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July Collector of the Month: David Wilson

David Wilson

Base: Philadelphia, PA, USA
Profession / Pastimes: Independent hardware engineer. Enjoys travel, art museums, biking.
Discord Handle: @David Wilson

For many months hardware developer David Wilson has been steadily advancing a DIY carbon absorption measurement device that will help verify and quantify the efficacy of OpenAir’s Cyan mineralization system, a project conceived and led by fellow collector (And April 2021 Collector of the Month) Dahl Winters. David’s novel conductivity meter approach promises to add a low cost, high quality verification layer that can be built and operated at home at a scale that nicely aligns with Cyan’s design and cost.

For over a year you have been a very active participant in OpenAir’s Cyan and Carbon Forming missions, focusing on the critical element of carbon removal measurement. Can you share a basic overview of the method you have been developing?

The Cyan mineralizer removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by blowing air past moist calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2) powder, which then turns into calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The Cyan team would like to know how much CO2 the Cyan is actually capturing. One method is to weigh the dried input and output materials (both are white powders); we can then use basic chemical equations to calculate the weight of the CO2 that has been removed.

I am interested in finding alternative ways of measuring the captured CO2 to make the process more automatic. I have been developing a method to measure this by mixing a sample of the output material with water and measuring the electrical conductivity (EC) of the solution; any remaining Ca(OH)2 will dissolve and conduct electricity, while the CaCO3 will sink to the bottom. I have built an EC meter with an inexpensive microcontroller and a few other parts. I am getting a lot of cooperation from Cyan builders who are sending me their samples to test. There is still a lot of work to do to verify the accuracy of the new method and to make it more user-friendly.

What’s your carbon removal story? What got you interested in the subject, and what’s most motivating you to play a part?

In 2017, I left corporate life as an electrical engineer to pursue a number of projects as an independent hardware developer. I looked for projects to work on that would support issues I care about such as energy efficiency and ecological research. Last year I saw a presentation by Dahl Winters on OpenAir’s Cyan work at the Open Source Hardware Conference and decided I had to get involved, as climate change is probably the most important issue facing the world today. The OpenAir members were very welcoming and encouraging from the start. I have built a few variations on the Cyan at home, and since I’m an EE and not a chemist, I have been pleased to be able to contribute to electronic aspects of the work. 

As an OpenAir collector what are you most excited about or looking forward to most in the next year?

I am looking forward to seeing Cyan and Violet progress to become user-friendly, scalable projects that can get millions of people involved in carbon dioxide removal and actually make a difference. I am excited about contributing to this effort.