In Finland, one firm is working on a process that it says could boost the air quality inside buildings and generate a useful by-product in the form of hydrocarbons.
In towns and cities worldwide, air pollution is a big problem. From low emission buses and green walls to canopies containing algae, a range of technologies and ideas are being developed and deployed to boost urban air quality.
Soletair Power’s system has several steps to achieve its target. The idea is to power it using renewable energy. An electrolyzer produces hydrogen from water, while a “direct air capture module” collects carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or a building’s ventilation system.
The hydrogen and carbon dioxide react with one another, producing hydrocarbons including fuels.
Soletair Power says it would integrate its system into buildings. Petri Laakso, the firm’s chief executive, explained to CNBC’s “Sustainable Energy” that city air could be pushed through a ventilation unit and a carbon capturing unit, resulting in less carbon dioxide indoors. The firm’s electrolyzer and synthesis unit would then be utilised to produce hydrocarbons.
If the building were connected to a gas grid, Laakso said, “you could provide synthetic methane, which you can pump into (the) gas grid.” The grid could be used for energy storage or as a filling station for cars, he added.
Whether Soletair Power’s concept becomes a fixture on buildings remains to be seen, but the idea is generating interest.
In April 2019, the company announced it had secured €500,000 (around $551,630) in seed funding from the Wärtsilä Corporation to “pilot and commercialise its concept” of boosting air quality in buildings through the capture and conversion of carbon dioxide into “synthetic renewable fuel.”
In a statement at the time, Wärtsilä said it saw “great value” in Soletair Power’s concept and added that it would “provide global support in the development and commercialisation of the technology.”