What could be worse than Artificial Trees?

The "green" forests of the future?

The “green” forests of the future?

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A while ago WUWT wrote about the inexplicable green fascination with technological monstrosities, such as artificial trees, to replace real trees. And of course we already know about the green love of wind turbines and solar farms, which cover vast acreages of the natural landscape with concrete, plastic and steel.

Now greens appear to have gone one better – toxic artificial trees which emit cyanide.

According to Phys.org;

Globally recognised for his work the emerging field of nanoporous materials, Prof Vinu’s research into carbon nitrides has found that they have just the right properties to support the capture and conversion of CO2 molecules.

“Their interesting properties—a semiconducting framework structure and ordered pores—make them exciting candidates for the capture and conversion of CO2 molecules into methanol which can then be used as a source of green energy with the help of sunlight and water,” Prof Vinu said.

“My goal is to develop this unique approach which has the potential to make a huge contribution to cleaning the environment and addressing one of our most significant environmental problems, the mitigation of atmospheric CO2.

“This fascinating material is not only helping in reducing CO2 levels by developing an efficient, low-cost photo electrochemical semiconductor device, but also offers a clean fuel source from the conversion of absorbed CO2 molecules.

Read more: http://phys.org/news/2015-11-global-nanoporous-materials.html

Why do I think carbon nitride based trees could emit cyanide? The reason is cyanide is carbon nitride, with an additional hydrogen atom attached, chemical formula H-C-N. If you expose a carbon nitride nanoporous matrix to ultraviolet and water, its difficult to imagine how you could not produce a quantity of cyanide, as a byproduct of the photochemical deterioration of your carbon nitride matrix.

Perhaps Professor Vinu has a solution, for stabilising the nitride matrix, and keeping the cyanide emissions to an acceptable level. Personally I have my doubts – as China’s environmentally horrific rare Earth mining operation shows, greens often don’t seem to mind environmental damage, when the pollution which causes that damage is produced as a byproduct of doing something “green”.

87 thoughts on “What could be worse than Artificial Trees?

  1. So you stick one up your tail pipe and then pump the methanol into your fuel tank. They’ve invented perpetual motion!

      • Putting these up would be a crime against humanity and the life on this planet itself.
        Plants respond positively to CO2 up to 1,000 ppm. They begin to exhibit physiological detriments to health from CO2 starvation by at least 200 ppm. There is even a hypothesis that the rise of CO2 during the glacial/interglacial transition is partly responsible for the agricultural revolution and subsequently human society today. That’s why I hope the global warmistas are at least partially right in their hypothesis, that the industrial revolution has cancelled the impending glacial period (though I highly doubt it) which is by far the biggest climatic threat we face as a society.
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03441.x/pdf
        I’m not so sure about the speculation that they would release CN- at harmful levels, and especially not concerned about this since HCN is already manufactured in large quantities for a large variety of industrial processes. This simplest of organic molecules is found everywhere there is life; we even exhale small amounts with every breath.

  2. so how many trillions of these trees would we have to use….and what does the idiot think that will cost in time and money

    • 2HCN -> 2CH + H2
      If you want the mechanism
      2HCN+H20 -> H3O + CN (double bond)
      CN + ultraviolet -> CN (triple bond)
      You don’t get much simpler.It should happen with fair regularity

      • I looked at the paper. The synthesis of the stuff is very ambiguous, with at least one synthon left as an undefined acronym — TEOS. As a reviewer, I’d never let that lack of information get by.
        Regardless, though, the stuff is not related to cyanide.
        It appears to be a 3-dimensional crosslinked polymer with pores. A kind of brittle sponge.
        It’s similar in many ways to reticulated vitreous carbon (RVC) — foamed glassy carbon, where “glassy” means amorphous. RVC has been around for a long time, and has lots of interesting high-tech uses.
        The difference seems to be that the “carbon nitride” is a similar brittle foam with a high nitrogen content, whereas glassy carbon is, well, almost pure carbon (I happen to know it has detectable traces of sulfur, too).
        Honestly, the whole business looks to be touting a pretty ordinary development. PR science at its most banal.

      • Pat Frank-
        “an undefined acronym — TEOS”
        I think TEOS stands for Tetra Ethyl Ortho Silicate. It has been used as a surfactant for liquid crystal display molecular alignment on the ITO coated glass plates that form the display sandwich.
        Maybe. It should have been explicitly identified, as you say.

  3. But if you burn methanol doesn’t it emit the deadly toxic gas CO2? The very thing you’re trying to eliminate? how is this a “green” fuel?

  4. They will have to compete with the fusion power-just-around-the-corner, cellulosic ethanol just around the corner, and solar highways just around the corner money grubbers.

  5. Do the greens understand that if CO2 is reduced to below 150 ppm that all plant life on the planet dies and in turn all animal life dies (including people). When we were at 280 ppm CO2 ( prior to the industrial revolution) we were very close to a total extension point. Talk about a tipping point!

  6. The one benefit I could see that these structures could be deployed in desert locations where trees could not survive.
    As far as the cyanide, I’m not sure how susceptible the carbon-nitrogen bond is to free radicals or UV attack. Also, water generating free radicals is likely to create reactive oxygen species like superoxide anions and hydrogen peroxide. In an oxidizing environment, cyanide is converted to cyanate – it’s a common approach to cleanup of cyanide spills.

    • There’s actually permaculture techniques that can create lush gardens in desert areas with minimal added water, and even a few that get the moisture from the air and can cause greening. So even on that front, these fail.

  7. After digesting a couple of books on fruit trees, I planted a 48-tree fruit orchard this last spring consisting of apricots, apples, cherries, nectarines, pears, peaches, and pluots–all specific to our Zone 5a.
    And this isn’t any ordinary orchard–I’ve designed it to include an elevated trellis mounted on finished black locust posts (one next to each tree) that will support the lateral branches in six evenly-spaced directions on four levels while the whole thing will be covered with a 12-ft high fruit cage (my neighbors have unprotected fruit trees that feed the wildlife and nothing else!)
    I’ve even installed 3 paths, each 140 ft. long positioned between the five rows of trees and consisting of crushed-gravel-supported patio pavers to handle the voluminous fruit production starting year after next. (The orchard sits in a flood-irrigated pasture so there’s a dike between two of the rows of trees in case you’re wondering why not four paths.)
    From this experience I assert there’s no substitute for the real thing. Besides, this is nature’s way and a much better way of handling the “mitigation of CO2”.
    Nature’s way converts CO2 to oxygen and wood with fruit as a wonderful byproduct. What’s being proposed by these Artificial Trees is an embarrassment–first, they deny the benefits of CO2 (which adds an estimated $1.5 Trillion in worldwide foodstuff production annually) and seem to think they’re smarter than Mother Nature in the process. Their hubris is palpable!
    I’ll be installing half a dozen park benches on which visitors may rest and contemplate the beauties of nature in my orchard. A cornucopia of delicious fruit will enhance the experience. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to sit among an orchard of artificial plastic and metal “trees”, especially if cyanide is the only “fruit”.

    • Since my production of CO2 is enhancing the productivity of your orchard, I would appreciate a price cut when I order my first shipment from you.

      • You can come visit my orchard during late summer/early fall anytime starting 2017, which is when it should be producing far more than I can use. Zoning prevents me from having U-Pick customers and I’m too busy with my full-time job to pick all but my own consumption, but if you want to stop by and pick free fruit, ask Anthony for my email address and we’ll plan for the future.
        That’s what this whole orchard effort is about.

      • That’s true–and you can add apricot to your list. Seeds of those fruit varieties should not be consumed by humans.
        But cyanide makes for a great fertilizer. From my years as a mining engineer I noticed that reclaimed heap leaching piles to which dilute cyanide solution was applied to extract gold and silver supported copious amounts of plant life. Cyanide is only a problem when, in solution, it’s no longer held within the protective alkalinity range or you breath the gas directly.

    • You may find, as I have, that hungry little critters are very adept at getting to ripe fruit. If you can get in there, those little guys can too.
      Just sayin’.

  8. I swear they are out to kill us. It might be a “slow kill” but it is still a kill. So many good ideas go undone for lack of funding while these type seem to proliferate like weeds.

  9. The stuff you can spend gov’t tax money on to dream (study) about has no limit, but the tax payer’s ability to pay tax has a severe limit. And what is the USA federal debt right now?
    John

  10. If we get rid of enough CO2 we can elimnate all of those nasty O2 producing green plants that are the basis of food and life on this planet. Another proof that there is no cure for stupid. Just remember that half the people you know are below average.

  11. Yet more “Alarmist think they know better than Nature” and don’t think everything through before spouting nonsense. Have to love their “fire, aim, ready” approach to the “catastrophe” they are pleading for us to believe. The whole alarmist approach implies we are more powerful than nature, that we are capable of destroying the Earth and all life on it (in this case, because of CO2). More like they are just trying to stroke their egos. No, CO2 is necessary for Life. Plants/Trees thrive in CO2 environments, with their byproduct (O2), and then we have the rise of animals that use Cellular Respiration. Hey, alarmist, cyanide, if you didn’t know, inhibits cellular respiration (last step if I recall). Lastly, are they wanting to destroy actual trees to be replaced by these artificial trees? Insane if that’s their thinking.

  12. Wow. Really all one can say. Planting fake “trees” to save us from that demonic CO2.
    To quote an old friend…:They’re loony-tunes, Bill!”

  13. I’ve always liked Leonard Cohen’s take:
    We are dazzled by the beauty of our weapons
    Substitute the lunatic invention of your choice for “weapons”.

  14. I am in agreement here. If CO2 cannot be economically extracted from flue gas where it is at a concentration of 25% and conveniently in one place for easy transport, then it will never be viable to extract it from the air at 400ppm. Get CCS sorted first, then worry about taking it from the air.
    These novel microporous materials may still be very useful – possibly even by application in flue gas.

    • So you’re against letting additional CO2 be used to grow food, produce wood, and cause a beneficial greening of the planet?
      Have you been so brainwashed by the CO2-control crowd you don’t see how you’ve become a useful tool for their carbon control (and hence population control) scheme?
      Why?

      • My point is that artificial trees are a daft way to try to deal with CO2 reduction even if you wanted to do it. That seemed to be the subject of the post, so I was trying to stay on topic and not widen it out too much to more general issues. Do you think I have a point? IF you wanted to take out CO2, flue gas would be the best place to start.

    • I remember reading an article about a fish farm that was buying the warm water from the cooling tower of a power plant and using it to make life more comfortable for the fish it was growing.
      I would think similar arrangements could be made with the owners of greenhouses for the flue gasses.

      • In several parts of the world the cooling water from power plants is piped to provide central heating for the local houses. When I lived in Sweden my apartment was nicely heated by the power station.

  15. If he happens to be successful, the financial incentive to make methane for free might end up pushing atmospheric CO2 down to undesirable levels. Be careful what you wish for.

  16. If the material has “just the right properties” to convert CO2 into usable fuel, why not exhibit those properties in a prototype? How hard can it be?
    ===========
    Through a strong multidisciplinary approach and deep collaboration with industries I am sure we can create tangible benefits… to translate the research into real products.” – Vinu (physorg, not my ellipsis)
    ===========
    Are the materials even real at this point?
    The article reads more like a public relations exercise than a press release on a legitimate technical innovation, actually.
    ==============
    Prof Vinu’s discoveries have led to worldwide recognition. His work on this novel material and other materials with future-focussed applications has also earned him recognition by key societies in Japan, Germany, India, Iran and Australia.
    These include prestigious awards from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Humboldt Foundation and the Australian Research Council.
    UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation, Prof Tanya Monro said the appointment of Prof Vinu would set the stage for exciting developments at the Future Industries Institute.
    “Prof Vinu is a fantastic complement to the Institute which is focussed [sic] on research that will seed future industries and also provide solutions to emerging challenges,” she said.
    “This appointment adds capacity to our strength in materials and energy engineering with a clear pathway to partner engagement and impact.”
    ============

  17. Bruce Dern starred in a 1972 movie Silent Running where all of the trees on earth had been destroyed and only a few dome fulls of trees were put on a spaceship to preserve species. The movie never said why all of the trees had been destroyed, but the plot was that orders came from earth to destroy those on the space ship. I am beginning to see now a reason for destruction of the ones on earth. The environmentalists had to kill them all to save the planet.

  18. Artificial trees are not designed to replace trees.
    They are designed as a stop gap measure
    But hey, C02 is trace gas and has no effects. why do you care if its limited to 350 ppm by using artifical trees.

    • Planting a sapling is cheaper than manufacturing an artificial tree. London streets were traditionally lined with Plane Trees which are easy to grow and cope well with urban pollution and compacted soils. The saplings cost around £5 each and will grow into mature 35 foot tall trees in under 20 years. They thrive in diverse climates and are commonly planted in Australian cities as well as in many US States from Vermont to Texas.
      They are also fairly long lived with most London trees having been planted in the 18th/19th century. If you want a short term carbon sequestration method then this is it. They have the rather significant side effect of enhancing the urban environment.

    • Nice attempt at non-sequitor there Steve. A few more tries and you might even manage to perfect the technique.
      Nobody said CO2 had no affect, it has almost no affect on the climate. On the other hand more CO2 is good for plants.
      If you want to spend your own money on these things, go ahead. But I know you and your type, you will never be satisfied with spending your own money.

  19. If the properties of this stuff are any thing like the mesoporous carbon nitride that ACS Material supplies it does have one or two rather unfortunate properties.
    1) Any dust created is highly flammable and potentially explosive.
    2) When wet it tends to absorb oxygen so rapidly that its a requirement to test the oxygen levels in buildings where it is stored before entering.
    The same explosive hazard does of course occur with sawdust but the O2 absorption thing is bit of a worry as the end result is lots of CO2 and O2 depletion
    The simple method of getting fuel from sunlight and CO2 is of course the age old one, plant lots of trees and use coppicing to get a good sustainable crop of wood for fuel and fencing from land not suitable for agriculture.. ‘Green’ activists have of course been trying with a modicum of success to shut down coppicing operations on the grounds that it is ‘ravaging the woods for profit’ not understanding that local farmers have been harvesting this sustainable crop for centuries.

  20. Vinu et foufolle. It’s the “carbon madness”. Riding the climate gravy train doesn’t hurt either.

  21. No no no, we need these artificial trees to limit CO2 and stop plants from taking over the world! Artificial trees we can control, real trees are obviously paid shills for the fossil fuel industry since they perpetuate the conspiracy to make people think CO2 is beneficial to plants….

  22. The results speak for themselves.
    To save nature, the “greens” destroy ecosystems, leaving barren concrete and steel landscapes.
    Actions.Deny their platitudes.
    They fear. Fear nature above all and seem desperate to destroy nature.
    The belief that man must control all, is an urban affliction.
    Being divorced from reality, nature,weather and seasons seems to have left a vacancy of the mind.
    This apparent terror of nature, runs through all the activities of the “Cult of Calamitous Carbon”.
    First the fixation on carbon dioxide,’More plant food is evil”.
    The denial of natural cycles, so idiotic it hurts, more plant food becomes more plants, completely unavoidable. Life responds.
    Then the inanity of the “solutions” which do nothing to address their claimed concerns, yet wreak havoc on wildlife.Wind, Solar are currently useless to address our need for steady affordable electrical supply.
    But they do wonderful jobs of degrading the environments they are sited in.
    The incoherency of this ideology is beyond parody.
    “We must save the planet by killing all life dependent on CO2”
    “We must defend your human rights, by stripping you of your legal and civc rights”
    “The government is here to help you”.
    Environ-Mentalism is very well named.

  23. In fairness to the Greens, this is not a “green” project per se, but simply a case of rent seeking by some academic researcher. The claims of practical use are completely bogus, and the rent seeker is completely aware of it. This practice is widespread in academia.
    Apart from “climate change”, another big cash cow is cancer treatment, which is why there is no end of irrelevant “proof of principle” research on killing cancer cells in vitro using the most ridiculously roundabout and expensive contraptions. It would be much easier to just throw the cultured cancer cells down the stairs, of course.

  24. I saw this a while back, UTEC in Peru has designed billboards that clean the air or produce potable water.
    http://www.gizmag.com/utecs-air-purifying-billboard-installed-at-lima/31931/
    http://img.gizmag.com/utecair.jpg?auto=format&fit=max&h=670&q=60&w=930&s=eea6f4d9ff5775b428ab1e06fcb7e5a5
    Urban areas are the zones in which natural carbon sinks need this sort of assistance, so I can see some promise in it. Artificial trees, not so much. particularly when you note that trees will grow at several times the rate they do now by the time we get to 1000 ppm (0.1%).

    • Well, upon reading it again, there is no CO2 absorption, only particulate and bacteria removal. The billboard is rather misleading. Perhaps the technology in the artificial trees could be mated with the UTEC filtration and fitted into building HVAC systems or outdoor signage in extremely dense urban areas, to ease the buildup of all pollutants, both real and imagined.

  25. I keep thinking they’ve reached their limit… but they never do. They just go deeper into craziness. Now this joker wants cyanide fake trees to replace real ones? What, everywhere? Maybe he/they want to make sure everything out there is killed off. And there’s grant money for this? Sheesh!

  26. Methanol – far more toxic than fossil fuels – oxidizes in air or the human liver to formaldehyde (a carcinogen and respiratory sensitizer) – when used as a source of energy the carbon returns to the air as CO2 with 100% efficiency. This does not reduce the CO2 footprint – it just repositions it.

  27. When you are a Warmista, there is no idea too stupid to contemplate as a solution to the fatuous belief in a climate proposal that is so stupid that it defies all rational thought. Why plant nice living trees that are useful on all levels and are benefiting magnificently now from all the nice extra CO2 when you could destroy the surface of the Earth and all life with carbon nitride based artificial trees which would emit hydrogen cyanide (H-C-N).

  28. As long as they have a hole for the spotted owl to nest in, what’s not to love?
    (Now, where did I put that “sarc tag”?)

  29. It is not unprecedented, but always ironic, to find extremists destroying what they profess to care deeply about.

  30. What could be worse than artificial trees?

    You think the Emerald Ash Borer is bad? You ain’t seen nuttin’ ’til you see what infests these artificial trees! They chomp through the aluminum with titanium teeth and wash it down with a sip of cyanide ;o)
    PS. I think they might actually be Borg orchards, but I don’t wish to alarm anyone.

  31. What could be worse than Artificial Trees?
    ————
    I’m an artificial lumberjack and I’m okay
    I sleep all night and I work all day
    I cut down artificial trees, I eat my lunch,
    I go to the lavat’ry
    On Wednesdays I go shoppin’
    And have artificial buttered scones for tea

    • I certainly won’t trust robot trees. I don’t even trust real trees. I think they are up to something, and it bodes us no good.

  32. I think people are actually bonkers.
    This is like building robots that eat food so humans and animals can’t have it, because, umm, err…

  33. If you want to get rid of CO2 and produce alcohol, why not just grow potatoes? Lot cheaper.
    This whole scheme sounds like something out of C.S. Lewis’ “Out of the Silent Planet” trilogy; something made up by NICE.

  34. I’m afraid Mr. Worral has simply swung and missed on the chemistry here. The carbon nitride being referred to is not composed of discrete CN units or functional groups, but it is rather a polymer that is essentially graphite with some carbons swapped for nitrogens. So-called graphitic carbon nitrides (or at least the type contemplated here) are actually quite stable and have a bond structure NOT related to cyanide- network of 3-4 single bonds per atom vs a nearly ionic CN triple bond.
    To say that carbon nitrides will outgas significant amounts of cyanide is like fretting over the graphite in your pencil causing a fire by outgassing ethane, because hey ‘graphite is C-C and C-C plus H is H6C2’– it just doesn’t work that way. Nor will Mr. Worral’s gold jewelry turn into gold III oxide because Au + atmospheric O2 = gold oxide. He probably shouldn’t worry about the water in his glass turning it into a pile of wet silicic acids either.
    Lest someone accuse me of it, let me explicitly state the whole artificial tree thing is a hare-brained solution to a non-problem.
    Rather, I’d like to reaffirm Michael Palmer’s comment above:
    “In fairness to the Greens, this is not a “green” project per se, but simply a case of rent seeking by some academic researcher. The claims of practical use are completely bogus, and the rent seeker is completely aware of it. This practice is widespread in academia.”
    Follow the (potential) money…

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