Today’s Solutions: October 24, 2021

The average passenger emits about five US tons of CO2 and 5,547 gallons of waste water each year, while urban farmers use almost five pounds of CO2 and six gallons of water to grow two pounds of produce. Researchers from Texas A&M University believe these two systems could be combined to improve efficiency and reduce emissions.

How can we capture vehicle emissions and water?

The strategy proposed by the researchers requires the use of a Rankine cycle (ORC) system. This closed system includes a turbine, heat exchangers, condenser, and feed pump which work to cool and compress CO2 for harvest, like a miniature steam engine. This isn’t the first time researchers have proposed CO2 capture from vehicles. Similar proposals have been laid out for large trucks and marine vehicles. Initial tests of these systems have been shown to be effective and theoretically, drivers who employ the systems could turn in captured CO2 cartridges at reclamation centers, much like those where residents can already turn in aluminum and steel cans for compensation.

Scaling the solution

Many questions still linger when it comes to passenger vehicle water and CO2 capture, such as where the water would be stored and how the system would affect vehicle performance, but researchers continue to work on this solution. The biggest hurdle at the moment is assembling a team of engineers with the cross-industry knowledge needed to combine the components of the design that already exist independently into a single system.

Despite these challenges, Texas A&M engineering professor Maria Barrufet thinks the concept is feasible: “Years ago, we didn’t think we could have air conditioning in a car,” Barrufet says. “This is a similar concept to the air conditioning that we now have. In a simple way, it’s like that device, it will fit in tight spaces.”

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