Categories
Mobility

24: Electric cars

Problem:

Overall, diesel and petrol automobiles emit hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and lead pollution contributing towards the GHG thread.

Solution:

The electric automobile is far less polluting.

From 1997, the Toyota Prius hybrid-electric automobile was the ambassador for the revival of the solution of the electric automobile. Since its launch, Toyota has sold 4.3 million units Currently, over thirty manufacturers are making battery-electric automobiles with a range of 250 to 700 miles (400 to 1,000km).

According to the “Global EV Outlook 2020”, the sales of electric cars reached 2.1 million globally in 2019, surpassing 2018 – already a record year – to boost the stock to 7.2 million EVs. Annual sales of EVs is predicted to exceed 3.5 million vehicles in 2030, reaching more than 20 percent of annual vehicle sales in 2030.

BloombergNEF expects one in 10 vehicles purchased in 2025 will be battery-powered and although COVID-19 has temporarily put the brakes on, by 2022 there will be over 500 different EV models available globally.

Three of the world’s best-selling electric automobiles are the Nissan Leaf (500,000 units), the Tesla Model 3 (500,000 units) and the Renault Zoë (218,000 units), according to EV-Volumes. The two-seat Renault Twizy quadricycle has sold over 30,000 units.

And on September 22, 2020, Tesla announced it would have an electric car priced at $25,000 available in the US market by 2023.

Bloomberg adds that by 2040, the world will need about 12 million public charging points. As of July 2019, there were over 170,000 public charging stations for electric vehicles in Europe, over 400 charging stations are owned by Ionity with an average of six charging points per station.

As of July 2020 The Tesla-only fast-charging is now at 2,035 public stations with 18,100 individual chargers in North America, compared to about 1,400 charging points for ChargePoint, a company that operates an independent network of EV chargers and 1,660 points for Volkswagen’s Electrify America network.

General Motors is teaming up with the EVgo charging network to add 2,700 fast-charging connectors in cities across the U.S.  By August 2020 EV charging stations passed the million mark globally.

There are almost one dozen Apps which inform drivers there whereabouts of the nearest and most available charging points. As the leading app for EV drivers, PlugShare provides near-global coverage of charging stations and over 800,000 downloads.

Global EV Outlook 2020”, IEA Technology report ,June 2020; “The Electric Vehicle Outlook 2020”, Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Discover solution 25: Sharkskin as an inspiration in the combat against hospital bacteria

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Categories
Planet Care

23: Detecting and combating asteroids

Problem:

Asteroid collisions can destroy or seriously damage the Planet.

Solution:

Programs to detect asteroids on hazardous orbits.

These programs were started after there was much public discussion of the fact that the Hollywood film industry had just spent much more money on making two fictional films about asteroids that were heading for Earth than had ever been spent on attempting to detect such asteroids in time to do anything about them.

One key scientist who has made great progress in killer asteroid warning systems is John Tonry. Tonry studied mathematics at Princeton University until 1975 and received his PhD in physics from Harvard University in 1980.

In 1986 he became a professor at MIT, a year later, he moved to the Department of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. There, between 1993 and 1995, with Kenneth Chambers and Nicholas Kaiser, Tonry discovered two asteroids.

Between 2002 and 2010 Tonry developed the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS). This was an AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory) funded effort to build a telescope and imager to carry out wide-field (3 deg), deep imagery of the whole sky.

What was different about Pan-STARRS was that they were doing this every night and covering the whole sky many times to try to detect any asteroid whose orbit makes it a potential danger to Earth.

The work does not itself reduce the risk of an asteroid strike but might make it possible to take action to divert the asteroid or evacuate the impact area.

Even more efficient is ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System), developed at the University of Hawaii with US$ 5 million funding from NASA.

Its first telescope at Haleakala observatory (ATLAS-HKO) became fully operational at the end of 2015, and the second one 100 mi. (160 km) away at Mauna Loa observatory (ATLAS-MLO) in March 2017.

In the photo above, Frank Melsheimer of DFM Engineering stands beside the ATLAS telescope.

Replacement of the initially substandard Schmidt corrector plates of both telescopes in June 2017, brought their image quality closer to its nominal 2 pixels (3.8 in./9.7 cm) width and consequently improved their sensitivity by one magnitude.

NASA then confirmed that it will provide US$3.8 million over the next 4 years to support the construction and operation of two asteroid-hunting observatories south of the Equator. Researchers plan to build one facility in South Africa, but are still deciding on a location for the second outpost.

ATLAS comprises four 200 in. (500 cm) telescopes that can only see things 10x brighter than Pan-STARRS can, so it is only able to work to a third or a half of the distance of Pan-STARRS.

What is different is that ATLAS patrols the entire, visible sky twice a night, whereas Pan-STARRS is much slower. Pan-STARRS is narrow and deep; ATLAS is wide and shallow.

The motivation for ATLAS is to provide warning of an asteroid on its final, impact trajectory: maybe a week’s warning for a 2 Mton explosion and three weeks’ warning for a 100 Mton explosion.

Recently ATLAS found a 10 Mton asteroid ( K17Q60) that missed us by 10 Earth radii, and another (A103wzq) still on the MPC confirmation page whose MOID (minimum orbital intersection distance) could be less than an Earth radius (it might hit us).

The Last Alert part of the system name acknowledges that ATLAS will find smaller asteroids years too late for potential deflection but would provide the days or weeks of warning needed to evacuate and otherwise prepare a target area.

This gives enough time to evacuate the area of people, take measures to protect buildings and other infrastructure, and be alert to a tsunami danger generated by ocean impacts.

Tonry explained that if ATLAS had been up and running, astronomers might very well have seen the Chelyabinsk meteor that hit Russia in 2013 and could have provided one to two days’ warning, so enabling most of the injuries it caused to be avoided, because news broadcasts could have warned people to keep away from windows.

Most of the people injured were looking at the meteor’s dust trail through windows that shattered on the arrival a couple of minutes later of the shock wave caused by passage of the meteor through the air.

In August 2018, ATLAS obtained US$ 3.8 million of additional NASA funding to install two telescopes in the Southern hemisphere, one of which will be hosted by the South African Astronomical Observatory, while the other most likely installed in Chile.

This geographical expansion of ATLAS will provide visibility of the far Southern sky, more continuous coverage, better resilience to bad weather, and additional information on the asteroid orbit from the parallax effect. The full ATLAS concept consists of eight telescopes, spread over the globe for full-sky and 24h/24h coverage.

So far ATLAS has discovered 33 potentially hazardous asteroids and 304 near-Earth asteroids. For his work on asteroid surveillance, in 2016, asteroid 40919 was named after John Tonry and in 2018 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Another machine involves the seven-year Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)’s kinetic impactor. U.S. agencies, principally the Air Force, and the European Space Agency will each design and build three NEO (Near Earth Orbiting) shield kinetic impactor spacecraft, for a total of six. Each will be propelled by Fregat, the upper stage of the Soyuz launcher. The hope is that at least two of them will hit the asteroid with enough force to slightly deflect it. The effort costs billions of dollars, but this is a crash program, with the highest international priority.

In 2022, DART is scheduled to reach an asteroid renamed Dimorphos (ex binary pair DidymosB) which means ‘two forms,’ so reflecting the status of this object as the first celestial body to have the ‘form’ of its orbit significantly changed by humanity, in this case, by the DART impact.

The European Space Agency (ESA) compares the size of Dimorphos with the Great Pyramid of Egypt. DART’s exploits will be witnessed by a small CubeSat companion from the Italian Space Agency.

Two years later, ESA will launch its own Hera spacecraft to visit Didymos and examine the results of the DART mission.
Nonetheless, in March 2019, scientists reported that asteroids may be much more difficult to destroy than thought earlier. In addition, an asteroid may reassemble itself due to gravity after being disrupted.

A team of researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands have developed a neural network called “Hazardous Object Identifier” that they say can predict if an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Using a supercomputer, the researchers fast-forwarded through a simulation of 10,000 years of orbital movements of the Solar System’s planets.

The team then reversed the simulation, simulating future Earth-impacting asteroids by flinging them away from Earth and tracking their exact locations and orbits.

Their new AI identified 11 asteroids that were not previously classified by NASA as hazardous, and which were larger than 100 meters in diameter. They also focused on space rocks that could come within 4.7 million miles of Earth.

The team is now working on making its neural network even more accurate.

John Tonry “Description of ATLAS” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific volume 123, pages 58-73, 2011;
Traci Watson,“Project that spots city-killing asteroids expands to Southern Hemisphere” nature, 14 August 2018;
John D. Hefele, Francesco Bortolussi and Simon Zwart, “Identifying Earth-impacting asteroids using an artificial neural network,” Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 634, February 2020.

Discover solution 24: Electric automobiles

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Categories
Materials

22: Recycling asbestos into ceramics

Problem:

Although asbestos is a naturally-occurring material that was used in thousands of homes and offices for centuries, it is a carcinogen that can cause serious illness and death if not handled correctly.

Even though it is now removed safely by workers wearing hazardous material suits, it is then taken to a qualified landfill – not the safest place for any cancer-causing substance.

Solution:

Asbestos can be recycled by a shingle or siding recycler through the use of incredibly high heat 1,000–1,250 °C (1,800–2,300 °F) which eventually converts the fibers into an inert silicate glass.

The resulting material is completely inert and will no longer cause cancer. Silicate glass can then be used to create porcelain stoneware tiles, porous single-fired wall tiles, and ceramic bricks.

Gualtieri, A. F.; Tartaglia, A, “Thermal decomposition of asbestos and recycling in traditional ceramics“. Journal of the European Ceramic Society. 20 (9): 1409–1418. 2000).

Discover solution 23: Detecting and combating asteroids

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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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Energy

20: Solar panels triggered by rain

Problem:

Systems that rely on electricity from solar panels can encounter problems during extended periods of rain and cloud and require draining power from batteries.

Solution:

Researchers from the Ocean University of China in Qingdao and Yunnan Normal University in Kunming have invented a type of solar cell that also works on rainy days.

Rain water contains ammonium, calcium and sodium, which become electrically charged ions when in solution.

This new kind of solar cell takes advantage of that . It is coated in graphene, a highly conductive material made up of layers of carbon just one atom thick that allows electrons to move freely across its surface.

When rain and water sit on top of a layer of graphene, those ions create spots of unbalanced charges. The free running electrons in the graphene bind with positively charged ions in the rain water, and generate an electric current.

A typical solar panel averages 15-20% efficiency in full sun conditions, while these  proof-of-concept panels have been able to achieve about a 6.5% efficiency in the rain.

Other scientists led by Professor Baoquan Sun at Soochow University in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, have overcome a design flaw of solar panels by allowing them to collect energy in both the rain and sun.

Now, almost any home can install solar panels. So even if you live in a rainy area, you can use solar panels to produce electricity for your home. This innovation could change renewable energy completely. Currently, these hybrid solar panel designs are not ready for home and business use.

Researchers still need to find ways to increase the efficiency from rain and sun.

However, the efficiency of the Soochow University design was 13%, which makes it a viable alternative to standard solar panels. Comparatively, current solar panel designs convert 15 to 20 % of the sun’s energy into electricity.

Thus, the new design is a viable solar panel solution. Collecting energy from rain is something the team would like to develop further. Electricity efficiency from its triboelectric nanogenerators was not reported and again the graphene model had an efficiency from rain of around 6.5%. There is still much work to do.

Financed by the Beijing Natural Science Foundation, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, External Cooperation Program of BIC, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the 2015 Annual Beijing Talents Fund and China’s Thousand Talents Program, researchers NanoYa Yang, Zhong Lin Wang and colleagues integrated two energy-harvesting technologies in one: a silicon solar cell and a nanogenerator that can convert wind energy into electrical output.

The solar cell component of the system delivers 8 milliWatts of power output (1 milliWatt can light up 100 small LEDs). The wind-harvesting component delivers up to 26 milliWatts.

Together, under simulated sun and wind conditions, four devices on the roof of a model home could turn on the LEDs inside and power a temperature-humidity sensor. Installed in large numbers on real rooftops, the hybrid device could help enable smart cities.

Megan Ray Nichols, “Scientists design new solarcells to capture energy from rain” EuroScientist, May 21, 2018;

Discover solution 21: The artificial leaf

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Categories
Planet Care Human Effort

19: Apps for the environment

Problem:

Smartphone apps have now become essential to our daily lives and collectively consumer enormous amounts of energy. Despite having almost incalculable capabilities to gather and analyse data from literally billions of sources, they do not meaningfully contribute to helping us address climate and other environmental problems.

Solution:

Harness these data capabilities and enable users to adjust their lifestyles both individually and collectively to address planteray problems.

Many environmental groups have their own apps, such as FridaysForFuture – the people’s movement that has grown from  Greta Thunberg’s school strikes and the World Wildlife Fund’s Together that brings you closer to 16 endangered species.

Others available include:

There are apps such as

iRecycle and

My Little Plastic Footprint »» Apple  »» Google which help reduce landfill

as well apps like Forest from Trees.org supported by sponsors that facilitate  tree planting.

Apps are  clearly an area with enormous potential for growth and impact.

Do you have an app you would like to have included in this solution? Click on ‘Comments’ at the top right of this post to let us know.

Discover solution 20: Solar panels triggered by rain

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Categories
Planet Care

18: Anti-Poaching Intelligence Devices

Problem:

Rhinoceros and elephant populations are being decimated as poaching for their horns is still widespread.

Solutions:

Some governments have de-horned rhinos to deter poachers, though that requires constant monitoring, and it has not always proven effective. More recently, conservationists have begun using drones and microchip implants to enhance surveillance of threatened population.

In 2014, Paul O’Donoghue, a biologist at Protect, a British non-profit focused on conservation and animal welfare developed the Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device (RAPID).

This system uses GPS tags, heart rate monitors embedded under the skin of rhinos. If the animal’s heart rate suddenly elevates or plummets, RAPID will send an alert to operators at a control center, who can then remotely activate a tiny camera implanted into the rhino’s horn.

A leather collar around the animal’s neck also tracks its GPS coordinates, allowing park authorities to quickly deploy anti-poaching forces if the live camera footage suggests that it is being attacked.

By 2015, Protect had moved from proof-of-concept trials to small-scale field testing at secret locations in South Africa with the plan for a larger scale launching across the continent. Protect also began to explore alternative ways to power the heart monitor battery, including solar and kinetic energy.

The organization said that RAPID could also be adapted to other threatened species such as elephants, lions, or even whales. A version for tigers was also in development. (hsi.org/rhinos)

Raoul du Toit, director of the Lowveld Rhino Trust in Zimbabwe and Africa Program Coordinator for the International Rhino Foundation told The Washington Post  “the downside is that the video camera is likely to last only hours, maybe days or at best weeks on a rhino before being smashed, obscured with dirt, or otherwise rendered useless”.

Moreover, even if the device was able to alert authorities to a potential poaching incident, it is unlikely that on-the-ground forces would be able to respond as quickly as required.

Another alternative is dye.

In April 2013, takepart magazine reported that 100 rhino from Sabi Sands Game Reserve, part of Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa, had their horns drilled and a liquid poison/dye mix injected by the Rhino Rescue Project in an effort to deter poachers and devalue the price of horn.

Since then, it has been reported that rhino from a number of reserveshave been similarly treated, including:

Leon Barron from King’s College London and Mark Moseley from the Metropolitan Police Service have collaborated to develop an ivory fingerprint kit, which has been dispatched to more than 40 countries.

They told BBC Future “The powder it contains can reveal prints up to 28 days after poachers have touched the ivory, compared to two or three days with conventional methods”.

Barron also recently showed that it is possible to determine the age of a person from the DNA contained in their blood, using artificial intelligence. The hope is that this can be replicated and validated for blood stains at crime scenes, and potentially used to solve future wildlife crimes.

Jamal Firmat Banzi, “A Sensor Based Anti-Poaching System in Tanzania National Parks,” International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research Volume 4(4),  April 2014; Pachyderm No. 55 January – July 2014.

Discover solution 19: Apps for our environment

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Categories
Materials

17: The new antibiotics

Problem:

Dangerous bacteria are becoming resistant to our arsenal of colistin antibiotics, rendering them ineffective and increasing the threat and likelihood of catastrophic public health consequences.

Solution:

A new family of antibiotics inspired by existing natural bacterial peptides – compounds similar to proteins but smaller – could provide new possibilities to overcome this resistance.

In 2011, a team at the health science company Inserm led by Professor Brice Felden and working with Michèle Baudy and his team at Rennes Institute of Chemical Sciences in Brittany discovered a new toxin that they transformed into antibiotics by modifying the peptides of the toxin’s bacteria.

Out of the twenty molecules created, two proved effective against resistant Staphylococcus aureus – one the most dangerous of the  staphylococcal bacteria – and against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which often causes infections in hospital patients.

Felden and his team tested these molecules at doses 10 to 50 times higher than the effective dose without seeing toxicity. After several days of direct exposure to the drugs in vivo, the bacteria still showed no signs of resistance.

To truly ensure this was the case, the team created conditions that were particularly favorable to resistance and still found a negative result. Longer experimental stages could be helpful, and the team’s next steps are to launch clinical trials on humans.

The patent has been licensed and a startup created.

They are not alone.

National Public Radio in the USA (NPR) reports that

A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Researchers at Brown, Emory and Harvard universities found that they can repurpose bithionol — a drug formerly used to treat parasitic infections in horses — to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA, a common hospital-acquired infection.

You can read the full NPR article »» here

Discover solution 18: Using electronics to catch poachers

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Categories
Energy Materials

16: Electrical energy from animal dung

Problem:

As all transport transitions to electric propulsion, the increase in the demand for electrical energy will call on a diversity of sources.

Solution:

Anaerobic digesters that convert the dung of horses, cattle, pigs and other livestock to electricity.

Anaerobic digestion is a sequence of processes by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen and create and capture biogas – a flammable fuel with high methane content which  can be used to run turbines and create electricity.

In the Fall of 1998 two ex-Aachen University students from farming families, Hendrik Becker and Jörg Meyer zu Strohe, built an anaerobic digester at a prototype biogas plant feed facility in Münsterland, north-west Westfalen.

Unlike other biogas technology, their innovative solids injection process can operate using  100 percent manure or manure mixed with difficult to process substrates such as straw and grass.

They started a company, PlanET, to manufacture their green dome-shape digesters for use in rural areas.

During the past two decades, PlanET has sold and implemented nearly 480 biogas plants of between 40 kW and several MW to France, the UK, the USA and Canada.

The total electric power of PlanET installations currently in operation is 142,000 kWel. The plant also processes other waste such as that of cereal farmers (the unusable part of the harvest).

Finland

In 2015, Finland’s state energy company, Fortum, led by Anssi Paalanen, also looked at anaerobic digesters as a fuel source and began trials at Lake Järvenpää, gathering raw materials from four stables from Espoo and Kirkkonummi for their units.

They found that the manure and bedding of three horses could provide heat and light for a single-family Finnish home in a colder climate.

Finland has 70,000 horses, enough to provide heat and electricity for up to 23,000 homes. Fortum began with a small plant, with the manure forming just 10% of the wood-shaving mix used for burning.

By autumn, with more stables taking part, the manure proportion was raised to 20%. The number of horses in society is increasing.

According to Statistics Sweden, there are more than 360,000 horses in Sweden, of which three-quarters are situated in urban or near-urban environments. With a dry matter manure content of 40%, this equates to a quantity of 1,500 tons (1,360 tonnes) of horse manure per annum and corresponds to an annual biogas production of 641 GWh.

In 2016, Finland banned the disposal of manure in landfill sites, along with many other organic, biodegradable materials. This meant that stables risked being stuck with a pile of ordure they could not shift.

The manure can be given to farmers for use as fertilizer, but in the EU this is now permitted only on flat fields because of the risk that exists on sloping fields that the manure will leach into water courses. Flat fields are still fair game for muck-spreaders, but the E.U. bans the strewing of horse manure on any sloping site, as a sensible precaution against equine faeces leaching into the water system.

This means that Finland’s manure does not have many places to go, making the manure biomass plan a double win. The Fortum solution, which they called quite simply “HorsePower”, seemed the most logical.

From August 2017, Fortum set up a pilot project in Bergslagen, southern Sweden, requesting manure from the 400-500 horses in the region, the electricity produced going to households in the town of Hällefors.

Fortum was looking for local suppliers and asked that there are at least 10-20 horses in the stable in order to cover transport costs. By the end of the year 3,000 horses were producing energy.

If Fortum could process the manure mix from 280,000 of Sweden’s horses it would be enough to heat all of the houses in Östergötland and Gotland.

Following the 2017 FEI European Equestrian Championships held in the city of Gothenburg in August, Renova, the municipal waste management, created around 360 000 kWh of district heating and 60 000 kWh of electricity, from the estimated 330 tons (300 tonnes) of horse manure and straw left by the 600 horses participating in the competition.

Two months later, Finland’s Horse Show in Helsinki Ice Hall followed suit. During the event, HorsePower delivered wood-based bedding for the 250 or so horses that stayed in temporary stalls, their dung at Fortum’s Järvenpää power plant anaerobically generating 140 kW to meet all of the electricity needs of the event from lighting to scoreboards to support infrastructure. (fortum.com)

According to a report compiled in 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOSTAT), there are an estimated 58 million horses in the world.

In terms of HorsePower potential, one is therefore talking about gigawatts of electricity. If the manure of the world’s horse population were put to work, this would provide electricity for 19.5 million homes or two New York cities, not to mention electric vehicles.

At the beginning of 2016, the global number of four-wheeled electric vehicles in use came to around 13 million units: 6.18 million electrified power trains will be produced by 2020. This does not take in the hundreds of millions of two- and three-wheeled vehicles, particularly in China.

With such a demand for electrical energy, it is inevitable that horse manure – not to mention manure from cattle, pigs and other livestock – will play its part alongside other sustainable energy sources.

Discover solution 17: the new antibiotics.

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Categories
Human Effort Planet Care

15: Amphibious water bomber super scoopers

Problem:

Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) – climate change – is contributing to fires in the wilderness that are larger, more frequent and more devastating.

Solution:

Various aircraft have been used over the years for firefighting..  The yellow and red amphibious water bombers or “super scoopers” Canadair CL-215 and the CL-415 are the most commonly used.

They are assembled at the Bombardier Aerospace facility near North Bay/Jack Garland Airport in North Bay, Ontario, and tested on Lake Nipissing. In 2018, there were 165 in-service CL-215 and CL-415s serving 11 countries.

The CL-415 can scoop up to 1,620 US gallons (6,140 liters) – that is  6,140 kilograms / 13,500 pounds – of water from a nearby water source in ten minutes, mix it with a chemical foam if desired, and drop it on a fire without having to return to base to refill its tanks.

In 2019 the European Union set up a RescEU fleet of seven Canadairs and six helicopters from six EU member states: Spain, Italy, France, Sweden, Croatia and Greece.

They are also available to other European countries and adjoining states, which can request to use the planes in an emergency to fight forest fires across Europe. Most recently they were used during the forest fires of California in August-September, 2020.

Discover solution 16: turning animal dung into electricity

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Energy

14: A solar cell that works at night

Problem:

Solar cells cannot function at night.

Solution:

Jeremy Munday and Tristan Deppe at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California Davis have developed a thermoradiative cell which generates electrical current as it radiates infrared light (heat) toward the night sky and extreme cold of deep space.

ACS Photonics, a publication of the American Chemical Society, says of the illustration at the top of this solution “The Perspective featured depicts a nighttime photovoltaic device that generates power by looking up at the night sky, behaving like a solar cell in reverse.”

The abstract of the research paper on the cell says:

In order to produce electrical power after the sun has set, we consider an alternative photovoltaic concept that uses the earth as a heat source and the night sky as a heat sink, resulting in a “nighttime photovoltaic cell” that employs thermoradiative photovoltaics and concepts from the advancing field of radiative cooling.

Such a cell could generate up to 50 watts of power per square meter under ideal conditions at night, about a quarter of what a conventional solar panel can generate in daytime.

Jeremy Munday and Tristan Deppe, “Nighttime Photovoltaic Cells: Electrical Power Generation by Optically Coupling with Deep Space,” ACS Photonics January 7, 2020.

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Planet Care

13: Amphibious housing that adapts to water level

Problem:

Since 1880 – 140 years ago – global mean sea level has risen about 8–9 inches (21–24 centimeters), with about a third of the rise coming in a sixth of that time – the last 25 years.

From 2018 – 2019 alone, sea level rose 0.24 inches (6.1 millimeters) to a height of 3.4 inches (87.61 mm centimeters) above the 1993 average. Data from a U.S. Geological Survey estimates sea levels could rise another 19 in. (48 cm) in the next 30 years.

Solution:

Amphibious houses that combine the best features of floating house boats with the best features of elevated buildings.

House boats have been with us for centuries and are designed to adapt to changes in water level, but cannot safely withstand storms with high winds or floods with fast moving water.

Elevated homes are safe from flooding and wind if constructed properly, but can feel isolated from their neighbours and the surrounding environment due to their high decks and extensive stairs.

Netherlands

The Netherlands is a country with a long history of mitigating flood damage and adapting to flood risk, with 60% of the country below sea level.

The development and implementation of flood resilient infrastructure has become an important part of the Dutch culture.

The flood threat in the Netherlands is not only related to rising sea-levels, rivers also pose a risk of flooding. This risk is increased by climate change as it causes more frequent and extreme rainfall.

An answer to this can be found on the Maas river, in Maasbommel, where the country’s first amphibious houses were realized in 2005.

Designed by a team led by Adrianus Gerardus Gregorius van Haastert, Richard Jacob Looij and Josephus Antonius Wilhelmus Hockx and built by the construction firm Dura Vermeer Beton & Waterbouw BV, the development encompasses 14 floating houses / house boats plus 32 real amphibious houses plus.

The amphibious houses in Massbommel float like house boats sited on a floating concrete “hull.” However, they are also secured against strong winds and waves by permanent mooring posts driven deep into the ground, similar to those used to elevate homes.

In every day non-flood conditions, the houses rest on the river bank, allowing for convenient water access and creating a flat walkable space between homes. When waters rise, the posts guide the building to rise and lower, in place, according to changing river levels.

Unlike a house boat, the amphibious houses also have basements, decks, and small gardens all supported by their foundations. They feature flexible pipes for electrical, water, and sewer lines that will keep the home “on the grid” even in a flooding event.

Dura Vermeer have also built floating houses near the Limburg village of Ohé en Laak. These homes, known as the Meuse Villas, consist of a concrete floating barge, including the shell, and each home weighs approximately 100 tons.

Although the technology of amphibious houses proved itself during a flood in 2011, the concept has only been moderately adopted in the Netherlands.

The obstacle has been obtaining building permission, due to regulators being unfamiliar with the concept and hesitance to approve building in areas that were considered dangerous. Another important difficulty is that an unconventional building approach leads to higher construction costs, combined with a limited market of possible owners.

Germany

Bungalow Boote (Bunbo) are very popular on the vast northern German waterway network, also on the Lahn river. Hulls are aluminum, superstructure made from wood. Typically used for charter (short-term, weekly), they are also good for older people and those with disabilities. Propulsion is electric, power is solar (100 watt) and cooking/heating by gas.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, architect Marek Štěpán of Tachov in the Plzeň Region, has designed and built a series of prefabricated one-bedroom floating homes called Freedomky, which can be towed to a selected venue, such as Charles Bridge in the up-and-coming district of Smíchov in Prague.

Discover solution 14: Solar panels that work at night

Elizabeth C English, Carol J. Friedland,  Fatemeh Orooji, “Combined Flood and Wind Mitigation for Hurricane Damage Prevention: Case for Amphibious Construction,” Journal of Structural Engineering, February 2017.

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Energy Materials

12: Carbon-free aluminium smelting

Problem:

Nearly all aluminium smelting has for many years been done with hydroelectric power from generators dedicated to the purpose, with the smelters built next to the dams that store the water.

However, smelting is the largest single producer of toxic fluorides worldwide. ‘Scrubbers’ are usually used to remove the majority of fluorides from factory smoke today, but when those scrubbers are spent they are also dumped in landfills where the soluble fluorides absorbed into them can leak out into the soil.

Solution:

In May 2018, Alcoa and Rio Tinto unveiled what they describe as the world’s first carbon-free aluminum smelting process, through a partnership called Elysis, which refers to the electrolysis of alumina, a process at the centre of aluminum smelting.

Apple, which is planning to use the metal in its iPhone and laptop computers, as part of its own efforts to decarbonize its operations and supply chain, is also investing in Elysis.

On August 16, 2019, construction began on the Elysis R&D centre in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-Saint Jean region, located within Rio Tinto’s Complexe Jonquière, the site of the Arvida smelter, Vaudreuil refinery and Arvida research and development center.

The project is expected to be fully operational by the second half of 2020, employing 25 technical experts.

By 2024, commercialisation on a world scale could eliminate the equivalent of 7 million tons (6.5 million tonnes) of GHG emissions if fully implemented at existing aluminum smelters in Canada – roughly equal to taking nearly 1.8 million light-duty vehicles off the road. (alcoa.com)

Meanwhile, Russian aluminum giant Rusal En+, which uses hydropower from rivers in Siberia to power most of its smelters, is targeting 2021 to roll out its own line of carbon-free aluminum, based on an inert anode system.

Rusal has teamed up with US manufacturer Braidy Industries to build a mill in Kentucky, which will be the world’s largest low-carbon rolled aluminum producer, as well as the first new greenfield aluminum mill in 37 years to be constructed in the United States.

En+ Group, the holding company for Rusal reckons the trend for lighter and more efficient electric car bodies will boost demand for “green” aluminum. (enplusgroup.com/en)

Discover solution 13: floating neighbourhoods that can adapt to changes in water level

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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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Materials

10: Seaweed, algae and toilet paper textiles

Problem:

Synthetic textiles are economically efficient to produce but are largely based on petroleum products –  harmful to the environment and very slow to decompose. Natural fabrics like cotton are nutrient intensive, putting a strain on soil and other resources.

Solution:

Sea algae grow much faster and need less nutrients then cotton.

Nienke Hoogvliet is a Dutch artist who grew up in a coastal area where algae and seaweed is abundant.

While studying Lifestyle & Design at Rotterdam’s Willem de Kooning Academy, she took some of these sea algae, hand-knotted them into an old fishing net and presented the resulting SEA ME rug at the Dutch Design Week 2014.

With funding from the StimuleringsfondsCreatieveIndustrie, Hoogvliet’s research extended and she discovered uses for the sustainable yarn beyond the textile industry.

Exploring a circular zero waste process (where the waste of one process fuels a second and so on until there is nothing left) led her to unearth the advantages of seaweed as a natural dye.

She collected over 20 different species of seaweed in her native Oosterschelde and experimented. She also visited Ireland, where a potential of 110 ton (110,000 kg) of seaweed floats ashore every year. Each species gives a different color, showing a color palette that reflects this nature reserve.

In 2015, in collaboration with Xandra van der Eijk, Hoogvliet, based in the Hague, presented “Colors of the Oosterschelde”, comprising a bio-plastic chair, a table and bowls at the Dutch Design Week

With the results of this research charted in a self-published 100-page book, “Seaweed Research” (purchase »» here), Hoogvliet’s experimentation with sustainable materials continued with her discovering that fish skins, a waste product of the fishing industry, can also be made into a leather alternative.

She went to fish shops to collect their waste and by using an old technique, that requires a lot of manual labour, she created a strong, sustainable and beautiful material that can be used like regular leather.

Finding a chemical-free, labour-intensive method for tanning the skins, Hoogvliet reached into the deep again and developed RE-SEA ME.

To show the abilities of her leather, Hoogvliet designed a small stool with fish leather seating. For this project she used salmon skins, but almost any kind of fish can be used to make leather.

While the tanning process was done by hand the Dutch designer believes it also has potential to be produced at a larger scale. Nienke Hoogvliet collected her research into the sustainability of the fishing- and leather-tanning industry in her book “Fish Leather”, where she explains the natural tanning process and hopes to encourage others to use this technique.

Whilst there is an intrinsic beauty in fish skin and seaweed, how does one arrive at used toilet paper? By invite it would seem: impressed with her fine work with sustainable materials, the Dutch Water Authorities invited Hoogvliet to design products that would show off their good work in recovering valuable energy and raw materials from wastewater.

Setting ‘fine sieve’ installations into place, water authorities Aa & Maas and Hoogheemraadschap Hollands NoorderkWartier were able to reclaim plenty of the 190,000 tons (180,000 tonnes) (190K US ton.) of toilet paper that is flushed down the toilets of the Netherlands each year. (That is 180,000 trees.)

Hoping to create the sort of positive association with this unpleasant material, these authorities invited Hoogvliet to design products that would show off their good work in recovering valuable energy and raw materials from wastewater.

Eight sewage treatment plants have already transformed into Energy Factories, with preparations underway for a further nine, green electricity can be garnered from the treatment process – as can phosphate, which can be used to produce fertilisers.

Proving time and time again that she can find a rare beauty in materials once discarded, no matter how disagreeable, Hoogvliet used the cleaned pulp to produce unique, handmade products: a collection of objects, consisting of a table, lighting, and decorative bowls.

In May 2019, in New York she exhibited “Kaumera Kimono”, which combines dyes extracted from wastewater like Anammox and Vivianite with the cutting-edge material Kaumera, an alginate-like biopolymer that amplifies a textile’s ability to absorb dye. The result is that less water is required, and polluted, in the dyeing process.

Nienke Hoogvliet’s work, raising awareness of social and environmental problems in the textile, leather and food industry, is exhibited worldwide from the Artipelag in Stockholm to New York’s Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.

Discover solution 11: a reforestation that slows desert growth with 7.5 million acres of trees.

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Mobility

9: Electric airplanes – the third revolution

Problem:

Commercial flights now account for 2.5 % of global CO2 emissions. The aircraft industry is expecting a seven-fold increase in air traffic by 2050, and a four-fold increase in GHG emissions, unless fundamental changes are made.

Solution:

Fortunately the world of aviation is boldly accelerating into a new, more silent and less polluting era of electric propulsion. Described as the ‘Third Revolution’ in aviation (after heavier than air and jet engines) the introduction of hybrid-electric aircraft could be a massive breakthrough for sustainable aviation.

From the stratosphere to door-to-door, a “hangar” of differing prototypes have now entered into their series-production phase, be they airships, or airplanes carrying up to eight passengers or training would-be pilots, be they vertical take-off drones which can carry a single passenger across a city, or those for delivery, cinema or sport, or merely toys which can be hand-launched and piloted using virtual reality.

One example, the two-seat Pipistrel Taurus Electro G2 electric aircraft is being manufactured at a plant in Italy, 15 mi. (25 km) away from the current Pipistrel Headquarters in Slovenia. Work is underway to mass-produce 4-seater and 19-seater hybrid Pipistrel airplanes at a plant in China from 2020.

In Israel, the Eviation Alice can fly 650 mi. (1,046 km) at around 300mph (480kph), 260 knots with three electric motors, one on the tail and one on each wingtip. The prototype carries a 900 kWh li-ion battery and carries nine passengers.

US regional airline Cape Air has already expressed an interest in the all-electric Alice, saying it will order a “double-digit” number of the aircraft to operate on some of its short routes. The aircraft is expected to take to the skies in 2022. (eviation.co/alice).

For long haul trans-continental flights, one solution is the hydrogen fuel cell. In Germany, the first short 15-minute demonstration flight of the hydrogen fuel-cell powered HY4 was made in September 2016 at Stuttgart Airport above the public and the media; air traffic control had all the other air traffic stopped, so spectators could hear the almost-completely-silent fuel cell airplane, flown by pilots, Johannes Anton and Nejc Faganelj in one cockpit with two dummy passengers in the other.

In 2018, the E-Fan X project to develop a hybrid-electric aviation propulsion system was unveiled by Airbus, Siemens and Rolls-Royce. Parts manufacturing began in 2019, but the program fell victim to the COVID19 pandemic

In March 2017 Professor Josef Kallo, head of the Institute for Energy Conversion and Storage at Ulm University, describing this flight, announced plans to test the technological platform over the coming years before the target will be upped to six or eight seats. He explained: “Recent studies on commercial aviation show that there are indeed feasible propulsion designs for regional air travel with up to 40 seats and a range of 435 mi. (700 km) or below, even though the technical challenges are significant.”

Other solutions are being trialled such as electric tugs towing more electric airliners out to and back from the runways of international airports whose rooftop solar panels could recharge them, while one day a V-formation of long-haul airliners could create a wake to further reduce fuel consumption.

The above does not include development of  half a dozen Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) 2-6 seater electric city taxi drones such as the

and more on the way!

Discover solution 10: high fashion fabrics from fish skins, seaweed, algae and used toilet paper.

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Energy

8: AWES aircraft that generate electricity

Problem:

Land-based generation of electricity is limited.

Solution:

Alongside aircraft using electricity, there are also aircraft which will be used to regularly generate electricity.  The technology is known as AWES: Airborne Wind Energy Systems.

It was in 1978 that Mi. L. Lloyd at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California applied for Patent US4251040 for large-scale wind power production by means of aerodynamically efficient kites.

Based on aircraft construction, these kites would fly transverse to the wind at high speed. The lift produced at this speed is sufficient to both support the kite and generate power. This would come to be known as crosswind kite power.

28 years later, Australian inventor Saul Griffith and kite designer Don Montague teamed  up to build a similar type of generator, calling their company ‘Makani’ after the Hawaiian word for wind.

Funded by DARPA, they built a 20 kW turbine-carrying glider and flew it in 2009; the higher the altitudes where the winds are stronger and more reliable, the more electrical energy is harvested. By 2011 Makani were testing developed models from the tarmac of the former Alameda Naval Air Station.

In 2013 they were bought up by Google. Although facing significant regulatory obstacles including wildlife preservation issues as well as the technological challenges, they were eventually able to produce their eighth generation prototype designed by Damon Vander Lind, a 600-kW carbon-fiber energy kite with eight rotors rotors each of 7.5 ft (2m³0) in diameter and with the 85 ft (26 m) wingspan of a small jet airliner.

The turbine driven generators would also function as motor-driven propellers in a powered flight mode, which could be used for vertical take-off and landing. A perch adapted to facilitate the take-off and landing would pivot such that the pivot is oriented towards the tension direction of the tether.

On May 18, 2017 the Makani 600-kW kite produced power for the first time. The rotation of the 85 ft. wide kite’s rotors drives magnet motors/generators on board, producing electricity that transfers down the tether where it can be connected to an energy grid.

The electricity comes down in DC (direct current), but is converted to AC (alternating current) at its base station. In February 2019, Royal Dutch Shell invested in Makani.

Similar projects are taking place in the Netherlands with the Ampyx tethered glider and in Norway with Kitemill and their Spark airplane. And Swiss startup Skypull has developed an autonomous drone that can fly to almost 2000 ft (600m) – about three times the height of a traditional wind turbine.

The Skypull current prototype is a rigid wing, multi-copter “box-wing” drone that can take off and land by itself, with no need for a launcher or ground wind. The take-off is battery-powered, but once in the air the battery is recharged every time the kite loops back down towards the ground.

Discover solution 9: electric airplanes

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Planet Care Your Home

7: Perfect Sense • a wearable air quality sensor

Problem:

Some routes taken by schoolchildren to and from their schools are more polluted than others.

Solution:

In April 2020, Ava Garside, 13-years’ old, in Year 9 at the Allerton Grange School, Leeds, England created a graphene-based, wearable air quality pin-badge sensor which collects data and detects the air quality of wherever you are, helping to detect the cleanest and healthiest routes to work or school.

For her “Perfect Sense solution”, Ava was named the Junior winner of the Youth Industrial Strategy Competition, a national STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) initiative coordinated by the government of the United Kingdom and the British Science Association.

She was also awarded the UK Space Agency SatelLife competition. She has since been working alongside scientists at the University of Manchester to develop the prototype further, but like many of the solutions presented on this website, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed things up.

Discover solution 8: aircraft that generate electricity.

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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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Mobility

5: Go-Ahead • vehicles that filter air as they drive

Problem:

Construction, industrial and vehicle-generated PM10 (Particulate Matter) contribute to life-shortening cardiovascular illnesses and respiratory diseases.

Solution:

To mount various types of air purifiers onto circulating vehicles. In September 2018, Bluestar, one of the UK’s largest bus operators launched the country’s first air filtering bus prototype in an effort to tackle air pollution in the city of Southampton.

They chose one of their low-emission Euro VI buses, each of which produces no more than 0.08g/km of nitrogen oxide.

The filter, designed and manufactured in collaboration with PALL Aerospace, headquartered in Port Washington, New York, the world’s largest aerospace and defence filtration company, is made in an engine barrier-type filter construction and designed to remove up to 99.5% of particles from the air without any impact on the passenger or travel experience.

Southampton was chosen as the location for the pilot following a 2018 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, which warned that the city was at the limit of unsafe air pollution.

From September 2018, running for 100 days, covering 9,000 miles (14,500 km), the pilot bus was able to clean 113 million cubic ft. (3.2 million cubic m.) of the city’s air, the equivalent to the volume of 1,288 Olympic swimming pools.

The air filter took in 35 cubic feet (1 m³) of air per second meaning that in one hour it was filtering the same volume of air as 6,000 people breathing.

It extracted PM10 weighing a total of 65g – roughly the same as a tennis ball – over the course of the trial. Encouraged, Bluestar decided to retro-fit an additional five buses on the number seven route serving Lordshill and Sholing via the general hospital, Millbrook, Shirley, City Centre and Woolston.

While a single bus has the capacity to clean the air on its route every 215 days, to a height of 33 ft. (10 m), it would take just nine days for the newly expanded fleet to achieve the same target passenger capacity and remove as much as 2.8 lb (1.25kg) of PM10 from the air every year.

Further encouraged, from summer 2020 “breathe Bluestar” introduced the technology to Oxford, Plymouth, Newcastle, Manchester, Crawley/Brighton.

A further five buses were also brought into service in Southampton. If the air filter were to be deployed on 4,600 buses across the UK, it could remove as much as 2,425 lb (1,100 kg) of PM10 particles every year.

In parallel, Bluestar also fitted a total of 19 vehicles with solar panels, one of them fitted with the air filter to see whether solar energy could be used to make the filter completely self-sufficient. (www.bluestarbus.co.uk)

Shivom Sharma and François Maréchal at the Industrial Process and Energy Systems Engineering group, EPFL in Zurich had patented a concept which involves capturing CO₂ within the exhaust system of a truck, converting it into a liquid and storing it on the vehicle.

The liquid CO₂ would then be delivered to a service station where it will be turned back into fuel using renewable energy. The system could theoretically work with all trucks, buses and even boats, and with any type of fuel.

The advantage of this system is that it can be retrofitted to existing vehicles in order to neutralize their impact in terms of carbon emissions. (epfl.ch/labs)

In terms of private transport, automobile manufacturer Hyundai has developed the NEXO hydrogen fuel cell automobile with an advanced air purification system capable of filtering 99.9% of very fine dust.

As a test, they teamed up with University College London (UCL) to take on London’s dirtiest driving route, which includes areas such as Kings Cross, Westminster, Elephant and Castle, and Deptford.

Hyundai claims that if just one NEXO is driven for an hour, it has the potential to purify 59 lb (26.9 kg.) of air, which it says is the same amount as 42 adults breathe in 60 minutes. The car producer also claims that if there were 10,000 NEXOs on the road it would subsequently have a carbon-reducing effect akin to planting 60,000 trees. (hyundai.com)

Other schemes in South Korea and China are also working on air purifying transport. And in Thailand there is also work on an air purifying bike.

In Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Studio Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Project has teamed up with China’s largest bike-share company Ofo, to develop a Smog Free Bicycle with a dual function: not only does it offer transport on two wheels and ease traffic congestion, it also cleans smog.

Through a device mounted on the handlebars, polluted city air is drawn in through vacuum suction while the bicycle is in motion. As the air passes through a filter, it is cleaned of harmful particles and purified, literally giving the cyclist a breath of fresh air.

Dan Roosegaarde often takes his inspiration from biomimicry for his innovative eco-friendly projects. The Smog Free Bicycle was inspired by the manta ray, the large flatfish which has a unique filter system of pores that acts as a sieve for the plankton it feeds on, while expelling the purified seawater through its gills.

The plan is to launch an initial 300 bicycles. There is interest in cities such as London, Paris and Luxembourg as part of their bicycle-sharing programs. (.studioroosegaarde.net)

Together, fleets of buses, automobiles, electric and pedal bicycles, all fitted with air filtering systems could certainly make a contribution to planet protection.

Shivom Sharma and François Maréchal, “Carbon Dioxide Capture From Internal Combustion Engine Exhaust Using Temperature Swing Adsorption” Frontiers in Energy Research, 16 December 2019.

Discover solution 6: a machine that recycles soot to make printing ink

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Energy

4: Air conditioners that operate with water

Problem:

Leaking CFC and HCFC-based air conditioners contribute to GHG and ozone depletion.

Solution:

In 2018 a team of scientists at the National University of Singapore announced the development of a prototype of a sustainable air conditioning unit which uses water instead of refrigerants, and consumes 40 % less electricity to operate, and can cool a space to as low as 18° Celsius.

After four years of government-funded research on Project Drawdown, Dr. M. Kum Ja, Dr. Bui Duc Thuan, Associate Professor Ernest Chua, and Dr. Md Raisul Islam have produced two new technologies.

The first is a membrane dehumidifier which uses special water-absorbing materials and a difference in air pressure to extract water from ambient air as it is passed through the membrane.

The water removed is potable and almost as pure as bottled drinking water.

The drier air is then passed through what is called the counter-flow dew-point evaporative cooler, the team’s second invention.

This device removes heat through evaporative cooling, the same process that reduces body temperature through perspiration. Instead of relying on HCFCs, the drawdown air conditioner can cool a room using rain water.

It requires 2 pints (one liter) of water to cool a master bedroom unit for 15 to 20 hours. While regular air conditioners expel hot air as a by-product, the prototype releases humid air that is still likely to be cooler than ambient temperatures.

This helps to avoid disrupting the urban microclimate outside.

If a city replaces all its compressor-based coolers with this innovative air-conditioner, then it reduces its electrical demand enormously. Cities may slash their need for new power plants in developing countries, with a resource found wherever humans thrive.

In October 2018, team member Ernest Chua was conferred the Best Paper Award at the IEEE-organised “International Conference on Green Energy for Sustainable Development held in Phuket, Thailand. He also presented a paper in January 2019 at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos.

He has emphasised that the 5 ft. (1.6 m) tall prototype was not the finished version, and his team is now looking to create a more compact and commercially viable product for the market in three to five years’ time. (nus.edu.sg)

Ernest Chua,“A hybrid air conditioning system employing membrane dehumidification and dew-point cooling” International Conference on Green Energy for Sustainable Development, October 2018

Discover solution 5: a bus that takes particles OUT of the air as it travels.

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Energy

3: Air breathing battery that exhales oxygen

Problem:

Li-ion cobalt batteries are difficult to produce and to recycle, hence expensive.

Solution:

A research team including Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a type of battery which uses cheaper, abundant materials, and could be used for both short and long-term energy storage.

The researchers estimate that the total chemical cost of the battery could be as little as 1/30 the cost of current storage technologies, including li-ion.

The battery utilizes a sulfur anode (a by-product of fossil fuel production) dissolved in water of which there is an abundant supply, and an aerated liquid sodium salt solution in the cathode. Oxygen flowing in and out of the cathode causes the battery to discharge and charge.

This battery literally inhales and exhales air, but it does not exhale carbon dioxide, it exhales oxygen.

Although the initial prototype of the air-breathing sulfur flow battery was about the size of a coffee cup, flow batteries are known to be easily scalable and thanks to its low materials cost, the battery could be the first technology to compete in cost and energy density with pumped hydroelectric storage.

The battery has a slow self discharge rate, and could therefore be used in seasonal storage – an increasingly important concept as solar moves into regions further from the equator, where sunlight levels vary more greatly between seasons.

Soon after Yet-Ming Chiang and Mateo Jaramillo had founded Form Energy in Somerville, MA to market the battery, they were able to raise US$11 million, including US$9 million from Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), launched by a group of billionaires including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, Richard Branson, George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg, Masayoshi Son, and Michael Bloomberg.

In August 2019, Italian oil and gas major Eni signed on as lead investor, joined by Capricorn Investment Group and most of the existing investors from the original US$9 million, pushing it to US$40 million. (engine.xyz)

Yet-Ming Chiang et al., “Air-Breathing Aqueous Sulfur Flow Battery for Ultralow-Cost Long-Duration Electrical Storage” Joule. October 12, 2017.

Discover  solution 4: an air conditioner that uses water instead of
hydrofluorocarbons AND uses 40% less electricity

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Categories
Materials Your Home

2: Ahimsa Silk • Peace Silk made without killing silkworms

Problem:

To make one pound of silk involves killing about 2,500 or more silkworms. 30,000-50,000 silkworms are killed to make one six-yard  (5.5 m) saree.

The Bombyx mori moths, having fed on mulberry leaves until they grow to 3 in (7 cm) (ten thousand times their original size) are then ready to be harvested.

The worms are boiled or blasted with steam by manufacturers to collect the cocoons, and this process kills the pupae.

Solution:

In the early 1990s, Kusuma Rajaiah was working in Andhra Pradesh’s handloom department when ex-president of India R Venkatarman’s wife, Janaki, who was on a state visit to the silk manufacturing facilities, asked Rajaiah if silk could be made without killing the worms.

Having studied fibers and filaments at The Indian Institute of Handloom Technology for three years, Rajaiah, a firm believer in Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of non-violence, found a solution enabling the silkworm to emerge out of the cocoon naturally and come out from their metamorphosis and live their fullest life peacefully.

From the pierced cocoons the required yarn is extracted and spun into a fiber for making a fabric which has the same luxurious feel of silk, with a slightly ‘raw’ appearance.

In contrast, the less humane process takes about 15 minutes. The damaged cocoons yield six times less filament, too, doubling the price of conventional silk.

Having created his first sample sarees, Rajaiah commercialised his innovation as Ahimsa Silk or Peace Silk. (Ahiṃsā  Sanskrit: अहिंसा is an ancient Indian principle of nonviolence which applies to all living beings)

The government of India granted Rajaiah a 20-year patent in 2002 and trade marks for Ahimsa silk in 2006. It has since been used in designer collections showcased all over the world.

The innovative entrepreneur has also been able to make jersey out of Ahimsa silk, which they now use to make T-shirts and lingerie. Based on Rajaiah’s solution, Prayaag Barooah of FabricPlus, a weaving initiative in Guwahati, Assam, works with about 100,000 rural silk farmers and weavers to manufacturer ahimsa silk. With COVID-19, FabricPlus transitioned to making silk masks.

Discover solution 3: a battery that literally breathes, exhaling oxygen.

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Categories
Human Effort Planet Care

1: Combining crop growing with forestry

Problem:

Halting deforestation is a global challenge largely due to unsustainable agricultural practices that degrade natural ecosystems. Ninety percent of deforestation is the result of agriculture, with 60% due to the extension of agro-industrial intensive farming (soya, palm oil, corn…), and the remaining 30% caused by small-scale and subsistence farmers. Close to 20% of all carbon emissions result from deforestation and forest degradation.

With slash and burn subsistence agriculture, due to heavy seasonal floods, the exposed soil is washed away, leaving infertile barren soil exposed to the dry season. Farmed hillside sites have to be abandoned after a few years.

Solution:

In 1977, a team led by Canadian forester John G. Bene published a seminal work “Trees, food and people : land management in the tropics” in which Bene coined the word agroforestry. This led to the setting up of an International Council for Research in Agroforestry, now the World Agroforestry Center headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.

Agroforestry is a land use management system in which smart reforestation goes hand in hand with crops or pastureland. This intentional combination of agriculture and forestry increases biodiversity and reduces erosion. Unlike full-sun fields, vulnerable and contributing to ecosystems degradation, agrofrestry is a way to preserve productive ecosystems and adapt to climate change.

One example of agroforestry has proved successful at the Quesungual Lempira Department, Honduras. Here, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) helped introduce a system incorporating local knowledge consisting of the following steps:

  • Hillside secondary forest were thinned and pruned, leaving individual nitrogen-fixing trees to help reduce soil erosion, maintain soil moisture, provide shade and provide an input of nitrogen-rich organic matter in the form of litter.
  • Maize, a local crop was then planted in rows beside the trees, then harvested, leaving their stalks used for nitrogen-fixing climbing bean plants.
  • Further intercropping was carried out with pumpkin, its large leaves and horizontal growth providing additional shade and moisture retention.
  • Pumpkins do not compete with the beans for sunlight since the latter grow vertically on the stalks.

Another agroforestry application is Taungya, a system originating in Burma. In the initial stages of an orchard or tree plantation, trees are small and widely spaced. The free space between the newly planted trees accommodates a seasonal crop. Instead of costly weeding, the underutilized area provides an additional output and income.

More complex taungyas use between-tree space for multiple crops. The crops become more shade tolerant as the tree canopies grow and the amount of sunlight reaching the ground declines. Thinning can maintain sunlight levels.

J. G. Bene, H.W. Beall, A. Cöté, “Trees, food and people : land management in the tropics,” International Development Research Centre, 1977. Daizy Rani Patish, Ecological basis of agroforestry. CRC Press.2008; Kate Langford, “Turning the tide on farm productivity in Africa: an agroforestry solution,“. World Agroforestry Centre, 8 July 2009.

Discover solution 2: How to make silk without killing silk worms.

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