The World’s Saviors, SUPERCHARGED Plants!

Sustainability Problem: Global Warming

CO2 is one of the largest contributors to global warming, representing over two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions yearly.  Industrialization and our penchant for over-consumption has drastically increased the output of this gas.  Global warming, does and will continue to wreak havoc on our ecosystems.  The rising of sea levels, desertification, severe weather, and increase in ocean acidity, negatively impact the life forms on our planet.

As we continue burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests, our ability to balance out the levels of carbon in the atmosphere drops considerably.   The planet’s carbon filtration system (i.e. plants and soil) which can convert CO2 into oxygen, can’t keep up with the rate of human CO2 production.  But the major question is, what can we do to reduce current carbon emissions?

Sustainability Technology: Supercharged Plants

While many people, companies, and countries are looking to reduce their CO2 footprint, the methods/plans in place to do so are more long-term.  Currently, the Earth’s natural filtration system, plants, only suck up about 25% of our carbon emissions to produce their own fuel during photosynthesis.  But unfortunately, it’s a slow and inefficient process.  However, with the help of science, this natural method can be enhanced dramatically to bring forth a more effective and immediate solution to such a pressing problem.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have found a way to supercharge plants to increase their CO2 absorbing rate.  The team, led by Tobias Erb, identified 17 enzymes from nine different organisms.  They re-engineered some of them to produce a new 11-step system that effectively recreates and enhances the Calvin Cycle.  Plants that had their biology synthetically altered actually acquired the ability to consume carbon at a much higher rate than their ordinary counterparts.

To put things into perspective, the controlled plant group consumed about 5-10 molecules of CO2 per second, while the test group could consume about 80 molecules per second!  This increase in plant efficiency can do wonders at combating our climate change problem and that too in a less invasive manner.  A by-product of this effective photosynthesis process, is that plants will also grow faster, which can be a boon for farmers and more importantly a alternative solution to the world’s food demand.

While this technology has only been tested in labs, a positive real-world test result can be the breakthrough we all have been looking for.  If this technology proves to be successful, it can be scaled up and applied in a multitude of places.

“Plants could be supercharged to absorb more carbon dioxide” TreeHugger, Megan Treacy, 3/06/2017,   https://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/plants-could-be-supercharged-absorb-more-carbon-dioxide.html
 “Scientists Have Developed a Synthetic Way to Absorb CO2 That’s Way Faster Than Plants” Science Alert, Peter Dockrill, 11/18/2016, https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-have-developed-a-synthetic-way-to-absorb-co2-that-s-way-faster-than-plants

 Stakeholders:

  • All citizens of the planet
  • City officials looking to reduce CO2 within their respective cities
  • Companies wanting to curb their carbon footprint
  • Farmer’s looking to boost their crop yields

Technology Implementation & Distribution:

Introduce this synthetic biology in plants outside the lab.  Run tests on various forms of plant life, to determine which species thrive on and successfully perform with the new enhanced Calvin Cycle process.

Put together studies of findings to share with the scientific/business/government groups.  Do a pilot program with each group so see how this bio-engineering technology performs in different environments.

Upon proven success, seek support to implement this it in areas of major concern (i.e. cities, manufacturing plants, waste processing plants, farmlands, etc.).  Continue the monitoring and feedback mechanism to ensure that the process doesn’t break down or lose efficiency.

By: Bhoomi Shah UNI: brs2147

 

Comment on “Plastic Bottle Concrete” by MARIGSKO

The up-cycling plastic and mixing it with cement to form concrete, is a very innovative way to kill three birds with one stone: (1) reduces plastic waste from landfills and oceans, (2) decreases the amount of cement needed – reducing CO2 emissions,  and (3) makes the concrete stronger.  Plastic, something that takes over 400 years to degrade, can be used in a better more effective way.  I think it’s a great idea if it can be adopted on a global scale.

Carbon Emissions Turned into Stone

Sustainability problem: 

CO2 released when burning fossil fuels leads to global warming

Solution:

Turn carbon capture into stone and store underground!

    • In Iceland, scientists turned carbon into stone by  pumping a power plant’s carbon dioxide into underground basalt and mixed them with water.  The process chemically solidified the carbon dioxide and changed the basalt and CO2 into a chalk like substance.
    • The solidifying process takes 2 years, whereas it was originally assumed to take decades.
    • The solidification resolves the risk that carbon stored underground as gas or slurry could accidentally be released into the atmosphere.
    • Its currently unclear whether the process could work with many types of basalt or saltwater as opposed to freshwater

Stakeholders

    • Governments trying to meet CO2 cap commitments
    • Power plants trying to limit CO2 due to regulations or cap and trade limits/incentives
    • Citizens who benefit from avoiding the impacts of global warming
    • Coastal cities/regions and other high risk localities that have to plan and pay for warming mitigation and adaption

First 3 steps for deployment:

    1. Additional studies of types of basalt and water required for the reaction (including testing factors that affect the duration of the reaction)
    2. Analysis of potential geographic locations and power plants that have the proper basalt formations and could make use of the technology
    3. Cost analysis and funding models to determine how much the technology will cost to use and which stakeholders should contribute to the costs

 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-turn-carbon-dioxide-emissions-into-stone-video/

Artificial Trees : A Carbon Capture Technology

Sustainability Problem: Increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere causes global warming

Areas of Sustainability: Energy, Water, Waste, Safety, Health

Artist’s conception of the Columbia researchers’ artificial trees. Photo credit: Stonehaven Productions Inc.

Technology: Artificial Trees

  • In Yale Climate Connections article “Artificial Trees as a Carbon Capture Alternative to Geoengineering,” Richard Schiffman explains the “carbon capture” project of Columbia University Earth Institute scientists Klaus Lackner and Allen Wright. The technology aims to to absorb carbon dioxide using sodium carbonate in the streamers of artificial trees that look like shag rugs and scrub brushes. The researchers would like to make carbon capturing “forests” using artificial trees.
  • Each “tree”, approximately as big and with roughly the same production cost as a car, can absorb carbon produced by 36 cars in a day. It will take 10 million of these “trees” to capture 12 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions per year. A gentle flow of water can release carbon dioxide from the artificial trees. Carbon dioxide can then be buried underground or can be used for industrial purposes.
  • This technology is not geoengineering. “It does not actively interferes with the dynamics of a system you don’t understand” according to Lackner.
  • Artificial tree proved to be one of the first technologies to be able to “remove vehicular carbon emissions from the air”.

http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2013/02/artificial-trees-as-a-carbon-capture-alternative-to-geoengineering/

Stakeholders:

  • Environmental engineers and scientists
  • Policymakers
  • Investors

Deployment:

  1. Accelerated research is needed to find a cost-effective way of purifying carbon dioxide and sequestering it underground.
  2. In order for this technology to be deployed in a grand scale, further  research should be done to make it cost-effective. Urgency on R & D process should be a commitment.
  3. Policies should give investors very attractive incentives in order to commit to this technology.