Materials Planet Care Your Home

51 Bird protecting glass

Solution 50 in a 1-a-day series of 366 creative, hopeful ideas to clean up, repair, protect our planet:


Billions of birds are killed annually following collision with the large panes of glass used in modern buildings.


Bird protection glass with an ultraviolet-reflective coating. Birds can see the coating, but it is virtually invisible to humans.

In the late 1990s Dr. Alfred Meyerhuber, a German attorney with a personal interest in birds and science read an article in a magazine about orb weaver spiders and their use of stabilimenta. Orb weaver spiders, common worldwide, build their distinctive webs using strands of silk with UV reflective properties.

Meyerhuber was good friends with Hans-Joachim Arnold, the owner of Arnold Glas, a manufacturer of insulated glass products headquartered in Remshalden, Germany. As a young business owner, Arnold was motivated by technical and environmental challenges and looked for ways to set Arnold Glas apart from its competition.

When Meyerhuber brought the orb weaver spider’s strategy to his attention, Arnold was intrigued. Despite initial resistance by the board of directors, he convinced the company to undertake the necessary research and put his company to work developing a product that would have the same UV-reflecting qualities as spider silk.

Arnold Glas’s Head of Research and Development, Christian Irmscher, led the technical product development of ORNiLUX. The coating was developed together with technicians at Arnold Glas’s sister company, Arcon, located in Feuchtwangen, Germany, which specializes in thin low-e and solar coatings for architectural glass.

The companies tested many different coating types and patterns. The researchers found that a patterned coating (versus a solid coating) made the contrast of the glazing more intense: the coated parts reflected UV light while the interlayer sandwiched between two layers of glass absorbed the UV light. The two functions together enhanced the reflective effect.

Although the specific pattern of a spider’s web inspired the solution, Irmscher and his team had to design a unique pattern for the window coating in order to make the application process practical.

After patenting the transparent UV coating in 2001, Arnold Glas introduced ORNiLUX SB1 Bird Protection Glass, its first commercial product using the technology, in 2006. The vertical lines of UV-reflective coating used in this product were sometimes perceptible but very subtle and not visually distracting.

Three years later, the company introduced an improved second-generation product, ORNiLUX Mikado. The name refers to the crisscrossed UV pattern of the design and comes from the German name for the game of pick-up sticks.

The new pattern and improved coating of Mikado is nearly invisible to the human eye. Independent pre-market testing by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, demonstrated that ORNiLUX windows are highly effective at protecting against bird strikes.

The first project in the USA to use ORNiLUX was at the Center for Global Conservation at the Bronx Zoo and was completed in 2009. The architects specified ORNiLUX SB1 for the entire building, but in the end it was used in only a corner conference room that had the biggest risk of bird strikes.

An ongoing monitoring program has noted a dramatic difference between the portions of the building with and without the bird-safe glass.

A year later, Munich’s Hellebrunn Zoo used ORNiLUX Mikado in the design for a new outdoor polar bear exhibit. Due to the zoo’s location near the Isarauen Nature Reserve, which harbours many wild kingfishers, bird collisions were a significant concern.

The zoo had other outdoor glass enclosures with a history of bird strikes, and previous attempts to use hawk silhouettes and bamboo plantings to protect the birds had failed.

ORNiLUX Mikado was used for the polar bear enclosure and pelican house. Zoo officials were pleased to find a solution that did not block visitors’ views of the animals and noted in the first months after it was installed that no birds had collided with the glass.

Ongoing testing of existing and new configurations continues with American Bird Conservancy’s Flight Tunnel Test Facility located at the Carnegie Museum Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, PA.  Additional tests are conducted with a flight tunnel facility in Rybachy, Russia.

At the American Institute of Architects Expo in June 2019, Arnold Glas debuted new oversize production capabilities for its bird-safety glass, ORNILUX. It is now offered in a maximum size of 126 x 472 in (320 x 1200 cm).

What you can do: Tell local architects and builders about Ornilux.

Discover Solution 52: How to stop birds crashing into solar panels

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Materials Human Effort Planet Care

50: Rocket high speed composting machine

Solution 49 in a 1-a-day series of 366 creative, hopeful ideas to clean up, repair, protect our planet:


The conventional composting of biowaste is slow.


The Rocket high-speed composting machine.

In the early 1990s, John Webb of Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, wanting to speed up the composting process on his smallholding, developed a machine that could treat his garden waste and horse manure and turn it into highly nutritious compost in just 14 days.

Working closely with DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) after the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, Webb and his son Simon continued to develop the machine to ensure it was fully compliant with the Animal By-Products Regulations to safely treat other organic wastes, including food waste.

They founded Tidy Planet to build and commercialise a machine they called the Rocket.

It comprises a continual flow system with waste being mixed with dry woodchip for compost production. The capacity of the electrically-powered Rocket range of machines goes from 154 gallons (700 liters) up to 3.9 tons (3.5 tonnes) per day.

Tidy Planet expanded its globally-acclaimed range of Rocket composters, with the creation of the B1400, a machine specially-commissioned for its French distributor: Alexandre Guilluy and Fabien Kenzo of Les Alchimistes needed equipment that would process up to two tonnes of a mix of food and shredded wood wastes every day – in line with the site’s waste processing threshold.

Les Alchimistes have a fleet of trailer bicycles and small vans which go around Paris collecting food waste from supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels across the French capital.

This is assembled at Lil’O known locally as L’Île-Saint-Denis an island in the River Seine, 6 mi (10km) north of The Eiffel Tower where it is turned into compost, to be sold to urban agriculture and gardening.

Due to the project’s resounding success, Les Alchimistes has received support from the French Government and EU funding to set up similar food waste collection centres in Lyon, Toulouse, Toulon, and Marseille, each of them using Tidy Planet’s B1400 Rocket. Les Détritivores based at the Ecosytème Darwin in Bordeaux are carrying out a similar operation.


In China, another solution dealing with food waste is to feed it to cockroaches (Blattodea) which then become either feed for livestock or for curing oral and peptic ulcers, skin wounds and even stomach cancer. At one farm, run by Li Yanrong in the Zhangqiu District, over 1 billion cockroaches are consuming some 55 tons (50 tonnes) of kitchen waste every day.

Elsewhere in Sichuan, a company called Gooddoctor is rearing 6 billion cockroaches, while Shandong Qiaobin Agricultural Technology Co., in Jinan plans to set up three more such plants, aiming to process a third of the kitchen waste produced by Jinan, home to about seven million people.

What you can do: Tell local authorities about advances of Rocket composters in large towns.

Discover solution 51: The miracle of birdsafe window panes

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Planet Care

48: Bioremediation for oil spill clean ups


Oil spills spread toxins throughout marine and shore ecosystems, killing and causing genetic defects in flora and fauna.


Bioremediation  –  the use of microorganisms, plants, or microbial or plant enzymes to detoxify pollutants into non-toxic substances.

Since the iconic 1969 oil well blowout in Santa Barbara, California, there have been at least 44 oil spills, each over 10,000 barrels (420,000 gallons), affecting U.S. waters. On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef in Alaska, spilling 40.9 million litres (11 million gallons) of crude oil over 1,000 miles (km of shoreline.

It is thought to be one of the worst man made environmental disasters ever. But three years later the worst oil spill in history, the Gulf War oil spill spewed an estimated 8 million barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf after Iraqi forces opened valves of oil wells and pipelines as they retreated from Kuwait in 1991.

The oil slick reached a maximum size of 101 miles by 42 miles and was five inches thick. is a process used to treat contaminated media, including water, soil and subsurface material, by altering environmental conditions to stimulate growth of microorganisms and degrade the target pollutants.

The bioremediation breakthrough came in 1972 when George M Robinson, assistant county petroleum engineer for Santa Maria, California successfully used microbes to clean out the fuel tanks on the RMS Queen Mary, the start of implementing bioremediation towards contamination sites.

This was improved by Ananda Chakrabarty, an Indian American microbiologist, who carried out performed bacterial genetics to mate the pollutant-eating bacteria into a single “super-bug” Alcanivorax borkumensis, that would eat multiple components of oil.

Following the Exxon Valdez spill, cleanup by physical methods such as skimming the water and spraying the rocky shore with detergents was used first, and the result dispersed about two-thirds of the oil. Then the genetically engineered bacteria and other bacterial strains were added to consume the remaining oil.

Because bioremediation became a prototype in the almost never-ending oil spill cleanup sites since, it has involved many interactions within scientific researchers all over the world.

Provided that proper nutrients are present, an oil spill that was estimated to be cleaned by natural conditions in 5-10 years could be cleaned in 2-5 years with the use of bioremediation.

Daniel J. Kevles, “Ananda Chakrabarty Wins a Patent: Biotechnology, law, and Society, 1972-1980”, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, Vol. 25, No. 1 (1994), pp. 111-135

Discover solution 49: Look! No microplastics!

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Planet Care Materials

43: Bionic Leaf fertilizer


Plants have been transforming sunlight into things that we can use for fuel for 1.6 billion years. However, with a few exceptions, they are still only about 1% efficient.


In 2009, Daniel D. Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) founded a startup called Sun Catalytix to develop a prototype design for a system to convert sunlight into storable hydrogen which could be used to produce electricity.

During the next two years, Nocera developed what he called the “artificial leaf,” a silicon strip coated with catalysts on each side. When placed in water and exposed to sunlight, the leaf splits the H2O to release oxygen on one side and hydrogen on the other.

In August 2014, Lockheed Martin purchased the assets of Sun Catalytix, and now Sun Catalytix technology is being commercialized under the venture, Lockheed Martin GridStar Flow.

Soon after, Nocera was appointed Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, teaming up with Pamela Silver of Harvard Medical School to create the “Bionic Leaf”.

This merged the artificial leaf with genetically engineered bacteria Ralstonia eutropha that feed on the hydrogen and convert CO₂ in the air into alcohol fuels or chemicals.

The first model that used the nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy created a reactive oxygen species that destroyed the bacteria’s DNA.

Abnormally high voltages were used to prevent the microbes from dying, but they also resulted in reduced efficiency. An improved model removed the nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy catalyst and allowed the team to reduce the voltage.

The new catalyst improved the efficiency of producing alcohol fuels by nearly 10%. The Bionic Leaf operates at solar-to-biomass and solar-to-liquid fuels efficiencies that greatly exceed the highest solar-to-biomass efficiencies of natural photosynthesis.

With this system, Xanthobacter bacteria which pull nitrogen from the air and use the bioplastic, which is basically stored hydrogen, to drive the fixation cycle to make a bacteria-laden yellowish liquid that can be sprayed onto fields.

But the real proof is in the radishes. In greenhouse experiments at the Arnold Arboretum, radishes grown with this X. autotrophicus fertilizer ended up more than double the size of control radishes grown without added fertilizer.

The researchers have used their approach to grow five crop cycles. The vegetables receiving the bionic-leaf-derived fertilizer weigh 150% more than the control crops. In 2018, Nocera founded a second company called Kula Bio, to focus on the development of renewable and distributed crop organic fertilization and land restoration.

When mass-produced, these tiny solar “carbon-negative” fuel factories could be inexpensive enough for everyday people to use to power their vehicles and run their lights and appliances.

Farmers with a small on-site array of bionic leaves could create enough fertilizer for their own needs instead of buying container-loads of synthetic fertilizer produced at sprawling CO₂-spewing factories and shipped for thousands of miles.

Daniel D Nocera and Dilek K Dogutan,“Artificial Photosynthesis at Efficiencies Greatly Exceeding That of Natural Photosynthesis” Accounts of Chemical Research 52(11) · October 2019.

Discover solution 44: soybean automobiles

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Materials Planet Care

42: Seaweed to shoes


Sargassum algae accumulates on beaches and releases poisonous gases such as hydrogen sulphide and ammonia when it decomposes.


Turn the algae into shoes, office supplies, packaging, slabs, glasses frames, mugs and more.

Since 2011, the Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago have faced larger and more frequent invasions of Sargassum algae and the problems associated with it.

One method of cleaning is by spade and barrow onshore. Another is by raking boats offshore. Barrages of shallow nets floated by long buoys can be used to ward off algae drifts, depending on wave height and current. Several companies have found solutions to convert Sargassum into compostable biomaterial.

Having worked in plastics manufacturing for 15 years where he specialised in the development of biomaterials, in 2010, Rémy Lucas of Saint Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine), France founded Algopack to commercialise his formula for sourcing Sargassum powder to produce a biomaterial from which office supplies, packaging, slabs, glasses frames, mugs, caddies chips etc. are made.

This included finding a system to capture Sargassum, stabilize it and make sure it does not rot during shipping from the Caribbean.

With two other Breton companies, Olmix (Morbihan) and Codif (Saint-Malo), Algopack founded an acceleration company called BioAlg. Its objective is to create a worldwide chain and to structure the collection of Sargassum, on an industrial scale. In 2015, the company was bought by Lyreco, the European leader in the distribution of office supplies and personal protective equipment. Based in Valenciennes, the group employs 2,500 people in France.

In Quintana Roo, a Mexican state on the Yucatán Peninsula, after five years of research and development, Jorge Castro Ramos of Guanajuato founded Renovare to make clothing-grade textile fibers and environmentally friendly footprint objects using recycled plastic and sargassum.

Traditionally, Sargassum was used as a natural fertilizer or a herbicide to improve the harvest of products like corn, squash, chili and beans.

Recently, this fertilizer process has been commercialised by SUEZ, through its subsidiary SITA Verde. Supported by ADEME, in Guadeloupe, SUEZ has introduced Sargassum from the territory of the riverbank deposits of the Riviera du Levant in its recovery processes.

Discover solution 43: fertilizing with the “Bionic Leaf”

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Planet Care

35: Buildings that absorb carbon dioxide


The high levels of CO₂ in cities need to be reduced, captured and stored.


Living architecture like an algae curtain that can absorb as much carbon dioxide as 20 large trees.

Dr Marco Poletto and Claudia Pasquero of EcoLogicStudio in East London collaborated with University College London, UK and the University of Innsbruck to create a digitally designed and custom-made bioplastic flat photobioreactor that uses daylight to feed living micro-algal cultures and releases faint bio-luminescent shades at night.

Unfiltered city air enters the curtain from the bottom, and as it travels up through the liquid in the tubes, the micro-algae within capture the carbon dioxide molecules. This process of photosynthesis also produces oxygen, which is released from the top of the unit.

One curtain’s ability is equivalent to a mature tree. The main material of the hardware is ETFE, a hi-tech polymer with exceptional transparency, durability, fire retardant properties and recyclability. Another beneficial by-product of the process is biomass, which the algae grow from the sequestered carbon, and which can be burnt for energy or turned into bioplastic material, such as that used to make the curtain.

EcoLogicStudio’s first large-scale design for the Milan EXPO 2015, was an interactive pavilion containing living microalgal cultures that oxygenated air and provided shade from the sun.

In 2018 an installation of bio-curtains, composed of 53 x 22 ft (16.2 x 7 m) modules and dubbed “Photo.Synth.Etica”, was installed at the Customs and Revenue House in Dublin, during the Irish capital’s Climate Innovation Summit, created in collaboration with climate-KIC, EU’s most prominent climate innovation initiative.

Another installation was set up outside the House of Nobility Palace in Helsinki as part of that city’s Fashion Week. Here they absorbed approximately 2 lb (1 kg) of CO₂ per day, equivalent to that of 20 large trees.

In 2020, London will see its first Photo.Synth.Etica on display, as part of an exhibition at The Building Centre in June. Bio-curtains would have to be adopted on a very large scale to start making any meaningful effect.

Find out more:   •

Discover  solution 36: plastic food containers made from sugar cane

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Human Effort Planet Care

34: Billion Tree Tsunami


Pakistan has lost large swaths of forest to decades of felling, which makes it vulnerable to deadly flooding and landslides.


In 2014, Muhammad Tehmasip and a team from the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa launched Plant for Pakistan (Plant4Pakistan) and set about planting of 1 billon trees over five years. The Billion Tree Tsunami, as it is now known, reached its goal in August 2017.

On September 3, 2018, after becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan launched a 5-year, country-wide 10 billion tree plantation drive from Makhniyal, KPK to combat the effects of AGW. This is part of the even greater initiative launched by the IUCN to restore 370 million ac (150 million ha) of degraded and deforested land worldwide by 2020, and 865 million ac (350 million ha) by 2030.

Discover solution 35: Buildings that absorb CO2

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Planet Care Human Effort

31: Beach-cleaning machines


Beaches all over the world are littered with plastics and other garbage and detritus from local sources and from washing up on the shore from sources thousands of miles away.


Efficient beach cleaners that can gather this material and transport it to properly regulated waste and recycling facilities.

In the early 1960s, Harold S. Barber of Naugatuck, Connecticut explored the idea of building a raking prototype to clean beaches of unwanted seaweed, cigarettes, glass, shells, coral, stones, rocks, sticks, and man-made debris including plastic from wet and dry sand with ease. He named the unit the SURF RAKE Model 500.

Mr. Barber’s novel invention quickly proved to be the most effective tool for the emerging beach cleaning industry in the United States. Since then, Barber has sold more beach cleaners around the world than any other brand, being used on six continents and in over 90 countries.

The tractor-towed 600HD, weighing almost 4,000 lb (1,800 kg.) can clean up to 9 ac (3.1 has) an hour, and with a 7 ft (2 m) wide cleaning path. In the 1990s, Rockland of Bedford, Pennsylvania, developed their Beach King featuring a 2.2 cubic yard hopper to take more debris. (

Over in Europe, Unicorn of Torredembarra, Spain, manufacture a range of six beach cleaners from the Musketeer, a medium-sized, self-drive sifting-type machine with a vibrating mesh for surface cleaning of small areas for cleaning small beaches to the Magnum with its large capacity rear hopper that can unload at a height of 8 ft (2.50 m) and its operating width of 7.5ft (2.30 m.)

Metaljonica in the Teramo Area of Italy make EcoBeach, a macchina puliscispiaggia, powered by an 8.4 hp Honda GX270 unleaded petrol engine.

Until now, tractors towing beach cleaners have been diesel or gasoline-engined, but with the latest developments of the battery-electric tractor, they may soon become cleaner and silent.

Totally electrically driven, the Solarino developed by DronyX in 2013 a remote-controlled beach-cleaning machine, developed in Montemesola in the province of Taranto, Apulia, south eastern Italy by three mechatronics engineers – Alessandro Deodati, Emiliano Petrachi and Giuseppe Vendramin.

The Solarino includes a removable rake that scoops and discards debris. It can also be used to tow up to 2,200 lb (1039 kg) when the rake system is not attached. The Solarino is powered by 3 full isolated gel batteries and also by solar energy. The wide matched tread helps to optimize the traction system performance both on wet and dry sandy terrains. (

Discover solution 32: beer from stale bread

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Planet Care

23: Detecting and combating asteroids


Asteroid collisions can destroy or seriously damage the Planet.


Programs to detect asteroids on hazardous orbits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discover solution 24: Electric automobiles

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Planet Care Human Effort

19: Apps for the environment


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


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

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

Others available include:

There are apps such as

iRecycle and

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

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

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

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

Discover solution 20: Solar panels triggered by rain

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Planet Care

18: Anti-Poaching Intelligence Devices


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another alternative is dye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discover solution 19: Apps for our environment

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Human Effort Planet Care

15: Amphibious water bomber super scoopers


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


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

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

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

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

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

Discover solution 16: turning animal dung into electricity

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Planet Care

13: Amphibious housing that adapts to water level


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Czech Republic

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

Discover solution 14: Solar panels that work at night

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

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Planet Care Your Home

7: Perfect Sense • a wearable air quality sensor


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


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

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

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

Discover solution 8: aircraft that generate electricity.

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Human Effort Planet Care

1: Combining crop growing with forestry


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.


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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