Carbon-negative vodka removes CO2 from the air.

A Brooklyn-based company has patented a method of making vodka from thin air. Air Co. vodka requires just two ingredients: carbon dioxide and water. Air Co. extracts CO2 directly from the atmosphere before combining it with water to make perhaps the first carbon-negative vodka in the world.

The invention enables vodka production that does not use any farmland and simultaneously removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Traditionally, vodka is made from corn, wheat or potatoes. This means that the production of the spirit requires thousands of acres of land which could otherwise be used for forests or food production. The large-scale farming of grains and potatoes also releases significant amounts of CO2 while the chemicals used to increase yield often find their way into rivers and pollute the environment.

To eliminate the negative effects of vodka production, Air Co. has taken inspiration from the natural chemical reactions of photosynthesis. The company splits water into its two component elements: oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is then combined with carbon dioxide to produce a mixture of ethanol in water. Oxygen is the only by-product from this first step.

Next, the ethanol is distilled to a strength of 96.5 per cent ethanol in water before being purified and diluted into a 40 per cent ABV (alcohol by volume) vodka  – this part of the process is a closely guarded secret.

According to Fast Company, a business media brand, the production of one bottle of vodka usually produces up to six kilograms of greenhouse gases. Air Co. on the other hand, says that one making one bottle of carbon-negative vodka can remove the same amount of carbon as eight trees would in one day. Yale graduate Stafford Sheehan partnered with Gregory Constantine to form the company in 2017. Their endeavour was to make practical use of the system that Sheenan had developed at Yale to convert carbon dioxide in alcohol. Air Co. plans to eventually use the system to make an entire range of carbon-negative alcohol-based products, including household cleaning items and fragrances. The demand for more environmentally conscious products is continuously on the rise. Carbon-negative vodka is another step closer to a truly sustainable and carbon-neutral future.

Air Co. themselves state that this is “a drink that you can be proud to own and pleased to share”. However, at $65 a bottle, perhaps it will need a little more work before it fits into the budget of University students.

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