Monday, July 11, 2011

Environmentally Sound Innovation To Make NZ Company Rich

I have mentioned before that countries that come up with innovations to mop up poisonous, polluting gases from our atmosphere, our waters and soil, will be wealthy. Very wealthy.

Well, what do you know? New Zealand's  Lanzatech has come up with affordable technology to mop up carbon monoxide from the atmosphere and produce ethanol. Who wants this technology? India, China and the US of A for starters! They have already signed deals with the company.

Why are such huge volumes of carbon monoxide (and carbon dioxide) spewed into our atmosphere in the first place? They are the end product of human activities like transportation, oil refining, chemical production and manufacturing industries. Our mountains of garbage also release these gases. (links to why these gases are poisonous for our health are at the end of this article.)  That is why mopping them up from the atmosphere is of the utmost importance. 

Morning Glory
Countries the world over have strict regualtions about the quantities of carbon monoxide allowed into the atmosphere. They are aware of how poisonous it is to anything living (like human beings or this beautiful flower, Morning Glory by Netalloy downloaded from open clipart) and of the need for these regulations. Companies have had to take that one extra step of converting carbon monoxide their factories spew out into something less harmful. Yet others, although environmental laws are in place, have simply continued spewing carbon monoxide into the atmosphere as the enforcement of these laws in their countries have been lax.

Many companies convert carbon monoxide into ethanol. Ethanol is a reusable and clean end product that doesn't poison our atmosphere. It has many uses. If used as fuel in transportation, for example, it wouldn't release carbon monoxide as its end product. The Americans already sell cars that use either petrol or a mix of 85% ethanol and 15% petrol   

The technology for converting these poisonous gases into ethanol has been available for years. Put simply, this is what happens.

Carbon monoxide with the formula CO has no hydrogen (H) in it.
Ethanol (C2H5OH) has a total of 6H. 2C and 1O

Hydrogen would have to be added to carbon monoxide to form ethanol.

In many industries the unwanted end products are exactly the above two - hydrogen, carbon monoxide - plus other gases. In steel mills the end product is carbon monoxide but no hydrogen. Many steel companies to date have converted carbon monoxide from steel mills to ethanol by adding the hydrogen required. Lanzatech has developed a microbe that can circumvent this step of introducing hydrogen altogether. Its microbe can actually produce the hydrogen required by using the carbon from carbon monoxide and the hydrogen from water. The process is so efficient that a lot of the water they use is returned to the reactor for reuse. Whatever the industry, whatever the proportion of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, the Lanzatech microbe can convert it to ethanol. Also, the process is tolerant to any number of contaminents (other gases) present in the reactor.

The production of ethanol thanks to the L-microbe (whatever Lanzatech decides to call it) will now be commercially viable, extremely affordable and socially / environmentally sound.

There are some companies that convert animal and human waste in our sewage to ethanol. But where Lanzatech promises to be different is that its microbe is as harmless as brewers yeast and its process affordable and efficient. I have no doubts that the three countries that have signed up with Lanzatech - India, USA and China - would have done their due diligence because not only are they all astute and business savvy, they have scientists equal to the best in the world.

To conclude I'd have to say - 

Thumbs up by Balex, open clipart
Go Lanzatech!

See how carbon monoxide poisons our health here. 
How do we reduce garbage? 
The seven secrets of good composting are a must read if you don't want a goey mess when you compost:

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