Two electrochemists in Brooklyn have invented a way to capture excess carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into vodka. Nope. I had no idea there was such a profession either. Which is probably why I had no idea you could make vodka out of the carbon in air and water. A couple of years ago, Stafford W. Sheehan and Gregory Constantine launched Air Co in New York, with the idea that of doing their bit for saving the planet, by making vodka out of some of our excessive emissions.
Apparently to those in the know, the process of using electrical energy to turn Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into ethanol (C2H5OH) is actually not new - and when you think about it, makes perfect sense - if you think like that. What is new, is making it into mass production vodka.
The fact it is made from air and water is actually not the most impressive thing about this Air Co vodka. The CO2 to make the vodka is recycled; sourced from beverage manufacturing plants and ethanol factories in the northeast of the USA. The plants liquify their waste CO2 and send it to Air Co who process it. The resulting vodka is not only made from capturing excess CO2, but the product is also carbon negative. (The beverage remains carbon negative because the production never makes as much carbon dioxide as the amount originally collected.)
Apart from the source, solar electricity is used for distillation and powers the electric-steam boiler to make the vodka. It adds carbon emissions into the process but still keeps the process in a carbon-negative position. Air Co. say: "THE CARBON IMPACT OF THE SOLAR ELECTRICITY WE SOURCE TO MAKE THE HYDROGEN ADDS ROUGHLY 0.1 KG OF CO2 PER KG THAT WE CONVERT. THE CONVERSION PROCESS CONSUMES ABOUT HALF THE ELECTRICITY OF THE HYDROGEN, WE'RE STILL 0.75 KG CARBON NEGATIVE AFTER CONVERSION."
Air Co also fills the bottles by hand, which incurs no carbon cost and it is only available for purchase from the Bushwick factory. Of course the product is made from recycled CO2 so there are no fermented grains and potatoes, meaning it can be produced without the need for acres of land and irrigation, or large factories."WE ARE ONE MACHINE THAT CAN FIT IN ANY GIVEN BEDROOM THAT DOES THE SAME ROLE, ONLY FASTER AND MORE EFFICIENT, WITH NO IMPACT TO OUR ENVIRONMENT."
Images: Air Co, except the boys, which is from Coveteur by photographer Tim Buol