Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Air Scrubbing Farms

It's been brought to my attention that in Nigeria, cocoa is a very popular crop, lead-based gasoline additives are super popular, and cocoa has an unfortunate tendency to extract lead from the air and incorporate it into itself. The bad side of this is that Nigerian-grown chocolate is contaminated with lead. The good news is that I can use this to clean the air.
Cocoa isn't alone. Different kinds of plants take different chemicals out of the air. As an example, there's a type of daisy that extracts benzene from the air. If we plant these in the right combinations, we have perfectly clean air, no matter how much pollution nearby industries spew into it. You wouldn't want to eat the products of these plants, so we're not going to. Instead, we're going to chemically extract the pollution, much of which is industrially useful. Wait, what?
Lead, in air or paint, is a pollution, which mostly serves to give people who absorb it brain damage. But lead in a car battery is what gives it its range, and lead in a denistry apron is what makes it absorb radiation. Lead is mined in tons and tons a year, even though it only sells for 2 cents a pound. (The extraction process is cheap enough that even at that low price, a lead mine makes millions of dollars for its owners.)
Likewise, many other common pollution particles have a high industrial value. Benzene is useful as a solvent. A portion of smog is actually gasoline that managed to escape combustion. Formaldehyde, a common VOC, is useful in the paper and textile industries. (it's a precursor chemical there. The final chemical bears little resemblance.)
After the extraction is done, we'll be left with a wet slurry of plant goo. We can throw this away. Or we could grow pretty flowers in it. You know, whichever.


The Chinese guy said...

But um, Madengineer, that sort of thing costs money! Also it will be a great temptation to sell such coca beans and things grown to absorb the toxic stuff. I mean look at Chinese cigarettes, grown in highly polluted tobbacco with appaulling air quality too!

A while back I always wondered how come the air was so clean given that we pump 1000000s of tons of toxic chemicals into the air daily through industry. I then twigged that humans are like your coca beans in this little project. Humans absorb via eating breathing and drinking all the noxious stuff!

I mean when Chernobly went bang the fall out landed on grazing fields of England, it went into sheep which people ate, I mean the fall out has got to go somewhere right? Same in Semipalentinsk 500+ nuclear tests, and the alpha and betas from the nukes are absorbed by the people.

Mad Engineering said...

Everything costs money, and the lead-contaminated cocoa is already being sold. It shouldn't be, but it is.

Chernobyl's radioactive debris landed all over Europe and Canada in a non-intuitive pattern due to spread by various layers of wind. Yeah, it went into sheep (and other animals), which absorbed the radioactive particles, took some abuse from those particles decaying before being turned into meat, which had a few radioactive particles, which got eaten by humans. These humans got as much radiation as maybe a chest X-ray,(and will continue to do so until those particles are fully decayed) and probably didn't get seriously harmed, this time.

Yeah, I want to change things so that pollution is absorbed by cheaper things than humans. but barring a massive change in Humans remain the cheapest thing to clean up your pollution with. :(

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