Game-Changing Rail Car Acts as a Mobile, Self-Powered System for Carbon Capture

Although direct air carbon capture (DAC) is increasingly seen as one of the most important steps for a green future, stationary DAC facilities come with certain downsides. This innovative solution coming from a U.S. startup imagines a mobile alternative in the form of a modified rail car.
The CO2Rail car would act as a mobile carbon capture system, using the train's regenerative braking energy 7 photos
Photo: CO2Rail Company
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Eric Bachman of CO2Rail Company, launched in 2020, envisions a future in which regular train rides and freight transportation via rail could effectively clean our air at the same time. One or more CO2Rail cars can simply be attached to any train, capturing and storing CO2 as they travel.

The concept is based on the enormous, untapped potential of trains’ regenerative braking energy. According to Amy Huxtable from the University of Sheffield, when a train hits the brakes, its forward momentum is converted into electrical energy. With conventional trains, this energy is simply lost in the form of heat. Bachman says that each braking maneuver generates enough energy to power 20 homes, on average. So you can imagine the potential of capturing the energy of every stop.

The CO2Rail car would be able to capture and move ambient air into a cylindrical collection chamber, then separate the CO2. The clean air would then be returned to the atmosphere, while the liquified CO2 is stored in a reservoir until the train is emptied at a fuel stop. Finally, the carbon is transferred to regular rail cars and transported to geological landfill sites. The entire CO2 capture process is carried out during normal train rides, using only the onboard-generated energy from braking.

This technology was developed by the U.S.-based startup together with a team of researchers from the University of Sheffield, University of Toronto, MIT, and Princeton. It claims to allow an unprecedented quantity of CO2 to be captured, with the potential of reaching gigaton-scale someday. It also has the unique advantage of being powered exclusively by sustainable energy resulting from braking. Plus, this rail-based, self-powered DAC system could be easily implemented for trains all over the world.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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