Categories
Energy

336: Flexible and portable water turbine

Problem:

Machines for harnessing energy from flowing rivers are mostly built on the riverbank.

Solution:

Mobile wind- and water-powered electronics chargers
In 2007, Robert Boyd, Geoff Holden, Adam Press and Andrew Cook of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada co-founded SEAformatics to commercialise mobile wind- and water-powered electronics chargers they called SeaLily and Waterlily.

With a flexible support shaft that permits the water current to orient the turbine with the flow of water to optimize flow across the turbine blades, the portable units weigh 1.8 lb. (800g.) and measure 7 in. (180 mm.) across and 3 in. (75 mm.) thick. They can be placed into a river or a windy place to spin up some power for any device that charges via USB.

WaterLily is designed for hikers, paddlers, campers, and anyone who spends time off the grid. It charges phones, speakers, cameras, battery banks, and even 12V devices, by generating power from rivers and streams. SEAformatics SeaLily enables reduced cost for the collection of environmental data.

In 2018, the Memorial University of Newfoundland obtained U.S. Patent No. 9,784,236 for their “Flexible Water Turbine.”

What you can do: Purchase a product from WaterLily Turbine

Discover Solution 337: Wind Power Hub

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Materials Your Home

335: Soapbottle

Problem:

On average, we use eleven bottles of shower gel and ten bottles of shampoo every year, resulting in about 75 kilotons of plastic waste — about a thousand full olympic swimming pools. but why is a product that is used for about a month made of a material that takes an average of 500 years to disintegrate?

Solution:

A packaging made from soap.


Developed by Berlin-based designer Jonna Breitenhuber, SOAPBOTTLE aims to solve this problem by creating a packaging for liquid washing substances from soap. As the content within is being used, the soap packaging very gradually dissolves. As in the case of the ice cream wafer for example, the „wrapper“ can even be used completely.

When finished, remnants can be used again, as hand soap or processed into detergents. Soap is made of natural ingredients and is biodegradable: waste can be completely avoided

Soapbottle is being promoted and sold by Patrick Munsters and Carel Neuberg founders of Marie-Stella-Maris, an Amsterdam-based lifestyle brand that is committed to increasing access to clean drinking water worldwide.

What you can do: Buy and use SoapBottle products

Discover Solution 336: Flexible and portable water turbine

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Materials

334: Recycled asphalt (RA or RAP)

Problem:

Under normal circumstances, a road building or renovation project consisting of two or three asphalt layers which are installed successively, would require 25,000 truck journeys of 70km, to bring the material to the site.

Solution:

Recycled asphalt (RA or RAP)


Ammann Group Holding AG is a Swiss mechanical engineering company specialised on machines for the building industry and road construction.

In Ariolo, a municipality in the Swiss Alps, Ammann is working on a €240 million project to completely renovate a 10km stretch of the N2 motorway. The work is due to be completed in 2022, but challenges include the fact that the current road base consists of material created during the excavation of the nearby Gotthard Base tunnel – the aggregate has a fine-grain content of more than 8%, meaning it is not frost-resistant.

The project is proceeding under the auspices of the Federal Roads Office (Astra), which has stipulated that the materials that form the current road base be processed on site and reused in the new asphalt mix.

In addition to this, however, the project planners calculated that transport of 55,000 tonnes of gravel would be required, as well as almost 400,000 tonnes of asphalt, of which 140,000 tonnes would be reclaimed.

For this reason, an area beside the motorway was provided for asphalt preparation and production. On the site – a former military airfield – an asphalt crushing plant, an ABP 240 HRT asphalt mixing plant and a gravel washing plant were all installed adjacent to the N2 motorway in the Swiss Alps

In the RAH100 system, the recycled asphalt is heated by a counter-current process. Rocks and bitumen are indirectly and evenly heated and protected from overheating. The plant can produce between 240 and 310 tonnes per hour of asphalt depending on moisture levels.

Ammann’s solution has crossed the Atlantic where Ryan Smith has set up RAP Management on a site near John Glenn Columbus International Airport Columbus, Ohio. From here a fleet of almost 200 trucks drop off loads of old road material, while others haul away new hot mix for parking lots and streets.

Discover Solution 335: Packaging made from soap.

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Categories
Carbon Capture Materials

333: Plastic from waste CO₂

Problem:

Once captured, CO₂ must be recycled.

Solution:

Phil De Luna and a team at the University of Toronto, Canada have found a way to recycle waste CO₂ back into ethylene, the raw material used to make the most commonly used plastic, polyethylene.

The team used a technique involving X-ray spectroscopy and computer modelling techniques at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) facility at the University of Saskatchewan – analysing matter with electromagnetic radiation to identify their key catalyst.

And it was thanks to a new piece of equipment developed by CLS senior scientist Tom Regier that the researchers were able to study both the shape and the chemical environment of the catalyst in real time. The researchers worked out how to control the reaction so that ethylene production was maximised, while waste products such as methane were kept to a minimum.

Armed with this new knowledge and a suitable carbon capture technology, we could potentially remove CO₂ from the atmosphere while producing plastics in an environmentally friendly way at the same time. Further research is required to refine the technique, but we now have one of the basic building blocks

For his breakthrough in 2019, De Luna was named in the 2019 Forbes Top 30 under 30 Energy List.

Discover Solution 334: Recycled asphalt (RA or RAP)

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Your Home Materials

332: Biodegradable toy bricks

Problem:

In 1919, the rubber shoe heel manufacturer Premo in Petersfield, England produced Minibrix, made of hard rubber which had the ability to deform under pressure to allow firm interlocking of studs and holes.

Then in 1949 Ole Kirk Christiansen of the LEGO factory in Billund, Denmark began producing plastic toys which included interlocking bricks of different colors.

Available in 53 different colours, more than 400 billion LEGO bricks have been produced in seventy years, with 19 billion LEGO elements produced every year. 2.16 million LEGO elements molded every hour, or 36,000 per minute.

This makes LEGO the world’s biggest toymaker. Since 1963, LEGO bricks have been made with a strong, oil-based plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. While boxes of LEGO are usually handed down in families are passed on, a proportion end up in landfills.

Solution:

Biodegradable bricks
For centuries, off cuts left on the woodworker’s bench had been used by their children to balance on top of each other. In 1837, Friedrich Fröbel built specific wooden building blocks to teach the alphabet and numbers for use in his preschool kindergartens.

In 2012 LEGO pledged to find and start using sustainable alternatives to its raw materials by 2030. Realizing the scale of the challenge, it later invested US$150 million to hire almost one hundred scientists and fund research and development.

During seven years, LEGO kept hitting brick walls. They tried making pieces from corn, but they were too soft. Its wheat-based bricks did not absorb color evenly or have the requisite shine. Bricks made from other materials proved too hard to pull apart, broke or had what executives call “creep,” when bricks lose their grip and collapse. Over 200 combinations were tested.

In August 2018, LEGO launched 25 various brick shapes, derived from sugar cane grown in Brazil, colored green and shaped such as leaves, bushes and trees. Confident, LEGO next launched a 200-piece tree house kit again in ethanol-based bioplastic. The search goes on for an improved version to replace their traditional acrylonitrile butadiene styrene polymer.

In 2019 Lego launched a 12-ounce build-on brick mug, made of BPA-free plastic, coming in eight colors.

Discover Solution 333: Plastic from waste CO₂

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Categories
Planet Care Your Home

331: Synthesized dairy products

Problem:

Butter ranks third, below beef and lamb, for carbon dioxide emissions per pound of food. Cheese comes fifth.

Solution:

Synthesized dairy products


From 2014, Ryan Pandya and Perumal Ghandi of Perfect Day Foods in Berkeley California have produced synthesized milk by altering sections of the DNA sequence of food-grade yeast into

Trichoderma reesei fungus such that the microorganisms, once fed with certain nutrients, produce many of the dairy proteins, casein and whey found in milk (casein, lactoglobulin, and lactalbumin);
Combine those with water, plant-based fats, vitamins, and minerals, and you get dairy products—without having a cow – like mozzarella cheese, baked goods that require milk, yogurt, and milk shakes.

Smitten Ice Cream and Brave Robot have turned the proteins into delicious vegan, dairy-based ice cream, but Perfect Day is hoping to expand into a whole range of creamy products, for example nosh on a bagel with real schmear that doesn’t contribute to the climate crisis.

Perfect Day, the most well-funded protein fermentation company in the world, has over $360 million in total funding to-date. The recent acceleration has been supported by continuing expansion of production capacity of its animal-free dairy protein, solidifying new brand and foodservice partners, and establishing commercialization plans in new product categories within the next year.

In Glil Yam, Tel Aviv, Israel, Ori Cohavi and Aviv Wolff also founded the start-up Remilk to commercialise their patents for microbial fermentation to create a base that is identical to dairy milk but free from animal-derived ingredients.

The Israeli solution was to recreate the proteins by taking the genes that encode them and inserting them into a single-cell microbe, which they manipulated genetically to express the protein in an efficient and scalable way. Using a microbial fermentation process, they increased the number of proteins, which they then dried into a powder. When mixed with water, plant-based oils like coconut oil or sunflower oil, and plant-based sugar, the milk liquid and its derivatives can be produced with exactly the same properties, taste and structure, he said

Remilk has raised $11.3 million in capital to move its goal of disrupting the global dairy industry into production.
Perfect Day’s and Remilk’s solution for food production will be up to 100 times more land efficient than the existing dairy system, 25 times more feedstock efficient, 20 times more time-efficient, and 10 times more water-efficient, he said.

What you can do: Purchase and enjoy synthesized dairy products

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Categories
Planet Care

330: Water monitoring satellites

Problem:

Studies have found that a third of Earth’s largest groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted by human consumption, despite not having accurate data about how much water remains in them.

That means significant segments of Earth’s population are consuming groundwater without knowing when it might run out.

In many parts of the world, little or no information is publicly available on how much water a given aquifer contains. It’s rare to know how much water people are withdrawing or how this relates to replenishment rates.

Solution

Satellites to reveal path to better water management.


Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), twin satellites launched in March 2002, circling the Planet, always between 106 and 193 miles apart, have been providing invaluable assistance in managing natural resources on the ground.

The two satellites (nicknamed “Tom” and “Jerry”) constantly maintain a two-way, K-band microwave-ranging link between them.
GRACE has been generating weekly drought indicators at the National Drought Mitigation Center.

This information already is helping water users and policymakers manage scarce groundwater resources in California, the Tigris-Euphrates Basin and several other locations around the world. It is also providing an example of how satellites and remote sensing are reshaping the water world.

Agricultural yields in Syria and Iraq plummeted after 2007. Turkey — the upstream user — refused to release additional flows to the neighbouring countries, and water stress became so severe that some farmers abandoned their lands and migrated to Baghdad. As of this year, the region had the second-fastest rate of groundwater depletion on Earth, after India.

Researchers in Turkey at times refused to release their water-related data, citing security concerns. But the GRACE remote-sensing technology has created a bypass around the reluctance of many countries to release their data.

In 2018, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) satellites—a joint mission launched in 2018 by NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) joined “Tom and Jerry” in the mission of detecting subtle shifts in Earth’s gravity field, caused by changes in groundwater storage or by the decay of ice sheets and glaciers.

Recent data shows that the planet’s surface mass in August 2020 deviated from the average for all months between 2004 and 2009. with some of the most dramatic changes focused in the ice-rich areas of West Antarctica, Greenland, and southeast Alaska. Scientists analyzing GRACE data found that mountain glaciers had lost about 200 gigatons of ice per year between 2002 and 2016, contributing 8 millimeters to global mean sea level.

Discover Solution 331: Synthesized dairy products

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Categories
Materials Your Home

329: Sneakers

Problem:

Sneakers are manufactured with harmful chemicals that are released into the environment. They are also disposed of in harmful ways, such as incineration or dumping them in landfills, which exposes our environment to these toxic chemicals.

Solutions:

In 2015, Cyrill Gutsch of New York, founder of Parley for the Oceans teamed up with Adidas, with its 9.7% athletic footwear global market share, to produce sustainable running shoes called UltraBoost X, made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from marine plastic waste and illegal deep-sea gill-nets.

A chip in the heel of the shoe enables the runner to use their phone to scan their shoe and follow its story from plastic waste to stylish sneaker. As part of their commitment to tackle plastic waste, Adidas’s trainers use only one material and no glue, making them easier to recycle.

In addition, in between 2017, Adidas and Parley for the Oceans organised “Run For The Oceans”, a global running movement that uses the power of sport to raise awareness for the threat of marine plastic pollution.

They hosted a series of physical runs in several key cities worldwide including LA, New York, Paris, Berlin, London, Barcelona, Milan and Shanghai, and mobilized the global Adidas Runners network to organize weekly running initiatives in 50 Adidas Runners communities worldwide.

For the 2018 event Adidas matched every kilometre run with US$1 dollar, for the first one million kilometers – to support the Parley Ocean Plastic Program, focusing specifically on the Parley Ocean School initiative, which educates and empowers the next generation of Ocean Guardians through immersive experiences in the environment we are fighting to protect.

With in-school and water sports activities, the program introduces youth to the underwater world, teaching them about the impacts of marine plastic pollution and giving them the tools and inspiration to protect their future with Parley AIR.

In 2019, Adidas produced 11 million pairs of shoes with Ocean Plastic® by Parley by intercepting plastic waste on beaches, remote islands and in coastal communities. Adidas has launched a sneaker made from virgin plastic that can be ground up and remade again, as part of the company’s bid to mitigate the plastic crisis.

The Futurecraft Loop shoe was launched April 17 by Adidas as a first step for the brand to help “get off plastic waste”. The aim was to create a product that could be recycled as part of a closed-loop system. To do this, Adidas developed a high-performance running shoe made completely from a single material, virgin thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This single material is the key to its recyclability.

One of the biggest challenges in recycling sneakers is that they are made of many different materials, which are difficult to separate, sort and re-purpose. To test the Futurecraft Loop, 200 users trialled the sneakers then sent them back to Adidis for washing and grinding up into pellets, which wefre then heated for future sneaker components. Thus, the plastic pellets can be re-used to make a second edition, which will then be tested.

Adidas is not alone. Reebok manufactures a sneaker made from organic cotton upper and corn-based sole, which is then shipped with 100% recycled packaging.

For its 100% vegan sneakers, Veja uses organic cotton grown by farmer associations in Brazil and Peru that harvest it with respect for people and the environment and wild rubber that helps preserve 300,000 ac (120,000 ha.) of the Amazon rainforest. The fabric used for its Veja’s B-Mesh sneaker is crafted from recycled plastic bottles and its CWL trainer is made out of corn waste from the food industry.

In 2019, Kanye West, the American rapper, singer, songwriter presented a new sneaker prototype called the Yeezy Foam Runner, made in Atlanta from a combination of petroleum-based ethylene-vinyl acetate and foam produced from algae. West told the audience that his new Yeezy headquarters in Cody, Wyoming, would include a hydroponic farm where the company can grow its own algae.

By making foam from algae, the company can help clean waterways to protect wildlife and drinking water, and it can avoid using the fossil fuels typically used to make foam. The prototype pair West showed off were a bland khaki color, Yeezy is looking into environmentally friendly dyes. Manufacture will begin in 2020.

What you can do: Purchase planet conscious sneakers and footware.

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Categories
Energy

328: Rotting Veg

Problem:

One of the shortcomings in solar energy production is poor environmental conditions while vegetable waste needs to be usefully recycled.

Solution:

AuREUS vegetable waste


Carvey Ehren Maigue, a 27-year-old engineer from Mapua University in Manila, the Philippines has developed AuREUS (=golden) a new fluorescent material made out of waste fruit and vegetables such as carrots that that can be attached to the sides of buildings to harvest invisible ultraviolet (UV). While ‘resting’, the particles remove excess energy, which bleeds out of the material as visible light and can be transformed into electricity.

The young engineer was inspired by the fact that UV light still seeps through on dark gloomy days when there’s not much sunlight that could potentially be harvested AuREUS could line the side of tower blocks to turn them into ‘vertical solar energy farms’ and power them for a fraction of the cost.

For his solution, in 2020, Maigue became the first-ever recipient of the £30,000 James Dyson Sustainability Award.

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Materials

327: Bricks from cigarette butts

Problem:

Over 6 trillion cigarettes are produced each year globally, resulting in 1.2 million tonnes of toxic waste dumped into the environment.

Solution:

Bricks made from recycled cigarette butts

Abbas Mohajerani and Aeslina A. Kadir at RMIT have come up with a solution whereby fired-clay bricks with 1% recycled cigarette butt content are as strong as normal bricks and use less energy to produce. Their analysis showed if just 2.5% of global annual brick production incorporated 1% cigarette butts, this would offset total cigarette production each year.

The research team has also developed a detailed plan for bringing the brickmaking and waste management industries together, to implement cigarette butt recycling into bricks at mass scale. The plan, published in a special issue of the journal Construction Materials, details how cigarette butts can be collected and recycled on an industrial scale.

Different incorporation methods are outlined – using whole butts, pre-shredded butts, or a pre-mix where the butts have already been incorporated into other brickmaking materials.

Discover Solution 328: Rotting Veg

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Materials Planet Care Your Home

326: Plastic-free aisles in supermarkets

Problem:

According to the Checking Out on Plastics report by the Environmental Investigation Agency and Greenpeace UK, .Britain’s top 10 supermarkets are flooding the planet with 810,000 tonnes of single-use plastic every year, according to a major new report.

This is in addition to over 1.1 billion single-use bags, 958 million “bags for life” and 1.2 billion plastic bags for fruit and vegetables, which supermarkets produce annually. Seven of those supermarkets are putting into circulation around 59 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year – roughly 2,000 pieces for every household in the country.

Solution:

In 2016, Siân Sutherland and Frederikke Magnussen launched A Plastic Planet, coming up with one solution of a plastic free aisle in supermarkets. In February 2018, the world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle opened in Amsterdam. Ekoplaza, a Dutch chain, where around 700 products at its pilot launch and everything was packaged, just in glass, metal, cardboard or a compostable, plant-based biofilm.

Sutherland and her team at A Plastic Planet have been working collaboratively with industry, retailers, Governments, legislators and the UN to accelerate the pace of change at all levels creating the Plastic Free Trust Mark for brands, with over 1,000 already certified, and the Industry Commitment Mark ‘Working Towards Plastic Free’.

A Plastic Planet also became a key founding partner in the Plastic Health Coalition, bringing together the world’s scientists, doctors to irrefutably prove the impact of plastic toxicity on human health.

In January 2019, Thornton’s Budgens supermarket in Belsize Park, North London introduced dedicated plastic-free zones featuring more than 1,700 plastic-free products. Customers can pick up everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, bread and cheese, to wild game meat, including squirrel and wild boar, all free from plastic packaging. Plastic-free materials are being used instead, including beech wood nets, pulp, paper, metal, glass, cellulose and carton board.

In June 2020, A Plastic Planet and packaging companies Reelbrands and Transcend Packaging came together to develop the world’s first compostable, plastic-free PPE (personal protective equipment) in clear plastic-free REELshield visors in a bid to assist the fight against coronavirus polluting the environment.

From June 2020, collaborating with Loop, a “zero waste shopping platform”, Tesco, the British supermarket chain is trialling a scheme in the UK where online shoppers will get products in reusable packaging. The trial covers 150 items, which will be delivered in reusable containers for which consumers pay a deposit.

After using the products, which include Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Persil washing liquid, Coca-Cola, and Danone yoghurt, customers ask for DPD (Dynamic Parcel Distribution) to come and pick up the empties in the bag.

Based at the European Marine Science Park in Oban Scotland, a team led by Karen Scofield Seal, at Oceanium Ltd is investigating the potential of seaweed to provide a long-term response to the demand for marine-safe packaging as well as sustainably-sourced plant-based food sources. Their solution is a circular life-cycle bio packaging material, Oceanware designed to be disposed of with food waste and ultimately used for compost for soil health or anaerobic digestion for energy.

What you can do: Be conscious of your ‘plastic footprint’ and shop at Ekoplaza if possible 

Discover Solution 327: Bricks from cigarette butts

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Categories
Energy

325: Water battery

Problem:

With global warming, the search is on to developed more natural air conditioning systems.

Solution:

Air-conditioning “water battery”


During 2019, a team lead by Dennis Frost, Manager of Energy and Infrastructure at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), Queensland, Australia in collaboration with energy and utility services company Veolia, began to trial a three-storey air-conditioning “water battery”.

The thermal energy storage system will use a large storage tank of water that is cooled using a “complex thermal process” by the output of 6,000 solar PV panels spread across campus rooftops and car park structures on USC’s Sippy Downs Campus. The cooling and storage system is paired with 2.1 MW of on-site solar PV, which the University said is enough to cool 4.5 megaliters of water.

The water battery will help “slash 40% of grid energy use” at Sippy Downs. The cooled water will be stored and then used for air conditioning, currently the single biggest use of energy at the site is the start of an ambitious rollout of clean-energy developments that is planned to include renewably produced hydrogen and make USC carbon-neutral by 2025.

Discover Solution 326: Plastic-free aisles in supermarkets

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Planet Care

324: Vertical Forests

Problem:

The parks and gardens of traditional cities spreading out horizontally or on slopes take up valuable building space, while potted plants and bonsai on balconies can only capture miniscule amounts of CO₂.

Solution:

Perhaps the earliest example of a “vertical farm” is the legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built by King Nebuchadnezzar II more than 2,500 years ago. According to some scholars, the gardens consisted of a series of vaulted terraces, stacked one on top of the other, and planted with many different types of trees and flowers.

Reaching a height of 65 ft. (20 m.), the gardens were irrigated by an early engineering innovation known as a chain pump, which would have used a system of buckets and pulleys to bring water from the Euphrates River at the foot of the gardens to a pool at the top.

In the 1970s, Ken Yeang, a Malaysian architect, began to propose that instead of hermetically sealed mass-produced agriculture, plant life should be cultivated within open air, mixed-use skyscrapers or “Farmscrapers” for climate control and consumption.

In 2006, Stefano Boeri, Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra, a team of architects in Milan, Italy, working with horticulturalists and botanists, designed two residential towers near the Porta Nuova Garibaldi railway station of that city, What made them different was that these towers, 364 ft (111 m.) and 249 ft (76 m.) in height, would contain more than 900 trees (approximately 550 and 350 in the first and second towers, respectively) on 96,000 ft.² (8,900 m²) of terraces.

In short, they were a Vertical Forest ( = Bosco Verticale), incorporating 900 trees, 20,000 shrubs and plants, which help mitigate smog by converting approximately 44,000 lb (20,000 kg) of carbon each year. Construction of the towers began in late 2009 and early 2010, involving 6,000 onsite construction workers. Between mid-2010 and early 2011 construction progressed very slowly and the towers rose and by the beginning of 2012 the structures were completed, and construction of the facades and installation of the plants began on June 13, 2012. The building was inaugurated in October 2014.

Before long, residents found that their Vertical Forest was attracting new bird and insect species to the city such as bumblebees, hermit wild bees, syrphidae (hoverflies) and more. It was also moderating temperatures in the building in the winter and summer, by shading the interiors from the sun and blocking harsh winds. The vegetation also protects the interior spaces from noise pollution and dust from street-level traffic.

The building itself is self-sufficient by using renewable energy from solar panels and filtered waste water to sustain the buildings’ plant life. These green technology systems reduce the overall waste and carbon footprint of the towers. After five years, these residential high-rises seem to be almost disappearing under all that green, and continue to be a testament to sustainable urban living.

The Milano model is being developed across the world. In Paris, Stefano Boeri Architetti are designing a 177 ft (54 m.) tower, Forêt Blanche, which will incorporate 2.5 ac (1 ha) of woodland. Another one is planned for Tirana in Albania.

The Vertical Forest concept is under development in future cities in China, including Shijiazhuang, Liuzhou, Guizhou, Shanghai and Chongqing The Nanjing Forest City project, scheduled to be finished in 2020, comprises a 340 ac(138 ha.) city featuring 40,000 trees and a million plants, a total of 1100 trees from 23 local species, as well as 2500 cascading plans and shrubs that will cover a 6,000 m² area.

As with the Bosco Verticale, the Chinese towers will help to regenerate local biodiversity and will provide 28 tons (25 tonnes) of CO₂ absorption each year. B+H Architects in collaboration with ECAD have developed an “urban living room” and rooftop gardens to animate the Shenzhen Children’s Hospital and Science and Education Building at the edge of Lianhuashan Park .Composed of gardens and play areas, this is to help children engage with nature and establish a playful, unintimidating medical environment.

In his book “A Forest City” Boeri has unveiled designs for three buildings covered with pollution-absorbing trees and plants in Egypt’s new administrative capital, which is under construction in the desert east of Cairo. The Egyptian project will be the first of its kind for Africa.

In October 2019, Stefano Boeri, commissioned by developer and textile giant Grupo Karim, presented plans for a new “smart forest city” proposed across 1376 ac (557 ha) near Cancun, Mexico which would be home to 130,000 people.

Touted as “the first forest city of the new millennium”, the new plans for Mexico include 988 ac (400 ha) of green spaces with 7.5 million plants, and 400 different species, 260,000 of which will be trees equating to 2.3 trees per inhabitant, The smart forest city will absorb 116.000 tons (105,000 tonnes) of CO₂ with 5.800 tons 5260 tonnes) of CO₂ stocked per year.

Water is a key element in the project: surrounded by a ring of solar panels and agricultural fields irrigated by a water channel which is connected with an underwater maritime pipe. Climate-responsive engineering firm Transsolar‘s involvement in the city plans for it to be completely food and energy self-sufficient.

Other architects developing plantscrapers, include Vincent Callebaut of Belgium, Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners of London (Skyfarm), Plantagon of Sweden (World Food Building) etc.

In, India, taking a more modest approach, an Internal Revenues Services officer, Rohit Mehra with his wife Geetanjali and friends have been creating “green walls” in Ludhiana, a large industrial city in the north Indian state of Punjab, to minimise the effect of environmental pollution.

Very simply they take empty 3 and 6 pint (1.5 and 2-liter) used plastic bottles then fix rows of them vertically as flower pots, using drip feed irrigation. Having decorated the 2,500 ft² provided by the walls of their home, Rohit then applied it to the walls of his own office at Rishi Nagar, where over 18,000 bottles were used.

The next location, unveiled on Income Tax Day 2017 was Ludhiana’s railway station with a vertical garden displaying some 37,000 plants. Thanks to Rohit’s initiative, involving building one vertical garden in three or four days on an average, there are now 75 vertical gardens in Punjab, include premium hotels, district courts, schools and colleges like Punjab Agricultural University and even religious institutions like Gurdwara Dukh Niwaran Sahib in Ludhiana. While this totals 1.85 lakh (185,000) saplings, Team Green’s target is 1,000 vertical gardens across India to help curb pollution.

Discover Solution 325: Water battery

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Energy

323: Hydrogen-powered train

Problem:

At present, Indian railways has a fleet of 19,000 passenger and goods trains. Of these, about 5,000 trains run on diesel. While diesel trains are more energy efficient than automobiles, they do have their own effects on the environment, including producing nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter that can contribute to air pollution and negative health effects. Diesel engines can emit a fair amount of nitrogen compounds and particulate matter as they burn diesel fuel.

Solution:

Sustainable electric trains


Indian Railways is currently working on electrifying all of its lines apart from a few narrow-gauge lines. It has a target of completing this by December 2023. The electricity will all be wind and solar generated. India Railways is also working on development of a hydrogen-powered suburban train and has floated an Expression of Interest for industry participation,

In 2018, two years after Alstom had presented its Coradia iLint hydrogen-powered train at Innotrans in Berlin, iLint entered passenger service in Lower Saxony. It had had been designed by Alstom teams in Salzgitter, Germany and in Tarbes, France, funded by the German Ministry of Economy and Mobility as part of the National Innovation Program for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP).

Following the trials Alstom stated that it would build 14 Coradia iLint emissions-free trains, that can travel 621 mi. (1,000 km.) on one full hydrogen tank, and can reach a maximum speed of up to 87 mph (140 kph) with regular services beginning in 2021.

In May 2019, German public transport network Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV) subsidiary fahma placed a US$ 500m order for 27 Coradia iLint trains. Alstom would supply the hydrogen fuel in partnership with Infraserv GmbH & Co Höchst KG. A refuelling station will be located at the Höchst industrial park.

During the first quarter of 2020, the testing of the Coradia iLint train was carried out the track between Groningen and Leeuwarden at up to 87 mph (140kph). Dutch railway operators and regional authorities are looking to replace diesel fleets for operation on non-electrified lines find it a clean alternative. (alstom.com)

Also in Germany, Siemens and Canadian fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems with their FCveloCity® fuel cell modules have announced plans to jointly develop a fuel cell drive for the Siemens Mireo aluminum railcar.

The collaboration will also include input from RWTH Aachen University and aims to develop a new generation of fuel cells featuring longer lifecycles, higher efficiency and greater power density. The project has received around $13 million in funding from the German Federal Ministry for Transportation and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) as part of the Ministry’s ‘National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Innovation Program’. The fuel cell technology is currently slated to be ready for service and integration on-board the train platform by 2021.

In England Porterbrook is working in close partnership again with Ballard and the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) to develop the HydroFLEX, the UK’s first hydrogen powered train. HydroFLEX, was developed using an existing Class 319 train set.

Discover Solution 324: Vertical Forests

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Materials Energy

322: Smart textile, Radiative heat transfer

Problem:

Many textiles are made for social etiquette and aesthetic purposes, but the pressing threat of global warming has created demand for innovative textiles that help to better cool the person who wears them.

Solution:

Stanford engineers have developed a low-cost, plastic-based textile that, if woven into clothing, could cool the body far more efficiently than is possible with the natural or synthetic fabrics in clothes worn today – and without air conditioning. If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy.

Photon-to-cooling phenomenon relies on the atmospheric transparency window to dissipate heat from the earth into outer space, which is an energy-saving cooling technique.

The emissivity of aluminized Polymethylpentene (PMP) thin films as selected by the Stanford team matches well to the atmospheric transparency window so as to minimize parasitic heat losses.
This new material works by allowing the body to discharge heat in two ways that would make the wearer feel nearly 4° F cooler than if they wore cotton clothing.

The material cools by letting perspiration evaporate through the material, something ordinary fabrics already do. But the Stanford material provides a second, revolutionary cooling mechanism: allowing heat that the body emits as infrared radiation to pass through the plastic textile.

First, they found a variant of polyethylene commonly used in battery making that has a specific nanostructure that is opaque to visible light yet is transparent to infrared radiation, which could let body heat escape. This provided a base material that was opaque to visible light for the sake of modesty but thermally transparent for purposes of energy efficiency.

They then modified the industrial polyethylene by treating it with benign chemicals to enable water vapor molecules to evaporate through nanopores in the plastic, said postdoctoral scholar and team member Po-Chun Hsu, allowing the plastic to breathe like a natural fiber.

To test the cooling potential of their three-ply construct versus a cotton fabric of comparable thickness, they placed a small swatch of each material on a surface that was as warm as bare skin and measured how much heat each material trapped.

The comparison showed that the cotton fabric made the skin surface 3.6 F warmer than their cooling textile. The researchers said this difference means that a person dressed in their new material might feel less inclined to turn on a fan or air conditioner.

The researchers are continuing their work on several fronts, including adding more colours, textures and cloth-like characteristics to their material. Adapting a material already mass produced for the battery industry could make it easier to create products.

Discover Solution 323: Hydrogen-powered train

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Materials Mobility

321: RIKR backpacki

Problem:

There is so much plastic waste recuperated from landfills, waterways and oceans that as many ways as possible must be found to recycle it profitably.

Solution:

Backpacks from recycled plastic.


Sisters Georgia, Nina and Sophia Scott share a lifetime of travel experience, and have lived and worked all over the world. Georgia and Sophia have more than a decade of experience with their documentary film company GroundTruth Productions, working across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East put them in direct contact with a range of extreme environments – from drought in East Africa to conflict in the Middle East. These experiences sparked their drive to create a company that could effect positive, meaningful change.

In 2017, working with a specialist textile mill in Taiwan, the Scott sisters developed a high-performance GT-RK-001 textile from 100% recycled PET, using plastic waste collected from landfill sites, waterways and oceans worldwide.

With a 600 denier ballistic yarn structure for premium strength combining three layers of recycled synthetic fibres, a unique triangular ripstop weave, and a water-repellant TPU coating, it offers unparalleled durability and resistance to the elements.

Groundtruth created the RIKR backpack (equivalent to 120 recycled plastic bottles), following with other items from laptop bags to key chains, all of which respond to the demands of a new era of global travel.

Working with bluesign®-approved manufacturers, Groundtruth has also partnered with REDD+ Conservation Company Wildlife Works to guarantee emission-free production and offset the carbon footprint of the company’s travel emissions.

Polar explorer Rob Swan, the first person to walk to both Poles, has been putting the RIKR backpack to the test in the South Pole Energy Challenge where it must survive in conditions of -40C. Swan takes great care and caution when choosing his expedition equipment as at times it can mean life or death.

What you can do: Purchase items from Groundtruth

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Materials Your Home

320: Plastic bottle cutter in

Problem:

What to do with plastic bottles in the home.

Solution:

Plastic Bottle Cutter


In 2016, two Russians, Pavel et Ian Polianskii living in Versailles, France developed the Plastic Bottle Cutter, a cutting tool, which after removing the bottom of an empty bottle, can shred the rest of the plastic into long skinny strands of plastic rope. The device consists of a wooden handle, razor blade, and a cutting guide and can be used in any home or office.

The product first appeared on Kickstarter on February 23, 2016. With no moving parts and a simple design, this handy handheld device seemed to explode in popularity nearly overnight. By the end of March the product had gained nearly 7,000 backers and a pledge total now passing $350,000; far more than the original goal of $9,945. PBC became 8th most funded project from France, top150 most funded design projects of KickStarter, 4.195% funded!

The Plastic Bottle Cutter can be ordered online but users should consider how to ultimately recycle the twine they produce from it.

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Materials

319: Mushroom mycelium recycling technology

Problem:

Palm oil processing also gives rise to highly polluting waste-water, known as Palm Oil Mill Effluent, which is often discarded in disposal ponds, resulting in the leaching of contaminants that pollute the groundwater and soil, and in the release of methane gas into the atmosphere. The amount of palm oil waste produced by the palm oil plantation in South Sumatera is a staggering nine tons per hour.

Solution:

Mushroom mycelium technology


Co-founded by architects including Adi Reza Nugroho and Robbi Zidna Ilman, Mycotech, an Indonesian social entrepreneurship start-up based in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia is creating affordable, durable, recyclable and eco-friendly building materials out of agricultural waste such as Palm Oil Mill Effluent by applying mushroom mycelium technology.

Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus or fungus-like bacterial colony, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae, or long, branching filamentous structures. A common example of mycelium’s binding power is the way soybeans are ‘glued’ together in a block of tempeh, a traditional Indonesian savory dish.

Mycotech had previously used woodchips or sawdust and sugarcane waste product to produce particle boards, producing upwards to 4,000 kilograms of particle board per month with the help of two mushroom farmer groups in Bandung, which consisted of 270 farmers, 64% of them women. Grown by local West Java farmers, most of whom are women, the fungi needs only one week to grow and become harvest-ready.

But from September 2019, Mycotech made its first shipment of entry doors for residential homes made from recycled Palm Oil Mill Effluent to Australia.

The research on the use of palm oil production waste material and the subsequent fire testing of the end product were made possible by funds from the Government of Australia through the Australia Awards Alumni Grant Scheme, as well as from the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant Award 2017 and 2018.

As a building material, not only is Mycotech durable and flexible, it is reportedly fireproof and buoyant as well. Sturdy, lightweight products made from strong, organic fibers can be formed into custom shapes, including panels and tiles, cabinetry, and interiors.

Led by researcher Erlambang Ajidarma, Myotech has now diversified to make mycelium leather for wrist straps of their Pala X Mylea watch. Mychotech uses only 45 liters of water and creates only 0.7 kilograms of CO2 emissions, compared to 80,000 liters of water and 355,500 kilograms CO2 for cow leather.

What you can do: Purchase items from Mycotech

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Uncategorized

318: Globally-transmitted wireless power

Problem:

The world is becoming exponentially hungry for electrical energy and every possible solution should be examined.

Solution:

Globally-transmitted wireless power

In 1901, Croatian electric engineer, Nikola Tesla persuaded a millionaire J.P. Morgan to finance $150,000 (today’s $4.2 million) for the building of a 187 ft (57m) tall wood and copper structure called “Wardenclyffe Tower” in Shoreham on Long Island, about 65 mi (100 km) from New York City. Power for the entire system was to be provided by a coal fired 200 kilowatt Westinghouse alternating current industrial generator.

Tesla’s tower was intended to excite the planet Earth’s natural electrical resonances, where high-power waves of electrical energy flow repeatedly around the entire planet many times before eventually dying away. Tesla claimed it could transmit free electricity across the Atlantic and beyond, with no wires.

A number of experiments were made to perform trans-Atlantic wireless power transmission, as well as commercial broadcasting and wireless telephony and even facsimile images, based on his theories of using the Earth to conduct the signals. Experiments were discontinued through lack of finance and the tower was eventually disassembled in 1917.

Tesla’s invention was considered crackpot until more recent discoveries about electro-magnetic waves, in particular with a high Q-factor, all the way around the Earth many times, over and over before eventually dying away, suggested that it could work.

In 2014, Leonid and Sergey Plekhanov, graduates of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, claimed they had spent years scrutinizing the Nikola Tesla’s patents and diaries and that Tesla came very close to wireless power transmission. The enthusiasts say they need about $800,000 to reconstruct the famous.

According to the authors of the project, as of today all human civilization’s electric energy needs could be covered with a single installation of solar panel measured approximately 316 x 316 km (100,000 km²) positioned in a desert somewhere near the Equator. They believed the only stumbling block to such a project is the delivery of electric energy to final consumers, as the loss of energy directly depends on the distance of transmission.

Unable to find the necessary finance, the Tesla/Plekhanov solution has not yet been built. On a smaller scale, their Global Energy Transmission (GET) enables battery-powered drones to fly forever by safely and quickly recharging while still in flight.

In order to charge, drones just need to hover over one GET’s hotspots for a few minutes. This creates the opportunity to build Wireless Power Networks to enable drones to do things that were previously unavailable due to low battery limitations.

Discover Solution 319: Mushroom mycelium recycling technology

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Energy

317: Vanillin battery

Solution:

Researchers led by Stefan Spirk from the Institute of Bioproducts and Paper Technology at Graz University of Technology have succeeded in making redox-flow batteries more environmentally friendly by replacing their core element, the liquid electrolyte, which are mostly made up of ecologically harmful heavy metals or rare earths – with vanillin.

Spirk and his team have refined lignin into vanillin into a redox-active material using mild and green chemistry without the use of toxic and expensive metal catalysts, so that it can be used in flow batteries. The process works at room temperature and can be implemented with common household chemicals.

Vanillin is also present in large quantities. Although it is native to Mexico, V. planifolia is now widely grown throughout the tropics. Vanilla is grown within 10-20° of the Equator. Most vanilla beans available today are from Madagascar, Mexico and Tahiti. Vanilla flavoring in food may be achieved by adding vanilla extract or by cooking vanilla pods in the liquid preparation.

Vanillin can be bought quite conventionally, even in the supermarket, but on the other hand we can also use a simple reaction to separate it from lignin, which in turn is produced in large quantities as waste product in paper production.

Spirk and colleagues are in concrete talks with Mondi AG, a leading global manufacturer of paper-based products, which is showing great interest in the technology.

Discover Solution 318: Globally-transmitted wireless power

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Energy

316: Typhoon-harnessing wind turbines

Problem:

Substantial winds are good for electricity production, but the very high wind speeds in storms can overwhelm traditional turbines. When the anemometer registers wind speeds higher than 55 mph (cut-out speed varies by turbine), it triggers the wind turbine to automatically shut off.

Solution:

Atsushi Shimizu, founder and chief executive of Challenergy in Tokyo has developed a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT), with cylinders in place of blades, and which make use of a physics phenomenon known as the Magnus effect

While the motors require an energy input to spin, this is only up to approximately 10% of the power generated by the turbine. The advantages of this turbine, in its vertical axis and Magnus-effect-exploiting design, is that it can adjust to any wind direction, and power generation can be controlled in accordance with the wind speed. The latter is done via flaps or “cylinder wings” incorporated alongside the spinning cylinders, which can be adjusted to control the magnitude of the Magnus effect.

Shimizu’s calculations show that a sufficiently large array of his turbines positioned in typhoon ally could capture enough energy from a single typhoon to power Japan for 50 years

Because the Magnus effect acts as the main driver, the rotation of the turbine is almost 10 times slower than conventional blade turbines. This means they are less noisy, and Shimizu is also studying whether the lower rotational speed has a less detrimental effect on passing birds.

The 10KW version, installed in Ishigaki, Okinawa, has already recorded its first electricity generation during Typhoon Hagibis in October 2019 and the power and communication lines were maintained by continuously supplying the satellite antenna with power. Challenergy claim that their design can survive winds of up to 70m/s (156mph) but has an upper operating limit of 40m/s (89mph).

Discover Solution 317: Vanillin battery

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Materials

315: Skateboards recycled into other items

Problem:

The exact number of skateboards manufactured every year is unknown, but it is estimated to be in the millions. Most skateboard decks are made from a high grade of maple (Acer spp.) veneer plywood and typically last only a few months before they break or deteriorate beyond use. Millions of used skateboard decks are discarded annually, ending up in landfills

Solution:

Recycling them into rainbow-coloured bowls, swings, furniture tables and chairs, wall tiles toys and new skateboards etc.


In the USA, various start-ups are recycling boards from coast to coast. From Jason and Adam Podlaski of www.deckstool.com in Clifton Heights Pennsylvania to George Rocha of Iris Skateboards in San Francisco California (rainbow in Portuguese =“arco iris”) www.irisskateboards.com. In Canada, Adrian Pool, Martinus Pool, and Anne Tranholm of AdrianMartinus Custom Woodworking in Calgary, Alberta are crafting similar products. www.adrianmartus.com

In France Guillaume Corcaud at Atelierplanchon in La Tremblade, Nouvelle Aquitaine sells his recycled skateboards online and 60 % are sold to the USA and across Europe. He is one of many sellers of recycled skateboard items on Etsy

Skateboards can be made from recycled materials such as bottle caps, purchased by Jonathan Morrisson Aernout Zappey and Rogier Heijning at WasteBoards of Diemen in the Netherlands from the KNGF Geleidehonden (Royal Dutch Guide dogs foundation). They collect the caps to raise money to train their dogs.

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Energy

314: Reversible pumped storage systems

Solution:

A reversible pumped storage hydroelectric power plant works like an enormous rechargeable battery. Its reversible turbines use cheap electricity during the night to pump water to an upper reservoir, in readiness for charging the turbines to meet peak demand the following day.

There are nearly 300 pumped storage projects in the world, and 40 in the United States.

The first use of pumped-storage in the United States was in 1930 by the Connecticut Electric and Power Company, using the 11 mi (17.7 km) long Candlewood Lake, a large reservoir located near New Milford, Connecticut, pumping water from the Housatonic River to the storage reservoir 230 ft. (70 m) above.

Its Chief Engineer, Paul Heslop described his design “The statement that a hydro-electric plant can pump its own water supply sounds absurd on the face of it, yet this is virtually what happens in the case of our the Rocky River Hydro Plant. ”  The technology pioneered at the Rocky River project using reversible pumps that also act as generators was not widely used in other U.S. projects until the 1950s and 1960s.

Another RPSS, the Cruachan Power Station, located in Argyll and Bute, Scotland which takes water between Cruachan Reservoir to Loch Awe, a height difference of 1,299 ft (396 m.) has a capacity of 7.1 GWh. It was the brainchild of Sir Edward McColl, a Dumbarton-born engineer and pioneer of hydro power while the civil engineering design of the scheme was carried out by James Williamson & Partners of Glasgow, and the main project contractors were William Tawse of Aberdeen and Edmund Nuttall of Camberley. Consulting electrical engineers were Merz & McLellan of Newcastle on Tyne.

Construction began in 1959 to coincide with the Hunterston A nuclear power station in Ayrshire. Many working models of the turbines were built and work tests were carried out on completed alternators before being delivered to the site. At the peak of the construction, there were around 4,000 people working on the project. It was opened Queen Elizabeth II on 15 October 1965 and is still in service.

Over in the USA, the Bath County Pumped Storage Station was built for the Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO) between March 1977 and December 1985 The station consists of two reservoirs separated by about 1,260 ft. (380 m) in elevation. It is the largest pumped-storage power station in the world with a maximum generation capacity of 3,003 MW, when all six generators are operating at full power. National Public Radio called the station “The World’s Biggest Battery.”

Pumped hydroelectric storage (PHS) is by far the largest and most cost-effective form of energy storage today. In 2009, world pumped storage generating capacity was 104 GW, while other sources claim 127 GW, which comprises the vast majority of all types of utility grade electric storage. While the facility in Bath County is the largest now, a 4,000 MW project at Lake Revelstoke in British Columbia has been proposed.
In 2017 the largest pumped storage in Europe was the Cortes-La Muela hydroelectric project in Spain, rated at 1,762MW.

The largest in China was the Cuntangkou Pumped Hydro Power Station in Sichuan, rated at 2,000MW. The Snowy Hydro 2.0 pumped storage project in Australia completed a feasibility study in 2017 that proposed to expand the existing network of hydropower dams to provide up to 6,000 MW of generating capacity. It would become the world’s largest hydropower scheme with pumped storage. It has yet to be built.

Discover Solution 315: Skateboards from recycled and since recycling

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Energy

313: Photocatalyst sheet

Problem:

Harvesting solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into fuel is a promising way to reduce carbon emissions and transition away from fossil fuels. However, it is challenging to produce these clean fuels without unwanted by-products, in addition, storage of gaseous fuels and separation of by-products can be complicated

Solution:

Wang Qian a researcher at the Department of Chemistry, Cambridge University originally from Jiangxi province has collaborated with artificial photosynthesis expert Erwin Reisner, to develop a standalone biomimicry device that converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into a carbon-neutral fuel, without requiring any additional components or electricity.

The 20cm² test unit called a photocatalyst sheet is made up of cost-effective semiconductor powders and uses light as its only energy source, prompting a reaction that produces formic acid, a storable fuel that can be used directly or converted into clean-burning hydrogen.

The wireless device could be scaled up to several m² and used on energy ‘farms’ similar to solar farms, producing clean fuel using sunlight and water. In addition, the formic acid can be accumulated in solution, and be chemically converted into different types of fuel.

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Carbon Capture Materials

312: Murals, pollution-eating

Problem:

Murals or wall paintings proliferate in big cities but are only decorative.

Solution:

Pollution-eating paint.

Since 2007, Massimo Bernardoni and Antonio Cianci of Airlite in Milan and London, have developed Sunlight Exterior one of a range of paint colours which contain special compounds that absorb and eliminate pollutants in the air by 88%, similar to photosynthesis in plants. A study in Rome’s Umberto tunnel found that after it was painted with a similar photocatalytic paint, nitrogen oxide levels were reduced by over 50%.

Sponsored by Veronica De Angelis, real estate entrepreneur and founder of Yourban2030, Milanese street artist Federico Massa (aka Iena Cruz) using the Airlite palette unveiled her work ‘Hunting Pollution,’ which spanned 1,000-square-metres, on the side of seven-story building in the capital.

In Rome, the Dutch street artist JDL (Judith de Leeuw) has painted another giant mural on a gable end of a building. Paying homage to the LGBTQ community by depicting a woman standing in front of a mirror seeing her reflection as a man, the mural is absorbing the pollution generated by 52 cars every day.

Airlite is planning to focus on large contracts and infrastructure projects like hospitals, schools, air quality in tunnels and the like.

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Materials

311: Ultra-strong coloured bricks from plastic waste

Solution:

Nzambi Matee majored in material science and worked as an engineer in Kenya’s oil industry. In 2017 she quit her job to start creating and testing pavers, which are a combination of plastic and sand.


Obtaining the waste material for free from packaging factories or buying it from other recyclers, through experimentation, Matee understood which plastics bind better together and then created the machinery that would allow her to mass produce them. She obtained a brick that was five to seven times stronger than concrete and could be produced in an array of colours including but not limited to red, blue, brown, and green.

In 2017, Matee opened a factory in Nairobi called Gjenge Makers Ltd. capable of producing 1,500 plastic pavers per day. The factory accepts waste that other facilities cannot process anymore and has also generated 112 job opportunities for garbage collectors, women and youth groups. To date, gjenge makers ltd. has managed to recycle more than 20 tonnes of plastic waste into paving bricks.

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Energy

310: Twin thin-film solar cell with 34% efficiency

Problem:

Solar cells have come a long way, but inexpensive, thin film solar cells are still far behind more expensive, crystalline solar cells in efficiency. Theoretically, two layers would be better than one for solar-cell efficiency.

Solution:

A team led by Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Evan Pugh University Professor and Charles Godfrey Binder Professor of engineering science and mechanics at the Pennsylvania State University, has suggested that using two thin films of different materials may be the way to go to create affordable, thin film cells with about 34% efficiency.

To do that the Penn State team had to make the absorbent layer nonhomogeneous in a special way. That special way was to use two different absorbent materials in two different thin films. They chose commercially available CIGS — copper indium gallium diselenide — and CZTSSe — copper zinc tin sulfur selenide— for the layers. By itself, CIGS’s efficiency is about 20% and CZTSSe’s is about 11%.

These two materials work in a solar cell because the structure of both materials is the same. They have roughly the same lattice structure, so they can be grown one on top of the other, and they absorb different frequencies of the spectrum so they should increase efficiency
“It was amazing,” said Lakhtakia. “Together they produced a solar cell with 34% efficiency. This creates a new solar cell architecture — layer upon layer. Others who can actually make solar cells can find other formulations of layers and perhaps do better.”

According to the researchers, the next step is to create these experimentally and see what the options are to get the final, best answers.The National Science Foundation supported this research.

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Planet Care

309: Shaded farming aka Agrophotovoltaics

Problem:

The expansion of renewable energies aims at meeting the global energy demand while replacing fossil fuels. However, it requires large areas of land. At the same time, food security is threatened by the impacts of climate change and a growing world population. Some highly urbanised countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, lack the necessary space to install large solar power plants.

Solution:

Agrophotovoltaics
In 1981 Adolf Goetzberger, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, proposed the idea of installing solar modules on agricultural land or in the hot and dry regions of the world. He predicted that the consequent shading would make the hard soil bloom.
In 2016 Fraunhofer built a test installation at in Heggelbach near Lake Constance which during the next three years proved the concept: They founded that, given the impacts of climate change and conditions in arid climates, potential benefits are likely for crop production through additional shading and observed improvements of water productivity. In addition, APV enhances the economic value of farming and can contribute to decentralized, off-grid electrification in developing and rural areas, thus further improving agricultural productivity.
ENGIE BENELUX has taken up the challenge and is implementing a large-scale project of this type in the Netherlands that aims is to install a 45-megawatt solar farm combined with a crop-growing activity by 2021. It also envisages the development of an APV project in Chile’s Arica Province. Ombrea has installed an AI-based mobile shade system on a vineyard in Rians, France, and the first harvest was a conclusive success.

Endesa, Spain’s largest utility has added bee hives to two AGV sites in Carmona, south-west Spain. By establishing at the 50 Mw Las Corchas and Los Naranjos solar plants, the additional bee pollination will increase productivity even further. The underground cable network spanning 4.5 km may also act as electroculture.

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Mobility Energy

308: Retrofitting vehicles to electric propulsion

Problem:

According to Oliver Wyman of Lux Research electric vehicles are 45% more expensive to build than their internal combustion engined equivalents.

Solution:

During the 1980s, many individuals retrofitted their gasoline automobiles to electric propulsion despite being held back by batteries with feeble autonomy.

In 1966, Daniel Theobald Cambridge, Massachusetts bought a 1966 VW camper off Craigslist, converted it to electric power in an afternoon and started re-engineering the vehicle for solar power.

Among them was Randy Holmquist of Errington, a small Vancouver Island community in British Columbia, Canada. In 1995 Holmquist set up Canadian Electric Vehicles (CEV) with the initial focus to provide the designs and parts for converting gas vehicles to non-polluting electric.

In 2000 Canadian Electric Vehicles was approached by Los Angeles airport to design and build an electric powered aircraft refueling truck. Over 70 of these three ton trucks have been converted and are in use at airports in in US, Dubai, Puerto Rico, Australia and in 2009 England. In 2012, CEV innovated a kit to convert Ford Ranger fleet vehicles to electric which was received by both municipal and private fleet operators in BC.

Today, across the border, there are some thirteen Electric Vehicle Conversion Companies

Across the Atlantic, in Newton, mid-Wales, Richard “Moggy” Morgan and Graham Swann e-retrofit models from the 1960s or 1970s including the iconic VW Beetle and its derivatives

Since 1954, it had been impossible to change a car engine in France, even to put an electric, batteries and thus drive every day with much less pollution. But on April 6th 2020, the French government published a ministerial decree that creates a legal framework for electric car conversions. ICE cars, buses, and trucks over five years old, and two and three-wheelers over three years old can now be retrofitted with an electric powertrain

This was largely due to lobbying by Retrofuture of Paris, who have “electrified” such vehicles an Austin Mini, a Peugeot 504 or a Jaguar XJ. With batteries today, but with hydrogen tomorrow, Marc Tison and Arnaud Pigounides are accompanying the revolution in ecological and economic mobility

Discover Solution 309: Shaded farming aka Agrophotovoltaics

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Materials Planet Care

307: Pesticide eco-friendly

Problem:

Chemical pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, produced from chemical alteration can contaminate soil, water, turf, and other vegetation. In addition to killing insects or weeds, pesticides can be toxic to a host of other organisms including, humans, birds, fish, beneficial insects such as bees, and non-target plants. Examples of acute health effects include stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, blindness, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea and death.

Solution:

Nanopesticides offer hope of a more environmentally-friendly approach.

Nanopesticides are plant protection products where nanotechnology is employed to enhance the efficacy or reduce the environmental footprint of a pesticide active ingredient. It is such a young solution that, in the European Union, silicon dioxide (SiO2) is the only active substance with an approval for use as a nanomaterial in biocidal products.

Bacterial leaf blight of rice caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo) is a major disease of rice, leading to reduction in production by 10–50%. In order to control this disease, various chemical bactericides have been used. Wide and prolonged application of chemical bactericides resulted in the resistant strain of Xoo that was isolated from rice.

To address this problem, Chinese researchers at both the College of Materials and Energy, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou and the College of Agriculture, Shihezi University, Xinjiang were searching for an environmentally friendly alternative to the commonly used chemical bactericides.

They found that silicon dioxide nanospheres loaded with silver nanoparticles (SiO2-Ag) can be prepared by using rice husk as base material precursor. The results of the antibacterial tests showed that SiO2-Ag composites displayed antibacterial activity against Xoo.

Nano technology can also be used to create e-friendly fertilisers. In 2019, Researchers at Egypt’s National Research Centre in Cairo produced a nano-fertiliser from banana peels. They used potassium hydroxide as the extracting agent at optimum operating conditions (solid to liquid ratio 1:2, temperature 100 °C, and cooking time 30 min).

The product was applied in agriculture of two crops, tomato and fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum). Their findings revealed that germination percentage increased with increasing dose of banana peel extract for both crops. For tomato crop, the germination percentage was increased from 14% (control without nano) to 97% after 7 days of plantation. Also, the same trend was noticed for fenugreek crop, the germination percentage was enhanced from 25% (control without nano) to 93.14%.

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