Skip to main content

Science Museum opens UK’s first major exhibition on carbon capture and storage

: Artwork rendering of entrance to ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition © Science Museum Group
Artwork rendering of entrance to ‘Our Future Planet’ © Science Museum Group
  • Our Future Planet will offer visitors a first look at the cutting-edge technologies and nature-based solutions being developed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to help mitigate the worst effects of climate change
  • Objects on display will include the first prototype mechanical tree that absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – Klaus Lackner’s Mechanical Tree – on display in the UK for the first time
  • Experts featured throughout the exhibition will include conservationists from the Woodland Trust working to preserve ancient forests, engineers at Arizona State University who developed the earliest versions of carbon capture machines, and chemists at C-Capture, who are working to remove carbon dioxide from emissions at the largest power plant in the UK
  • Our Future Planet will form part of a major focus on climate change in the Science Museum Group’s public programme, in the run up to COP26
 

Our Future Planet
31 March 2021 – 4 September 2022
A free exhibition at the Science Museum
www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/see-and-do/our-future-planet

The first significant UK exhibition to be presented on the subject of carbon capture and storage, Our Future Planet will open at the Science Museum on 31 March 2021 and will remain open to the public during COP26, the 26th United Nations Convention on Climate Change. 

Carbon dioxide is essential to life on Earth but over the last century industrialisation has increased levels of it in the atmosphere with devastating impacts. Across the world scientists and researchers are exploring ways to actively remove and store carbon dioxide, a key area of innovation in the fight against climate change. Our Future Planet will inspire visitors through showcasing some of the incredible technologies being developed which, in combination with large reductions in emissions, have the potential to reduce the environmental impact of the industries we rely on every day, from transport and travel, to agriculture and construction.

Visitors to the exhibition will be taken on a journey exploring key areas of scientific and technological innovation, from conserving ancient woodlands to installing processes that prevent carbon dioxide leaving power stations and factories. The exhibition will explore how we can use these techniques to reduce atmospheric carbon, and how this carbon can be held in mass storage or used to create everyday products like building materials, toothpaste or even vodka.

Our Future Planet forms a key part of the Science Museum Group’s climate-focused public programme for the year ahead. While the Group is a leader in raising climate awareness through exhibitions and events, its approach to sustainability has also transformed its working practices. In keeping with this commitment, sustainability has been at the core of the development of the exhibition. The majority of objects are being locally sourced and the exhibition will reuse setworks, showcases and AV equipment from previous exhibitions at the museum. The design itself will also bring the outdoors inside, as visitors are taken on a fly-through journey of different forests and hear from the scientists working to conserve them.

Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, said: ‘Climate change takes centre stage in our programme for the year ahead. We’ll be inviting our audiences to challenge themselves and ignite their curiosity as we explore how science can help humanity take on the existential threat of global heating.’

Dr Sophie Waring, Curator of Contemporary Science, said: Our Future Planet will offer visitors an introduction to technologies that capture carbon dioxide, and explore options for storage and utilisation ranging from the preservation and management of forests to the capture and storage of carbon on an industrial scale in power generation and concrete production. 

Objects on display will highlight the importance of this research to help protect our planet from the effects of global warming caused by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We hope that visitors will leave feeling inspired by the ambition of scientists and engineers to build a greener future.’

Our Future Planet – overview:

On first entering the exhibition, visitors will encounter the oldest forms of carbon capture technology: trees and plants. Natural carbon sinks, from forests to peat bogs to oceans, absorb around half of human carbon dioxide emissions, and scientists are working to understand, preserve and protect these vital habitats. Visitors will also explore how bioenergy systems, managed correctly, could help power generation move towards carbon neutrality.

Inspired by trees and driven to contribute to the fight against climate change, many scientists and engineers are now developing artificial ways to capture carbon dioxide. As visitors enter the second section of the exhibition, they will be greeted by a striking early prototype – Klaus Lackner’s Mechanical Tree – one of only a few working mechanical trees in the world. The Science Museum Group have acquired this historically significant object for our permanent collection, and this is the first time it will be displayed in the UK.

Moving through the exhibition, visitors will discover how carbon dioxide that has been pulled from the atmosphere can then be stored or utilised to prevent it from being re-released. On display will be the Climeworks Direct Air Capture machine from Switzerland: the only direct air capture technology operating in Europe. It illustrates the future potential of direct air capture to industries who are looking for the ability to offset their emissions by removing excess carbon dioxide straight from the atmosphere. 

In the final section, the exhibition will show systems being developed to remove carbon dioxide at the point of emission, effectively preventing it from entering the atmosphere at source. Highlights include the “Carbon Capture Machine” team at the University of Aberdeen: the only European finalist for the Carbon XPRIZE; C-Capture, who are developing a chemical process to trap and store the carbon dioxide produced by the largest power station in the UK; and concrete factories – many of which not only trap the carbon dioxide leaving their factories, but can store some of it within the concrete itself, potentially allowing significant reductions in emissions in the future.

Within this section visitors will also be able to see how these technologies will impact their lives, from large-scale projects like Net Zero Teesside and Zero Carbon Humber, which will store captured carbon dioxide under the North Sea, to new commercial products that speak to the growing concerns of consumers looking to reduce their carbon footprints and industries looking to reinforce their green credentials. Visitors will be given a sense of how these dramatic technological interventions are now being implemented in the real world, and their role in helping to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, UKRI COP26 lead and Executive Chair of the Natural Environment Research Council, said: ‘As we look forward to building a more sustainable society and economy, UK Research and Innovation is delighted to be supporting the Science Museum’s forthcoming Our Future Planet exhibition. 

Never has it been more crucial to highlight the role that research and innovation play in developing vital solutions on our journey to net zero. With Britain hosting next year’s COP26, this exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to involve and engage British and global audiences in how we can decelerate climate change and bring it to a halt.’

The exhibition is supported by UK Research and Innovation (Major Funder), the AKO Foundation (Associate Funder) and the Huo Family Foundation (Associate Funder).

Our Future Planet will be free and open Wednesday – Sunday from 10.00 until 18.00, with late opening (18.45 to 22.00) on the last Wednesday of each month for Lates. During school holidays the museum is open seven days a week.

Our Future Planet will form part of the Science Museum Group’s climate focused public programme. This includes Manchester Science Festival run by the Science and Industry Museum, Lates at the National Science and Media Museum and a climate events series at the Science Museum. The Science Museum Group has also announced a new sustainability policy that will underpin all of the Group’s work, both public facing and behind-the-scenes.

For more information and images please contact Freya Barry in the Science Museum Press Office on 020 7942 4327 or via freya.barry@sciencemuseum.ac.uk

Exhibition images are available here: https://we.tl/t-TMHpi9uL1L

ENDS

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the Science Museum Group
The Science Museum Group is the world’s leading group of science museums, welcoming over five million visitors each year to five sites: the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York; the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester; the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford; and Locomotion in Shildon. We share the stories of innovations and people that shaped our world and are transforming the future, constantly reinterpreting our astonishingly diverse collection of 7.3 million items spanning science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Standout objects include the record-breaking locomotive Flying Scotsman, Richard Arkwright’s textile machinery, Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE computer and the earliest surviving recording of British television. Our mission is to inspire futures - igniting curiosity among people of all ages and backgrounds. Each year, our museums attract more than 600,000 visits by education groups, while our touring exhibition programme brings our creativity and scholarship to audiences across the globe. More information can be found at sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk.  

Manchester Science Festival
Manchester Science Festival, produced by the Science and Industry Museum from 12 – 21 February 2020, will be dedicated to the theme of climate and how we should respond through three lenses: our cities; our natural world; and ourselves. As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester was the catalyst for scientific innovation and unprecedented change worldwide. Now, with Greater Manchester’s vision of becoming carbon-neutral by 2038, the city is primed to influence future progress. From art commissions to immersive and participatory experiences, outdoor events to live debates, Manchester Science Festival will inform, engage and ignite curiosity about climate change, the defining issue of the modern age. More information at: https://bit.ly/2v3L8K1.

About Together for Our Planet
The COP26 Unit in the Cabinet Office launched its domestic campaign, Together for our Planet, in November to mark one year to go to the Summit. Over the next year, Together for our Planet will galvanise the UK public behind COP26, building awareness, understanding, support and pride in the UK COP26 Presidency. The campaign will celebrate the climate action already being taken across the four corners of the United Kingdom reaching all segments of the British public and encouraging further action. 

Together for our Planet will create opportunities to get the public involved in COP26 through competitions and inclusive engagement. The campaign will work closely with businesses, civil society groups, schools and people across the UK to engage them in the conversation on tackling climate change. 

The Science Museum Group and sustainability 
The Science Museum Group (SMG) has been a leader in raising climate awareness through its public programme while the Group’s approach to sustainability has transformed its working practices and collections care. Highlights from the past decade include: 

  • Since 2011/12, SMG has cut direct carbon emissions by 69%, from its operations despite increasing floor area by 24% as a result of museums joining the Group, and purchases all its electricity from renewable sources (except at the Blythe House object store); 
  • In 2005, the Science Museum became the first national museum to install solar panels on its roof; 
  • The National Collections Centre site at Wroughton hosts a solar farm business that generates almost four times the total amount of energy used by the whole of SMG; 
  • We’ve also built a hempcrete storage facility at the National Collections Centre and the site uses two prototype hydrogen fuel cell cars; 
  • The Atmosphere gallery exploring the science of climate change, which opened in 2010, has been seen by more than 5 million people; 
  • In 2019, the Science Museum Group announced fresh commitments to biodiversity including planting at least 1,000 native, locally-sourced trees a year on its estate throughout this decade, joining 43,000 trees already planted at the National Collections Centre; 
  • Biodiversity has also been encouraged by the addition of bee hives at the Science Museum, installing over a hundred bird and bat boxes together with log piles and hibernacula for reptiles and insects at the National Collections Centre, planting wildflowers at Locomotion in County Durham, and extensive new box planting across the Science and Industry Museum’s seven-acre historic city-centre site in Manchester; 
  • Climate change has been a recurrent theme in SMG’s public programme, with exhibitions including: Unlocking Lovelock; The Rubbish Collection, an art installation made of waste; Luke Jerram’s spectacular artwork Gaia, as part of the National Science and Media Museum’s Hello Universe exhibition; and the Lovelock Art Commissions for Manchester Science Festival: The Sounds of Others: A Biophonic Line with artist Marcus Coates and Cape Farewell (2014); Evaporation with artist Tania Kovats and Cape Farewell (2015) and Cloud Crash with Nerc / Cape Farewell and artists HeHe (2016/17). 

For more information about Sustainability and the Science Museum Group:
https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/category/sustainability/

About UK Research and Innovation
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is the largest public funder of research and innovation in the UK, with a budget of over £8bn. It is composed of seven disciplinary research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.  
  
We operate across the whole country and work with our many partners in higher education, research organisations businesses, government, and charities.  
  
Our vision is for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally.   
  
Our mission is to convene, catalyse and invest in close collaboration with others to build a thriving, inclusive research and innovation system that connects discovery to prosperity and public good. 

About the AKO Foundation
The AKO Foundation was set up in 2013 by Nicolai Tangen, a native Norwegian and founder of AKO Capital, a London-based investment business.  The Foundation supports initiatives within the arts, education and climate, and has already made grants totalling in excess of £100 million.   The AKO Foundation is also instrumental in establishing the new Kunstsilo Museum in Kristiansand, Norway, which will house the largest collection of modern Nordic art.

About the Huo Family Foundation
The Huo Family Foundation is a grant-giving foundation based in London. Its mission is to support education, communities and the pursuit of knowledge.  The Foundation’s current focus is in five main areas: education; neuroscience and psychology; public policy; the arts; and Covid-19 research.

About Discover South Kensington
Discover South Kensington brings together the Science Museum and other leading cultural and educational organisations to promote innovation and learning. South Kensington is the home of science, arts and inspiration. Discovery is at the core of what happens here and there is so much to explore every day. discoversouthken.com