Welcome to the blog of the course and textbook Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Snatching Carbon from the Atmosphere


The effects of carbon on the atmosphere are well documented and it is clear that we are producing far too much carbon for the earth to handle. Living sustainably is obviously the long-term solution, but it requires worldwide cooperation. In my opinion this is only likely to happen when people put the earth before profit, which I cannot see happening in the foreseeable future. Until such a change in mindset occurs there are short-term ideas that can help reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

I have decided to focus on one short-term idea with a lot of potential, artificial photosynthesis without the use of cells. This may sound like a far-fetched idea. But using a concept devised by Dr. Montemagno, David Wendell and his team studied the foam nests of the Tungara frog and isolated a protein. They used this protein and it unique properties to engineer a type of foam, which can use sunlight to grab carbon from the air around it and turn it into sugar. It does this without harming the environment because it is not an organism.

This artificial photosynthetic foam was found to be incredibly effective in a number of ways. It converts sunlight to sugar at a rate of 16% unlike plants, which do it at 1-5%, also unlike plants it can continue to photosynthesize in carbon intense environments i.e. Factories. The sugars produced can also be used to make high-octane bio fuel. It is for all these reasons that this foam can greatly benefit the environment, reducing carbon in the atmosphere and supplying a carbon neutral energy source. These benefits won it the grand prize at the 2010 Earth Awards.

Fionan Magee

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