Battle vs. Climate Change : MIT Chemical Engineers Develop a Revolutionary Method of Capturing And Releasing Carbon

The global battle against climate change requires undertakings by countries all over the world to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions down to zero level by the mid century. Currently though, the United States is still way behind in achieving such an objective. Mainly because the country is run by a president who believes global warming and the resulting climate change is just a hoax.

Nonetheless, two chemical engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new process by which CO2 can be captured and then alternately released.

The technique was developed by Sahag Voskian, an MIT Postdoctoral Associate at the Department of Chemical Engineering, in collaboration with T. Alan Hatton, the Ralph Landau Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. Professor Hatton also co-directs MIT’s Center for Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage, with a focus on the development of varying technologies for the purification of air, water, and other substances significant to the environment.

According to Professor Hatton, the process developed by Voskian during his PhD, can capture and alternately release CO2. Through an electrochemical system, CO2 in the air that passes through a stack of charged electrochemical plates will be absorbed, whilst requiring only small swings in voltage to carry out the separations.

The MIT Ralph Landau professor further described the process as one that can happen under ambient conditions, without requiring thermal pressure or chemical additions. Professor Hatton says the revolutionary CO2 carbon capture system simply applies the power of electrochemical approaches, by using a stack of very thin sheets that are active on both surfaces and contained in a box that can be connected to an electrical source.

According to Professor Hatton, a company registered as Verdox has in fact, been set up to commercialize the CO2 capture process. The company’s mission is to develop a pilot-scale plant in the next few years. The device they developed is quite easy to scale up as it only requires making more electrodes to increase capacity.

What Makes MIT’s CO2 Capture Device Different from Other Existing Systems

As a revolutionary tool that will be introduced in removing carbon dioxide from the air, the new method can work on gas at any concentration level, even at the roughly 400 parts per million currently present in the atmosphere. .

The design of the device basically comes as a large, specialized battery comprised by a stack of electrodes coated with a compound called poly anthraquinone, a substance composited with carbon nanotubes.

Once the specialized battery charges up, its chemically coated electrodes will absorb carbon dioxide carried by the stream of air passing through them, which the battery can later release by discharging. When in actual operation the device would alternate between absorbing CO2 during charging and then blowing out the concentrated carbon dioxide during discharging.

Unlike most methods that require high concentrations when removing CO2 from a stream of air, the system developed by MIT chemical engineers can work with low-level concentrations, making it less expensive, and more importantly, less energy-intensive.

Sahag Voskian says their carbon capture device consistently uses only one (1) gigajoule of energy per ton of captured CO2. Other existing carbon capture technologies consume varying energy, ranging between 1 to 10 gigajoules per ton; dependent on the carbon dioxide concentration being processed.

Voskian, the MIT Postdoctoral Associate, also remarked that the electrodes can be produced using standard chemical processing methods, which is unlike other systems that require manufacturing in a laboratory setting.

Voskian says the process has been developed in a very cost-effective way. Adaptation techniques for large quantity electrode production is by way of roll-to-roll manufacturing process like a newspaper printing press.

Climate Change Study: 664 Years of Grape Harvest Dates Present New Evidence of Warming Temperatures

Based on a study of the longest comparable series of grape harvest dates recorded in Beaune, the wine capital of France, climate change researchers were able to gather a new line of evidence that shows how climate trends have changed in the past 30 years. Results of the study were published by the European Geosciences Union in the Climate of the Past journal 2019 edition, showing how warming trends sped up starting from mid 1980s up to the present.

Christian Pfister, professor at the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research of the University of Bern, Switzerland, conducted the study with Thomas Labbé, Stefan Brönnimann, Benjamin Bois, Jörg Franke and Daniel Rousseau, scientists and historians from Switzerland, France, and Germany, Professor Pfister commented that they did not expect the accelerated warming trend would stand out so clearly in the series of grape harvest dates,

What the Study of the Beaune Grape Harvest Dates Revealed

According to the study, grape harvest dates can be used as basis in analyzing climate changes since wine grapes are quite sensitive to rainfall and temperature.

As cited by an article in the French tourism website, Mother Nature decides when grapes are ripe enough for picking. During years when the growing season (spring, summer) is hot and dry, the grapes are ready for picking earlier than in years when spring summer is colder.

Thomas Labbé, lead author of the study and a researcher at the universities of Leipzig and Burgundy said he meticulously reconstructed the grape harvest dates in Beaune, going as far back as1354, and spanning 664 years.

Gathering data from a large number of unedited archives of records and newspaper reports from the Beaune city council, including information on wages paid to grape pickers, Labbé was able to reconstruct the longest ever continuous record of grape harvest dates in the wine capital of France.

The record was divided into two parts, one prior to 1987, when wine grapes were typically harvested from September 28 onward; the other part, from 1988 onward when harvest dates begun at an average of 13 days before September 28. The division of records clearly indicated that from 1988 the region’s climate was hotter and drier compared to the climate conditions during the past six (6) centuries.

The team’s analysis of the grape harvest date series indicated that very hot and dry years were not common in the past, but in the past 30 years, such climate conditions have become the norm. .

To validate the results of their analysis, the team matched their findings to Paris’ detailed records of temperatures covering the past 360 years. They then used the information to estimate Beaune region’s April-to-July temperatures for the entire 664-year coverage of Beaune’s series of grape harvest dates.

Professor Pfister remarked that the rapid transition to global warming period after 1988, stands out with utmost clarity, since the extraordinary characteristics of the last 30 years have become apparent. The climate change professor concluded by saying

“We hope people start to realistically consider the climate situation in which the planet is at present.”

Exposure to Nature During Childhood Years Yields Better Mental Health Upon Adulthood

Children who had a great deal of exposure to nature during their formative years are likely to develop sound mental health when they reach adulthood. This was the conclusion arrived at by a study conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an investigative research institution supported by Barcelona’s La Caixa Bank.

The recent study boosted previous findings that natural outdoor environment contributes to the development of better mental and physical health in children.

Thd ISGlobal research aimed to determine the impact of nature-exposure in adults. Survey questionnaires were completed by 3,600 adults coming from four (4) major European cities: Barcelona in Spain), Doetinchem in the Netherlands, Kaunas in Lithuania), and lastly, Stoke-on-Trent in the United Kingdom.

The ISGlobal’s analysis of the survey yielded results suggesting that respondents who indicated better mental disposition were exposed to natural environments during their childhood years.

Exposure to nature has long been linked to several health benefits found in children who manifested better learning, and reasoning skills, when compared to children who grew up indoors, often in front of TV and PC screens. In the ISGlobal research, natural spaces referred mostly to green environments such as forests, gardens, urban parks and the like, rather than blue spaces such as rivers, lakes, beaches, etc. :

Aspects Covered by the ISGlobal Survey Questionnaires

The ISGlobal survey determined the frequency by which adults were exposed to natural spaces during their growing up years. As adults, they were also asked about their satisfaction with the greenness of their present surroundings. As corollary evaluation, the mental conditions of the participants were determined through questions about feelings of nervousness and/or depression during the inclusive four past weeks of responding to the survey. In addition, the greenness of the environment in which participants reside was ascertained by way of satellite images.

The results of the ISGlobal study showed that respondents who had limited exposure to natural spaces during their growing up years scored poorly in the mental health assessment tests. Lead author, Myriam Preuss, explained that the general impression elicited from those with less exposure to nature is that they were less concerned about the importance of natural spaces. In terms of physical health, they found no link associating childhood nature exposure to the present vitality of the adult; nor with the adult’s satisfaction in the use of green spaces.

Research and study coordinator Wilma Zijlema of ISGlobal, cited current statistics that seventy-three (73%) of the European population live in urban areas, whilst having limited access to green spaces. Inasmuch as the proportion is estimated to increase to more than eighty percent (80%) by the year 2050, their findings underscore the importance of recognizing the potential effects of limited exposure to natural spaces during a child’s formative years.

The ISGlobal study gives proof that exposing children to green environment contributes to the development of appreciative attitude toward nature and of sustaining a healthy psychological state upon reaching adulthood.

2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) Reveals Most Eco-Friendly Countries in the World

Several lists of countries ranked as most environment friendly have been published, to which European countries consistently rank high. Yet the list which we are more inclined to share is that of Yale’s, as it reflects the environmental performance of countries, based on the merits determined by the Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

What Is the Environmental Performance Index (EPI)

The EPI is a method that quantifies and numerically determines a country’s environmental performance in relation to a core set of issues; whether signs of progress are present or not at all.

The 2018 EPI captured the state of 180 countries in a so called Global Scorecard, using the most recent year data available and data recorded from around a decade earlier. The purpose of which is to determine the current standing of every nation.

A notable characteristic of the EPI is that it also evaluates correlation of the country’s wealth, to the sustainable methods introduced and implemented. Environmental performance as analyzed via the EPI takes into account any environmental trade off incurred in order to achieve income growth.

Trade off may include overuse of natural resources, unmanaged urbanization and unregulated industries. The message imparted by the EPI is that income growth must come with infrastructure necessary for protecting not only the ecosystem but also human health; such as building of facilities for mitigating pollution, for managing wastewater and for improving sources of drinking of drinking water.

The Most Eco-Friendly Countries Revealed by the 2018 Environmental Performance Index

Switzerland continues to top the list of Most Eco-Friendly Countries on a global scale, leading with a total score of 87.42 in terms of overall environmental performance. Switzerland’s impressive environmental performance is reflected through sustainable achievements made in Climate & Energy and Air Pollution, Water & Sanitation and Biodiversity & Habitat.

Completing the list of the world’s Five Most Eco-Friendly Countries are, France landing second place with a score of 83.95; Denmark at third place with 81.60, Malta at 4th by garnering 80.90, and closely followed by 5th placer Sweden with an 80.51 score.