Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Water

As a follow on to the Vertical Farms blog post by Kimberly (published August 6th), read about this Thesis project from Philipp Hutfless who’s studying Industrial Design at University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt,  Germany.  He was inspired by a trip to Japan which sparked his desire to design a food system that could be sustained offshore.

Here’s a sketch of his work in his own words on the

James Dyson Foundation website:

 

Vereos

 

Another description of the project is posted on the Fast Company exist website  (They have all kinds of reviews, musings, op ed pieces and product information on their site – check it out) Floating Ocean Greenhouses Bring Fresh Food Closer To Megacities

 

 

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August 23rd, 2014
8:59
 

As we all droop from the heat of summer in America, it’s a depressing thought to imagine that water shortages could spell an end to making lemonade or running thru the sprinkler on your lawn or hanging out at a pool or beach with your friends or biting into a sweet juicy peach grown by a local farmer (all particularly summer-y type activities that are generally associated with the U.S.).  But it may not be as far fetched as one might suppose -  and it may have a financial repercussions worldwide, too!

Since 2011 companies have spent more than $84bn worldwide to improve the way they conserve, manage or obtain water, according to data from Global Water Intelligence, regulatory disclosures and executive interviews with the Financial Times.

 

Please take some time to check out the article by Pilita Clark linked below .  Admittedly, it’s a lengthy read, but absolutely fascinating (and slightly terrifying!) in the details about the many areas of the globe that have already begun preparations in hopes of staving off the worst effects of the ‘evaporation’ of this most precious commodity.

 

A WORLD WITHOUT WATER

 

Continents

(P.S. Note her mention of Coca-Cola and their project with World Wildlife Fund – I talked about their work in my blog post on June 27th. Here’s another chance to click on the panda to explore different career paths for yourself)

WWF logo

 

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August 22nd, 2014
9:17
 

Inspired by the wings of desert beetles, a new device made of millions of tiny carbon tubes could one day be used to pull water from the air — even from the most arid desert air in regions where such a device would be especially useful.

Pulickel Ajayan and his colleagues from Rice University created Hygroscopic Scaffolds that attract water molecules from the air.

The amount of water vapor captured depends on the humidity of the air. The new water collection device doesn’t require any external energy, but the production costs of carbon nanotube arrays continues to be a bottleneck.

blog water

Perhaps your expertise could advance this very innovative water collection process?

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At the University of South Florida, students and staff are working through research to create a more sustainable earth. Fertilizer needs to be reinvented if it is to be as effective as it should be healthy for the planet. Conventional fertilizers need to be replaced.

The fertilizers that we are sustainably creating through our system at USF, offset need to create conventional fertilizers. Conventional fertilizers require mining of important nutrients such as phosphate, which generates extremely harmful environmental impacts and often creates wastelands on the mine site. Places such as Florida (where we are located) have large expanses that have become these wastelands. Furthermore, worldwide phosphorus deposits are depleting (just as oil deposits are depleting). Our system allows for recovering nutrients such as phosphorus from waste, turning that waste into a valuable resource. Therefore, it creates a renewable source of nutrients and reduces the need to have harmful phosphate mining operations. Furthermore, creating Nitrogen fertilizer, which is typically done through the Haber process, uses large amounts of energy and incurs high costs.

A phosphate mine in Hardee County in central Florida. Seventy-five percent of the phosphate used in the United States comes from the region. Our research will reduce the need for these mines. Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/04/us/04phosphates.html?_r=0

A phosphate mine in Hardee County in central Florida. Seventy-five percent of the phosphate used in the United States comes from the region. Our research will reduce the need for these mines.
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/04/us/04phosphates.html?_r=0

Not only are our fertilizers created sustainably using renewable source, but they also are expected to outperform conventional fertilizers in several ways that are important to the environment. For example, our fertilizers are expected to have slow-release characteristics, meaning that they dissolve slowly, allowing for the plants to uptake the nutrients efficiently. Conventional fertilizers dissolve very quickly, causing most of the fertilizer to be washed away by rain. The fertilizer nutrients that are washed away cause very harmful environmental impacts such as eutrophication, which often leads to hypoxia or “dead zones” (complete depletion of oxygen in the water) that cause mass death of aquatic life such as fish and crabs. This is a common occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico, where nutrients are carried into it by rainwater runoff, causing massive dead zones and loss of life.

Massive Fish Kill in the Gulf of Mexico Due to Oxygen Depletion Caused by Nutrient Runoff. Our fertilizers will help prevent such fish kills from occurring. Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/09/100916-fish-kill-louisiana-gulf-oil-spill-dead-zone-science-environment/

Massive Fish Kill in the Gulf of Mexico Due to Oxygen Depletion Caused by Nutrient Runoff. Our fertilizers will help prevent such fish kills from occurring.
Source: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/09/100916-fish-kill-louisiana-gulf-oil-spill-dead-zone-science-environment/

Our slow-release, sustainable fertilizers can significantly reduce the instance of these fish kills. However, our growth study is needed to prove that our fertilizers can compete with conventional fertilizers. This will prove that these sustainable fertilizers can be widely adopted while still providing the same performance as conventional fertilizers.

 

 

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August 14th, 2014
6:06
 

Excess heat is a wasted by-product of many industrial processes. Weizmann Institute of Science reports on an Israeli start-up that has discovered a way to capture this industrial by-product and turn it into fuel.  While this new process has not yet been put into production, the test data supports a very compelling debate.

Besides being a sustainable source of energy, an advantage of using released industrial heat rather than solar energy is that the former is released 24 hours a day, while solar energy heat can only be generated between 8 and 10 hours daily.

blog weizmann

Prototype of the the excess heat system setup. Photo: COURTESY NEW CO2FUELS

With plans on the table with two companies in Europe – the largest steel manufacturer in the world, and an engineering and equipment supplier, it remains to be seen how successful this new process will be.

Do you think this transformation of excess heat into fuel will reap substantial benefits?

Read about the proposed plan to execute this process

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