What is Carbon Sequestration?

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 min read
Dan Webb
 min read
June 29, 2023

Nature can be the inspiration for solving many real-world problems, and on occasion, nature itself can be the solution

Carbon sequestration harnesses the power of plants to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide and lock it away by turning it into useful natural products.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 12% of United States greenhouse gas emissions were offset by natural carbon sequestration in 2021. For comparison, less than 1% of emissions were offset by human-engineered processes like direct air capture technology in 2022.

A photo of wind turbines under a cloudy sky,  Source: Pexels

What is carbon sequestration and how does it work in nature?

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing atmospheric carbon and locking it away into a medium where it cannot escape into the atmosphere. First, carbon is captured from the atmosphere in a form such as carbon dioxide, and then, it is stored in a chemical form where the carbon itself cannot be removed easily. Because it is sequestered into biomass, this carbon stays out of the atmosphere for a long time.

How does carbon sequestration work in nature?

Most plants naturally sequester carbon as they grow, but the rate at which they sequester carbon can vary by species and age. According to the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, trees capture carbon at a higher rate while under fifty to one hundred years old, with efficiencies slowly falling as centuries pass. Young trees are incredibly capable of removing atmospheric carbon but do not store all of what they capture. In contrast, older trees are less effective at capturing atmospheric carbon but are more capable of storing carbon within durable biomass like wood.

What is a carbon sink?

Forests act as areas that harbor natural carbon sequestration, and these areas are commonly referred to as carbon sinks. A carbon sink inherently absorbs more carbon than it releases into the atmosphere and typically is a preserved area of plants. Since these areas reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere naturally and over time without human intervention, they effectively reduce carbon overall in global decarbonization strategies.

A light bulb filled with soil and a young plant, Source: Pexels

How can carbon sequestration be used to create products of the future?

Plants pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into biomass, which can have many practical uses. However, the end product only counts as carbon sequestration if the specific service is permanent or long-term. 

While sustainable, consumable goods like clothes, food, and fuel are not permanent products or durable goods. As such, the carbon in these goods may inevitably find its way into the soil and atmosphere where it was once captured.

One example is algae, used for carbon capture for its powerful capacity to capture atmospheric carbon. Algae can even deacidify bodies of water. The water-bound plant has shown to be able to act as carbon sequestering biomass, with companies like Microsoft-backed Prometheus Materials developing biocement which can be used to permanently store carbon in a structure like an office complex, hospital, or home. Useful and durable products that lock away carbon dioxide from the atmosphere offset emissions and create valuable products for customers like homebuilders and end users like homeowners.

Plantd's vision for a 100% electric factory of the future

How does Plantd use carbon sequestration?

At Plantd, we are using an agricultural approach to carbon sequestration by planting acres of one of the fastest-growing perennial grasses on the planet. We then process this perennial grass using a  formaldehyde-free resin to create structural panels with superior characteristics to current-day commodity OSB. The carbon dioxide from the crop is captured into the biomass of the grass and then efficiently processed into an end-product with a 100% electric manufacturing process.

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