Climatic Change

, Volume 148, Issue 4, pp 491–501 | Cite as

Thermal removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: energy requirements and scaling issues

  • Ted von HippelEmail author


I conduct a system-level study of direct air capture of CO2 using techniques from thermal physics. This system relies on a combination of an efficient heat exchanger, radiative cooling, and refrigeration, all at industrial scale and operated in environments at low ambient temperatures. While technological developments will be required for such a system to operate efficiently, those developments rest on a long history of refrigeration expertise and technology, and they can be developed and tested at modest scale. I estimate that the energy required to remove CO2 via this approach is comparable to direct air capture by other techniques. The most challenging aspect of building a system that could remove 1 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere per year is the power demand of 112 to 420 GW during the wintertime operational period.



I thank Drs. M. Anthony Reynolds, Edwin J. Mierkiewicz, and Sandra Boetcher for helpful discussions and the reviewers for constructive criticisms that helped me improve and clarify this paper.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physical SciencesEmbry-Riddle Aeronautical UniversityDaytona BeachUSA
  2. 2.Institute of AstronomyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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