Pollution caused by CO emissions2 it is one of the greatest threats to our society. I dare say "our kind," if it weren't harming all the others as well. To address the problem, the Federal Laboratory for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in Switzerland joins the research centers that are working everywhere. In his plans, a very special insulator.
It is a super "Biochar", vegetable charcoal, and in the intentions of the researchers it will be an insulating material of vegetable origin that can capture and fix carbon dioxide. Sustainable, because it is made with waste from forestry and agriculture, and multifunctional: when not needed, it can be buried, becoming an excellent fertilizer.
Engineered biochar, natural insulator that captures CO2 and becomes fertilizer
The process behind the "new insulating biochar" is not new. In the Amazon, where man-made soils (known as "terra preta dos Indios") are very productive and rich in stable organic matter, burying organic matter in poor or clayey soils is a common practice.
Swiss scientists are working to adapt this process to soils in more temperate zones as well, by creating a new type of insulating material made from vegetable waste. And it would be a small revolution.
How does it work, basically?
Biochar performs the function of a CO tank2, and when used in construction can be reused as a fertilizer for the soil when the building is demolished.
The construction sector is considered one of the most polluting in the world, responsible for 40% of global energy consumption, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and 36% of waste produced in the EU.
Develop an insulator that can capture CO2, plus made from waste, is a great opportunity for our planet.
Jannis Wernery is the Empa scientist who is leading the new study to transform agricultural and forestry waste into an insulator (I link it here).
The choice of starting point fell on charcoal for a simple but crucial reason. While wood and cellulose release CO again2 in the atmosphere, in fact, vegetable carbon can "bind" to carbon remaining stable for centuries, or even millennia.
Fingers crossed, really. We need to work on it, but the prospect of capturing carbon, putting it in our buildings and (once it is removed) transforming the materials into fertilizers is not bad.