08 Nov 2010:
Creating ‘Living’ Buildings
With Materials That Pull CO2 from Air
A new field, known as “ethical synthetic biology,” aims to combine chemistry, architecture, and climate science to construct buildings out of materials that extract CO2 from the atmosphere and convert the carbon into structural material
. For example, scientists at the University of Greenwich are exploring the possibility of using “protocells” — essentially bubbles of oil in watery fluids that are highly sensitive to light or chemicals — that pull carbon from the atmosphere to create a coral-like skin that would protect buildings. Neil Spiller, an architect and head of Greenwich's School of Architecture & Construction, said such protocells could possibly be used to create a limestone-like material that would petrify the pilings now supporting many of Venice’s buildings, slowing the city’s slide into the sea. At the University of Southern Denmark, researchers have succeeded in capturing carbon dioxide in solution and converting it into carbon-containing materials.“We want to use ethical synthetic biology to create large-scale, real world applications for buildings,” said Spiller.
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A three-part series Tainted Harvest
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The Warriors of Qiugang
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video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
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Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
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, winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest, documents the work of African researchers monitoring wildlife in Uganda's remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Watch the video.