Grand Prize Winner 2010
Artificial Photosynthetic Foam
Tackling carbon emissions while presenting an alternative environmentally-friendly fuel for the future lies at the heart of artificial photosynthetic foam. The concept was initially devised by Dr. Carlo Montemagno and first successfully implemented by Dr. David Wendell, a long-standing research team at the college of engineering and applied science at the University of Cincinnati.
The process is based on artificial foam, inspired by the foam nest made by the tungara fog, which is capable of capturing and converting the sun’s energy at greater efficiencies than living organisms. The overall impact of this innovative new process is a more efficient form of carbon capture and energy production with the huge commercial, societal and environmental benefits that meet the goals of the earth awards.
The chief advantage of this manufactured system of photosynthesis is that all captured energy is converted to sugars, whereas natural photosynthesis in plants and algae results in a large amount of energy is being used to maintain the life of the organism. In short, the foam is a far more efficient and versatile energy production platform.
Professor Wendell explains: “Artificial Photosynthetic Foam effectively does what the sun does but better. The foam is still taking carbon dioxide from the air but because the foam is not an organism we are doing this with greater efficiency. Plants typically convert solar energy into sugars at a rate of 1-5% but the foam does this at a minimum rate of 16% and even more in some circumstances.”
The benefits of the technology are numerous and actively contribute to building the new world economy which the earth awards seek to inspire. First, with such high conversion rates the artificial foam results in greater carbon capture, reducing the amount of environmentally destructive carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. In addition, the process of photosynthesis does not rely on the earth’s resources i.e.: soil and water, reducing the strain on the environment even further.
Second, because of higher conversion rates, the foam is able to keep working in more carbon- intense environments such as urban environments or polluted manufacturing locations. In natural plant systems too much carbon dioxide results in overload and photosynthesis ceases. Third, once converted, dimethylfuran in other words, high octane bio fuel can be created which can contribute to a commercially-successful economy and transport network without damaging the environment.
Professor Endell concludes: “The great aspect of artificial photosynthetic foam is that it can practically contribute to a better tomorrow which is exactly what the earth awards are about. Whether it’s the environment or the economy, this process has the potential to transform humanity’s approach to energy production and make an immediate positive contribution to reducing harmful carbon dioxide emissions.”