Here's a COVID-19 thought experiment...Maybe the 'Holy Grail' of COVID-19 testing is a free, reusable (less cost and a lot less medical waste landfill) Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) (or something else) with an accuracy of 90%+ for 'self-testing' ('voluntary compliance', volunteering, Citizen science et al).
The following SciFi test kit system could be rapidly prototyped with the right team and funding and sold by a theoretical manufacturer at cost price to the Government for distribution to their network (including pharmacies):
Disposable Swab->Swab->RNA 'biometric' sensor/'biosensor' (needs more research)->Raspberry Pi Pico ($4) with software, using Micropython programming language and blockchaining the test event (time:date stamped-can't be modified) ->USB->smartphone->smartphone app, that could operate the test and send data collected/receive test result data via Medicare and myGov. The cool thing is, it would be possible to program in new 'virus signatures' as required in a cloud database eg.mongoDB 'Atlas' with AWS/Google Cloud/Microsoft Azure hosting for pattern recognition on the RNA biosensor which would future proof the test kit - a bit like virus scanning software on a PC updating 'virus signatures' for newly discovered viruses - but done in the cloud to reduce the data and data processing needed on a smartphone which may only have low spare storage, slow storage, low RAM, a slow CPU and wouldn't involve virus signature updates. Furthermore, the sensitivity of the RNA biosensor could be improved over time with firmware updates (with a small data footprint) delivered via the smartphone app to the RP Pico. Maybe the RNA biosensor could be standardised for more reliable dataset comparison? The database would be a treasure trove of data for virologists' and epidemiologists' research. Another bonus is new COVID-19 variants or even other viruses could be detected early which could provide intel for researchers and GPs via telehealth - but - I don't want a 'Gattaca' scenario though it seems at times we're not far from it! Geek out - and yes, the tests could be faked like in the movie but why would you need to fake it in a real-life situation unless you were desperate to get back to work and infect other people?
The following test algorithm could be used which involves a lot of testing for a rich data set and hopefully not too annoying for the patient:
If symptomatic and test negative, test again. If second test is positive, self-isolate. If negative, then maybe you've got a different virus which could be picked up by the virus scan in the cloud - may not need to self-isolate. Or, it could be symptoms of a different medical condition - not even a virus! If positive twice, self-isolation for 7 days.
A patient could test again after 7 days, if positive twice, self-isolate for 2 more days and test again. If negative and positive, keep self-isolating. Could keep testing every 2 days, twice per day, until the result was negative 2 tests on the same day, 2 days apart THEN...freedom?
If the tech is too complicated for some people, particularly the older generation, then it's RAT time, when they become widely available.
If you're asymptomatic but exposed to a 'close contact' who is infected with COVID-19, a definition that seems to be updated on a regular basis and falls within a very specific scenario of 4 hours in a house, health or aged care setting, then use a RAT according to current wisdom. I mean, surely 5 minutes would be long enough to catch it in almost any indoor setting but imagine all the RAT packs for that definition - or use one testing kit as proposed! And besides, there aren't enough RATs available for the 5 minute definition though apparently there will be many more available in the coming weeks - just disposable ones with variable sensitivities (see REFERENCES) - another data comparison nightmare and supports the argument for a standardised RNA biosensor which could provide increasing sensitivity for accurate data collection over time (as previoiusly mentioned) for the researchers so we have an increasingly more accurate picture of the virus and where we are and need to be going.
As an aside, I never understood why we only sign in to businesses and not sign out? Still might be handy for 'close contact' determination but contact tracing may soon be a thing of the past anyway. We're not even near peaking Omicron yet - could be a month, a couple of months, or even longer...many new cases to come and how confusing will that be for 'close contact' rules. Literally, a ?quarter of the economy could shut down :(
On a positive note, I'm predicting Omicron will be the last dominant variant of COVID-19...it will literally run out of hosts and our backup T-cell response may help protect many people who were only double-vaxxed or not able to access any vaccines (or controversially worse, didn't want them) for protection from Omicron and future possibly weaker variants too - but I may be wrong. If you can access the third vaccine booster, as a 'Citizen scientist', problem solver and futurist, I would highly recommend getting it as it might provide around 97% protection/immunity to Omicron variant after 2 weeks following the booster (but there probably isn't enough data yet to say with high confidence). Muchos loco times we live in!
Any comments welcome!
There's an interesting development happening around the world right now with an incoming shortage of AdBlue, which is a fuel exhaust system additive used by diesel powered vehicles and machinery from roughly 2015 and onwards that meet European emission standards by breaking down Nitrogen Oxide emissions in the exhaust system. Without AdBlue, the vehicles don't operate according to one source or might operate, via a technical override and broken emission laws, according to another source - so it might as well be a diesel shortage. Interestingly, despite the abundance of natural gas in Australia, there is a urea CO(NH2)2 (produced from ammonia NH3) shortage. The urea + deionised water is used to produce generic AdBlue, which is needed by roughly 50% of Australian trucks and by many tractors, combine harvesters and other machinery on Australian farms. Some tradies could be affected too. Who knows how other diesel powered transport could be affected? Hyzon Motors have made a start (https://hyzonmotors.com/) for (?Green) Hydrogen powered trucks. H2X is looking at (?Green) Hydrogen powered machinery which could include agricultural machinery in the future. There's also the 'new material' (see previous blog) possibility for integrated solar/massless battery EVs.
So, I did some digging and it turns out we were importing 80% of our urea from China (but can't seem to find a primary source anywhere), which has temporarily stopped exporting it now due to rising worldwide N fertiliser costs (natural gas cost increases, coal shortages to run fertiliser plants leading to shutdowns, Covid-19 supply chain issues etc.) and the need to guarantee affordable supply to farmers within China. Russia, also a major ammonia and urea exporter has done the same thing. According to a World Bank Group blog (see REFERENCES), the cost of urea is rising exponentially in 2021. Consequently, the price of AdBlue has skyrocketed and some industry experts are saying we could run out of AdBlue by February 2022 or even earlier.
Maybe in the short-term the Government could procure AdBlue from other countries eg.Indonesia (at an inflated rate as they are one of the world's largest importers of fertilizer, mainly from China, Russia and Canada) but over the mid to long term this approach would help leave those countries high and dry without it and create an artificial or 'synthetic' sense of security in Australia. Maybe Canada could help? We should start producing green urea ASAP, which could take a while to build the infrastructure (see 'The HR seedball machine' later in the blog), if we are going to survive the potential shock in the medium to long term. Incitec Pivot Limited, with 'Twiggy's 'Green Ammonia' retrofit on the East coast and Yaru Pilbara (bound to Chinese export contracts...but maybe could be renegotiated since they stopped exporting to us) on the West coast could buffer us with AdBlue supply.
Strike Energy in Geraldton, WA is trying to get approval to manufacture 3/4 of Australia's ammonia needs for the near future but they rely on fracking to get the non-renewable gas which is a dirty process - toxic fracking fluid gets in the groundwater supply and it is a Carbon intensive operation. There are probably Traditional Owner issues too. That's not even taking into account the CO2 released into the atmosphere from the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process (1909) using air-captured Nitrogen (N2) and natural gas for Hydrogen extraction (from methane CH4) to produce the ammonia (N2 + 3H2 -> 2NH3). Strike Energy claims they can reuse waste CO2 from the ammonia production to produce the urea. They have greenwashed themselves saying they will be Carbon neutral by 2030.
Expansion of natural gas infrastructure to drive down the cost of N fertiliser (and AdBlue) isn't the answer. A maintenance and expansion of 'Green Revolution' agriculture (which began in the 1950s) 'to feed the world' isn't the answer either. This is Fritjof Capra's (and John Newcombe's) 'Turning point' in my opinion. 'The Turning Point' book, by Capra, was written in 1982. His main message, I understand, was 'No ecology no economy' but it's open to interpretation. So, we've had almost 40 years to think about it - and a growing body of recorded Indigenous knowledge around the world though it's only a fraction of what people knew or still know about living sustainably within the limits of ecosystems. The 'Green Revolution' has been destroying ecosystems all around the world (often with Government support) and how many Oz farmers are in debt as the scale of farms perpetually increase as are many inputs, often with more needed each year in order to get a reasonable yield? How many Indian farmers have suicided because they couldn't pay the bills, ironically often drinking Monsanto pesticides? That's what I call a 'slow' emergency but many farmers would probably disagree as it's happening right now! The 'Green Revolution' has failed. It's hard to imagine many Ozzie broadacre farmers would change their systems but there are some modifications that could be made that may hopefully interest some of them...
For eg., I looked into a greener chemistry for producing ammonia and it turns out that Jupiter Ionics, a spin-off company from Monash Uni have developed a fossil free process to produce ammonia from Nitrogen air capture (N2), water electrolysis (H2) and renewable energy plus a regenerative catalyst -> Ammonia (NH3). I asked them if they also had a green process to convert ammonia to urea but they haven't replied. Maybe there are alternatives to using CO2? Or, maybe CO2 from direct air capture (DAC) could be used (some tech just pumps it into underground aquifers/wells for no economic use - maybe make some Vodka as a bit of side hustle too?)? Maybe a machine could be built to collect H2O (water vapor), N2 and CO2 via DAC in a 3 step process that could be used just about anywhere? The technology exists for capturing each molecule independently - just need to integrate the technologies. That would cover all feedstocks for urea production. So, potentially future ammonia production and conversion to urea may have zero C emissions and negate the need for fossil fuel inputs as a feedstock source and energy supply. Maybe in the future, a renewable energy powered and mostly open source machine (possibly powered from pyrolysis eg.ECHO2 with integrated battery eg.CO2, Iron redox flow, saltwater etc.) could integrate DAC of feedstocks, ammonia production (using the Jupiter Ionics process), conversion of ammonia to urea (for AdBlue, as a value added product) and more importantly, combine the (liquid) urea with milled biochar (fed in from ECHO2 and mill) for slow-release and 'Carbon negative' fertiliser granules/pellets/'Fertiliser balls' (reducing agricultural fertiliser inputs; reducing NOx, N2O emissions over time, 'removing' C from the atmosphere and building soil C) + all the other benefits of biochar in soil eg. once the ammonia is mineralised by urease found in the soil to ammonium NH4+, bacteria via doping of the 3D biochar matrix could break down the NH4+ into nitrates NO3- for plant bioavailability.
Alternatively, seeds could be added to the 'Fertiliser balls' to make 'Seedballs' (see REFERENCES). There's a biochar 'intersection' for broadacre farming (which could become no-till and 'regenerative', which is happening all around the world, with the bonus of C removal credits issued on some C removal marketplaces), regenerative agroforestry and bushland regeneration. For eg., regen agroforestry could be integrated with bushland regeneration (after the climate-caused bushfires). Biochar/charcoal could be collected from the bush or made with a kiln eg.Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' to produce biochar-containing seedballs to grow the economic species needed eg. native bush foods and medicines or permaculture plants (as long as they're not 'weeds' for a given ecosystem)...It can be done on small-scale eg. Kenyan approach, or on larger-scales with drones eg.Airseed Technologies. More research needed...
It's a question now as to how fast the technology can be scaled up for AdBlue and fertiliser production and whether the Government is serious about the emergency who were initially just 'aware' of and 'monitoring' it but now there is action. While our Deputy PM and Minister for Transport (Barnaby!) is locked in quarantine with Covid-19 in the US, the Minister for Industry, Energy and ?Emissions reduction Angus Taylor has picked up the ball with an 'emergency taskforce' and will hopefully run with a sense of urgency as we are approaching the Summer holiday season - or we could be looking at empty supermarket shelves or at least hyperinflated food prices in the near future...There could be some weird and wonderful dishes on the menu in the next 6 months or so - just like the old days. It's a good time to be thinking about growing your own food (eg.help crack the code of Regenerative Agroforestry) to supplement your diet and wallet!
However it plays out, in my opinion, the AdBlue shortage (a sprint) is a symptom of an ageing and unsustainable fossil economy which is a challenge for most of the planet - not just for Australia. The AdBlue crisis/emergency is nested within a 'food system emergency' nested within a global 'climate emergency'. The logistics of world trade has a massive C footprint though there are increasingly more clever and sustainable transport energy sources at all scales and application eg.Green ammonia, Green Hydrogen etc. Small-scale food and medicine production/buffers/'Shields' eg.community gardens, 'Victory gardens', aquaponics etc. probably need to be everywhere in order to hedge our bets, diversify and word up & skill up the people. The list goes on and even if the Government plans ahead for future economic shocks like AdBlue, what matters is how we tackle the underlying sustainability problem (a marathon) - largely with greentech, reduce our impact on the climate and wherever it's possible to 'Go Greener' and build more resilience into our systems.
Solar glass (not science fiction) used in the windows could be used for additional solar harvesting and energy storage, connected to a separate 'solid state' hybrid C-based battery/supercapacitor (high energy density with fast recharge and discharge) which could be used as a backup power supply for the vehicle
Looks like I designed in principle a quantum superabsorptive material (see references) for the outer layer/'discovered material' in Hypothesis 4. Biochar is full of microcavities including on the nanoscale.
Quote: "A battery that is capable of harvesting and storing light energy simultaneously would provide significant cost reduction while reducing the
unpredictability of energy from solar technologies." What's also very cool is the more molecules there are, the faster the material will
Why not use the above principles and produce microcavity inclusions for
"harvesting and storing light energy
simultaneously" in a 'Carbon nanotube mat' (see references) for super high tensile strength, bulletproof, heat tolerance et al? This could then
be bonded to the inner hemp biocomposite from Hypothesis 4 except C fibre would probably not be needed since the mat is much stronger than steel and probably C fibre too...Keep it in mind
too that kevlar is a synthetic polymer invented in 1965 with some potentially polluting chemicals and byproducts (more research needed). A search/machine learning (ML) algorithm for
cellulose-based C nanotubes with high tensile strength might be all that's needed, with hemp being a very promising candidate from what I have read so far - but quantum computer ML could
do it faster. I doubt there would be much research on C nanotube mats. The point is maybe the entire 'new material' can be made from sustainably produced cellulose from plants (without
the dead dinosaurs and chemical pollution) to produce a solar light superabsorbing, energy storing, high tensile strength and heat resistant material (bonus if it can dodge bullets too
but not the main goal for civilian science)!
In my opinion, offsetting and removal are often mixed up or interchangeable words. Offsetting is Carbon emissions neutrality. Removal is Carbon-negative. In the case of puro.earth, they are using, and I don't like the acronym, called CORC (similarly named like Nori's 'CRC'), which stands for Carbon dioxide (CO2) removal certificates. This is good for businesses eg.tech giants like Microsoft because you can be removing Carbon while you're using your production line to do whatever you want to do with it. In the case of ECHO2/'Holla Fresh' herb production greenhouse, it was providing services (heat/power) while producing biochar (another service), which not only offsets Carbon pollution from the fossil fueled system, it is also removing the Carbon from the atmosphere/climate via woody waste. So it's both offsetting and removing CO2 equivalent emissions.
In the case of the Kon-Tiki 'Rolls', although there are less cogeneration opportunities than the ECHO2 at this stage (I'm waiting for TEGs to go down in price), the biochar produced when used in a growing system is still offsetting Carbon by reducing the amount of fossil used in the system, which may include no-till agriculture (using compressed air biochar injection), less pesticides and herbicides and less fertiliser (most of these use fossil in their production eg. Natural gas to produce fertiliser). Carbon reduction is definitely happening since the biochar is taking Carbon indirectly from the atmosphere via biomass feedstock and locking into a supply chain or directly into soil. I'd be interested to learn what people think about any of this!