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.

 

 

Impossible Foods: Plant-based burgers with taste and texture of the real thing

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 2.52.07 PM

Sustainability Problem:

Animal agriculture contributes to nearly ⅕ of all GHG emissions worldwide and beef production is considered the worst offender when it comes to its environmental impact. A 2014 study found that compared to pork or chicken, beef production requires 28x more land use, 11x more water use and produces 5x more GHG emissions. Cutting back or eliminating beef consumption would have a positive environmental impact. However, many people enjoy the taste of beef and aren’t interested in pursuing a completely meat-free or plant-based lifestyle. The current plant-based meat substitutes in the marketplace, do not replace the void of a “real” burger when it comes to taste and texture.

Technology:

Impossible Foods aimed to create plant-based meat and dairy products that have the taste and texture of real animal-based products that are healthier for the consumer and are less harmful to the planet using less energy, water and other resources compared to animal products. Over three years of research into what makes the process of cooking and eating meat so unique led to the discovery of the molecule heme which gives meat its distinct taste and smell. This molecule is also found in plants and therefore Impossible Foods set out to develop the right combination of plant-based ingredients on a molecular level to mimic the taste and texture of a real beef burger. Operated as a tech firm and not a typical food company, Impossible Foods is based in Redwood City, CA was founded by Stanford biochemist Pat Brown whose premise is that food production is reliant on technology. Impossible Foods has raised $182 million and received a $300 million buyout offer from Google, which they passed on.

Technology Stakeholders:

  • Chefs, restaurateurs, food retailers
  • Consumers of beef burgers
  • Scientists
  • Engineers
  • Farmers
  • Investors

Technology Implementation:

Impossible Foods plans to officially launch their first product the Impossible Burger in July 2016 in select restaurants in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and NYC. They are currently partnering with select chefs to gain awareness and interest in the food space and have held tastings at tech conferences such as Code Conference. Future expansion plans include plant-based dairy products. To better address the sustainability problem of beef consumption, Impossible Foods should scale production to have products in retail markets with a wider U.S. or even worldwide distribution.

Update August 10, 2016: The Impossible Burger is now available in NYC at Momofuku Nishi. https://nishi.momofuku.com/

I tried it today and was impressed. As a former burger-lover who went plant-based earlier this year, it did fill a void. It did taste like a beef burger and I would probably try it again.

burger

 

 

Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/02/impossible-foods-plant-burger-taste-test

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/21/beef-environmental-impact_n_5599370.html

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/21/giving-up-beef-reduce-carbon-footprint-more-than-cars

http://www.gfi.org/impossible-foods-launches-the-impossible

http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21645497-tech-startups-are-moving-food-business-make-sustainable-versions-meat

http://www.impossiblefoods.com/

 

U

Water as a Refrigerant

R718 Turbo Chiller

Problem: Refrigerants can and do evaporate into the environment, causing greenhouse gas emissions.

Solution:

The R718 Turbo Water Chiller is the world’s most efficient chiller system that utilizes water as a refrigerant. With a cooling capacity of 10RT and a COP of 5.1, the system is both efficient and effective.

Because of the low cooling capacity for water compared to refrigerants, the flow must be much higher (about 200 times higher) than a R134a system to produce the same cooling.

Stakeholders:

Car companies

Real Estate companies

Homeowners

Refrigerant manufacturers

Legislators

Engineers

Deployment:

  • In 2000, the first chillers were proved in practice by car manufacturers Daimler Chrysler and VW
  • Technology will continue to go through trials and vetting
  • Adoption of technology in small scale projects
  • Wide-spread adoption of technology in larger scale real estate or automotive projects