Tag Archives | Trees

DIY Synthetic Biologists Creating Glowing Trees (via Kickstarter)

This is so sci-fi it’s positively scary! The home brewing school of science has turned to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to fund the creation of genetically engineered glow-in-the-dark trees, reports Andrew Pollack for the New York Times:

Hoping to give new meaning to the term “natural light,” a small group of biotechnology hobbyists and entrepreneurs has started a project to develop plants that glow, potentially leading the way for trees that can replace electric streetlamps and potted flowers luminous enough to read by.

The project, which will use a sophisticated form of genetic engineering called synthetic biology, is attracting attention not only for its audacious goal, but for how it is being carried out.

glowing plants

Rather than being the work of a corporation or an academic laboratory, it will be done by a small group of hobbyist scientists in one of the growing number of communal laboratories springing up around the nation as biotechnology becomes cheap enough to give rise to a do-it-yourself movement.

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Trees Used to Create Recyclable, Efficient Solar Cell

Via ScienceDaily:

Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University researchers have developed efficient solar cells using natural substrates derived from plants such as trees. Just as importantly, by fabricating them on cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) substrates, the solar cells can be quickly recycled in water at the end of their lifecycle.The technology is published in the journal Scientific Reports, the latest open-access journal from the Nature Publishing Group.

The researchers report that the organic solar cells reach a power conversion efficiency of 2.7 percent, an unprecedented figure for cells on substrates derived from renewable raw materials. The CNC substrates on which the solar cells are fabricated are optically transparent, enabling light to pass through them before being absorbed by a very thin layer of an organic semiconductor. During the recycling process, the solar cells are simply immersed in water at room temperature. Within only minutes, the CNC substrate dissolves and the solar cell can be separated easily into its major components.

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Prometheus: The Story of a 5,000 Year-Old Tree

Picture Credit: Collectors Weekly

Collectors Weekly offers the tragic but educational tale of the accidental felling of a an almost 5,000 year old Great Basin bristlecone tree dubbed “Prometheus”:

Currey downplayed the discovery in a dry essay for Ecology magazine in 1965, in which he stated, “Allowing for the likelihood of missing rings and for the 100-inch height of the innermost counted ring, it may be tentatively concluded that WPN-114 began growing about 4,900 years ago.” Though its exact age is still debated, the Prometheus tree was certainly the oldest single tree scientists had ever encountered.

The Prometheus tree’s felling made it doubly symbolic, as the myth of its namesake captures both the human hunger for knowledge and the unintended negative consequences that often result from this desire. Though members of the scientific community and press were outraged that the tree was killed, Currey’s mistake ultimately provided the impetus to establish Great Basin National Park to protect the bristlecones.

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Genetically Modified Trees

Eucalyptus macrocarpaYes you read that right, no longer satisfied with creating unsafe plants for us to eat, genetic engineers are now unleashing frankentrees, per T. V. Padma’s report for SciDev.Net:

Genetically modified (GM) trees have been engaging both last week’s COP-MOP 6 on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and COP-11 on the Convention on Biological Diversity. And Isis Alvarez, from the Global Forest Coalition, advises some caution in a paper that reviews GM tree research in Latin America and was circulated at a side event in the Hyderabad.

The first thought that occurred to me was: does Latin America need GM forest trees any more than India needs GM brinjal (eggplant)? But leaving that aside, countries see potential for biotechnology in the forestry sector, just as in agriculture.

According to Alvarez, most known experiments in Latin America include Eucalyptus species, but several firms are also working on poplars, pines, acacias and fruit trees.

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Green Plants Reduce City Street Pollution Up to Eight Times More Than Previously Believed

Photo credit: Michael Fiegle

Via ScienceDaily:

Trees, bushes and other greenery growing in the concrete-and-glass canyons of cities can reduce levels of two of the most worrisome air pollutants by eight times more than previously believed, a new study has found. A report on the research appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Thomas Pugh and colleagues explain that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and microscopic particulate matter (PM) — both of which can be harmful to human health — exceed safe levels on the streets of many cities. Past research suggested that trees and other green plants can improve urban air quality by removing those pollutants from the air. However, the improvement seemed to be small, a reduction of less than 5 percent. The new study sought a better understanding of the effects of green plants in the sometimes stagnant air of city streets, which the authors term “urban street canyons.”

The study concluded that judicious placement of grass, climbing ivy and other plants in urban canyons can reduce the concentration at street level of NO2 by as much as 40 percent and PM by 60 percent, much more than previously believed.

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Back To Eden

After years of back-breaking toil in ground ravaged by the effects of man-made growing systems, Paul Gautschi has discovered a taste of what God intended for mankind in the garden of Eden. Some of the vital issues facing agriculture today include soil preparation, fertilization, irrigation, weed control, pest control, crop rotation, and PH issues. None of these issues exist in the unaltered state of nature or in Paul's gardens and orchards. "Back to Eden" invites you to take a walk with Paul as he teaches you sustainable organic growing methods that are capable of being implemented in diverse climates around the world.
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On Urban Inequality And The Tree Gap

stelprdb5187894_tnMay we demand the presence of trees? Despite their secret importance, the appearance of trees in American cities corresponds with wealth, Per Square Mile reveals:

Research published a few years ago shows a tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover. They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent.

It’s easy to see trees as a luxury when a city can barely keep its roads and sewers in working order, but that glosses over the many benefits urban trees provide. They shade houses in the summer, reducing cooling bills. They scrub the air of pollution, especially of the particulate variety, which in many poor neighborhoods is responsible for increased asthma rates and other health problems. They also reduce stress, which has its own health benefits. Large, established trees can even fight crime.

Fortunately, many cities understand the value trees bring to their cities.

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How To Use The Fibonacci Series Of Numbers To Build The Ultimate Solar Tree

Photo: Yzmo (CC)

Photo: Yzmo (CC)

What else could we learn from nature, one wonders, if we only paid attention. Andrew Michler reports on this amazing discovery for Inhabitat:

While most 13-year-olds spend their free time playing video games or cruising Facebook, one 7th grader was trekking through the woods uncovering a mystery of science. After studying how trees branch in a very specific way, Aidan Dwyer created a solar cell tree that produces 20-50% more power than a uniform array of photovoltaic panels. His impressive results show that using a specific formula for distributing solar cells can drastically improve energy generation. The study earned Aidan a provisional U.S patent – it’s a rare find in the field of technology and a fantastic example of how biomimicry can drastically improve design.

Aidan Dwyer took a hike through the trees last winter and took notice of patterns in the mangle of branches. His studies into how they branch in very specific ways lead him to a central guiding formula, the Fibonacci sequence.

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Fake Plastic Trees For Our Urban Future

faketrees4A Parisian design team has conceived the Treepod, a synthetic tree that soaks up CO2 and expels oxygen without requiring water, soil, or years spent growing to full size. Should our planet’s trees be killed off by plague, pollution, or water shortfalls, this is what will fill the void. Via My Modern Metropolis:

When tasked with creating a synthetic urban tree for the City of Boston (or any city) that could provide all the benefits of a real tree (de-carbonization and protection) without requiring soil and water, a team from Paris rose to the challenge. Their innovative concept is called Treepods. The systems are capable of removing carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen using a carbon dioxide removal process called “humidity swing.”

Inspired by dragon blood trees, its wide branches and umbrella style tops support large solar panels. After some testing, they found out that the trees couldn’t be powered by the sun alone so they added interactive hammocks and see-saws to the base of the tree, so that humans could help create a secondary source, through kinetic energy.

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