For a very large-scale project, I am trying to create a greenhouse gas demonstration device, which rapidly produces greenhouse gases from atmospheric air using only electricity, or any chemical reactions or chains of chemical reactions that can attain their input energy from electricity. At the intake would be a very powerful fan which rapidly forces air through the system, to speed up the process. How would it be done?


I was thinking nitrogen oxides would be best, considering the atmosphere is approximately 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. But what would be the fastest way to produce them, assuming price is not really an issue?

  • $\begingroup$ Could you specify which greenhouse gases you are interested in? As you can see by the answer already given, there is quite a range of gases that are (or can be) considered greenhouse gases and I'm guessing you have some particular ones in mind?! $\endgroup$
    – Michiel
    Feb 24, 2014 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ Start a fire. That will convert the oxygen in air into CO2. $\endgroup$
    – matt_black
    Feb 24, 2014 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ I was looking at oxides of nitrogen. They are rather effective greenhouse gases, and the air is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen already, making both elements abundantly available for reactions. I just need to find a reaction pathway that will very quickly convert them into nitrogen oxides. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2014 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ Start with the Haber process. Convert the ammonia from the Haber process to nitric oxide by oxidation with Pt. Use nitric acid to produce ammonium nitrate. Heat the ammonium nitrate. You will need a lot of money though. A lot. $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2014 at 6:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Keep on saving the world, but stay away from chemistry. $\endgroup$
    – Georg
    Mar 3, 2014 at 19:32

5 Answers 5


Current concentrations of $\ce{CO2}$ and $\ce{CH4}$ in the atmosphere are around 390 ppmv and 1.75 ppmv, resp. These concentrations and the wish to obtain large quantities of both gases rapidly seem mutually exclusive, unless you use (at least one) additional carbon source.

Taking the options for interconversion into account, $\ce{CH4}$ in pressurized bottles would be an obvious choice ;).

  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking more along the lines of nitrogen oxides, considering the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen anyway $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2014 at 14:49

The most powerful Greenhouse Effect gas of all is water. Run a vaporizer to 100% humidity

enter image description here

to 50 microns
to 15 microns, near IR

The Greenhouse effect incremental champ is a tank of $\ce{SF6}$ (insulation and arc quench for high voltage electrical switches and transformers). Note that industrial grade is often contaminated with $\ce{SF4}$ that is extremely toxic. However, your job is already being done for you,

HFC-23, by-product of HCFC-22 manufacture. is 14,800 times $\ce{CO2}$.


I would think that carbon dioxide and methane would be your options due to their abundance. However, they are very difficult to harvest because of their non-reactivity. There are research groups working with metallo-organic frames/cages that capture carbon dioxide. However, making these takes time and significant funds. In addition, they are not that great when capturing carbon dioxide from atmospheric air. You have to take into account that despite of their abundance, the amount of $\ce{CO2}$ and $\ce{CH4}$ in the atmosphere is still small. I think the frame works will first be installed on factories funnels which emit large quantities of carbon dioxide.

  • $\begingroup$ You could, however, produce large quantities of sulfur hexafluoride. May be easier. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2014 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ Nevermind the comment, I just remembered that it can asphixiate people. It's non-toxic though. $\endgroup$ Feb 24, 2014 at 6:39

Not sure what you are specifically looking for, but I would look into the Solvay Process (At least part of it). An old well known way to produce CO2 from an inorganic source (Which you have tagged). Its fairly simple, the Solvay process is a production process for creating Sodium Bicarbonate, One of the steps is to create CO2 from limestone. This is done from heating up limestone to about 1000 degrees C, which when I did the Solvay process in chem lab we used a bunsen burner but could be done with a good electric burner/furnace.

If your measuring CO2 in PPM in the experiment then this would work.

  • $\begingroup$ The issue is this process does not use just air $\endgroup$ Mar 2, 2014 at 14:46

Try an electric air compressor with extremely high performance in the PSI column. liquefy the air and separate the gases by boiling points. That is how it is done now.


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