Carbon sequestration is a hot research field that owes its latest popularity to the upswing in global attention directed towards global warming. The phrase refers to efforts to capture excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, condense it, and store it in some benign way. Carbon capture and storage (CCSD) technologies are implemented in some limited way in many fossil fuel power plants. The technology for capturing is ahead of the technology for storing, which is just starting to be explored seriously. Carbon sequestration could be an important part of the fight against greenhouse gases.
In early 2007, Al Gore and Richard Branson kicked up the interest in carbon sequestration technology by announcing a $25 million US Dollars (USD) prize to go to the first individual or group capable of removing a billion tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere for a ten year period. Clearly, removing a billion tons of anything from the atmosphere per year is not a trivial challenge.
The most primitive form of carbon sequestration would be to simply plant more trees. Plants naturally take CO2 from the atmosphere and output oxygen. Much of the carbon from the CO2 is integrated into their biomass and released safely into the soil upon their deaths.
A more sophisticated version of carbon sequestration would be the pursuit of artificial photosynthesis. If the principles of photosynthesis could be reliably instantiated in solar cell-like devices, they would both generate power and remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, probably at rates substantially superior to that of plants, which are limited to a certain palette of chemical reactions and approaches.
One of the best places to practice carbon sequestration technologies is right at the source of heavy carbon dioxide emitters. A variety of approaches have been used to lessen the CO2 output of coal power plants, for example.
After CO2 is gathered, it has to be disposed of. This is usually done by ship or pipeline. Current approaches involve injecting it into the ground or pumping it to 1000m-deep waters at the bottom of the sea, where it forms large "lakes" that take time to dissipate. Both these approaches are not viable for the long-term, however, because given enough time, the CO2 levels reach equilibrium with the atmosphere.