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Earthly intelligence can yield far-out solutions

Posted on September 10, 2020 | Comments

Beer, fungus, and murals all have something in common. That’s right. Each is an uncommon resource for a new, innovative, and eco-friendly invention. How could that be? The answer is as easy as one, two, three.

First, to avoid unused beer going stale outside Adelaide in South Australia, folks are feeling a bit giddy that closed restaurants are donating up to 40,000 gallons of beer each week to the local water treatment plant. Gaseous fuels produced by fermentation can be converted to a biogas which in turn can be used as electricity to power the plant. This renewable energy is enough to provide 1,200 homes with power and set impressive energy-production records.

This next idea is really far out. For astronauts beyond Earth’s protective atmosphere, scientists have discovered a fungus growing inside destroyed Chernobyl reactors that could shield astronauts from possible harm during extraterrestrial travels. Apparently they are showered with a level of ionizing radiation twenty times higher than can be sustained without some kind of protection. When a team of scientists discovered that a fungus had survived the Chernobyl explosion, they surmised the possibility that the fungus could be used to create a living shield for the astronauts. It sounds like the stuff of fantasy however truth is always stranger than fiction.

Back down to Earth, imagine a city mural that eats up air pollution. As part of its City-Forests campaign, Converse sportswear company gave the green light to local artists in Warsaw, Poland who created a mural with special paint containing smog-cleaning pigments that are activated by the sun. To inspire change, the air-cleaning mural depicts a collection of smiling flowers growing amongst high -rise buildings with the words, “Create Together For Tomorrow.” Erected on the side of a six-story building facing a popular metro stop, reportedly this purifying process is equivalent to that of 720 trees.

Warsaw is the second city out of the 13 cities Converse is targeting for its City-Forests campaign. Bangkok was the first and the remaining cities include Belgrade, Lima, Sydney, Jakarta, Manila, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Bogota, and Panama City. Also, in Monterrey, Mexico, this same concept was used on a series of billboards that will last up to 5 years and generate the same amount of clean air every six hours as 30 trees. Hopefully more cities will take note of this clean-air solution. And, for those “wannabe” inventors, now is a perfect time to put your ideas into action. Doesn’t have to be earth shattering. Simple solutions are often the best.  

Originally published, OC Register Globe edition, September 10, 2020

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