Materials Energy

224: Ultra fast charge batteries


Existing battery electrodes have low electrical, thermal and ionic conductivity, along with poor mechanical behaviour when discharged and recharged, and can also suffer from early delamination and degradation leading to safety and lifecycle issues.


The Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode

A team at the CEA (Atomic and Renewable Energy Commissariat) led by French mathematician Pascal Boulanger has developed and patented an electrode using vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes (VACNT) a derivative of graphene, making it possible to manufacture super capacitors 1,000 times faster than a lithium-ion battery.

The electrode combines the highest ionic conductivity – thanks to a 3D fully accessible nanostructure – with the highest electrical and thermal conductivity, provided by its arrangement of 100 billion nanotubes per sq. cm, all vertically aligned.

Put simply, a battery using this VACNT technology can give an electric car 800 to 1,000 km of range with only 5 minutes of recharging.

In 2014, Boulanger collaborated with Ludovic Eveillard to create a start-up called NaWaTechnologies based in Rousset, near Aix-en-Provence and the first carbon nanotube mats were made two years later.(nawa in Japanese = short string, but na(no) + wa(arming)
NaWaCap Power super capacitors offer power densities between 10 and 100 times higher than existing super capacitors.

Their Equivalent Series Resistance = ESR is more than 10 times lower. The temperature (low and high) and frequency behavior is also greatly improved and NaWaCap Power super capacitors thus make it possible to preserve more than 5 times more energy at high or low temperature or at high frequency compared to current products.

NaWa set up a subsidiary NaWa America in Dayton, Ohio, created by the acquisition of the assets of the US leader in VACNT for composite applications, N12 Technologies. Working with Dr. Paul Kladitis’ Multifunctional Structures and Materials at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), with Laboratory, NaWa America has developed NaWaStitch, a thin film made of hundreds of billions of carbon nanotubes all aligned vertically which serves as an interface between the folds of composite materials and like a “nano-velcro” mechanically reinforces this interface.

NaWa America has also signed an exclusive license agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the work of the research laboratory of Professor Brian Wardle (NECSTLAB), well known in the fields of composites and nanotubes.

In February 2020 NaWaTechnologies in France raised €13 million to build next-generation production line equipment at Rousset by 2021, allowing NaWa to steadily build up to over 100,000 ultracapacitor cells per month when at full capacity. The integration of this technology for future urban mobility, including electric buses, trams or autonomous vehicles is estimated at around 2024/2025.

At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, as proof of concept, NaWaTechnologies revealed its 150 kg NAWA Racer concept e-bike which debuted their NaWaCap innovation.

The bike’s 9kWh lithium-ion battery can capture 80% more energy by regenerative braking. The smaller battery is mounted low in the chassis and will weigh around 10kg, much less than current electric sportbike batteries.

This gives the NAWA Racer a 300km (186 miles) range for inner-city riding, while recharging in just 2 minutes or an 80% entire battery charge in one hour.

NaWa Technologies is also developing a concept called NaWaShell, an integrated structural hybrid battery that incorporates VACNT to give two complimentary characteristics: enhanced mechanical strength and electrical energy storage within the core of the composite structure.

NaWa’s dry electrode technology also brings significant environmental advantages, being easily recyclable and eco-disposable at the end of its long lifecycle. As a result, NAWA estimates that by using an Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode in lithium battery cell, the CO2 footprint could be reduced by as much as 60%, simply because less active material is required.

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223: apple and pineapple animal-free leather


Not only is the slaughter of millions of animals for meat considered very cruel, but also the secondary industry of tanning the hide


In recent years, when animal rights are something people are more aware of, animal-free leather innovations are being trialled.

One of these is apple leather. The raw material grows in Southern Tirol over an area of around 4,500 ac (18,400 ha) where 60 million apple trees deliver the healthy fruit into the hands of more than 7,000 fruit farmers every year.

Around 950,000 tons (860,000 tonnes) of apples are harvested a year – 10 % of the European apple harvest. Most of the apples end up in supermarkets, however many are processed into juice or puree, with stalks, fibres and peel left as residue.

This is known as apple pomace. Animals are pleased to have the delicious waste, some of which is also incinerated to produce energy.

A few years ago, Hannes Prath, founder of the company Frumat in the Italian town of Bolzano (Bozen), the industrial area of Florence, had the idea of producing imitation leather from apple waste.

To do this, the fruit waste is dried and ground to a powder, which is applied to a tear-resistant cotton canvas with a biological plastics substitute. The solvent still remaining on it is washed out; the residual elements fuse together at 130°C to make the finished apple leather, which currently makes up 50 % of the material for bags; for stability, the rest is made of biodegradable polyurethane (PU).

One of the companies to take up this product was Nuuwaï (New Way) founded in Isernhagen Hamburg by a vegan called Svenja Detto who had seen saw a post on TV about it. This was not without reason: Svenja’s father Gunnar Detto founded the handbag label ‘diboni’ six years before and was selling more than 1,000 of his own women’s handbag designs a year.

The appleskin bags are made by a family-run concern in India. Customers think that apple leather looks very such as animal leather and more genuine than traditional imitation leather. The lining is made of recycled plastic that has been fished out of the sea.

For this Detto buys up remaining stocks of ECOALF, which they no longer use. In this way they support the “Upcycling the Oceans” project and conserve resources. Because all used materials are free from animal derived ingredients nuuwaï is {PETA-Approved vegan}. The Nuuwaï bags, initially available in black are now produced in light blue, pink, apricot and other colours. (

For Dr Carmen Hijos, discarded pineapple leaves are the key. Originally from Spain, Hijos was working for the Design Centre Philippines leather export industry in the 1990s, but was shocked at the environmental impact of mass leather production and chemical tanning.

Inspired by the abundance of natural resources, including the use of plant fibres in traditional weaving such as the delicate Barong Tagalog garments, Hijos sought to create a new, non-woven textile that could be commercially produced, provide positive social and economic impact and maintain a low environmental footprint throughout its life cycle.

She then spent seven years developing the product through a PhD at the Royal College of Art in London, and joint collaborations with Bangor University in Wales, Northampton Leather Technology Center, Leitat Technological Centre in Spain, alongside NonWoven Philippines Inc. in Manila, and Bonditex S.A., a textile finishing company in Spain.

In 2015 she presented Piñatex at the PhD graduate exhibition. To make one square meter of Piñatex takes 460 leaves but there is no shortage of raw material. Global pineapple production topped 28 million tons (25 million tonnes) in 2016, according to Statistica.

Since its commercial launch in 2015, Piñatex faux leather has been used by about 500 manufacturers, including vegan sneakers sold by fashion house Hugo Boss, a jacket by H&M, by Altiir’s for their biker-style jacket, by Somebody People for their barstools, by Apple as a strap for their watch and by Chanel for its luxury gold boater hat.

Lucie Trejtnarová, a postgraduate student at the Faculty of Multimedia Communication, Tomas Bata University in Zlín (UTB), Czech Republic, and materials manufacturer Fillamentum have developed the Organic 3D printed shoe collection. The experimental sandal line integrates 3D printed outsoles from TPU-based Flexfill 98A, Malai, also known as coconut leather, and Piñatex.

Another approach to make leather handbags, pairs of shoes, smartphone hulls clothing and upholstery, but not using animals has been taken by Nawal Allaoui, a student at the Higher School of Textile and Clothing Industries (Esith) in Morocco.

This young woman was working in social entrepreneurship in the coastal zone of Sidi Rahal with the wives of the fishermen who cleaned the fish and took away the spines of sea urchins.

She observed how the skins, considered as waste, usually go to the trash to pile up in bins where they decompose in oily matter. After several tests in her room at the boarding school of Esith, Nawal was able to concoct an innovative recipe for the tanning of fish skins, based on Moroccan organic products, such as henna.

In 2016, Nawal founded SeaSkin, sourcing raw fish skin (sole, whiting and salmon from fish restaurants and a fish fillet plant, before training six women in Sidi Rahal to peel the skin by removing the remaining flesh residues and rinsing the whole. The next day is devoted to vegetable tanning, Nawal bathes the skins by gradually incorporating the preparation made from natural products. Finally, the skin will be ready to go into a dye bath to be customized according to the product.

At the end of the chain, the final touch is to flatten and dry the leather to create a luxury leather goods product. There is no fish smell because the oils, naturally present in the skins, are replaced by natural tanning or protective oils, so the object simply smells of leather. For the marketing of its products, Nawal sells only online.

In England, Lucy Hughes, a graduate of the product design program at the University of Sussex, has also developed a method of using fish waste, scales and skin, to make a bioplastic called MarinaTex, which can biodegrade back into the soil in only six weeks. Over 172,000 tons (156,000 tonnes) of fish waste produced annually by UK processing plants alone could be converted. Hughes was awarded the 2019 James Dyson Innovation Award.

Near Biarritz, on the Franco-Spanish border, Erik de Laurens and Edouard de Dreuzy have developed Scalite, using salmon scales from the local fishing industry and sardine scales from Brittany.

Once cleaned, crushed they are transformed into powder without any addition of chemical product. Made from this flour-like dust, Scalite with a marbled or more homogeneous appearance is resistant to scratches and fire and can be worked like wood hence of great interest to architects and decorators.

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Planet Care

222: Terra Carta


Big business must invest in the health of the planet and people. What good is all the extra wealth in the world, gained from ‘business as usual,’ if you can do nothing with it except watch it burn in catastrophic conditions?


Terra Carta, (= Earth Charter), a pledge to put planet first and raise $10bn (£7bn) to ‘bring prosperity into harmony with nature.’

On Monday 11th January, 2020, at the One Planet summit in Paris, with the participation of around thirty personalities, most of them in videoconferencing, Charles the Prince of Wales, a lifelong environmentalist and heir to the British throne, launched Terra Carta, a document that asked signatories of several international institutions to agree to almost 100 actions to become more sustainable by 2030.

In the Terra Carta’s statement of intent, the voluntary commitments include supporting international agreements on the climate, biodiversity and desertification, regenerative farming and biofuels, and similar efforts to protect half of the planet by 2050, and make investment and financial flows consistent with a future of low greenhouse gas emissions.

While some signatories are big investors or financiers for the fossil fuel industry and sectors linked to biodiversity loss, a $10 billion investment in nature will be made by 2022 through the newly created Natural Capital Investment Alliance. Companies supporting the launch of the Terra Carta included BlackRock, Bank of America and HSBC, BP. AstraZeneca (AZN), EY, Unilever (UL), Heathrow Airport, and Fidelity International.

The Prince stated “If we consider the legacy of our generation, more than 800 years ago, Magna Carta inspired a belief in the fundamental rights and liberties of people. As we strive to imagine the next 800 years of human progress, the fundamental rights and value of nature must represent a step-change in our ‘future of industry’ and ‘future of economy’ approach.”

Later on Monday, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, announced that an envelope of 14.3 billion dollars (11.8 billion euros) over five years (2021-2025) had been constituted for an 8,000 km “great green wall” intended to prevent the advance of desert in the Sudano-Sahelian zone, which crosses 11 countries in Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

The countries concerned in the foreground by the project are: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Chad.

The first One Planet Summit was aimed at leading, at the end of the year, to the adoption of a new roadmap for the protection of ecosystems at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to be held in early October in Kunming, China.

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Planet Care

221: Petráková’s 8th Continent


The live-giving ocean is suffering, and we need to help restore its balance for our planet’s survival. We can not achieve it only by technology, but we need an interdisciplinary platform to educate people and change their relationship with the marine environment for the generations to come.

Solution: “The 8th Continent”

Lenka Petráková, a Slovakian-born Senior Architect at Zaha Hadid Architects has come up with a design for a huge floating station that collects plastic debris from the water’s surface and breaks it down into recyclable material. She calls it The 8th Continent.

The structure is designed for the Pacific Ocean and it is composed of five main parts: the barrier, the collector, the research and education centre, greenhouses, and living quarters with support facilities.

The barrier serves to collect waste and harvest tidal energy. The waste is then sorted, biodegraded and stored in the collector. As well as cleaning up the water, Petráková also imagines the floating station as an interdisciplinary platform.

The research and education centre is, therefore, a place to study and demonstrate the increasingly worrying conditions of marine environments.

Each of the five parts is adapted to suit its function. The barrier floats on the water’s surface and moves waste towards the collector. the collection technology at the centre of the building is designed to optimize waste handling. the research and education centre is linked to the collector and greenhouses to follow the water processes and study them.

Greenhouses are shaped to optimize condensed water collection and resemble large sails to allow wind to navigate the station. The living quarters, public spaces and support facilities pass through the building’s centre and connect all parts, geometrically matching the ship’s keel.

Natural forces affect the station’s movement and position as well as the inside environment. The floating station is self-sufficient so the station’s elements must cooperate and optimize the power source.

The barrier also collects tidal energy, which powers the turbine to collect the waste. Solar panels cover greenhouses and ensure there is enough power for the water reservoirs’ heating, allowing the evaporation of water and its desalination.

After the wastewater extraction, the filtered clean water is pumped into the water tank and either desalinated or used for halophilic plants’ hydrophobic cultivation.

The 8th Continent was awarded the 2020 grand prix award for architecture and innovation of the sea following a competition launched by the Foundation Jacques Rougerie Génération Espace Mer – Institut de France

It has still to be built.

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Planet Care

220: Nanosprings to break down microplastics


Up to 14 million tons of plastic enters the ocean annually, 40 percent of which is considered “single-use”, which means it goes into the water within the same year that it was produced. Most plastics never fully break down; they just fragment into smaller pieces called microplastics (5 millimetres across or smaller).

Microplastics have been found in every corner of the globe, from the deepest part of the Mariana Trench to the top of the French Pyrenees.


Nanosprings for breaking down microplastics

Xiaoguang Duag and a team at the University of Adelaide South Australia found that nanotechnology – which involves the ability to see and to control individual atoms and molecules – could be a solution to our plastic problem.

Duag and a team of scientists have created magnetic coils that will be used to break down microplastics using a chemical reaction.

These tiny magnetic coils are coated with nitrogen and manganese, causing a chemical reaction with oxygen molecules. This reaction can break down microplastics, turning them into environmentally friendly salt compounds, carbon dioxide and water. In a new study published in the journal Matter, scientists describe a new type of nanotechnology that could help: tiny magnetic “nano-coils” that create chemical reactions in order to break down microplastics in the ocean. The process converts the plastic into carbon dioxide and water.

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Human Effort Your Home

219: Cell-grown meat


Apart from the destruction of forests to make prairies for livestock, the latter’s methane emissions contributing to GHGs, their intake of antibiotics and their traumatic electrocuted death prior to preparation as edible meat have seen an exponential rise in the number of vegetarians and vegans worldwide.

Vegetarianism categories were estimated in 2018 to be about 11% of the world population.


Slaughter-free meat involves taking a sample of animal stem cells from a real cow, the building blocks of muscle and other organs and replicating them outside of the animal.

The cells are placed in petri dishes with amino acids and carbohydrates to help the muscle cells multiply and grow. The concept of cultured meat was popularized by Jason Matheny in the early 2000s after co-authoring a seminal paper on cultured meat production and creating New Harvest, the world’s first non-profit organization dedicated to supporting in vitro meat research.

In August 2013, Mark Post, a Dutch pharmacologist and Professor of Vascular Physiology at the Netherlands’ Maastricht University, was the first to showcase a proof-of-concept for cultured meat by creating the first burger patty grown directly from cells.

The burger was cooked by Chef Richard McGeown of Couch’s Great House Restaurant, Polperro, Cornwall, and tasted by critics Hanni Rützler, a food researcher from the Future Food Studio and Josh Schonwald. To commercialize the product, Mark Post co-founded Mosa Meat, indicating that they planned to bring cultured meat to the market by 2021.

In 2015, Maastricht University hosted the first International Conference on Cultured Meat. As the field has grown, non-profit organizations such as New Harvest and The Good Food Institute have begun hosting annual conferences to convene industry leaders, scientists, investors, and potential collaborators from parallel industries.

In 2018, a Dutch startup Meatable, consisting of Krijn de Nood, Daan Luining, Ruud Out, Roger Pederson, Mark Kotter and Gordana Apic among others, reported that it had succeeded in growing meat using pluripotent stem cells from animals’ umbilical cords.

Although such cells are reportedly difficult to work with, Meatable claimed to be able to direct them to behave using their proprietary technique in order to become muscle cells or fat cells as needed. The major advantage is that this technique bypasses fetal bovine serum, meaning that no animal has to be killed in order to produce meat.

It is estimated there were about 30 cultured meat startups across the world. A Dutch House of Representatives Commission meeting discussed the importance and necessity of governmental support for researching, developing and introducing cultured meat in society, speaking to representatives of three universities, three startups and four civil interest groups on September 26, 2018. (

In California, Just is developing lab-grown chicken nuggets, while Finless Food has developed a lab-grown tuna and Memphis Meats, is working on another cell-based product.

In Israel, in 2017 Professor Shulamit Levenberg from Technion University founded Aleph Farms in Rehovet, to commercialise the technique of growing bovine cells on a scaffold similar to growing human tissue implants.

A study by researchers at Oxford and the University of Amsterdam found that cultured meat was “potentially … much more efficient and environmentally-friendly”, generating only 4% GHG emissions, reducing the energy needs of meat generation by up to 45%, and requiring only 2% of the land that the global meat/livestock industry does.

In March 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed on a framework to regulate laboratory grown meat. This deal takes lab meat one step closer to being approved for commercial sale in the United States. Some lab meat producers expect this approval within the year, but some experts warn this process might take years.

During 2019, the nascent, laboratory-grown meat industry experienced fast development thanks to millions of dollars in capital investment. Estimates suggest these meats could reach a mass market by 2025,

The multi-billion dollar traditional meat-producing industry does not approve, warning that the energy and fossil fuel requirements of large-scale cultured meat production may be more environmentally destructive than producing food off the land.

In May 2019, the Alabama Senate passed a bill to ensure that laboratory-grown meat substitutes are not sold to Alabama consumers labeled as “meat.” There are over 20,000 cattle farms in the state of Alabama. Beef continues to be a favorite protein among consumers across the world, with exports of American beef representing an US$8 billion industry alone.

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218: A battery that can be charged 23,000 times


The lithium-ion battery is limited in the number of times it can be recharged – 500 times.


In his nineties, John Goodenough, whilst one of the pioneers of the li-ion and the lithium iron phosphate battery, has been investigating another solution in the lithium-sodium glass battery.

Together with Maria Helena Braga, a Portuguese physicist at the Cockrell School of Engineering, at the University of Texas, they have developed a battery that can be charged/discharged up to 23,000 times, in minutes instead of hours.

The solid-state lithium battery  uses a glass doped with alkali metals making it non flammable. Their prototype offers three times’ the energy density of li-ion and performs well in both hot and cold weather.

In March 2020 the Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec announced that its research lab, comprising 120 people, would be preparing the battery for commercialisation, in collaboration with Braga and the 97-year-old Goodenough who in 2019 was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for chemistry. The utility announced that the battery would be ready in two years’ time, before Goodenough’s hundredth birthday.

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217: Vertical farms


For thousands of years the only way to farm was horizontally or on terraced slopes.


In a 1999 effort to figure out an effective way to feed the population of New York using only urban rooftop agriculture, Columbia University environmental health sciences professor Dr. Dickson Despommier and his students developed the idea of a a 30-story urban farm with a greenhouse on every floor: in other words, a contemporary vertical farming tower.

The next key element was the employment of LED to balance light emissions in order to increase the return rate of vegetables. This system was tuned to service two types of chlorophyll, one preferring red light and the other blue. (Despommier has since gone on to become the world’s foremost expert on and proponent of vertical farms.).

In 2006, Shinji Inada, a former vegetable trader, founded SPREAD, and opened his first indoor vertical farm facility the following year in Kameoka, Japan. The company spent years refining systems for lighting, water supply, nutrients and other costs. By 2013, producing 21,000 heads of lettuce per day, which at the time was the world’s largest vertical farm in terms of production, Spread finally turned its first profits. Their brand, “Vegetus” was soon available in supermarkets nationwide.

In 2014, a partnership system and global expansion strategy for Spread’s vertical farming business was established. In 2015, they announced the concept for the leading vegetable production system. This new low cost and more environmentally friendly system would first be constructed in a new facility called Techno Farm Keihanna in the Kansai Science City, designed as the world’s largest automated leaf-vegetable factory with an output of 30,000 heads of lettuce a day.
This system can produce or 648 heads of lettuce per m² annually, on racks under custom-designed lights using light-emitting diode. A sealed room protects the vegetables from pests, diseases and dirt. Temperature and humidity are optimized to suitable growth of the greens, which are harvested by robots.

The Techno Farm will use only 110 milliliters of water per lettuce, 1 % of the volume needed outdoors, as moisture emitted by the vegetable is condensed and reused. Electrical power consumption per head will also decrease, with the new factory using custom-designed LEDs that require about 30 % less energy. A collaboration with telecoms company NTT West on an artificial intelligence program to analyze production data could boost yields even more. Spread won the Edison Award in 2016 for its vertical-farming system. (

Spread is not alone. As of 2014, Vertical Fresh Farms was operating in Buffalo, New York, specializing in salad greens, herbs and sprouts. In March the world’s then largest vertical farm opened in Scranton, Pennsylvania, built by Green Spirit Farms (GSF). The firm is housed in a single story building covering 8 ac (3.25 ha), with racks stacked six high to house 17 million plants. The farm grows 14 lettuce crops per year, as well as spinach, kale, tomatoes, peppers, basil and strawberries. Water is scavenged from the farm’s atmosphere with a dehumidifier.

AeroFarms in Newark, New Jersey leans heavily on intelligent machines, a sustainable 70,000 ft.² (6,500 m²) vertical farm located in a former steel factory in the Ironbound section. There, 2 million lb (907,000 kg) of greens and herbs are produced each year, using an aeroponic growing method.  Aeroponic growing towers are a closed-loop system, recycling the water and nutrients with virtually zero waste.

AeroFarms patented growing system mists the roots of their plants with targeted nutrients, water, and oxygen. This system uses up to 95% less water than field farming to grow high-quality produce faster and more efficiently, with zero pesticides. After testing hundreds of growth media for their plants, they have developed a patented, reusable cloth medium made out of 100% recycled materials for seeding, germinating, growing, and harvesting.

With projects in development in China, the United Arab Emirates, and Europe, AeroFarms has its sights on the world, but is still very focused on Newark. Where they have four farming operations and employ over 120 people — 40 % of whom live in Newark, with 80 % within a 15 mi (24 km) radius.

AeroFarms produce is sold through their retail brand, Dream Greens. Meanwhile, Bowery, which is growing crops inside two warehouses in New Jersey, can promise people in New York that their “bok choy” did not travel far at all. (

Some commercial ventures have targeted wealthy nations in the Middle East as prime candidates for vertical farms because of the high cost of importing fresh produce.

In 2019, Dubai’s Emirates Flight Catering began construction of a 130,000 ft.² (12,000 m²) vertical farm, located near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central to supply airlines in a joint venture with California-based Crop One Holdings. The US$40 million facility was planning to deliver its first vegetables to airlines and airport lounges in December 2019.

Due to the COVID19 pandemic, the program to produce 6,000 lb (2,700 kg) of herbicide-free and pesticide-free leafy greens every day was postponed. In April 2020, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) invested US$100 million to four agri-tech companies to set up high-tech agricultural facilities including an 88,000 ft² (8200 m²) plant by AeroFarms.

In Canada, Elevate Farm is working with North Star Agriculture to bring vertical farming and ‎‎‎production of leafy green vegetables to northern Canada including Yukon and other isolated northern territories. Once the installation completed and begins to operate, it is expected to produce an estimated 9,100 kg of leafy green vegetables per week and reaching over 473,200 kg crops per year. (

Other high-rise farms have appeared in office towers or condos as part of the design. In Tokyo’s Ginza shopping area, stationery retailer Itoya tends a vertical farm on the 11th floor of its 12-story building to supply lettuces exclusively to its cafe, at a cost that would be uncompetitive with vegetables grown in outdoor farms.

Javier F. Ponce and a team at Smart Floating Farms (SFF) in Barcelona, Spain hav designed a sustainable, solar-powered vertical farm that floats on pontoons, making it possible to grow food off a coast, in the open sea or just about any large body of water.

The designers estimate that SFF can produce an estimated 8,152 tonnes of vegetables and 1,703 tonnes of fish annually. The farm is comprised of three levels and features innovative agricultural technologies that are already in use around the globe. It can be modified or stacked in different ways to suit the needs of respective locations.

The top level incorporates rainwater collectors for irrigation needs, photovoltaic panels for electricity and skylight openings to provide natural light for plants. It’s also possible to integrate other renewable power technologies such as micro wind turbines or wave energy converter systems.

The second level features a greenhouse and hydroponic systems (which allows crops to grow year round in any weather and without soil).

Lastly, the ground level is designated for offshore aquaculture. According to the designers, this cage fishing method takes place in the open sea and eliminates the exposure to wind and waves. This level also includes a hatchery where fish eggs are incubated and hatched, a nursery for growing fish, a slaughterhouse and a storage room to hold the fish before they are ready for the market.

The designers said the farm is ideal for many large cities or densely populated areas with access to water.

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Planet Care Your Home

216: Less thirsty rice


Traditional rice farming is heavily reliant on ready supplies of water and labour. Climate change and urbanisation, however, threaten traditional paddy cultivation.


A team led by plant development biologist Dr Smita Kurup at the Rothamstead Research in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based in the Philippines, and Punjab Agricultural University, India, are using use cutting edge plant breeding technologies, field trials and an image based system for measuring traits to accelerate the development of new direct seeded rice (DSR) adapted rice varieties that can be grown with less water than conventional puddled transplanted rice.

In many parts of Asia farmers are switching to direct seeded rice DSR as a more sustainable alternative. This is grown in dry fields, so uses less water and requires less work. It also cuts out the greenhouse gases that bacteria in paddy fields produce.

Kurup has already identified in the lab hitherto ‘unknown’ varieties more suitable to DSR in terms of their seedling traits by screening several hundred varieties from the International Rice Genebank at IRRI.

As a next step, the plan is to use these lines to combine with current good yielding and disease resistant rice cultivars to generate new high-yielding “DSR adapted” rice varieties.
Once developed, their field performance will be evaluated at multiple locations. Finally, the most promising breeding lines will be nominated for trails in Asia before releasing to farmers.

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215: Turning plastic garbage into oil – on a desktop!


To convert plastic waste into fuel usually requires transporting the raw material to a fairly sizeable factory.


Akinori Ito wanted to make the process of plastic recycling more accessible, so that less landfill would be required — an increasing problem in his densely-populated native Japan.

So he invented a tabletop Batch-type machine (called Be-h), household appliance which converts plastic bags into fuel.

To operate, users put their plastic trash in a large bucket, then screw on a lid. The temperature inside rises, slowly melting the plastic, which becomes a liquid and then a gas. The gas passes through a tube into a container filled with water, where it than cools and forms oil again. That oil can then be burned as-is or further separated into gasoline, diesel and kerosene. A kilogram of plastic turns into about a litre of oil.

In 2011, Akinori set up the Blest Corporation to commercialise his solution which he called the Be-h. Initially it retailed for approximately $10,000, and Ito was planning to bring the price down as the system became more popular.

There was also a Small-scale system (with a max. capacity of 200kg/hr and a Big-scale system with two models (one with a max. capacity of 1000kg/24h and the other with a max. capacity of 2000kg/24h).

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214: Lithium from geothermal heating plants


Five times more lithium than is mined currently is going to be necessary to meet global climate targets by 2050, according to the World Bank.


Lithium extracted from geothermal waters.

In 1864, huge quantities of lithium were discovered in a hot spring is discovered nearly 450m (1,485ft) below ground in the Wheal Clifford, a copper mine in Cornwall. But 19th-Century England had little need for the element, and this 122C (252F) lithium-rich water continued boiling away in the dark for more than 150 years.

Instead, Cornwall became world famous for its tin and copper mines.

In 2016 Cornish Lithium was founded by mining engineer and businessman Jeremy Wrathall and a team of 10 full-time geoscientists led by Lucy Crane to use modern extraction methods at the United Downs Geothermal Power site, the UK’s first deep geothermal electricity plant.

The site, confirmed as having some of the world’s highest grades of lithium in geothermal waters (260 milligrams per litre) would have a tiny environmental footprint in comparison with conventional surface lithium mining, including very low carbon emissions.

The directors of Cornish Lithium have secured agreements with various holders of mineral rights in Cornwall to explore for, and to commercially develop, lithium bearing hot spring brines throughout areas considered to be highly prospective.

In August 2020, the project won £4m ($5.3m) backing from the UK government, allowing a pilot lithium extraction plant to be built in the next couple of years and move Cornish mining into the 21st century.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 215: Recycling plastic to make oil – on a desk top!

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Energy Mobility

213: Molten Salt Reactor Ship


Over the coming decades, as many as 60,000 ships must transition from combustion of fossil fuels to zero-emission propulsion and reduce emissions by 50% of the 2008 total, before 2050. T


Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Chairman of TerraPower nuclear tech company in Washington has linked up with Mikal Bøe’s London-based Core Power, French nuclear materials handling specialist Orano and American utilities firm Southern Company to develop Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) atomic technology in the USA with the potential for use in commercial shipping.

The team including Rob Corbin of TerraPower and Giulio Gennaro of Core Power has submitted its application to the US Department of Energy to take part in cost-share risk reduction awards under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, in order to build a prototype MSR as a proof-of-concept for a medium-scale commercial-grade reactor.

Their solution will be using a fluid fuel in the form of very hot fluoride or chloride salt typically composed of beryllium-fluoride (BeF2) and lithium-fluoride (LiF), infused with high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), a ‘hot’ fissile material instead of solid fuel rods which are used in conventional pressurized water reactors (PWRs).

They have no moving parts, operate at very high temperatures under only ambient pressure, and can be made small enough to provide ‘micro-grid-scale’ electric power for energy-hungry assets, like large ships.

For this reason, they can be mass-manufactured to bring the cost of energy in line with existing fuels.
MSRs are walk-away safe. The fuel salts for MSRs work at normal atmospheric pressure, so a breach of the reactor containment vessel would simply leak out the liquid fuel which would then solidify as it cooled.

Bjørn Højgaard, the CEO of Hong Kong ship manager Anglo-Eastern ( has commented “I think that in 50 years nuclear molten-salt-reactors will be par for the course in the shipping industry, and we will look back at the current time and wonder why we dabbled in alternative pathways for greenhouse gas-free propulsion.”

Ports will also be able to use energy from ships installed with m-MSR to power equipment and machinery while the ship is at berth, through reverse cold ironing. Power generated by m-MSR will be cost competitive when compared to terrestrial energy sources available to the port.

Discover Solution 214: lithium from thermal waters

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212: Drone fireworks


Traditional fireworks create a toxic fog of fine particulates, poisonous aerosols and heavy metals.


Drones were used in several cities to ring in 2021. In London a 10-minute show used more than 300 drones which were flown around the Millenium Dome after the annual fireworks display at the London Eye was cancelled.

The London Show  ended with the image of a sea turtle and ended with Sir David Attenborough calling for people to work in 2021 to help our ‘fragile’ planet. In Scotland 150 drones were part of a three-part choreographed show called “Fare Well” to say bye to 2020 and welcome

Three months’ before, during the night of September 20, some 3,051 drones took to the skies above Zhuhai, Guangdong, China to break the record for the most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) airborne simultaneously.

During this official challenge, the design executive team represented achievements of Chinese space science and technology in the night sky, such as the Tiangong-1, Beidou satellite system and China’s space station.

The benchmark for this record was set by a 2,200 drone display in Russia on September 4, 2020. This broke the Guinness World Records title set by Intel Corporation (USA) with 2,066 drones in Folsom, California, USA on 15 July 2018.

Another solution is the Japanese solution of sticky rice fireworks, which offers fireworks with far less smoke. The rice cares are prepared, toasted then broken apart before heating them again and making paste once more. Although this takes a bit of effort, it produces the ultimate paste.

If the adhesive strength is neither too weak nor too strong, a beautiful hoshi combustion will not be achieved

Thailand rang in the New Year 2021 with a 1.4 km display of 20,000 sticky rice fireworks along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya riverfront as eco-friendly message of hope to the world.

Discover Solution 213: The molten salt reactor ship

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Your Home Planet Care

211: Xeriscaping your lawn


Every year across the USA, manicured grass lawns covering up to 50 million acres of land, consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water a year, 200 million gallons of gas (for all that motor mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides. … In fact, these lawns can do substantial harm to the environment and to both vertebrates and insects.


Xeriscaping: lawns that are less thirsty.

The concept combining “landscape” with the Greek prefix xero-, from ξηρός (xēros), meaning dry, was coined and trademarked by Denver Water, the Colorado city of Denver’s water department, during a difficult drought period in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Lawns were a European invention, England to be precise, and they were the undertaking of the fabulously wealthy, seeking to bring the glade closer to home.

Originally, they were cultivated with more useful (though not necessarily used) plants like chamomile or thyme. However, the trend moved towards closely cropped grasses, first maintained by grazing sheep then by men with scythes and finally, eventually, moving along (in fast forward) to the suburban land owner with his fossil fuel lawnmower, trimmers, and multitude of weapons against nature.

A growing number of homeowners are converting part or all of their lawns to a less thirsty form of landscape. These no-mow yards fall into four categories: 1) naturalized or unmowed turf grass that is left to grow wild; 2) low-growing turf grasses that require little grooming (most are a blend of fescues); 3) native or naturalized landscapes where turf is replaced with native plants as well as noninvasive, climate-friendly ones that can thrive in local conditions; and 4) yards where edible plants—vegetables and fruit-bearing trees and shrubs—replace a portion of turf.

In Montreal, Canada, landscape gardeners Philippe Asselin, Emile Forest and Jonathan Lapalme have created an ngo “Les Nouveaux Voisins” (= the new neighbours) to replace lawns with gardens favorable to biodiversity.

They encourage individuals to change cultures to accommodate more plants, birds, insects, and other non-human neighbours. This in turn will reduce heat islands, increase carbon sequestration in soils as well as increased community resilience.

Organizations like the Surfriders Foundation, a national environmental group made up of surfing aficionados, have helped transform turf lawns in Southern California parks and homes into ocean-friendly gardens, using succulents and other indigenous plants along with hardscape materials like rocks and gravel that increase filtration, conserve water, and reduce runoff.

Xeriscaping goes one step further by replacing grassy lawns with soil, rocks, mulch, and drought-tolerant native plant species. Trees such as myrtles and flowers such as daffodils are drought-tolerant plants.

Native grasses (warm-season) that have been cultivated for turf lawns, such as buffalo grass and blue grama, can survive with a quarter of the water that bluegrass varieties need.

What you can do: Xeriscape your lawn.

Discover Solution 212: Drone fireworks

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Human Effort

210: The Great Wall of Lagos


Lagos, the most populous city in Africa (24 million) is also one of its most vulnerable to sea level rise and floods. But during the rainy seasons, the city’s streets can become almost impassable. If global warming exceeds 2C, the city is predicted to see 90cm of sea level rise by 2100, according to research led by marine physicist Svetlana Jevrejeva, of the UK’s National Oceanography Centre.


Floating structures, ferryboat fleet, the Great Wall of Lagos, and groynes.

The suburb of Makoko, known as the “Venice of Africa”, is a labyrinthine slum built on stilts and navigated by canoe. The Makoko Floating School is a structure resting on recycled empty plastic barrels for buoyancy.

The school’s pyramid shape helped lower its centre of gravity and so increase its stability, while also being an ideal roof shape for shedding heavy rains

A floating music hub made from timber and consists of three floating vessels housing a multipurpose live performance hall, a state-of-the-art recording studio and a platform for thirsty guests. This is part of NLÉ’s African Water Cities project, which seeks to find new ways for waterfront communities to live with rising sea levels.

The Lagos State Waterways Authority now runs more than 42 ferry routes on the waterways with 30 commercial jetties and terminals spanning across three districts.

One prominent defence against rising waters is the “Great Wall of Lagos”, a barrier made of 100,000 concrete blocks weighing five tonnes each. The 18m-high (60 ft) sea defence protects a stretch of shoreline by Lagos’ Eko Atlantic, a development being built on reclaimed land, and will be 8.4km long when completed.

Other structures to protect the sea include constructing 18 groynes on the shores of the Eko Atlantic. A groyne is a structure built to trap sand and prevent it from washing into the ocean. Those installed at Eko Atlantic are each spaced 400m (1,300ft) apart and span a distance of 7.2km (4.5 miles). Further groynes have been proposed to cover up to 60km (37.3 miles) of the state’s coastline

Discover Solution 211: Xeriscaping

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Planet Care

209: Predators as pesticides


Chemical insecticides kill off good insects as they do bad ones, and they poison the ecosystems on which crops and wildlife thrive


Using natural predators such as ladybird beetles as a form of pest control.

In 1888–1889 the vedalia beetle, Rodolia cardinalis, a lady beetle, was introduced from Australia to California to control the cottony cushion scale, Icerya purchasi. This had become a major problem for the newly developed citrus industry in California, but by the end of 1889 the cottony cushion scale population had already declined.

This great success led to further introductions of beneficial insects into the US. A century later, the convergent lady beetles or bugs are a strong solution for the biological control of aphids. They will lay 600-700 eggs in batches of 40-50 close to the pests and during their larval stage, lady beetles will consume 600 aphids each and in doing so they help to protect crops.

Companies like Insect Lore have them for sale in batches of 1500 but often homeowners find them too expensive. The ladybugs should be released within one week of emerging from their pupal stage, preferably in the evening after sundown or in the morning before sunup.

Results of a study, published in June 2018 in Environmental Research Letters, demonstrated for the first time the economic benefit of using natural predators such as ladybird beetles as a form of pest control. The study estimated that cotton farmers in China could save more than US$300 million by doubling the density of ladybirds in their fields.

Discover Solution 210: Fighting rising seawater with The Great Wall of Lagos.

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208: Office and home furniture from chopsticks


Asian fast food consumption in the United States surged by 135% between 1999 and 2015, increasing the popularity of Asian cuisine at an unstoppable rate. This has lead to a significant rise in chopstick use worldwide. It is estimated that in the Metro Vancouver district of Canada alone, approximately 100,000 chopsticks are discarded each day after being used for only 20 minutes to shovel sushi into a greedy mouth.


Furniture made out of recycled chopsticks

The idea was born over trays of sushi. Felix Böck, then a PhD student at Canada’s University of British Columbia, was venting his frustration over the scant interest in his proposal to use waste wood from demolition and construction sites.

His solution involves collecting thousands of used chopsticks from restaurants, cleaning them, sorting them and then pressing them in a carbon-neutral hydraulic hot press that Felix Böck designed.

They are then transformed into 8×8-inch engineered bamboo tiles — an innovative new material with the same strength, durability and beauty of the original bamboo. These are then made into furniture and home décor products.

For example; SMILE a modular shelving unit made from 4,276 recycled chopsticks and recycled construction steel; a work-from-home desk from 9,600 chopsticks or a simple butcher’s block.

Böck ‘s start-up ChopValue currently has around 500 partnering companies across the 3 cities they operate in: Vancouver, Montreal, and Los Angeles. They are made up of small and large restaurants in and out of malls, and notably, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) which recently celebrated recycling their 1 millionth chopstick.

By 2021, ChopValue has recycled more than 32 million chopsticks – diverting them from landfills and creating employment for 40 people.

Böck, aged 32, has also developed a franchise concept for global expansion whereby with microfactories operating in multiple cities, ChopValue can truly be local, wherever their suppliers and customers are, for a more efficient process while being a carbon negative company:Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo

What you can do: Purchase the recycled chopstick items at ChopValue

Discover Solution 209: Predators instead of pesticides.

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Human Effort Your Home

207: Sewing with seaweed


As the world consumes more and more clothing, brands and suppliers are trying to meet this increasing demand by producing more garments. As these clothes make their way through the supply chain and product lifecycle, they take part in an environmentally hazardous sequence of events.


Rapidly degradable yarns from kelp.

In Brooklyn, New York, Aaron Nesser, a graduate of Pratt Institute, Tessa Callaghan, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, with Aleksandra Gosiewski, Asta Skocir and Theanne Schiros researched into polymers made mostly from sustainable sea kelp

By 2018, they got to a point where they were spinning the polymer into something that, when worn, was durable and which they called AlgiKnit. Completely customizable, the material’s yarn-like strands can be any dimension and knitted to spec for sneakers and handbags, or the company can alter the hand-feel, durability and size of the material to create accessories like wrist watches

With their proof of concept landing the team $2.2m in seed investment from Hong Kong venture capital firm Horizons Ventures, AlgiKnit was also awarded €100K from the Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge

While they experimented with an idea for a futuristic-looking trainer and collaborated with a designer to make a French-style market bag that was hitting fashion weeks that year, they eventually decided to focus on scaling up the production of the seaweed textile which can be died with pigments at scale.

Discover Solution 208: Office and home decor made from chopsticks

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206: Kayaks from recycled plastic


Plastic kayaks are rotationally molded (‘rotomolded’) from a various grades and types of polyethylene resins ranging from soft to hard. Such kayaks are particularly resistant to impact and particularly slow to biodegrade.


Kayaks made of recycled materials.

In 1971, when Graham Mackereth turned his love of kayaking into a full-time job and started building kayaks in his father’s garage, most kayak touring was done in fibreglass ‘general purpose’ kayaks, which varied little from boats designed for slalom, and confusingly were frequently referred to as ‘canoes’.

Since 2012, all Mackereth’s Venture Kayaks have been made incorporating recycled plastic from their own scrap and from their second-hand kayak scrapage scheme, effectively closing the loop in their waste cycle.

In July 2015, Rob Thompson of Cornwall, England, had the honour of meeting Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, during The Ocean Plastics Awareness Day.

Here he signed a Statement of Intent, as a pledge to explore ways to develop a circular economy around marine plastic. Taking this responsibility seriously, Rob started to contemplate what he could create from marine plastic.

The eureka moment came after participating in a litter pick using kayaks, at the end with all participants stood around a great haul of bin bags to have their photo taken, he had an idea.

The knowledge that these bin bags ended up in landfill had always played upon Rob’s mind and it occurred to him that he could make the kayaks out the plastics gathered and then use these kayaks to gather more plastic.

It took a further two years of research and development for Rob to find a way of recycling the marine plastic into a material suitable for kayak manufacturing.

During this time he formed partnerships with Keep Britain Tidy, to assist in recycling beach plastic and Plastix to recycle fishing nets.

In January 2018 to deliver this plan Odyssey Innovation Ltd. was created to collaborate with the Ocean Recovery Project, charities, ngos, government bodies, the fishing industry, recyclers, manufacturers, Innovators and businesses, in order to find long-term sustainable solutions to tackle marine plastic pollution by incorporating the circular economy.

For manufacture, Rob approached Palm Equipment, in Clevedon, near Bristol, a based leading kayak manufacturer, with a recycled material suitable for roto moulding. Within a matter of days, the world’s first prototype marine plastic recycled kayak was produced.

Several prototype kayaks were created of varying styles, which are currently being used for campaigns throughout Europe to retrieve and raise awareness about marine plastic.

In December 2017, the ocean plastic recycled kayak project was highly commended in the category of Tomorrow’s Contribution to Sustainability at the Cornwall Sustainability Awards ceremony. In 2018 it also received the highly commended award for the Best Contribution to a More Sustainable Tomorrow through Innovation. Odyssey Innovation started selling the kayaks in January 2019.

In Tumbes, a village in southern Chile, Bureo, a start-up founded by three North American surfers, is collaborating with local fishermen to keep hundreds of tonnes of discarded fishing nets out of the ocean each year. Nets are sorted, cleaned, and cut in Bureo’s warehouse in Concepción, a city a few miles from Tumbes.

Here they are turned into 100% recycled polyester and nylon pellets, called NetPlus, which are sold to companies as a sustainable alternative to first-use plastics. Patagonia’s hat brims now use Netplus, accounting for 60 tonnes of recycled material, while Trek uses it for bike parts and Humanscale for office chairs.

What you can do: Purchase products made of recycled plastic.

Discover Solution 207: Sewing with seaweed

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205: Stinkfruit supercapacitors


Graphene supercapacitors are expensive to make. About half the materials cost comes from the use of activated carbon to coat the electrodes. Supercapacitor-grade activated carbon can cost $15 per kilogram.


Using inexpensive biochar to coat electrodes and a new method to create the porous surface needed to capture electricity may reduce the cost of supercapacitors. Activating the biochar using plasma processing takes only five minutes with no external heating or chemicals needed.

Vincent Gomes, a chemical engineer at the University of Sydney, and his team, including Labna Shabnam have found a solution to convert the inedible parts of the world’s largest and smelliest fruits, Durian and Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) into carbon aerogels – porous super-light solids – with “exceptional” natural energy storage properties.

These fruits were used to produce carbon aerogel electrodes incorporating stable scaffolding of base material and natural nitrogen doping. They heated, freeze-dried and then baked the inedible spongey core of each fruit in an oven at temperatures of more than 1,500°C (2732°F).

The black, highly porous, ultralight structures they were left with could then be fashioned into electrodes of a low-cost supercapacitor.

Until now, 70% of jackfruit or durian has been thrown away – but can now be recycled.

Discover Solution 206: Kayaks from recycled plastics.

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Human Effort

204: “Iron Man’s” Footprint Coalition


For several years, Robert Downey Jr. made a great deal of money portraying billionaire industrialist Tony Stark “Iron Man” in the box office success Marvel Cinematic Universe films; Stark is a chief weapons manufacturer for the U.S. military, until he has a change of heart and redirects his technical knowledge into the creation of mechanized suits of armour which he uses to defend against those that would threaten peace around the world.

Off-set Downey pondered on how focused on how he might save the Earth in real-life rather than just on-screen?


In 2019, when Downey Jr. unveiled his new, sustainability focused initiative called the FootPrint Coalition at Amazon’s re:MARS conference it was little more than a static website and a subscription prompt.

The millionaire actor said that the goal of his initiative was to use robotics and artificial intelligence to clean up Earth and reverse its carbon footprint

By 2021 the FootPrint Coalition, with five portfolio companies working on solutions rather than “a smattering of elite mega-corporations, launched a rolling venture fund, Footprint Coalition Ventures at the World Economic Forum’s Digital Davos event.

With the new rolling fund, managed through AngelList, Downey Jr.’s initiative sits at the intersection of two of the biggest ideas reshaping the world economy — the democratization of access to capital and investment vehicles and the $10 trillion opportunity to decarbonize global industry. The firm has identified six investment areas: sustainability-focused consumer products and services; food and agriculture technology; materials and industrial tech; energy and transportation; education and media; and advanced environmental solutions.

Up to 2,000 investors are eligible to participate in each of the two funds (a limit set by SEC rules). Each backer must invest a minimum of $5,000 per quarter, meaning the first FootPrint Coalition Ventures funds could raise more than $80 million per year.

To promote its endeavours, the CV firm will tap into Downey Jr.’s creative team — and his huge social-media footprint, which comprises more than 100 million followers. The goal is to use storytelling to translate scientific concepts into accessible information to promote awareness and attract talent to the cause, according to Downey Jr.: “We want to turn complex subjects into culture-defining content, and offer our audience an opportunity to invest with us.”

Discover Solution 205: Stinkfruit supercapacitors

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Materials Energy

203: Iron Fuel


With the exponential use of electric power, replacing that of fossil fuels, as many reliable solutions as possible must be found to produce it.


Iron powder and rust

Ground very fine, cheap iron powder burns readily at high temperatures, releasing tremendous energy as it oxidizes in a process that emits no carbon and produces easily collectable rust, or iron oxide, as its only emission.

The energy released can be applied in various applications such as chemical processes, generation of electricity, or even used as a means of propulsion.

That rust can be regenerated straight back into iron powder with the application of electricity, and if you do this using solar, wind or other zero-carbon power generation systems, you end up with a totally carbon-free cycle.

The iron acts as a kind of clean battery for combustion processes, charging up via one of a number of means including electrolysis, and discharging in flames and heat.

The generated iron fuel in the reduction process can be stored and transported in a cheap and safe manner with hardly any energy losses. As a result, iron fuel enables energy provision, wherever and whenever.

In 2015, J.M. Bergthorson & colleagues of McGill University in Canada published an article in the Journal of Applied Energy about the potential of metal fuels and iron fuel in particular.

The following year, led by Philip de Goey, a multidisciplinary team of 30, students many already with bachelor’s and master’s programs, was set up at the Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands. Called SOLID, it has been dedicated to the advancement of metal fuels and combustion technology.

As proof of concept, the 340-year-old Royal Swinkels Family Brewers (formerly Bavaria NV), from Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands formerly using coal-fired power plants, has been using metal powder as a sustainable fuel to produce steam for their brewing process using an installation built by SOLID and the Brabant-based Metalot Power Consortium.

The system, capable of providing all the heat necessary for some 15 million glasses of beer a year, has been funded by the province of Noord- Brabant, and cooperation with the Metalot.

SOLID is now developing an improved 1 Mw iron fuel system, followed by a 10-MW system that should be ready in 2024. Our ambition is to convert the first into sustainable iron fuel plants by 2030

In addition, since May 2019, SOLID’s Maritime Innovation Impuls project (MIIP) is researching how to use iron fuel for various types of ship propulsion, with trials of the first iron-fuel ship by 2021.

Discover Solution 204: Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition

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Human Effort Materials Your Home

202: Invisible barcodes for recycling


Many consumers struggle to figure out which items can be recycled while sorting our rubbish at home. Machines in sorting plants can face the same problem. This prevents many countries from achieving the recycling rates they would such as.


Ravi K. Sharma of Digimarc in Portland, Oregon has developed and patented an “invisible” barcode which can more accurately identify recyclable plastics that could prevent their unnecessary disposal into landfills or incinerators.

Digimarc has signed Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which is focused on building a Circular Economy for plastics.

Products have disguised codes printed all over them making it easier to scan distinguishing food-grade plastics from non-food grade plastics so the right kind of plastic can be re used to manufacture new items.

Following successful initial trials carried out by TOMAR at a recycling facility in western Germany, involving scanning and photographing items at 150 frames per second, in 2020 the system will be installed in a conventional waste sorting plant.

The system, called HolyGrail has already involved a consortium of twenty of the world’s biggest brands, including Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Danone.

At home, individuals will be able to use an animated app on their cellphone to identify and place different types of plastic in the right trash cans.

Discover Solution 203: Iron fuel

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201: Furniture from Beer


Brewing grains used in making beer are only partially reused (for breeding, compost, human food, etc.). In 2017, 300 million tonnes ended up fermenting in a waste reception center (figure based on French beer consumption in 2017, i.e. 2 billion liters.)


Furniture made out of wasted brewing grains

Cabinet designer and maker Franck Grossel, 27 years old, of St.-Quentin, Hauts-de-France, France has founded Instead to convert grains into a wide range of variations (tables, bar stools, lamps, acoustic panels, particle boards, etc.) amplified by its technical characteristics (flexibility, resistance, malleability, impermeability, etc.)

Based on the colour of the beer brewed, from lager to dark stout, the colour of the furniture can be varied.

Instead was the 2020 laureate of the Banque Populaire Foundation.

What you can do: Purchase some beer grain furniture from Instead

Discover Solution 202: A barcode that makes recycling more efficient

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200: Fish skin leather

Welcome to and the 200th Solution from our one-a-day leap year’s worth of ideas, inventions and tips to take up and share for cleaning, up repairing and protecting our Planet.

The 81 solutions for new types of low carbon, recyclable and other Materials are only a beginning and are accompanied by 18 related to Carbon Capture, 70 solutions we have categorized as Planet Care, 40 in new Energy, 23 Mobility solutions, 49 that rely on just a little bit of collective Human Effort and 44 that you can utilize immediately in Your Home.

There are still 166 to come, and we hope you will join us by following on facebook, Instagram or twitter to find out about a new one each day.

Because there is something you can do, that your family and friends can do, that we all can do to clean up, repair and protect our planet. All it takes is the right solutions!

Read on for Solution 200!


Most edible fish is de-skinned and the skin thrown away.


Having earned their degrees in chemical engineering, Benjamin Malatrait and Gauthier Lefébure spent three years researched a solution achieve chromium-free vegetable tanning of fish skins recovered from Japanese restaurants in Paris, which they called “Cuir Marin de France” marine leather.

They named their first product “Squama”, highly quality flaked salmon leather, soon followed by sturgeon leather and Dombes carp leather.

Naming their brand Ictyos (ichthys in Greek means fish), Malatrait and Lefébure collaborated with the Leather Centre at Lyon to finalize the development of the drum process before setting up its own 250m² premises – the first tannery to be created in more than 40 years in France – in Saint-Fons, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France.

Recycling fish skins locally and then from fish farmers across France, Ictyos marine leather is used for the making small leather goods, jewellery and watch-making markets. The first orders for salmon leather, mainly in black, red, blue, blue, gold and brown tones, are in progress.

What you can do: Visit the ICTYOS Shop to purchase a stylish product made of fish skin leather.

Discover Solution 201: Furniture made from beer grains

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199: Ice rink


Canada is home to nearly 8,000 indoor and outdoor ice arenas and the USA close behind with 2000 rinks, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation. All depend on electrically produced manmade ice, requiring high maintenance costs and energy consumption.


In 2010, Toni Vera, an ice hockey player and engineer of Seville, Spain was appalled by the enormous amounts of energy and water needed for the production of conventional ice.

He came up with a polyethylene compound laminated onto both sides of 2′ X 4′ plywood panels, that are laid in a brick interlocking’ pattern with imperceptible seams. When one side wears out, the panels can be flipped over and the other side used. Vera’s solution uses no power, water, chemicals or resurfacing equipment to operate and offers an ecological and economical alternative to refrigerated ice.

Vera was joined by Viktor Meier of Lucerne, Switzerland to start up Glice which since 2012, has installed more than 2,000 Glice Eco Skating Rinks in more 85 countries from classical winter sport nations to the tropics.

One example was Mexico City, when on December 16, 2019 the world’s largest skating rink was on the city’s main square, known as Zócalo. Compared to a conventional ice rink of the same size, this 43,000 square foot Glice rink saved 49,000 gallons (360,000 litres) of water and eliminate electrical energy consumption equal to about 4,000 average households.

That represents a reduction of about 95 tons of CO2 emissions connected with electrical power generation. This Zócalo rink was installed in less than 24 hours; in contrast a refrigerated rink of this size can take weeks to install.

Other companies marketing synthetic ice are Xtraice, and PolyGlide Ice.

REALice, developed and patented by Curt Hallberg and Morten Ovesen at Watreco Ab in Åkarp, Sweden is Vortex process, air bubble-free water treatment system that uses unheated water to resurface ice rinks, reducing an arena’s natural gas usage by 79% and its electricity consumption by 12% – all without sacrificing ice quality. More than 300 ice arenas across the globe use the technology.

Through REALice technology, Ice Box Arena, in Kamloops, British Columbia, has conserved about 55,000 kWh of electricity, enough to power a home for almost five years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Discover Solution 200: Fishskin leather

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198: Hydrogen home batteries


How to store the electricity generated by solar farms so it can be available to sell on the electricity market during peak demand when the sun does not shine.


Store the energy in hydrogen batteries

A research team led by Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou at the Material Energy Research Laboratory in nanoscale (MERLin), part of the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of New South Wales  has spent twelve years developing metal alloys (particularly titanium with other common materials) capable of storing surplus electricity in the form of hydrogen much more cheaply than lithium batteries.

The system uses solar power to create hydrogen, 3 mass % of which can be stored over 10 years until needed for electricity production via a fuel cell.

The solid-state mix can operate in a range of temperatures, from -10° to +50° – depending on the climate the storage is intended for.

Since 2016, Aguey-Zinsou has secured over $3 million in grant funding and established the EnergyH Project, a hydrogen research laboratory unique to the Australia scene.

In 2020, with UNSW’s Hydrogen Energy Research Centre backed by $10 million from Providence Asset Group, this solid state hydrogen technology will be trialed at the community solar farm at Manilla, near Tamworth to store hydrogen in 20 ft (6 m) containers with an energy density of 17MWh becoming the first of this kind in the world in terms of scale.

The startup, H2Store plans to produce the world’s first hydrogen batteries, brand-named LAVO, for households as soon as early 2021, eventually freeing Australia of its dependence on coal.

What you can do: Preorder a LAVO hydrogen battery now

Discover Solution 199: Artificial ice

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197: Elon Musk’s Hyperloop


Any effort to increase mass transit decreases energy consumed by invidual vehicle owners. Most rail transit uses electrical energy.


In 2013, Tesla electric sportscar maker, Elon Musk re-invented a passenger train that would be faster than trains, safer than cars and much less damaging to the environment than aircraft. He called it Hyperloop.

It incorporates reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules, travelling at up to 620 mph (1000 kph) ride on air bearings driven by linear induction motors and axial compressors. Musk proposed a route running from the Los Angeles region to the San Francisco Bay Area, roughly following the Interstate 5 corridor.

An agreement was signed in 2017 to co-develop a Hyperloop line between Seoul and Busan in South Korea. Although Musk originally envisaged his Hyperloop system being used by cars and personal pods, in 2018 he announced that instead it would give first place to pedestrians and cyclists.

The tunnels would still transport cars, but only after all personalized mass transit needs have been met. His Boring Co. urban loop system would have 1000’s of small stations the size of a single parking space that take the 124 mph (200 kph), midibus rider very close to their destination & blend seamlessly into the fabric of a city, rather than a small number of big stations such as a subway.

Where the Hyperloop differs from high-speed rail is that Musk has proposed scattering Hyperloop entrances along connecting cities more akin to subway stops rather than train halls, and that it was more for “personal transit”. The downside would that the machines building Hyperloop will use more electricity.

On November 8th 2020, the renamed Virgin Hyperloop made its first 100 mph passenger carrying trial at the company’s DevLoop test track in the desert outside Las Vegas, in the Nevada desert. The first two passengers were Virgin Hyperloop’s chief technology officer and co-founder, Josh Giegel, and head of passenger experience, Sara Luchian.

Parallel to Musk’s Hyperloop, China is building an experimental maglev train which by using vacuum-sealed tunnels, would reach speeds of more than 620 mph.

The prototype, laid in the central province of Hubei in early 2020 will be capable of reducing time from Hubei’s capital city, Wuhan, to the near-coastal city of Guangzhou, to just under two hours for a distance 1,367 mi. (2,200 km.). Hubei expects to start testing 124 mi (200 km.) sections of these vacuum tunnels in 2020 to “to verify the cutting-edge, high-temperature superconducting maglev theory and ultimately push the speed limit to 620 mph ( 1,000 kph).

Discover Solution 198: Hydrogen home batteries

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196: Hydrogen from salt and polluted water


One of the main methods of producing hydrogen is to decompose water by exposure to sunlight. There is a lot of water on our planet, but only a few methods suitable for salt or polluted water.


Scientists of Tomsk Polytechnic University’s Research School of Chemistry & Applied Biomedical Sciences, jointly with teams from the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague and Jan Evangelista Purkyne University in Ústí nad Labem, have developed a new 2-D material to produce hydrogen.

The material efficiently generates hydrogen molecules from fresh, salt, and polluted water by exposure to sunlight. In addition it is one of the few systems which can use the infrared spectrum, which is 43% of all sunlight.

The developed material is a three-layer structure with a 1-micrometer thickness. The lower layer is a thin film of gold, the second one is made of 10-nanometer platinum, and the top layer is a film of metal-organic frameworks of chromium compounds and organic molecules.

Experiments have demonstrated that 100 square centimeters of the material can generate 0.5 liters of hydrogen in an hour. It is one of the highest rates recorded for 2-D materials.

Discover Solution 197: Elon Musk’s Hyperloop

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Human Effort

195: Iceberg-towing tugs


Global warming means that some regions are stricken by historic droughts while at the same time ice from polar waters is melting at an equally unprecedented rate.


Take the cold water to the hot regions.

The volume of water that breaks off Antarctica as icebergs each year is greater than the total global consumption of freshwater. This does not include Arctic ice.

According to a National Geographic report, “the towering glaciers” of west Antarctica “are crumbling and melting, the rate speeding up over the decades and imperiling the stability of the entire ice sheet.”

Greenland is also reported to be losing its ice sheet at an alarming rate. With Europe’s heatwave reaching the Arctic, 11 billion tons (10 billion tonnes) of Greenland’s surface ice was lost to the sea in the biggest melt of the summer.

This is pure freshwater, effectively wasted as it melts into the sea and contributes to rising sea levels.

More icebergs come out of Antarctica than the total global consumption of freshwater. Every year this is around 140,000 icebergs, or 2,000 billion ton (1800 billion tonnes) of ice. These all melt in the sea.

This untapped flow of water has enticed scientists and entrepreneurs for over a century.

There were 19th-Century schemes to deliver by steam-boat to India, and to supply breweries in Chile. In the 1940s, John Isaacs of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute proposed towing an iceberg to San Diego to quench a Californian drought. The EU received proposals in the 2010s to tow an iceberg from Newfoundland to the Canary Islands.

The latest iceberg-towing schemes to emerge have come from Cape Town and the United Arab Emirates – two regions suffering from extreme and persistent water shortages.

In the spring of 2018, Cape Town came ominously near to ‘Day Zero’, the day the reservoirs could dry up and a city of four million people would run out of water. Personal use of water was limited to 50 liters per day.

When the rains finally came, Day Zero was averted, but perhaps only for another year. Meanwhile in the UAE, one of the world’s most arid states, the energy minister has declared water consumption a “huge concern” for the country, and that they were trying to find alternatives.

Since 1975, Saudi Prince Mohamed Al-Faisal, a nephew of the Saudi king, has wanted to tow an Antarctic iceberg across the equator to Saudi Arabia, and funded two international conferences on the subject.

He enlisted the help of French engineer Georges Mougin along with other engineers and a polar explorer, in a venture called “Iceberg Transport International.” Faisal planned on wrapping a 100-million-ton iceberg in sailcloth and plastic to keep it cool and tugging it from the North Pole to the Red Sea, though the cost was estimated at an exorbitant US$100 million.

For a swank conference on “iceberg utilization,” he even managed to ship, via helicopter, plane, and truck, a two-ton “mini-berg” from Alaska to Iowa, where the giant block of ice was chipped apart to chill delegates’ drinks. According to a Time report from October of 1977, Faisal predicted that he would have an iceberg in Arabia “within three years.”

Twenty years later Emirati businessman Abdulla Alshehi began to fund a project to ship an enormous Antarctic iceberg all the way to Perth. The 10-month endeavour will see an iceberg, measuring approximately 1.5 mi (2 km) by 540 yd (500 m), dragged by tugboat from Antarctic waters to the Arabian Gulf. It uses 3-D technology, recently declassified satellite data, and the new science of oceanic forecasting.

The large body could lose 30 % of its mass on the way over, but the Emirati “ice pirate” said enough would still be left over to provide fresh water to one million UAE residents over five years. The trial is set to take place in either Perth or Cape Town and if successful will see an even bigger chunk towed via tugboat to the Fujairah coast in the UAE. Generally, the weight of icebergs ranges from 100,000-200,000 metric tons.

An iceberg of that size can contain almost 25 to 50 million gallons (100 to 200 million liters) of fresh water. This would be a huge boon to the UAE which receives just 4 in (10 cm) of precipitation annually and receives much of its potable water from desalination.

In addition to providing water, the company hopes the introduction of the icebergs will have an impact on the environment. They claimed that melting icebergs will release freshwater into the Arabian Sea in a manner intended to “rebuild ecological balance, reduce seawater salinity caused by brine discharge from desalination plants and restore biodiversity.”

The company also claims that cold air from the iceberg parked off the coast could change the climate of the desert nations, generating year-round rainstorms.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 196: Hydrogen from polluted water

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