Biomimetic file 165: CO2, from inconvenience to asset

How to turn unwanted situations into desired outcomes

4h3IMxhPicture: a termite nest with its glowing worms, source reddit.com. Carbon capture* and storage (CCS) (or carbon capture and sequestration) is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources, such as fossil fuel power plants, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere, normally an underground geological formation.

Highlight: “An interdisciplinary team at UCLA have found a way to potentially reduce the amount of carbon emissions from power plants by converting it into a new building material, named CO2NCRETE, which would be fabricated with 3D printers…what this technology does is take something that we have viewed as a nuisance – carbon dioxide  – and turn it into something valuable…the hope is not only to capture more gas, but  to take that gas and instead of storing it, to try to use it to create a new kind of building material that will replace cement…”

Insight: In nature many species (e.g. ants, termites, bees, birds, reptiles..) utilize available surrounding elements (sand, leaves, wood..) often mixed with body secretions and other binding agents as raw materials for making their homes.

When it comes to urgent climate change mitigation strategies, the solution to store carbon dioxide underground (carbon capture*) is an interesting one but it is not without major technical difficulties and risks which are currently a break to significant actions taken. If CO2 could no longer be seen as an inconvenience but rather as a valuable element for mainstream usage such as a concrete-like construction material, this would positively shift the efforts to reduce CO2 from entering the atmosphere…

Businesses are constantly subject to obstacles which often slows their development plans. While the conventional approach is to avoid these obstacles and sometimes ignore them, perhaps a better alternative is to integrate them and see them as part of the solution.

For instance lets imagine the following scenario: a fast food company is doing great sales since its franchises were implemented in a small island state. However, a growing problem has to do with the large amount of cooking oils generated in all its outlets. While in other countries it is relatively easy to dispose of the oil, in this small island there is no proper disposal site nor collection mechanism in place. For some time the company has discarded the waste in its own capacity at the local dump site which is time consuming and expensive. Concurrently, growing complaints from locals have been criticizing the company for not doing more and that such disposal could end up contaminating their water ways and fishing grounds. Fed up with this situation, one day the management decides to try another approach and to see if the cooking oil could be used as a resource rather than a waste.  It happens that most of the outlets are surrounded by patches of grass which require regular land mowing especially in this type of humid climate. The cooking oil undergoes a simple filtration process and is then used as a fuel for the land-mowers which happens to work quite well, the only issue being a slight smell of cooking oil which is no more unpleasant than the smell of conventional diesel. Combined with a nice marketing campaign, the company completely reverses its public image and gains popularity with the locals which in end also benefits the bottom line…

Are you facing obstacles that you would rather avoid? If so, perhaps try to find ways to utilize these obstacles rather than fear them. Turning problems into solutions is a powerful strategy to instigate drastic changes that would otherwise be seen unfeasible…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species or natural systems on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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