High Hopes plans to extract atmospheric CO2 with hot air balloons

Balloons will carry equipment to freeze and trap carbon dioxide.

High Hopes

A German-Israeli startup has chosen Earth Day to announce its plan to launch an audacious carbon capture plan with balloons. High Hopes believes that its proposed solution will make it easier, and cheaper, to extract large volumes of CO2 from the air. The company has only launched a few trial missions to test its theory so far, but is sufficiently encouraged by them to go public with its idea.

Carbon dioxide freezes, to make dry ice, at minus 78 degrees celsius (-109 fahrenheit), which takes a lot of energy. High Hopes’s founder Eran Oren says that a smarter, and less energy intensive method can be created if you get nature itself to do most of the work for you.

At certain altitudes, atmospheric temperatures plummet, like at the Tropopause, the border between the Troposphere and Stratosphere. The National Weather Service says that average temperatures there fall to an average of minus 60 degrees celsius (-76 fahrenheit).

Oren’s thinking goes that you only need to get the CO2 to cool down another few degrees and it becomes a solid. That solid CO2 is then fed into a pressure vessel (turning back into a gas when it warms up) and returned to the ground.

Those pressure vessels can then either be stored, or passed on to firms which use CO2 in their processes, like for agriculture or chemical producers. Hell, you could even sell it to dry ice companies, although that would do nothing for the climate impact of the project.

So far, the company has developed a smaller version of its airborne compressor and has sent it into the air. These initial experiments have used weather balloons, but the hope is that eventually we’ll see custom High Hopes balloons in the air.

Oren is aiming for a system that will be able to pull one metric ton of CO2, per balloon, per day, for a cost that makes it viable to sell carbon credits. Given that the planet currently emits more than 117 million tons of CO2 each day, High Hopes is going to need a hell of a lot of balloons.