(TMU) — It would be no exaggeration to say that the increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions being pumped into the atmosphere is one of the most pressing concerns facing humanity.
But one startup based in Austin, Texas believes that a solution could lie in a new algae-based system that captures and stores carbon dioxide through a purely biological process—similar to how trees are able to turn energy from the sun into oxygen through photosynthesis.
The new prototype from Hypergiant Industries, dubbed the Eos Bioreactor, uses algae and artificial intelligence to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere—and according to its developers, just one of these 63-cubic foot boxes is capable of taking in as much carbon as 400 trees.
Today I‘m excited to share a first look at @hypergiant's Eos Bioreactor. This started with a question: why isn‘t climate change fixable? And, ended with an answer: we need to look more aggressively at algae. https://t.co/f5YcHOPi3o pic.twitter.com/OYWU52RFl4
— Ben Lamm (@federallamm) September 17, 2019
The company’s CEO, Ben Lamm, told Digital Trends:
“We believe one of the biggest human challenges of our time is the current crisis with global warming.
As such, we set out to figure out if trees were really the best solution or if there were other effective alternatives. It turns out that algae is actually much more effective than trees at reducing carbon in the atmosphere, and can be used to create carbon negative fuels, plastics, textiles, food, fertilizer and much more.
[Our research led us to utilize] algae and A.I. to create the Eos Bioreactor, a prototype bioreactor that can substantially outperform trees by up to 400 times.”
Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, greenhouse gases like CO2 are thought to have contributed greatly to the heating of the planet, and in recent years we’ve witnessed a highly volatile shift in global climate conditions resulting in unprecedented heat waves, extreme weather events, and catastrophic fires consuming biodiverse forests from the Amazon to Indonesia.
To make matters worse, carbon emissions are increasing year by year as industries worldwide burn fossil fuels at ever-increasing rates. And with global emissions showing no sign of decreasing, one wonders if there is any hope in terms of curbing the runaway heating of our planet.
"I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take real action."
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared before Congress to urge lawmakers to "listen to the scientists" and embrace global efforts to reduce carbon emissions. https://t.co/txEdAiOYKC pic.twitter.com/O51ESiqOYI
— ABC News (@ABC) September 18, 2019
In recent years, researchers have struggled with how to remove carbon dioxide from nature, ideas have ranged from compressing it into a liquid that is injected into underground reservoirs to turning it into an edible protein. However, such “solutions” have been impractical mainly because they aren’t large-scale enough to realistically solve the emissions crisis.
But Hypergiant hopes that these devices could soon become a staple in our everyday lives.
To that end, it has announced that it plans to release its system’s blueprints so that others can take a crack at designing new variants of the bioreactor that can be built into homes and office buildings—potentially erasing the carbon footprint of entire cities.
In a press release, Lamm noted:
“This device is one of our first efforts focused on fixing the planet we are on. We hope to inspire and collaborate with others on a similar mission.”
— Ben Lamm (@federallamm) September 18, 2019
Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral
A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.
Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.
The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.
Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.
While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.
“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”
“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.
It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.
The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.
“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.
The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.
Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History
For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.
Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.
However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.
Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.
The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.
To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.
The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.
“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”
“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”
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.