Considering the number of annual deaths caused by pollution, it not only makes sense to cut emissions but to also improve air quality. All over the world, groups are working to make the atmosphere as breathable as possible. Bogota is erecting vertical gardens while China is manufacturing air-purifying bicycles. Not to be outdone, Iceland has set up the world’s first negative emissions power plant.
Climate startup Climeworks refitted a geothermal plant in Iceland to remove carbon dioxide from the air while also generating power for thousands of homes. This carbon dioxide is safely embedded in rock, where it will remain for millions of years.
The storage process, called carbon capture and storage, is keeping temperatures from rising to extreme levels. The facility is projected to remove 50 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually. It isn’t much — but it’s something! The procedure is also fairly straightforward.
Climeworks uses… [the] plant’s waste heat to run their own carbon capture tech, pulling carbon dioxide directly out of the air and feeding it into the existing Carbfix infrastructure, which deposits it in underground basalt. There, the carbon dioxide forms crystals within two years, and remains stable underground for millennia.
Limited to information from my high school physics class, I hardly knew trapping CO2 was possible. Either way, we should be over the moon to have chemical engineers.
Last year’s greatest catalog expansion was not that of your favorite shoes or sunglasses, but wheels. Yes, commercial car tires got the ultimate makeover in 2017, introducing anti-flat and airless masterpieces. But manufacturers haven’t run out of ideas yet, with Goodyear rolling out one of its most genius products yet. The rubber company is engineering a moss-covered tire that absorbs moisture and expels oxygen.
Goodyear says if a Paris-sized city, with around 2.5 million vehicles, used Oxygene tires then it would eliminate 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year while also producing more than 3,000 tons of oxygen.
With 80% of people residing in areas with dangerously high pollution levels, the roads could use a breather. The Oxygene is 3D-printed, shock-absorbent, and immune to perforations. Michelin might have to step its game up.
The tire also “harvests the energy generated during photosynthesis” to power an assortment of onboard sensors and electronics including a sidewall light strip and an artificial intelligence processing unit. The tire also has V2V and V2X technology which allows it to warn other vehicles about lane changes and other maneuvers.
Yep — if my wheels could keep me on time, wash my laundry remotely, and call my sister, I’d throw em on the shopping list.
Powering motorcycles and stringing together running shoes, algae is the eco-material of the year. So far, it seems capable of almost anything. Taking the next step, Dutch designers are 3D printing the stuff in the hopes of replacing synthetic plastics.
“Our idea is that in the future there will be a shop on every street corner where you can ‘bake’ organic raw materials, just like fresh bread,” said [designer Eric] Klarenbeek.
If the concoction goes commercial, it can replace oils, which are vital in the production of bottles and containers. A complete cherry on top, algae is also highly absorbent of carbon dioxide, which makes production sustainable.
“In this relatively brief period, a vast amount of carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere, with damaging consequences. It is therefore important that we clean the CO2 from the atmosphere as quickly as possible and this can be done by binding the carbon to biomass.”
Along with partner Maartje Dros, Klarenbeek has been on a steady mission to create less wasteful industries. Why spend time on DIY furniture when you can simply grow them?
The rapidly increasing climate problem has many depending on carbon calculators and cooling white paint. While quick solutions beget temporary relief, temperatures continue to rise. Instead of working against fossil fuels, startup Net Power is attempting to work with it. The energy group is running a traditional factory that produces zero-emissions.
There are only 17 large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) plants in operation today, and, annually, they stop less than 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. That’s less than 0.01% of the 40 billion metric tons we emit each year.
Despite the technique’s obvious success, it still lacks the financial backing it needs. So far, only two CCS fossil fuel plants are up and running in Canada and the United States. To offset its own carbon byproducts, Net Power is teaming up with various companies that benefit from CO2.
Net Power will also have customers for the carbon dioxide it captures: oil companies looking for enhanced oil recovery. To get the fossil fuel out of the ground, oil companies pump water into the fields to push out the oil.
Net Power’s pilot plant hardly surpasses the size of a football stadium, but will power up to 40,000 homes. Talk about tiny dynamite!
Science is going back to basics. By basic, I mean down to the atom. Thanks to advanced methods of structural revision, Australian researchers have successfully created a modified metal that can purify water in minutes. Now, scientists at UC Berkeley have trained cyborg bacteria to photosynthesize, allowing them to create solar fuels.
Scientists… taught bacteria how to cover their own bodies with nanocrystals, which function as tiny solar panels that capture more energy than plants can. The bacteria ended up having 80 percent efficiency, compared to about 2 percent for plants.
Moorella thermoacetica occurs naturally and produces acetic acid, which can be turned into fuels and plastics. To enhance their efficiency, scientists threw cadmium and cystine into the mix. The bacteria then synthesized both into nanoparticles.
The nanoparticles acted like solar panels, so the new hybrid organism produced acetic acid not only from carbon dioxide, but also water and light. This made the process a lot more efficient — even more so than natural photosynthesis — and it created zero waste.
All jargon aside, it’s important to note that this could be the end of fossil fuels and the beginning of a clean future.
A tree is beneficial no matter where in the world it exists. This is why planting them, whether via dogs or drones, is always a plus for the environment. A new study has proven that trees are saving cities in an economical sense as well. To be exact, they boast a payoff of about $505 million a year.
To determine the economic impact of trees in the megacities, the researchers used a tree cover estimator called i-Tree, which requires analysis of 200 or more plots of trees within a city and then extrapolates economic benefit from there.
The monetary estimates are loose, but still provide us with a picture of why trees are so dang great. They hold the greatest impact on energy reduction, saving about $500 million annually. Trees also help lessen carbon emissions and air pollution.
Combined with the strong scientific evidence that trees are an ideal way to make life in cities better, the study shows that there’s a serious economic reason to invest in them.
Planting trees may not always be something you can do on a whim. But everything considered, there really isn’t a reason not to love them.
Amidst the abundance of millennial-bashing headlines are young adults proving their talent to older generations. Earlier this year, an astronomy student managed to photograph Jupiter using a Game Boy. A few days later, an eighth-grader created a device that produces clean energy from traffic. Just today, I got wind of Dylan Knight, a student who is revolutionizing the world’s laundry habits. By simply changing a single part of the device, he created a sustainable washing machine that could drastically cut carbon emissions.
The simple change… would replace the [machine’s] concrete with an empty plastic container, which could then be filled with water to act as a counterweight once the washing machine has been placed.
The invention could save 45,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide on the 3.5m washing machines sold in the UK each year.
That’s a weight off anyone’s shoulders — and literally! The plastic container fulfills its concrete counterpart’s exact function, which is to keep the machine from vibrating too hard.
“Concrete is actually quite bad for the environment due to the CO2 released when it’s produced. The use of concrete is also the reason why washing machines are normally very heavy to move.”
The invention proves that it doesn’t take a genius to create environmentally friendly alternatives to damaging products. It may be time we give our “reckless” youth a bit more credit.
Color-changing food labels may be helping households to reduce waste, but the technology isn’t available to everyone. In fact, researchers in Finland have figured out how to produce food from energy because they’re that concerned. Norway wants to make life easier (and a lot more sustainable) by selling expired food to alleviate waste issues. Allow me to introduce you to Best Før.
“Most supermarkets won’t buy products that are within 10 days or so of their expiry date – it often has to be wasted. We thought, ‘Why don’t we make a place that has that kind of product, that will be beneficial to every party: the consumer, the supplier, and us. A win-win for everybody,”
Urban legend has it that dates on “use by” labels mark a product’s ultimate demise. In reality, food can remain edible weeks after their expiration dates. All it takes is a good eye and a lot of observation.
A platform called bestfør.no, helps supermarkets identify food at risk of becoming inedible through a digital record of products’ sell-by dates, allowing stores to locate the food that needs a lower price, or alert charities of a load of produce coming their way, without the fuss of searching through the shelves.
Food waste produces tons of CO2, which worsens climate change. By simply making the best of what is still usable, we can easily combat pollution. And if you know what you’re doing, even whip up a great meal.