioxide in a chamber. The carbon dioxide is then compressed into liquid form. The tree captures the carbon without the need for direct sunlight, which means that, unlike traditional trees, the synthetic trees can be stored in enclosed places such as barns, used anywhere, and transported from one site to another regardless of conditions.

Lackner says the captured CO2 could be used to create fuel for jet engines and cars, the two most common carbon emitters. In other cases, the CO2 could be used to enhance current production of vegetable produce.


The “trees” are similar to devices used to capture carbon from the flue stacks of carbon power plants, but the major difference is that these new trees capture ambient carbon from the environment at all times.

One thing this achievement highlights is how environmental problems can be solved by the free market. Rather than passing laws that simply mandate industry use less energy or emit less carbon dioxide, creating an effective way to reuse energy and create cheaper fuels is likely to result in systemic changes in the way energy and pollution are dealt with. With these “trees” the perception of emissions from naughty pollution to the wastefulness. Why freely emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when we can re-purpose it for cost-effective fuels?