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The little known but critical component of our daily lives – Activated Carbon

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Activated carbon has traditionally been made from coal, hardwoods, and more recently coconut shell, as well as other nut shell waste. We’ve been seeing more and more evidence that bamboo can make a good alternative, and so we set out to find out more by interviewing Troy Wiseman, CEO of EcoPlanet Bamboo.

We’re hearing a lot about activated carbon (AC), but many of our readers will be unfamiliar with the term. What is AC in layman’s terms?

An adsorbent material that due to its microporous structure allows each tiny piece to have a very large surface area. Pollutants stick to this surface area removing them from whatever liquid, gas or solid is being passed through the activated carbon material.  This is why activated carbon is used and works well for cleaning a large range of harmful or unwanted things from liquids to gases.

The crazy thing is that hardly anybody has heard of it and yet it’s used so widely across our daily lives. Although it has huge applications industrially, it is also used in everything from fridges, to beer and sodas, to being the whitening agent for sugar.

What is the raw material it is produced from and how then is it made?

Biomass material. Currently most is made from coal, wood, peat and some from coconut shell. This raw material is converted to an activated state through a number of potential means, the basis of all being the pyrolysis of the material in the absence of oxygen and at very high temperatures (550oc and above).

To many of our readers, ‘carbon’ equates to ‘bad’. What sort of positive applications does AC have?

That is probably because when they hear “carbon” they think of greenhouses gases. However, carbon in its normal or real state is a solid.  So it is inactive. Activated carbon is also referred to as activated charcoal. Activated charcoal or carbon is basically a charcoal that can be used to clean up environmental pollutants. Activated carbon was actually originally developed to be used in making sugar white.  Today activated carbon has many applications in the food and beverage industry; it is also found in every air conditioning unit, every car exhaust and in most industrial and household water filtration systems.

The environmental applications will be of particular interest to our readers – any real/live example of technologies or projects that we should know about?

Demand for activated carbon is on the rise for many reasons, but certainly the biggest is increased environmental regulations. In the US the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year passed a new standard called the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS), which limits the amount of mercury that our manufacturing industries can release into the environment. Activated carbon is the easiest and cheapest way to remove that mercury.

Another example is in the mining industry. Activated carbon can be used for acid mine drainage, cleansing acidic and toxic run off and wastewater before returning it to the environment.

As CEO of Ecoplanet Bamboo we presume bamboo has a role to play here. What is it and what are the benefits?

The world’s largest producers of activated carbon are using a variety of unsustainable raw resources for the current production. This includes peat, which releases large volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Other sources such as coconut shell make good AC for certain products but their availability depends on the markets where coconut grows and where coconut products are produced. This supply fluctuates annually so if you are depending on that for your activated carbon supply that creates a risk at scale.

Bamboo not only has the ability to produce a renewable source of activated carbon, but also a superior quality. The lower the ash and volatile content of the carbonized material the more superior the product, and with bamboo, each species is different, and the age of conversion of the bamboo to activated carbon is also a critical factor.

EPB Labs, an EcoPlanet Bamboo Group company based in South Africa, has developed one, if not the widest, range of bamboo activated carbon products globally. Bamboo can produce an onsite product that can target specific markets and applications and if grown in dedicated plantations can supply a secure source of activated carbon to industries, manufacturers and mining companies that rely on significant quantities to reduce their environmental footprint and meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations.

Photo: EcoPlanet Bamboo

Energy

7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption

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Energy Consumption
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Syda Productions | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/dolgachov

Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.

This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?

Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.

New Technologies to Watch

These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:

  1. Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
  2. Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
  3. New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
  4. Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
  5. Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
  6. The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
  7. Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Making the Investment

All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.

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Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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