Engineers typically consider the ability to transform pollution into fuel a holy grail of the applied sciences. A Hungarian engineer may have been able to do just that, however. Peter Horvath is attempting to market a device termed a biolamp that lights up the street while simultaneously removing carbon dioxide from the surrounding atmosphere. I think this is a really great idea if it can get off the ground.
While the biolamp device is still essentially a street lamp, it uses city smog as a source of free fuel. The concept design essentially removes ambient carbon dioxide gas. The gas is then exposed to an alga compound, which is then mixed to water. The mixture converts carbon dioxide into oxygen, presumably by an organic process, that is then carried out by the alga.
Citizens in cities have additional oxygen to breath, while additional synfuels are being manufactured for motor vehicles as a result. Naturally the fuel also powers the lamp itself, which means that the surrounding area will not experience power usage typically caused by street lights. While researchers have long attempted to design street lights that use less electricity, they have typically required heavy power usage in many areas.
Interestingly, the entire lamp structure is designed to look like a plant. Some commentators have observed that it looks something like a giant leek. While this might seem like it is unnecessary, quality design often aids popular perceptions of new technology. People often complain about how things are going to change the surroundings of the city they live in. This has sometimes forced people into rejecting new technological advances.
Biolamps, however, are not particularly ugly. City planners might even agree to use biolamp technology for reasons other than the obvious positive image. That is a real victory when it comes to industrial design.
A few other benefits would come from this sort of technology as well. Lighting that derives power from ambient gases would be impervious to problems caused by power distribution faults. That means if there were a power outage, the street lights could still switch on. Blackouts would not knock out the street light networks, which could also help to reduce looting problems that often arise when power outages occur.
Less wiring would also mean less electromagnetic waves being released into the surrounding environment. With an increasingly large number of connected devices in the world, this would help to prevent interference. In some areas, interference caused by power lines is a major source of grief for those who need or want to use wireless technology.
Despite all of the environmental advantages outlined in this post, this sort of technology should not be looked at as a replacement for tree planting programs in communities. Instead, it should be seen as an environmentally-friendly add-on to larger campaigns that are designed to clean up urban areas.
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