Categories
Carbon Capture Materials Your Home

6: Kaalink • printer ink from car exhausts

Problem:

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

Solution:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories
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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Categories
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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Categories
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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