(TMU) — As carbon emissions wreak havoc on the planet, contributing to erratic weather patterns, freak heat waves, and rapid climate shifts, new technologies are being developed to pull carbon dioxide from the air and gear it toward other uses.
Earlier this year in Australia, researchers discovered a way to take that CO2 and turn it back into fuel. But what if we could take the pollutants in our atmosphere and recycle them into climate-friendly, totally human-edible calories?
Based on a concept developed by NASA, Finland-based Solar Foods has created a process that utilizes renewable electricity and carbon dioxide to produce what they claim is a healthy ingredient that contains 50 percent protein. The new protein, dubbed Solein, comes in a powdered form and can be used like flour in the industrial production of food.
The innovation uses a minimal amount of water, nutrients and electricity to power a gas-based fermentation process, or enzymatic reaction, that transforms CO2 into edible proteins, according to Forbes.
The startup hopes that it can apply for a food license from the European Union this year and begin commercial production by 2021, after which it may start appearing first in the form of protein shakes and yogurt.
Solar Foods CEO and founder Pasi Vainikka explained to Forbes:
“Disconnecting from agriculture and fossil resources in food production is our key value and differentiator to all other [proteins].”
And while the production of algae conforms closely to the description, Vainikka believes that “the [production of Solein] is the most environmentally friendly” protein development method of today.
.@indexaward: When a “boundary-crossing cooperation” leads to the discovery of how to make food out of thin air. Meet @Solar_Foods. https://t.co/tbNZD8DArG #indexaward2019 #designtoimprovelife pic.twitter.com/rW7w2NKrSy
— Solar Foods (@Solar_Foods) June 18, 2019
A key aspect of the sustainability of his product is the fact that unlike other foods made through fermentation, such as beers or lab-grown meats like Quorn, Solein doesn’t use plant sugars—instead, those sugars are replaced with carbon.
Vainikka told Fast Company:
“We started to think about what are the preconditions that you could have in order to establish the most environmentally friendly food … Because we don’t use sugars, or similar agricultural feedstocks, we can completely disconnect from agriculture.”
The company hopes that the bountiful, if not limitless, ingredients of CO2 and renewable energy can be used to create food without the horrendous environmental footprint of the large-scale agricultural industry, which carries an enormous environmental cost in terms of plastics usage, pesticides, fertilizer, and water.
To put it in perspective, the production of a single hamburger requires an estimated 64.5 square feet of land for growing grains for cattle grazing, driving deforestation in such biodiverse and sensitive regions like the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. According to another study, it takes as much as 660 gallons of water to produce a single burger.
So while the idea of a new flour based on environmental pollutants may not sound appetizing at the present juncture, we should keep in mind the inherently unsustainable nature of our current agricultural model. And of course, we’ll still require plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains to meet our basic nutritional requirements.
But as protein demands increase across our growing world population, and the capital-intensive agricultural system buckles under ecological and financial pressures, Solar Food’s innovation may inevitably find its way onto our dinner tables.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.
Heat Wave Kills Over 1 BILLION Sea Creatures on Canada West Coast, Experts Say
Researchers in Canada are reporting that over 1 billion marine animals on Canada’s Pacific coast are likely to have died in last week’s record-shattering heat wave, showing how ecosystems not accustomed to such high temperatures are especially vulnerable to changing conditions.
The deadly “heat dome” that settled over British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest for five days is believed to have killed at least 500 people in Canada, and pushed temperatures to extreme temperatures of 104F (40C), sparking wildfires that are burning across the Canadian province.
Multiple experts are now saying that the heat wave also took a horrifying toll on marine life, leaving “postapocalyptic” scenes in its wake.
Marine biologist Christopher Harley of the University of British Columbia knew, when he saw the harrowing weather forecasts, that when the tide dropped the sweltering conditions would absolutely fry the mussels, barnacles and sea stars that were exposed.
When the heatwave actually struck, he was devastated by the stench of decay and the vast death toll sustained by the local ecosystem.
“The shore doesn’t usually crunch when you walk on it,” he told The Guardian. “But there were so many empty mussel shells lying everywhere that you just couldn’t avoid stepping on dead animals while walking around.”
Mussels and barnacles can typical deal with harsh temperatures as high as 113F for a few hours – but any more than that is simply not survivable.
Harley told the New York Times that the loss of mussels likely reaches into the hundreds of millions.
However, when factoring in the death of other marine animals that once lived on the shore and resided on the mussel beds – such as hermit crabs and their crustacean relatives, worms, sea cucumbers and other creatures – the number could quite easily exceed one billion.
“It just feels like one of those postapocalyptic movies,” Harley said.
Harley’s colleagues have also reported on dead sea anemones, rock fish and oysters in the region.
In neighboring Alberta, a massive number of fish also washed up on the shores, likely due to the heat wave.
Fortunately, mussels are able to regenerate over about two years. Starfish and clams, however, live for decades and reproduce much more slowly.
The domino effect of such a vast loss of marine life could be felt on other animals in the ecosystem such as sea ducks, a migratory bird that feeds on mussels in the winter before migrating to the Arctic.
The horrific loss shows that the pace of warming climate conditions is likely outstripping the ability of creatures simply to survive – a prospect that makes Harley feel saddened, but he is still trying to find hope.
“A lot of species are not going to be able to keep up with the pace of change,” he said. “Ecosystems are going to change in ways that are really difficult to predict. We don’t know where the tipping points are.”
“Eye of Fire” Blaze In Gulf of Mexico Literally Shows the Ocean Caught on Fire
A massive ring of fire exploded onto the surface of the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, creating apocalyptic imagery that enveloped social media with unbelievable imagery of the “eye of fire.”
The harrowing “fire in the sea” came following a gas leak in an underwater pipeline near a drilling platform that was owned by Mexican state-owned oil company PEMEX.
The blaze, which resembled a lava flow from a volcano took some five hours to fully contain, and was extinguished by 10:45 a.m., reports USA Today.
In footage from the scene, a hellish orange glow can be seen beneath the churning ocean as boats sprayed streams of water in hopes to put out the blaze.
One video, which seems to depict footage out of a disaster movie, has accumulated over 21 million views at the time of this writing.
User Dave Anthony said: “Never in your life forget the time humans caught the ocean on fire and then tried to put it out by spraying water on it.”
While journalist Christopher Bouzy tweeted: “I am not sure how spraying water on a fire that is literally in the ocean is going to help put it out. I need someone to make it make sense for me.”
Company workers resorted to using nitrogen to subdue the blaze.
Fortunately, there were no injuries resulting from the disaster – although it is too early to gauge the impact on the local environment.