CO2 Capture From the Atmosphere Using Plants and Algae

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

CO2 capture from the atmosphere using plants and algae, also known as biological carbon capture, utilizes the natural process of photosynthesis to absorb CO2 from the air and store it in biomass. Plants, including trees and energy crops, and microalgae, capture CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into organic matter, effectively sequestering carbon. This captured carbon can then be stored in various ways, including:

  • Biomass Storage: The harvested biomass can be stored directly, such as in the form of wood products or by burying it underground.
  • Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS): Biomass can be used to generate energy, and the resulting CO2 emissions are captured and stored underground.
  • Soil Carbon Sequestration: Plant roots and decaying biomass contribute to soil organic matter, which stores carbon for extended periods.

Impact on climate action

CO2 Capture From the Atmosphere Using Plants and Algae offers a natural, sustainable solution to mitigate climate change. By harnessing the carbon-absorbing power of vegetation and algae, this innovation can significantly reduce atmospheric CO2 levels, fostering a greener environment and advancing global efforts towards combating climate change


This approach harnesses the power of nature, leveraging key biological processes and technological advancements:

  • Photosynthesis: Plants and algae use sunlight, water, and CO2 to produce carbohydrates and oxygen through photosynthesis, effectively removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • Biomass Production and Management: Sustainable land management practices, such as afforestation, reforestation, and optimized agricultural techniques, can enhance biomass production and carbon sequestration.
  • Algae Cultivation Systems: Various cultivation systems, including open ponds, closed photobioreactors, and integrated systems, are being developed to maximize algae growth and CO2 uptake.
  • Genetic Engineering and Synthetic Biology: Researchers are exploring genetic engineering and synthetic biology techniques to enhance the CO2 capture efficiency of plants and algae.
  • Carbon Storage and Utilization: Captured carbon in biomass can be stored in various forms, such as biochar or bio-oil, or utilized for producing biofuels, bioplastics, or other valuable products.

TRL : Varies (4-7) depending on specific technology and application.

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Vertical Farming and Controlled Environment Agriculture: These technologies allow for optimized plant growth and CO2 uptake in controlled environments, maximizing productivity and minimizing land use.
  • Ocean Afforestation and Kelp Farming: Cultivating kelp forests and other macroalgae in the ocean can sequester large amounts of CO2 and provide ecosystem services.
  • Microalgae Bioreactors: Closed photobioreactors offer controlled environments for growing microalgae, enabling higher CO2 capture rates and reducing land and water requirements.
  • Genetic Modification for Enhanced CO2 Uptake: Researchers are exploring genetic modifications to enhance the photosynthetic efficiency and CO2 uptake capacity of plants and algae.
  • Integration with Direct Air Capture (DAC): Combining plant and algae-based CO2 capture with DAC technologies can create hybrid systems that maximize carbon removal potential.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Photosynthetic Carbon Sequestration
  • Sustainable Biomass Storage Solutions
  • Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)
  • Soil Carbon Sequestration Techniques
  • Afforestation and Reforestation Initiatives
  • Optimized Agricultural Practices for Carbon Sequestration
  • Algae Cultivation Systems Innovation
  • Genetic Engineering for CO2 Capture Enhancement
  • Carbon Storage and Utilization Strategies
  • Vertical Farming for Enhanced CO2 Uptake
  • Controlled Environment Agriculture Advancements
  • Ocean Afforestation for CO2 Sequestration
  • Kelp Farming for Carbon Removal
  • Microalgae Bioreactor Development
  • Enhanced Photosynthetic Efficiency Research
  • Genetic Modification for CO2 Uptake Enhancement

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Running Tide:
    • Technology Focus: Running Tide likely specializes in bio-based carbon capture solutions utilizing plants and algae. They may employ innovative methods to enhance the natural carbon sequestration capabilities of these organisms.
    • Uniqueness: Running Tide’s uniqueness could lie in their approach to leveraging natural ecosystems for large-scale carbon capture, potentially utilizing novel cultivation techniques or genetic engineering to optimize carbon sequestration.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions might appeal to a range of industries and organizations seeking to offset their carbon emissions, including corporations, governments, and environmental initiatives.
  • Brilliant Planet:
    • Technology Focus: Brilliant Planet focuses on harnessing the carbon sequestration potential of plants and algae through advanced biotechnological and agricultural methods. Their aim could be to develop scalable and cost-effective solutions for CO2 capture.
    • Uniqueness: Brilliant Planet might stand out for its integration of cutting-edge biotechnology with traditional agricultural practices, offering innovative approaches to enhancing carbon sequestration in natural ecosystems.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments could include companies with sustainability goals, agricultural organizations, and conservation initiatives looking to mitigate climate change impacts.
  • Climate Foundation:
    • Technology Focus: Climate Foundation likely specializes in research and development of carbon capture technologies involving plants and algae. Their focus could be on developing scalable and sustainable solutions for removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
    • Uniqueness: Climate Foundation may be unique for its interdisciplinary approach, combining expertise in ecology, engineering, and biotechnology to develop holistic carbon capture solutions that leverage natural ecosystems.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions might appeal to a wide range of stakeholders, including governments, research institutions, and environmental organizations seeking effective strategies for climate change mitigation.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at UC Berkeley are pioneering the development of bioenergy systems that utilize plants and algae for CO2 capture from the atmosphere. They are exploring genetic engineering techniques to enhance the carbon sequestration capabilities of plants and algae, making them more efficient at removing CO2 from the air.
    • Uniqueness of Research: UC Berkeley’s approach involves a holistic understanding of plant and algal physiology, genetics, and environmental interactions to optimize CO2 capture efficiency. They are investigating novel carbon fixation pathways and metabolic engineering strategies to enhance biomass production and carbon sequestration potential.
    • End-use Applications: The research at UC Berkeley has applications in climate change mitigation, renewable energy production, and sustainable agriculture. By harnessing the natural CO2 uptake abilities of plants and algae, it is possible to develop scalable solutions for carbon capture and utilization, contributing to global efforts to combat climate change.
  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Technology Enhancements: Wageningen University & Research is at the forefront of research on harnessing the CO2 capture potential of plants and algae for sustainable bioenergy production. They are developing innovative cultivation techniques, such as vertical farming and hydroponics, to maximize biomass yield and CO2 sequestration rates.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Wageningen’s research integrates expertise in plant biology, biotechnology, and environmental science to optimize the CO2 capture efficiency of different plant and algal species. They are investigating the use of genetic modification and selective breeding to enhance CO2 uptake and biomass productivity in various environmental conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Wageningen has implications for carbon-neutral energy production, ecosystem restoration, and agricultural sustainability. By utilizing plants and algae for CO2 capture and biomass production, it is possible to generate renewable biofuels, bioplastics, and other valuable products while mitigating the impacts of climate change.
  • Australian National University:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the Australian National University are developing advanced bioreactor systems for CO2 capture from the atmosphere using microalgae. They are exploring novel cultivation methods, such as photobioreactors and open pond systems, to optimize algal biomass production and CO2 sequestration rates.
    • Uniqueness of Research: ANU’s research focuses on understanding the physiological and biochemical mechanisms underlying CO2 capture and biomass accumulation in microalgae. They are investigating the use of genetic engineering and synthetic biology approaches to enhance the CO2 fixation capacity and lipid productivity of microalgae strains.
    • End-use Applications: The research at ANU has applications in renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, and wastewater treatment. By harnessing the CO2 capture potential of microalgae, it is possible to develop cost-effective and environmentally sustainable solutions for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and producing bio-based products.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

While large-scale commercial implementation of CO2 capture using plants and algae is still emerging, several companies are demonstrating the technology and developing commercial applications:

  • Running Tide is piloting their kelp-based carbon removal technology in the North Atlantic.
  • Brilliant Planet is operating a commercial-scale algae farm in Morocco, producing algae-based products for various industries.