CSIRO – Australia’s National Science Agency
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Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has launched CarbonLock, a $20 million research program aimed at creating new innovative solutions to address climate change.

The program will explore ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere and permanently lock it away.

According to the CSIRO, around 90 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels, with most of Australia’s coming from energy production, as well as transport, agriculture and industrial processes.

Australia is the world’s 14th highest emitter, contributing towards just over one per cent of total global emissions.

CarbonLock has been engaged to come up with ways for the nation to create negative emissions technologies (NETs) to remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

CSIRO said NETs were needed to address climate change and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and CarbonLock Director Andrew Lenton said NETs would play a vital role in Australia’s transition towards net-zero.

“NETs are critical to Australia’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions because they offer a promising pathway to limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels,” Dr Lenton said.

“CarbonLock is focused on developing the next generation of permanent carbon storage to complement research already undertaken in nature-based carbon storage solutions and geological Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).”

The national science agency said CarbonLock built on several programs included in its Future Science Platforms (FSPs) aimed at discovering breakthroughs in new and emerging areas of science.

Future Science Platforms

CSIRO said FSPs offered the opportunity to reinvent and create new industries, turning future challenges into opportunities to create a “better future for us all”.

They aim to attract the best students and experts to work with CSIRO.

FSPs are multi-year, multi-disciplinary investments bringing CSIRO and its partners together to develop, extend and translate breakthroughs and technologies to research outcomes that can make a difference in the world. 

The FSP program was set up in 2017, with four of its first FSPs having matured to date.

These include Active Integrated Matter, Digiscape, Probing Biosystems and Synthetic Biology.

CarbonLock to explore Direct Air Capture

CarbonLock has been set up to explore Direct Air Capture (DAC), a technology that captures carbon dioxide from the air and stores it for later use or disposal.

“Our research will investigate new materials that can speed up and scale up DAC, including training artificial intelligence to develop novel composite materials,” Dr Lenton said.

According to the IEA, there are currently 18 direct air capture plants operating worldwide, capturing nearly 0.01 megatons of carbon dioxide per year.

Additionally, CSIRO said it would assess the potential of in-situ mineral carbonation, which involved turning carbon dioxide into stone by reacting atmospheric carbon with rock to form new rock.

Australia is seen as having a huge advantage in this area given its status as a leader within the mining sector.

CSIRO Chief Scientist Bronwyn Fox said CarbonLock combined all science on next-generation permanent carbon locking, including capture, storage and the integration of these systems and will complement other CSIRO initiatives such as the Toward Net Zero Mission.

“CarbonLock is an excellent example of CSIRO driving scientific breakthroughs and collaborating with partners to create innovative solutions that face into the threat of climate change, bringing the best of our science to bare to transform industries, boost the economy, and ultimately improve the quality of life for all Australians,” Professor Fox said.

The Towards Net Zero Mission brings together research, industry, government and communities to help Australia’s hardest-to-abate sectors.

The launch of CarbonLock signals another way Australia is committing to playing its part in addressing climate change.

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