It would not be unreasonable to say that carbon dioxide is the number one enemy of human beings. Its accumulation in the atmosphere, which has skyrocketed since the first industrial revolution, is the cause of global warming according to most studies. In principle, the simplest thing would be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the economy of fossil fuels makes it difficult to make an accelerated transition to another energy model. While renewable energies are becoming more popular, numerous proposals have begun to be developed to reduce their presence in the atmosphere. From some more viable ones like carbon capture plants to other more unlikely ones like ionizing CO2 from the stratosphere by means of laser beams to send it to outer space from the Arctic. But what if instead of storing it or throwing it into the Van Allen belts, we found a way to turn it into other materials like plastic?

The first stop on this journey takes us to the year 2015, when a group of scientists from the University of Singapore developed an "artificial photosynthesis" system that, using copper as a catalyst, made it possible to generate ethylene from carbon dioxide and water, using for this solar energy. Last year they presented the first prototype. Science is always a relay race in which it is necessary to have the accumulated knowledge to take the next leap, which would take place shortly after.

Now we fly to the other side of the world, to the University of Toronto. There, taking advantage of the facilities of the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, they have developed a system to determine the optimal conditions for the production of ethylene through copper catalysis. The advantage of their technology, which has been announced in a paper in the journal Nature, is that it reduces methane generation to negligible levels and maximizes ethylene production. Once this substance is produced, the basis is now available to create one of the most widespread plastics in the world: polyethylene, the production of which is, in turn, one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases.

Making cakes using the CO2 produced in the combustion of coal is one of the results of a new carbon capture technology. The pioneer plant in this sense is located in Tuticoirn (India). It generates zero C02 emissions in the production of sodium bicarbonate, a common raising agent in confectionery, or sodium carbonate, a base element for making soaps, glass and dyes. The Indian businessman, who, according to the news published on the BBC, was not looking to save the planet, but rather to find a cheap and reliable source of CO2, took advantage of a technology designed by Carbonclean Solutions, a British startup founded by Indian scientists.

For the plant to work, it needs steam and C02. Both elements are obtained from the combustion of coal and, while the steam generated is transported through a pipe, the C02 and the smoke are sent through another pipe that ends up in a chimney where a chemical agent developed by Carbonclean Solutions precipitates the carbon dioxide more efficiently and cheaply than other methods used to date. In fact, it does not require subsidies to guarantee its viability. That CO2 is later transformed into sodium carbonate or bicarbonate. They calculate that, in this particular plant, 60,000 tons of CO2 per year can be transformed, and that using the same method, it would be possible to eliminate up to 10% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by coal combustion in the world. .