Can baking soda save the environment?

Skyonic hopes to capture carbon dioxide from industrial emissions and turn it into baking soda. See more ­pollution pictures.
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Global warming has become an accepted part of our future. Its impacts may be as serious as widespread ecological disaster, species extinction and famine. One of the greenhouse gases contributing to the warming of the planet is carbon dioxide (CO2). The biggest CO2 emitters are power plants, which, according to for-profit environmentally concerned Skyonic Corporation, release more than 2.3 billion metric tons of the stuff every year in the United States alone (our cars emit a mere 1.9 billion) [source: Skyonic]. So what's Skyonic going to do about it? It's going to produce baking soda.

Pollution Image Gallery

Lots of green-minded individuals and companies are coming up with inventive approaches to carbon capture and sequestration -- basically, removing CO2 from industrial exhaust and then storing it somewhere it won't contribute to global warming. Some methods take CO2 gas out of power plant exhaust, compress it into liquid form, and then pipe it into an underground storage system. It's a workable concept. But it's also very expensive, and storing the carbon dioxide in liquid form makes some scientists nervous: Liquids have a tendency to leak.

Skyonic's SkyMine technology takes a different approach. It's not cheap, but it's potentially less risky -- and less damaging to industry profitability in the long run, which means it might be more palatable to power companies. It's currently one of the only systems that would produce sellable byproducts from the captured CO2. Plus, it could substantially increase our ability to absorb refrigerator odors.

So how do you get baking soda out of pollutants? It's amazingly simple. On the next page, we'll look at the chemistry behind SkyMine.