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Energy Seminar: Carbon Dioxide Removal to Solve the Climate Crisis, Eli Yablonovitch, University of California, Berkeley

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Abstract: In 1977, the physicist Freeman Dyson1 proposed the burial of biomass, as a scalable, economical solution to the CO2 problem.  Today we know2 that the harvested vegetation should be buried in an engineered dry Environmental Chamber.  Plant biomass can be preserved for thousands of years by burial in a dry environment with sufficiently low thermodynamic “Water Activity”, which is the relative humidity in equilibrium with the biomass.  A “Water Activity” <60% will not support life, suppressing anaerobic organisms, thus preserving the biomass for millenia.  Current agriculture costs, and burial costs indicate US$60/tonne of sequestered CO2 which corresponds to $0.53/gallon of gasoline.  If scaled to the level of a major crop, existing CO2 can be extracted from the atmosphere and sequester a significant fraction of prior historical CO2 emissions.

1.  F. J. Dyson, “Can we control the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?” Energy 2, 217-291 (1977).

2. E. Yablonovitch, & H.W. Deckman, “Scalable, Economical, and Stable Sequestration of Agricultural Fixed Carbon”,

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120(16), e2217695120 (April 11, 2023)


Biography: Prof. Yablonovitch introduced the idea that strained semiconductor lasers could have superior performance due to reduced valence band (hole) effective mass. With almost every human interaction with the internet, optical telecommunication occurs by strained semiconductor lasers. He is regarded as a Father of the Photonic BandGap concept, and he coined the term "Photonic Crystal". The geometrical structure of the first experimentally realized Photonic bandgap, is sometimes called “Yablonovite”.

In his photovoltaic research, Yablonovitch introduced the 4(n squared) (“Yablonovitch Limit”) light-trapping factor that is in worldwide use, for almost all commercial solar panels. He was elected to NAE, NAS, NAI, AmAcArSci, and as Foreign Member, UK Royal Society.

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