Can capture and storage of carbon from biomass such as trees and plants be a way to reduce climate change? Illustration: Daniel Andréasson.
Carbon capture and storage, CCS, is a technology which is usually spoken of as a way to take care of carbon emissions coming from the burning of fossil fuels. The idea is that for example a coal-fired power plant could capture the emissions and then bury them deep down in the ground, so that they can’t rise up in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.
Now the Swedish company Biorecro has a new idea of how to use this technology: To create negative emissions, removing carbon from the air.
Instead of burying the emissions coming from fossil fuels, creating a “zero-sum game”, they want to burn trees and plants that have absorbed carbon from the atmosphere during their lifetime and bury those emission.
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The electronic waste of the day at the recycling station in my neighbourhood. Photo: Sara Jeswani.
As you probably already know, sorting our waste and recycling is something of a popular sport in Sweden. Yesterday figures for the Swedes’ achievements when it comes to taking care of our electronic waste were published, and – voilà, we’re on top of the world list at bringing our old electric toothbrushes, coffee machines, computers, mobile phones, refrigerators and light bulbs to the recycling stations.
During 2011 we recycled 154 185 tons of electronic waste, which equals more than 16 kilo per person (to be compared to the Euro directive which is set to 4 kilos per person). During last year we recycled 82 million electronic gadgets – 4 million more than the year before.
Now of course you can look at this in two ways:
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The house will look something like this (here it's placed in a fictitious city, much bigger than Linköping). Illustration: Plantagon.
Earlier I wrote here on the blog about the Swedish company Plantagon’s plans to construct a giant sphere-shaped greenhouse in Botkyrka, Stockholm. Now their vision seems to have come one step closer to reality, in the city of Linköping [map]. Recently representatives from Plantagon and the city of Linköping made the symbolic first cut of the spade, starting the construction of a 54-meter tall combined office and greenhouse.
Ground breaking ceremony in Linköping. Photo: Tommy Hvitfeldt.
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The house to the right could be the first one by Sergels Torg to be heated and cooled by undergreound water reserves. Photo: Vasakronan.
We don’t often think about what’s under our feet when walking around in the middle of a city, but in the centre of Stockholm there is actually several aquifers – large underground layers of water-bearing rock or gravel – that can be of great use. Since water has an ability to store heat or cold, these aquifers work a bit like a thermos.
The idea is more or less to pump up the cold water at summer to cool buildings above ground. This makes the water temperature rise a bit. Then the water is pumped back down into the ground and stored until next winter, when it can be used for heating buildings. This gives about three or four times more energy than what is used for pumping the water up and down.
Vasakronan, which is a large property company, hopes to be able to use this technology for example in one of the big high-rise buildings just by Stockholms main square, Sergels Torg. According to Vasakronan’s head of development and environment, this system can save energy equivalent to the energy use of 450 detached houses.
I must confess that to me it’s a bit of a mystery how only a few centigrades of difference in the water’s heat can make this big a difference, and how it can spend several months under ground without losing the heat… But in an article about aquifers in the construction industry journal Byggindustrin, Olle Andersson who is a professor in energy storage at the University of Lund stated that this is actually a technology where scientists actually have failed to find any disadvantages.
Test driving "Spiros", which is made to work in normal city traffic. Photo: KTH.
We’re used to car races all being about being first and fastest. Today there’s a contest in Lausitz, Germany, where the goal is quite different. The main objective here is to come as far as possible on one tiny litre of petrol. The world record is 5000 kilometers and now the question is: Will someone be able to beat that?
Teams from all over the world participate, many of them made up by researchers and professors. Swedish KTH Royal Institute of Technology sends two teams entirely made up by students and the other day I spoke to Jonas Severin, who has built one of the vehicles, “Sleipner”, together with a group of fellow students.
Sleipner runs on petrol, but being much lighter and having a less powerful motor that turns itself off in downhill slopes where the car can roll down by itself, the energy use is very much below a “normal” car.
The speed isn’t exactly breathtaking, Jonas Severin explains, with an average around 30 km/hour. But if the aim is to get as far as possible on as little energy as possible, going there fast can’t be a high priority. Just can’t get both. And as you see on the photos, Sleipner isn’t really the kind of vehicle you imagine packing your family into.
The other Swedish car in the contest, called Spiros, is more like the cars we are used to and has to be able to work in city traffic and pass a normal vehicle test, having proper lights, working brakes etc.
But are these just fun experiments for students? Jonas Severin says that a developed form of Spiros could maybe be out on the market in 10 to 15 years, able to roll for 500 kilomtres on one litre, instead of a max around 40 kilometers/litre for today’s smartcars.
A while left, apparently. But today is the big test for the KTH teams. Will their vehicles make it in the competition?
- Obviously it isn’t easy for a team of students to beat teams of professors, but it’ll be exiting to see how Sleipner does, says Jonas Severin.
The student team behind "Sleipner" has made the vehicle themselves and are now going to a contest in Germany to test it. Jonas Severin on the right at the group picture. Photos: KTH.