Breath Brick (2015 R&D Award Innovative Architecture)

Break Brick

  • Sustainability Problem:

Effects of air pollution cause 3.3 million premature deaths each year[1] and majority of household pollutants are due to domestic fire for cooking and/or heating homes. The aforementioned are acquit in developing densely populated cities – Beijing, Manila, Nairobi, Cairo, etc.  Access to air filtration systems are limited to a variety of  issues, but the most common are socio-economic and infrastcture.

Category: Clean Air, Energy Efficiency, Energy Savings, Infrastructure, Innovative, Sustainability


  • Breathe brick is a porous concrete module that forms an air-filtration façade. Pulls in air and separates heavy particles and drops them to collection bin at bottom of the façade. Filter can separate 30% of fine particles and 100% of coarse particles.
  • Simple inexpensive framework, brick and coupler. Coupler are manufactured from recycled materials and can take on most structural forms.  
  • Breathe brick system can operate as active (integrated into existing HVAC system) or passive as independent system.
  • Breath brick is electric free.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 2.17.04 PM Breathebrick03


Organizational Stakeholder:

  • California Polytechnic State University – School of Architecture
  • Homeowner (especially no access to electricity, densely populated cities developing countries, and governments interest in reducing air population)


Next steps for deployment:

  • Waiting for patent approval
  • Refining design to expand to alternative modular forms
  • Regulatory approval in several development nations as sustainable and clean technology product
  • Funding for production




Reducing GHG in NYC Through Organics Collection

Article Thumbnail

1) Sustainability Problem: Organic waste in NYC

Category: Waste

2) Technology

NYC produces 14 million tons of waste every year. The single largest segment of this waste is organic refuse which releases methane gas through decomposition. In response, the city has launched a multi million dollar campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and landfill reliance by turning food scraps and yard waste into compost. The upshot is that the methane released through decomposition can be harnessed and used for fuel through the same technology we currently use to treat wastewater.

  • In 2013, NYC began handing out brown counter top buckets and large outside bins to collect organic waste. This is expected to apply to all residents by the end of 2018.
  • Organics are collected via curbside pickup on a weekly basis and trucked to a waste transfer station where compostables are separated from contaminants.
  • Compostables are then transferred to a composting site or aerobic digestion facility.
  • The city is exploring ways to retrofit wastewater treatment plants to harness the methane gas (already a byproduct of wastewater treatment) released by food waste.
  • National Grid is planning a 30 million dollar system for the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility in Brooklyn to harness the methane and use it to heat NYC by the end of 2018.

3) Organizational Stakeholders:

  • NYC Government
  • NYC Residents
  • NYC Businesses
  • NYC Waste Management
  • Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility
  • National Grid

4) Deployment:

  • NYC implements brown bin organic waste collection across all city residences and businesses on a compulsory basis.
  • NYC supplies trucks and personal to collect organic waste and truck it to partnering waste transfer stations and antibiotic digestion facilities.
  • National grid rolls out compost methane-capture systems in wastewater treatment plants around NYC.


Rueb, Emily. How New York is Turning Food Waste into Compost and Gas. New York Times. June 2, 2017.


Fire brick Resistance-heated Energy Storage

Firebricks offer low-cost storage for carbon-free energy

Sustainable Issue: Energy storage/Efficiency

Technology: Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have drawn from an ancient technology as their latest solution for enabling rapid expansion of wind, solar and nuclear power. Heat-storing firebricks could be used to level electricity prices for renewables.


The researchers’ idea is to make use of excess electricity produced when demand is low — for example, from wind farms when strong winds are blowing at night — by using electric resistance heaters, which convert electricity into heat. These devices would use the excess electricity to heat up a large mass of firebricks, which can retain the heat for long periods if they are enclosed in an insulated casing. Later, the heat could be used directly for industrial processes, or it could feed generators that convert it back to electricity when the power is needed. The potential usefulness of FIRES is a new phenomenon has brought about by the rapid rise of intermittent renewable energy sources, and the peculiarities of the way electricity prices are set.


The firebrick, insulation, and other storage components are like high-temperature firebrick industrial recuperates. The ceramic firebrick is used because of its low cost and durability, while also having large sensible heat storage capabilities. If one allows a 1000 °C temperature range from cold to hot temperature, the heat storage capacity is ∼0.5–1 MWh/m3. Storage capacity of FIRES is governed by the sensible heat capable of being stored in a volume of material over a chosen temperature range (minimum and maximum temperatures). The chosen temperature range and material will be determined by the needs of the industrial process. More firebrick will store more energy.

Stake Holders:

  • Manufacturing units
  • Public/ Government body
  • Commercial building users
  • Utilities
  • Communities

Deployment / Implementation:

Step one: Showcase the reliability of the technology to the public and private entities. Attract more investors and spread awareness about the usage to this technology.

Step two: Set up some full-scale prototype units to prove the principles in real-world conditions.

Step three: Find companies that could use this technology in their buildings to demonstrate the efficiency of the technology.


Comment on another post 

Solar Paint by Drb2171

I think Solar Paint could be the latest breakthrough in Renewable Energy. This may sound like a new kind of solar panel, but it’s a completely different technology, and one that should prove to be far less costly than the use solar panels to harvest energy. The paint that covers our home can be a source of clean energy.

UNI: SN2754

Technology Enabling the Circular Use of Textiles

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 14.08.44
Sustainability issue:

According to Evrnu, it takes over 700 gallons of water to produce a cotton-shirt. A large problem in this water use is the amount of water needed to irrigate the crop. However, the manufacturing process also requires water. Rather than recycling these water-intensive textiles and developing a circular economy for textiles, much of it goes to waste. For example, the U.S. wastes 12 million tons of textile waste each year.

  • Evrnu has created a patent that takes old garments, shreds them, break down the molecules, and engineers a new fiber.
  • The fiber can be used to create new premium garments. In doing so, the technology would create a diversion in the supply and life cycle chain of textile garments.
  • Evrnu assumes that a typical life-cycle of the textile is as follows: farm ->yarn -> fabric -> dye -> cut & sew -> retailer -> customer -> landfill. Evrnu could work with large fashion retailers to ensure that they create a closed loop process.
  • At the end of the lifetime of a garment, any recuperated clothes could use the Evrnu technology to create new fiber turn it into yarn and recreate a new life cycle for the textile.

Article title: Evrnu Recycles Old Cotton Garments into New Fibers
Website name: Ecouterre
Company website:


  • Evrnu company
  • Retail fashion companies and their suppliers
  • Society/communities
  • Governments
  • NGOs


  • To deploy the technology the patent first needs to be secured.
  • Evrnu will then have to work with big fashion retailers (as well as smaller ones in the long-term) to help them achieve a circular business model.
  • While the technology seems sound, the largest barrier to achieving these circular business models are the customers themselves. Evrnu’s technology seeks to recycle and repurpose post-consumer cotton textile waste. However, this requires fashion retailers to incentive consumers to recycle their old garments in store rather than selling them, donating them, or throwing them in the landfill.

Air Quality Improvement with “Bioweapon Defense Mode”

Sustainability Problem: Air Quality and Air Pollution (Health and Safety)

The World Health Organization estimates that over 3 million people die each year from environmental health related impacts. Tesla has recently used this statistic as a marketing tactic to promote its new “Bioweapon Defense Mode” implemented in it’s vehicles using HEPA filtration system technology.

The Technology: 

  • While HEPA filters are not new technology, Tesla’s innovation of combining them with their car models allows for air quality standard to be met in unconventional spaces such as cars.
  • True HEPA filters are 99.9% efficient at removing even small particles from the air and they have 3 filter layers: a prefilter that blocks large particles and dust, a HEPA filter that traps germs and other small particles, and a charcoal filter that removes odors and purifies the air.
  • In test environments with near-lethal doses of pollution, the system was able to completely clean the air inside the car within 2 minutes.
  • More importantly, the tests showed that it was also able to filter the air outside of the vehicle as well to reduce pollution levels by 40%.

Organizational Stakeholders:

  • Automotive industry
  • Consumers in air polluted countries
  • Wealthy individuals in polluted areas
  • Individuals with asthma

Technology Deployment: 

  • While this adaptation is already being used by Tesla, the next step would be to enhance technological recognition beyond the buzz around Tesla to get more people involved in backing clean air conditions.
  • Next the improvement of current vehicles is important to help drive down the cost of the technology. Currently, the problem with implementing HEPA filters in existing vehicles is that they lack an air-tight cabin needed for efficiency.
  • Then Initiate government involvement in subsidizing the cost for less wealthy consumers.


Dominic Bell (dlb2189)
Image Source:

Micro Fuel Cell, generating electricity of wastewater

fuel-cell1) According to the UN Water at a global level, 80% of wastewater produced is discharged into the ecosystem untreated, causing widespread water pollution. Wastewater treatment is not only relevant to reduce environmental pollution but also to ensure drinking water supply, around 1.8 billion people use a contaminated source of drinking water. Even though there are numerous processes that can be used to clean up wastewaters depending on the type and extent of contamination, the most common barriers are the affordability of these technologies and their energy consumption.

2) Microbial Fuel Cells

Technology: A microbial fuel cell (MFC), is a bio-electrochemical system that drives an electric current by using bacteria and mimicking bacterial interactions found in nature. “The direct conversion of organic matter to electricity using bacteria” Logan.  These electrochemical cells are constructed using either a bioanode and/or a biocathode. Inside the fuel cell,  anaerobic bacteria releases electrons in an oxygen-free environment. The electrons flow to an anode and then into a circuit to cathodes in a separate chamber on the outside of the membrane.

Potential: MFCs use energy very efficiently than standard, in theory, an MFC is capable of energy efficiency far beyond 50%. Nonetheless, MFCs are only attractive for power generation applications that require only low power, therefore the amount of electricity generated will not compare will a power plant, or even cover the entire processing facility, but it can offset the energy used to clean the water. “The energy we don’t consume is more important than the electricity we might produce” Logan.

Constraints: The fuel cell is ideal for wastewater with a high concentration in organic material, mostly wastewater from agriculture and food processing rather than municipalities. This technology has had interesting advances in the proof of concept but it is still has a  wide range of opportunity to increase processing volumes until it can be implemented at a large scale.

3) Municipal, industrial and agricultural water treatment facilities, will be able to increase the efficiency and reduce the sludge by applying this technology. Furthermore, this technology will enable small-scale decentralized water treatment facilities, owned by either farmers or communities.

4) The next steps to deploy this technology would be to increase processing volumes until it can be implemented at a large scale. Moreover, to evaluate the possibility to automatize the small-scale facilities to reduce operation and maintenance efforts to expand the user market.





Vacuum Glazed Windows for Energy Efficiency



  1. Sustainability Problem: Heat loss through windows in buildings. Category: Energy

Buildings are one of the highest sources of energy consumption and GHG emissions. In NYC, buildings account for over 75% of the city’s emissions, making them the largest contributors to the city’s carbon footprint.

  1.  “Vacuum Glazing: Windows that are Energy Efficient AND Cost Effective”

  • Approximately 40% of heat loss from buildings occurs due to poorly insulated walls, floors and windows, making building envelope improvements an effective way to decrease energy bills and reduce a building’s carbon footprint.
  • Vacuum glazing is an innovative window technology that can greatly improve window insulation performance and reduce heat loss from windows.
  • Vacuum glazed windows are similar to regular double paned windows. The difference is that here air is removed from between the two panes of glass. This process reduces the conduction and convection abilities of the window, allowing less heat to leak out.
  • While they are still fairly expensive, the energy savings from installing vacuum glazed windows reduces the payback period to approximately 14 years.
  • The effectiveness of the technology may be reduced in regions with extreme temperature fluctuations.
  1. Organizational stakeholders for this technology include green building companies, utility companies, and local governments looking for ways to reduce energy consumption in their regions.
  2. The first three steps for deploying this technology:
  • Increase research funding to improve the technology and allow for use in extreme climate regions.
  • Increase competition to reduce cost and make the technology competitive with standard windows.
  • Offer local grants and/or loans to help businesses and homeowners finance new window installations.