Categories
Carbon Capture Materials

47: Making plastic out of greenhouse gases in the air

Problem:

Carbon capture should be turned to something useful.

Solution:

Markus D. Herrema, founder of NewLight Technologies of Huntington Beach, California has found a way to use a specially developed micro-organism-based biocatalyst (similar to an enzyme) to turn waste gas captured from air into a bioplastic called AirCarbon, a naturally-occurring biopolymer that can match the performance of oil-based plastics and out-compete on price.

The biocatalyst pulls carbon out of methane or carbon dioxide from farms, water treatment plants, landfills, or energy facilities, then combines it with hydrogen and oxygen to synthesize a biopolymer material.

AirCarbon can be used in extrusion, blown film, cast film, thermoforming, and injection molding applications to make products, including phone cases and furniture.

Herrema, who graduated magna cum laude High Honors from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Political Theory, with additional work in Physics, Mathematics, and Chemistry, founded NewLight in 2003.

He was assisted by Kenton Kimmel in the design, scale-up, and optimization of the company’s gas-to-plastic technology, including the engineering, construction, commissioning, and optimization of the Company’s production lines, as well as the detailed engineering of Newlight’s commercial production facility.

Since commercial scale-up in 2013, Newlight has developed commercialization relationships with Dell, Sprint, Virgin, KI, HP, and The Body Shop. In 2015, Newlight executed a 19 billion pound off-take agreement with Vinmar International as well as 10 billion pounds in licensed production.

The Netherlands
The following year, Paques Holdings in Balk, the Netherlands entered into a 15-year technology license agreement that would allow Paques to manufacture, process, and sell bioplastics based on Newlight’s proprietary GHG to AirCarbon™ conversion technology, at a rate of up to 1.4 million tons (1.3 million tonnes) per year.

In recognition of Newlight’s technological and commercialization achievements, Newlight was awarded “Innovation of the Year” by “Popular Science” in 2014, “Technology Pioneer” by the World Economic Forum in 2015, “Technology Excellence Award” by “PC Magazine” in 2014, “Company of the Year” by CleanTech OC in 2014, “Biomaterial of the Year” by the Nova-Institute in 2013, and an R&D 100 Award as “one of the 100 most significant innovations of the year” in 2013.

Discover solution 48: a super bug to consume oil spills

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Categories
Carbon Capture Materials

37: Biochar: ‘green’ charcoal

Problem:

During the past 150 years billions of tons of chemical fertilizers have been added to the planet’s soil, many of them harmful.

Solution:

A ‘charcoal’ made from biomass like wood, manure and leaves, and produces a soil enhancer that holds carbon and makes soil more fertile, reduces agricultural waste and more: Biochar.


Pre-Columbian Amazonians are believed to have used biochar to enhance soil productivity. They seem to have produced it by smouldering agricultural waste in pits or trenches. European settlers called it terra preta de Indio.

Following observations and experiments during 2006, a research team working in French Guiana hypothesized that the Amazonian earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus was the main agent of fine powdering and incorporation of charcoal debris in the mineral soil to produce tropical soil fertility.

As high yield biochar can be produced through torrefaction or slow pyrolysis, unlike the conventional burning of wood or plant matter, the carbon stored up through photosynthesis is not released back into the atmosphere which has a significant effect on reducing AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) through the reduction of GHG (Greenhouse Gases).

Livestock manure, along with waste-feed residues and bedding materials, is a potential source of biochar.

Pro-Natura International has developed a continuous process of pyrolysis of vegetable waste (agricultural residues, renewable wild-grown biomass) transforming them into green charcoal.

This domestic fuel performs the same as
charcoal made from wood, at half the cost. It represents a freeing up from the constraints of scarcity, distance and cost of available fuels in Africa.

The first pilot program operated at Pro-Natura’s plant in Ross Bethio, Senegal.

Research worldwide into biochar has seriously increased over the past decade, and in India specifically, the number of studies on biochar has gone up in the past five years.

A lab at the University of Zurich is working on understanding how biochar can be effectively used and have conducted field trials in Germany, Spain, Italy, Norway, Nepal, North America, Indonesia, Madagascar, Zambia, and importantly in India where, for over 12 years, Zurich has been collaborating with GKVK College of Agriculture and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru.

On a farm near Manjimup in south-west Australia, since 2012 dung beetles have been working with cowpats to develop biochar which is then added to the cattle’s feed and reduces their methane emissions and also enriches the soil.

Find out more about some of the prominent companies currently functional in the global biochar market which is expected to reach around US$ 3.82 billion by 2025:

Genesis Industries  •   Phoenix Energy  •   Full Circle Biochar  •   Pacific Biochar  •   Earth Systems Bioenergy  •  Agri-Tech Producers  •  Biochar Supreme  •  CharGrow, LLC  •  National Carbon Technologies

Discover solution 38: biodegradable soda pop bottles

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Categories
Carbon Capture

21: The artificial leaf

Problem:

Even if we immediately stopped putting carbon into our atmosphere, the existing carbon will continue to contribute to climate changes for decades.

Solution:

An artificial leaf that bio-mimics the carbon-scrubbing abilities of the real thing.

Researchers led by Yimin A.Wu at the Center for Nanoscale Materials at the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) in Illinois and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology in Ontario, Canada, collaborating with California State University (Northridge), and the City University of Hong Kong, have been developing an artificial leaf which bio-mimics the carbon-scrubbing abilities of the real thing.

But rather than turning atmospheric CO2 into a source of fuel for itself, the artificial leaf converts it into a useful alternative fuel.

Making methanol from carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global warming, would both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide a substitute for the fossil fuels that create them.

The key to the process is a cheap, optimized red powder called cuprous oxide (Cu2O).

Engineered to have as many eight-sided particles as possible, the powder is created by a chemical reaction when four substances – glucose, copper acetate, sodium hydroxide and sodium dodecyl sulfate – are added to water that has been heated to a particular temperature.

It is mixed with water, carbon dioxide is blown into the solution, a solar simulator directs a beam of white light at it and the Cu2O acts as the catalyst, or trigger, for another chemical reaction.

This reaction produces oxygen, as in photosynthesis, while also converting the carbon dioxide in the water-powder solution into methanol, which is collected from evaporation.

Next steps in the research include increasing the methanol yield and commercializing the patented process to convert carbon dioxide collected from major greenhouse gas sources such as power plants, vehicles and oil drilling.

Yimin A Wu et al., “Facet-dependent active sites of a single Cu2O particle photocatalyst for CO2 reduction to methanol” Nature Energy Volume 4, pages957–968 (2019).

University of Waterloo News: Scientists create ‘artificial leaf’ that turns carbon dioxide into fuel

Discover solution 22: recycling asbestos into ceramics

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Categories
Carbon Capture Human Effort

11: The Green Dam – 7.5 million acres of reforestation

Problem:

Desertification is a serious threat to arid and semiarid environments which cover 40% of the global land surface and are populated by approximately 1 billion humans. Of the 588 million acres (238 million hectares) that make the total land area of Algeria, 200 million are natural deserts, 20 million represent the steppe regions threatened by desertification.

During The War of Independence, between 1954 and 1962, Algeria’s forest heritage had suffered serious damage as a result of the French occupation army’s aerial bombardments.

Solution:

In a program launched in 1970 by Saïd Grim and backed by President Houari Boumediene, the past forty years have seen a reforestation program of the vast steppe of Algeria to counter desertification.

Today ‘The Green Dam’ (also called ‘The Green Wall’ and ‘alsadu al’akhdar aljazayiriu’ in Arabic) covers an area of  930 mi (1500 km) by 12 mi (20 km): or 7.5 million acres (3 million hectares).

Driving back the desert is an ongoing task, though. A study on the rehabilitation and extension of the Dam was launched in 2012, an action plan was proposed in 2016, meetings and workshops held in 2018.

Ethiopia

In 2019, Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa, claimed to have planted 4 billion trees in three months. The Green Legacy Initiative was championed by the country’s Nobel peace prize-winning Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed.

The highlight was on 29 July when Ethiopians across the country turned out to help with planting 350 million tree seedlings over a 12-hour period. They gave a very precise number – 353,633,660 trees planted that day. A further 1.3 billion seedlings were grown, but not planted.

The Gambia

The Gambia, which is one of the poorest countries in western Africa, launched a large project to restore 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of forests, mangroves, and savannas, using climate-resilient tree and shrub species.

The six-year project will be implemented in four of The Gambia’s seven regions, and aims to make over 57,000 people more resilient to the negative effects of climate change. Of these people 11,550 will benefit directly, and 46,200 indirectly.

Discover solution 12: carbon free aluminium smelting that could eliminate the equivalent of 7 million tons of GHG emissions

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Categories
Carbon Capture Materials Your Home

6: Kaalink • printer ink from car exhausts

Problem:

Fossil-fuel gasoline automobile exhausts pollute and damage health in crowded cities.

Solution:

A machine called Kaalink for recycling their soot to generate ink for printers, has been invented by Anirudh Sharma of India. Between 2013 and 2015 Sharma co-led activities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab India Initiative consortium to help shape self-organized, design-led innovation in India.

During a visit to his Indian home in 2013, Sharma noticed that his friend’s clothing was stained by air pollution. After experimenting for more than a year to see whether pollution rejected by vehicles was a resource recycling idea, Sharma realised that his invention would not help India if he set up office in the US.

So, in 2013 he returned to India and, along with three researcher friends, co-founded Graviky Labs in Bengaluru. Initially when they were experimenting with a new technology, there was no set guidance available in the market.

They conducted several experiments to understand the optimum technique for harvesting pollution from fossil fuel combustion sources. By 2016, the team started to retrofit Kaalink machines to car engine exhaust pipes in Bengaluru.

They were able to capture approximately 95 % or 1.6 kg of the particulate matter pollution without inducing back-pressure. Kaalinks were manually and individually installed by drivers, and after about two weeks of city driving were traded in at a Graviky Labs.

The machines could also be fitted to motorboats and to chimneys.

Graviky then set about converting the captured raw material into a black ink they called Air-Ink. An ounce of ink (28 gm) is produced by about 45 minutes of exhaust. Sharma and his team then built a prototype to test their ink’s printability.

They assembled a Nicolas’ ink shield with Arduino interfaced with their soot-catcher pump design. This shield allowed them to connect a HP C6602 inkjet cartridge to their Arduino2015 turning it into a 96dpi print platform.

It only used 5 pins which could be jumper-selected to avoid other shields. For the project they had to widen the holes of the cartridge to let the ink out, since the size of the particles in Air-Ink is much larger than the fine industrial ink.

Conventional black ink is one of the most consumed products in the industry. Most of this printing ink is produced in factories with complex chemical procedures.

Companies such as HP/Canon make 70 % of their profits by selling these cartridges at 400% margin. Air-Ink presented a far more economic option.

In August 2016, Graviky Labs, in partnership with Tiger Beer, Heineken Global, next linked up with international artists to spread the message of environment conservation.

They collaborated with seven Hong Kong-based artists for this project, providing approximately 42 gallons (150 liters) of Air-Ink in graffiti cans.

These worked well and were used in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district for street art activation to campaign against air pollution.

They captured this moment on a video that went viral and garnered 2.5 million views within 10 days. Sharma next travelled to smog-choked cities around the world and challenged 19 street artists to create billboards and murals in Air-Ink illustrating the effects of carbon waste, starting in London, going on to Berlin, Chicago, Sydney, Singapore and Amsterdam.

Street artist Buff Monster created a beautiful black-and-white drawing on a Manhattan sidewalk titled “This art is painted with air pollution.”

Anirudh’s innovation also gained recognition from Shah Rukh Khan, an Indian actor, film producer and television personality. Referred to in the media as the “King of Bollywood” and “King Khan”, he has appeared in more than 80 Bollywood films. Khan pledged to use Air-Ink for his brand promotions.

This included 4 handmade posters of Khan posted across New Delhi and Mumbai advertising the launch of Sharma’s TED-Talks in India “Painted with Pollution.” With corporate and government partnerships, Graviky hopes to install 1,000 capture units in every constituency.

In 2019, Graviky Labs proudly made this post on their website: “(422 billion gallons (1.6 trillion liters) of air cleaned so far.”

Discover solution 7: a wearable badge that helps you figure out the cleanest and healthiest routes to work or school.

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