Q: What is captured carbon?
A: Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration/storage (CCUS) is the process of capturing CO2 emissions and then reusing or storing those emissions. There are two ways to capture CO2. It can be captured from a concentrated source such as the flue of a factory or power plant, preventing those emissions from entering the atmosphere in the first place, or it can be captured straight out of the air through a process called “direct air capture.” Captured CO2 can then be reused (ex. to carbonate beverages), stored (ex. underground), or sequestered in new products such as those made by Captured Carbon Studio.
Q: How do you put captured carbon into your artwork/products and where does the captured carbon come from?
A: My artwork and products utilize three main materials that contain captured carbon. They come from a company called Carbon Upcycling Technologies (CUT). CUT makes materials using captured carbon, which can also be thought of as “upcycled CO2 emissions”.
Graphitic nanoplatelets (GNPs): GNPs are made from graphite and upcycled CO2. It is essentially a very fine graphite powder and can be used in many of the same ways that you might use a graphite powder from an art supply store. I have experimented with using it to draw, paint, print, and dye, either by using the powder on its own or mixing it with another material (ex. transparent screen printing ink).
PEN-100: PEN-100 is a polyethylene plastic designed for use in injection molding. It contains CO2 in the form of graphitic nanoplatelets (described above) which has been mixed into the polyethylene. In the context of Captured Carbon Studio, PEN-100 has been turned into sequins for textiles. Each sequin was made individually by hammering a nurdle of PEN-100 flat, then piercing the disc shape with a needle to create a hole.
Enhanced fly ash (EFA): “Fly ash” is a byproduct of the coal industry. It is often added to concrete and can have the benefits of making concrete cheaper and greener while resulting in a superior concrete. Concrete is made from cement and other aggregates (sand, gravel etc.). The cement functions as the glue in concrete, holding everything together once it has cured. Making cement produces a lot of CO2, so by replacing a percentage of that cement with fly ash, you lower the carbon footprint of that concrete. “Enhanced fly ash” is the name of a specific product made by Carbon Upcycling Technologies. It has been “enhanced” by the addition of CO2. Using EFA in concrete not only makes the concrete even greener than if it contained just regular fly ash, but initial studies show that the product may make concrete even stronger.
Q: How is CO2 sequestered into the materials you are using?
A: The materials I use come from Carbon Upcycling Technologies (CUT). CUT uses an adsorption* process to sequester the gaseous CO2 into inorganic solid materials that are in a powder form. Taking their material, graphitic nanoplatelets (GNPs) as an example, the CO2 is adsorbed onto the graphite particles. This process breaks the particles of graphite powder into homogeneous nanoparticles. The CO2 is sequestered and remains stable in that material up to a certain temperature (for GNPs, 200 C).
*As defined by Merriam-Webster, adsorption (in contrast to “absorption”) is “the adhesion in an extremely thin layer of molecules (as of gases, solutes, or liquids) to the surfaces of solid bodies or liquids with which they are in contact”.
Q: Your dyed textiles are black and grey, is this because of the captured carbon? What does “captured carbon” look like?
A: The black and grey colors are not a direct result of the captured carbon. “Captured carbon” is carbon dioxide, the clear odorless gas that we breathe out and that is absorbed by plants during photosynthesis. The black and grey coloring comes from the material into which the CO2 is sequestered, graphite.
Q: What about solutions like planting trees and practicing regenerative agriculture? Aren’t those important ideas for helping to reverse climate change?
A: Absolutely. Planting trees, regenerative agriculture, and building soil carbon are considered “natural solutions” to climate change and they are extremely important. Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration/storage (CCUS) is considered an “industrial” solution to climate change and it also plays an important role in reversing climate change. For example, as mentioned in a previous answer above, the process of making cement (an essential component of concrete) creates a lot of CO2. Luckily, it is possible to capture that CO2 directly at the source of a cement factory and then sequester that CO2 in concrete. If this practice could be adopted worldwide, it would greatly reduce new emissions of CO2.
In short, we should be acting on all fronts, natural and industrial, in order to reverse climate change. Not only do we need to emit fewer greenhouse gases moving forward, but we need to remove the excess greenhouse gases that we have already emitted into the atmosphere. As some have succinctly put it, we must “emit less, remove the rest.”