Cyan is well known both within and outside of the OpenAir community as a breakthrough DIY carbon removal mission that has helped define what R&D missions are and can be within our network. Conceived and led by OpenAir collector extraordinaire Dahl Winters, Cyan kicked off conceptually in 2020 as a minimal desktop device that draws down and mineralizes trace amounts of carbon dioxide from the air. This happens via a conversion of calcium hydroxide into calcium carbonate with the help of simple, off-the-shelf parts that anyone can order online and integrate at home for well under $100.
Since Dahl first shared the earliest prototype design on OpenAir’s Discord server, Cyan has progressed steadily and organically, drawing interest from a larger community of makers as the months have progressed. Cyan is the first OpenAir linked project to gain certification from the Open Source Hardware Association, and Dahl’s audience and collaboration base has expanded through a variety of appearances and recognition online, including on Nori’s Reversing Climate Change podcast and OSHWA’s annual 2021 conference. In summer 2021 Dahl and OpenAir co-founder Matt Parker collaborated with the Global CO2 Initiative and undergraduate students at the University of Michigan to host a Cyan “DACCathon” to further evolve the unit in new directions.
From the get-go, Cyan’s potential has been anchored in its design simplicity, and premised on a vision of product evolution driven by radical accessibility. More than anything related to the particular features of the actual device, the point of Cyan has always been to get things moving and rapidly draw in diverse perspectives to trigger a fast-moving engagement between carbon removal and a broader creative public. And the way to do that is to lower barriers to interaction and experimentation.
As Dahl, a Colorado-based biologist, systems engineer and entrepreneur, put it back in Feb 2021, “I just wanted to introduce something that can help gather interest, and people can take it from there. Because there is an enormous amount of creativity and innovation amongst crowds of people, and so if we just get the idea out there someone will figure out how to take it beyond where I’ve taken it.”
One year later, Dahl now has an active team of mission collaborators within OpenAir, located all over North America, who are helping take Cyan well “beyond” where it started in promising and provocative new directions. This team includes visual artists, industrial designers, electrical engineers, a carpenter, and others representing diverse fields and areas of expertise and experience, and the goal is to make Cyan a truly global initiative as we get deeper into the year.
The most significant Cyan developments in early 2022 involve the expansion of its scope. The core Cyan mineralizer device remains central to the design, but now the plan is to link it up with a few new elements to optimize it’s performance, diversify it’s output and significantly alter it’s identity as an object of public engagement and interpretation. The main transformations include:
- A redesign of the Cyan device to increase and accelerate CO2 mineralization volumes and rates. Montreal-based mission member Bernard Leclerc worked with Dahl and others to mock up a new printable Cyan design based around vertical sheets that can calcium hydroxide can be embedded or attached to. This design will increase the surface area for mineralization and introduce a loading and removal system that will be easier and quicker to transfer calcium carbonate in and out of.
- Micro-Direct Air Capture integration. CO2 directly sourced from the air using direct air capture (DAC) in concentrated form can be injected into the Cyan chamber to accelerate the rate of reaction converting calcium hydroxide into calcium carbonate. Team Cyan is now working with a local modular DAC company in New York City to prototype a mini-DAC unit that can be integrated directly with the Cyan chamber, pumping rich CO2 streams into the enclosure. Des Moines-based member Edward Kelley helped confirm the efficacy of CO2 enrichment as an accelerator using both an off-the-shelf SodaStream device, and a standard CO2 canister used for beer making. Both test results showed significant reaction acceleration. The goal for 2022 will be to sub out these components for the mini-DAC unit. (Though the team is still exploring a possible SodaStream hack that would help link the DAC unit to the Cyan chamber).
- 3D printed carbon-based objects. Thinking creatively about what to do with the CO2 loaded calcium carbonate once extracted from the Cyan unit has always been a fun and creative aspect of the mission. Brooklyn-based mission member Evan Landau took this thinking to a whole new level when he proposed making carbon-based 3D printing filaments. With the aid of a filament extruder, Evan has started experimenting with calcium carbonate as an ingredient in filament, along with other CO2 based inputs. The goal will be to take the calcium carbonate from the Cyan and make filament out of it. But what to print? How about additional Cyan chambers? Replicating Cyan using carbon-based materials drawn down from a Cyan would be a poetic realization of circular carbon design principles. Edward and Evan have also developed a design for a Carbon Dioxide Removal Leadership Act (CDRLA) sponsor “trophy” that can be printed using Cyan material and delivered to legislators in New York who have sponsored OpenAir’s CDRLA bill.
But we are just getting started, and the more eyeballs and brains that can get involved, the more exciting and rapid will be Cyan’s evolution. Our immediate next goal is to fully integrate each of the above components into a single, solar-powered mobile demonstrate unit that can be up and running by Earth Day in April. OpenAir has already booked a booth at a major Earth Day event in New York City’s Union Square on April 21.
Stay tuned here for updates as we approach this big day, and please jump on in and help expand our team’s vision and capabilities by joining. Team Cyan holds regular weekly zoom meetings on Monday at 11am EST. All OpenAir members are welcome to drop in and contribute.