Tue

21

Jul

2020

The shortest 'Green Hydrogen' blog

C'mon ?fellas, why not a billion bucks during a recession for ARENA to invest in 'Green Hydrogen' projects with a focus on sustainability, scaleability (micro-electrolysis to macro-electrolysis), efficiency, durability and modularity??

PS. Maybe add some seed funding for sustainable seaweed eg.kelp farming at Port Lincoln?

Why? The seaweed would be harvested, pyrolysed and added to ammonia (NH3) from the prototype 'Green Hydrogen' plant to make slow release fertiliser with surface area off the charts (3487m2g-1)* for microbial housing, Mycorrhizal Fungi (that collects the nutrients and minerals from the 3D biochar matrix and delivers them to the plant roots) and whatever else the farmer/gardener needs to add for tuning their soil?

PPS.Biochar seaweed eg.kelp could be a suitable candidate for Hydrogen storage tanks too since it has enormous surface area with highly tunable porosity and surface chemistry for H2 binding sites that allows higher storage density compared to, say, a Carbon fibre tank with nothing inside.

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Sat

04

Jul

2020

The 'Adventure' outback vehicle

Hybrid electric/Hydrogen vehicle suitable for the Australian outback (and Australian built and sold exclusively to Australians) with practically 'almost' unlimited range
Eg. The 'Adventure', with a similar size footprint to a Troopy which allows for on and off-road stability, passengers, luggage and the energy systems

This could also be a prototype for a Mars vehicle...

 

2 ways to power the engine

1- Hydrogen fuel cell (HFC)

2-'Flash graphene' supercapacitor

 

2 ways to utilise solar power

1-Micro-electrolysis for H2 production (onboard/on the 'H2 extender' trailer)

2-'Flash graphene' supercapacitor charging

 

2 ways to externally 'charge' the vehicle

1- Electric power terminals eg.The 'Chargefox EV'

2-H2 pumps

A network would need to be built in the Outback OR independent power and H2 production, onboard the vehicle or via and 'H2 extender' trailer (see below)

 

More info about the technology...

 

Solar

-vehicle covered with flexible graphene PV cells embedded into a lightweight UV resistant biochar-based biocomposite for the vehicle body (biochar could be produced from a local sustainable feedstock source with a Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' biochar kiln)
*When it's sunny/moonlit, Hydrogen is made (and when the tanks are filled, supercapacitor charging)
*When it's overcast/raining, power is drawn from supercapacitor
*Can directly charge the supercapacitor from PV cells if the H2 system fails

 

H2

-onboard water tank for micro-electrolysis/emergency water

-onboard (extremely stable) micro-electrolysis using biochar as a catalyst for Hydrogen Evolution Reaction (HER)

-onboard H2 tanks, filled with seaweed biochar for increased H2 binding sites resulting in higher storage energy density
-HFC (with biochar electrodes eg.C/Cu) that can either charge the supercapacitor or directly power the engine

 

Additional power for the supercapacitor
*Regenerative braking and suspension eg.coil (H2x IP)

 

Electronics
-Desert-proof electronics (rugged IP69K eg. shock, temperature, dust, water resistant), made in Oz eg. Bloody reliable graphene sensors and terminal welds

-Kick arse basic AI to monitor the vehicle (Raspberry Pi 4, running on a 8" touchscreen with 'UBPorts', which is at the experimental stage), eg. make H2 from the PVs; discharge the supercapacitor when H2 is running low and not enough PV electricity for micro-electrolysis

-if the Raspberry Pi 4 fries (it's only getting hotter out there), should be able to remove it from the dashboard and slot in a spare Raspberry Pi 4 (found in the box of joy)

-Navigation? A $200 android tablet with GPS (or bootstrapped independent GPS) running offline 'OpenStreetMaps' in an app called 'OsmAnd' with 'GPS Connected' plugin - too easy

 

Engine/Gears

-extremely reliable electric engines with 2WD and 4WD options, Low range and high range

 

Other features

-Aircon and heating

-Fridge -food/tinnies

-Bang & Olufsen sound system

 

Maintenance

-an electric engine that can be maintained as easily as a Troopy diesel engine
-a box of (joy) spare electronics (eg.spare graphene sensors, wires, Raspberry Pi 4) that can easily replace faulty electronics in the energy systems

 

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Thu

18

Jun

2020

Solar ovens

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Tue

26

May

2020

Renewables, anyone?

A non-exhaustive list of what to consider for 'Appropriate Technology' design. Note that it's difficult to prioritise design principles as emphasis on each principle will vary depending on the technology. It's hard to imagine that any single technology would tick all the boxes:

The 12 Permaculture Principles

Pattern Dynamics

Ecological sustainability

Biocentrism

Biomimicry

'Small is beautiful' (big can be beautiful too...)

Aesthetics

Function

Integration

Experimentation

Cultural need/sensitivity

Commercial viability

Marketing

Logistics

Art

STEM (?'Fact' eg. How long is a piece of string?)

Science-Art 'Philosophy'

Energy footprint
Carbon footprint
Water footprint
Chemical footprint
Ethics (?'Faith' eg. 1987 Brundtland Report definition for Sustainability)
Creates green collar jobs ('Green Economics')

Local supply chains, production and deployment
High standards eg.Solar Impulse Foundation
K.I.S.S.

Ease of maintenance
Availability

Accessibility
Reliability
Affordability

Safety

Security

Deployability

Scaleability

Modularity

Ergonomics

Ease of operation

Happiness

Cogeneration opportunities

Transparency (eg.political, corporate, dashboards for sensors et al)

Durability

Rugged (depending on the application)

Lightweight (good for mobile applications and also good for logistics)

'Green' materials (eg. 'Green steel', biochar-based biocomposites, bamboo, hemp et al)

High energy density (for energy carriers/fuels and storage)

Solid state (no moving parts...moving parts add to wear and tear and maintenance.  Also shortens life cycle eg. liquid electrolytes in batteries)

Minimal use of electronics (often difficult to analyse and fix - also need a power source. The Unpowered Measured Irrigation Controller (UMIC) is a great example of using no electronics to irrigate)

Recyclability/Reusability at the end of life cycle

 

We need to turn the 'possible' into the 'probable'...just need to commit to R&D, rebates, VC and many, if not all, of the principles mentioned above...

Using Permaculturist Tim Winton's 80/20 principle (The first 80% of work for 20% of the effort, the last 20% of work for 80% of the effort):
80% renewables by 2025 (the low hanging fruit)
90% renewables by 2030
100% renewables by 2035


Overall 'average' mix at the 2035 'End Game', could look approximately like this:

NOTE: These percentages will vary when comparing 'Stationary Power' and mobile/'Non-Stationary' power

 

35% 'Green Hydrogen' (+ ideally 'Green Ammonia' combined with biochar for agronomy applications) - via Solar electrolysis/micro-electrolysis (or via Cyanobacteria, (synthetic) micro-algae, Microbial Electrolysis Cells (MECs))-> Hydrogen storage and Hydrogen fuel cells = stationary and mobile power.

Also see previous blogs 'An appropriate technology Renaissance?', 'A 'Green economics' for the future?' and 'Micro-electrolysis for Hydrogen fuel production'.

30% solar PV with solid state batteries when they're commercially available eg. Samsung, ?Ozzie designed and manufactured (without needing precious elements such as Silver for the electrodes), for hybrid ('Virtual Power Plants') or standalone (for remote application/energy sovereignty/freedom). Stationary and mobile power.

15% wind (where available in abundance - we're almost up to 10% of total power supply in Australia - there's probably more sites out there but moving parts increase wear and tear and maintenance) - stationary power.
10% biomass (can use various sustainable feedstocks resulting in biochar production as cogeneration which can plug into the rest of the economy to de/re-carbonise it - see 'The biochar economy' page. Can be used for combined heat and power (CHAP or CHP) eg.Power Pallet PP30, ECHO2, primary power or backup generation. Stationary and mobile power. Possible cogen options with TLUD stoves and the Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' too. 50 million bucks seed funding for biomass technologies from ARENA maybe?
5% Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) with Ammonia/Molten salt/other storage. Stationary power.

5% Other. The mind boggles. Some already commercialised eg.Stirling engines (external combustion engines), some at the prototype stage eg. micro-hydro HELLIOGREEN tech, Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs), some (maybe) at the lab stage of R&D eg.air batteries,  biophotovoltaics (eg.Cyanobacteria, micro-algae) and some completely unknown/undiscovered. In reality, this percentage could be much higher in the future. Maybe we'll discover an even 'greener' solar/? energy source that ticks all the boxes of Apptech.

What shouldn't have a future...'Faith' in the Principle of 'Technology Neutrality'...

choice of technology should at least be based on 'Faith' of the less politically biased principles outlined above for Apptech. Note also that choice of guiding design principles will always be a compromise...who said technology design was politically neutral? Reality should be a choice.
-Natural gas: Never going to be ecologically sustainable. We don't need new natural gas infrastructure eg. Fracking, large pipelines, backup generators
-Coal...brown coal H2 gasification, CCS (WTF! Time wasting and expensive - don't even bother with microalgae. Rebranded coal is still ecologically unsustainable), metallurgical coal (can use Hydrogen for Iron Ore reduction)
-Oil (with the classic car and motorbike exemption - of course) - we're beyond 'Peak Oil' - get over it. Replacing the last remaining petrol or diesel combustion engines will probably fall in the last 10% of work.

Maybe use bio substitution with biodiesel made from seawater microalgae (lipids) fed with CO2 from cement factories in situ and the remaining microalgae biomass is biocharred (with CHP for the factory) and added to concrete along with the cement, (less) crushed stone and sand (See 'Burn: Using Fire to Cool the Earth' book for more info). Not sure about petrol other than ethanol addition made from, say, sugarcane bagasse or microalgae. The debate is still out about what is a safe level of ethanol in petrol that doesn't damage the engine.
-Large-scale hydroelectric dams eg. Snowy Hydro 2.0 (read the final 'World Commission on Dams' report - link provided below)

-Nuclear - small reactors...like that will reduce the toxic waste and 'security' issue

 

Now what?
Goodbye 20th century Second Industrial Revolution!
Hello 21st Century Third Industrial Revolution...distributed, decentralised and local peer-to-peer power production on demand...
 

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Sun

17

May

2020

Top 16 things you could do to retrofit your home and ?garden to make it more resilient

1) Solar PV system

-without storage...until solid state electrolyte batteries are available OR when affordable micro-electrolysis systems for Hydrogen gas (H2) production (eg.Enapter) with storage and fuel cell become available. Biochar can be integrated both into the H2 storage and fuel cell electrodes

2) Low energy/energy efficient electrical devices

eg. kettle, reverse cycle aircon, LED globes/lights, oven, pressure cooker, heat pump (for hot water..uses approximately 1/4 of power (depending on the tech) compared to an electrical hot water tank which uses approximately 40% of your power).

3) Insulation with high R value in the ?walls and roof

Cheap way to regulate climate inside the house. Biochar can be used as a filler in the insulation. Biochar also provides electromagnetic shielding from 'Electrosmog'. If high humidity, biochar-based render on the walls can help regulate humidity too. If building a new home, biochar can be added to plaster for humidity regulation and reduction of 'Electrosmog' as well.

4) Water tank harvesting water off the roof

This could be a primary water source or backup

5) TLUD biomass gasifier stove eg. Permastove V5

They produce heat for cooking/water purification and biochar as a 'waste' product. This biochar can be used for (6), (7), (8), (10), (11) and (12). Can buy pellets in many places eg. sawdust or rice husk. Primary or backup stove.

See the page on this website

6) Biochar for air filtration

If the air quality is poor eg. In a large city. Could do this by filling up microgreens trays and placing them around the home

7) Biochar for water filtration

If the water quality is poor. Can add to water jugs and replace the Carbon filter.

8) Microgreens grown with biochar

A good way to get trace elements and nutrients into your diet and have a tasty smoothie or salad.  Spent biochar with biomass residue can be added to the Permachar Kitchen Garden (10) or food forest (14)

See the page on this website.

9) Kon-Tiki 'Rolls'

I'd suggest using a Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' for larger amounts of biochar that could be used for insulation, render or plaster in (3) and for the biochar aquifers in (10). The Kon Tiki 'Rolls' could then be used to make biochar to help grow other plants eg.'Food forest' (14) if there is space which should include biomass plants that can be coppiced eg.Acacias, olive, oil mallee et al for future biochar production and expansion of the food forest (14) or PKG (10) or for a small income eg. sell biochar bags.

See the page on this website.

10) Permachar Kitchen Garden (PKG)

If you've got a back/front yard or a rooftop garden. Grow some herbs and veggies for your diet.

See the page on this website.

11) Self-composting 'Humanure' toilet

Indoor or outdoor. Conserves water and creates great compost - just add biochar! Compost can be added to the PKG (10) or food forest (14).

12) Worm farm to compost kitchen scraps/'waste' (or could feed to chickens (13))

Can add milled biochar to the system. The worms will help innoculate the biochar. Also, you can test the quality of the biochar...if the worms avoid it, then it's unsuitable for the chickens (13), PKG (10) or food forest (14)

13) Chicken raising (if you're not Vegan).

Provide eggs and meat (if you're not Vegetarian...could always barter with it/sell it) when the chickens stop laying. Can add milled biochar to the chicken food which reduces parasites and add to chicken bedding which will innoculate the biochar with micro-organisms from manure and will provide great mulch/slow release fertiliser for the PKG (10) or food forest (14).

14) Food Forest

If you've got the space, why not try growing some fruit, nut and biomass plants. Just add inoculated/quenched (Kon-Tiki 'Rolls') biochar into the planting holes and use chicken bedding waste for mulch around the base of the plants which will also act as a slow-release fertiliser and reduce evaporation from the soil.

15) Compost tea

Can use feedstock from the worm farm to inoculate batches. This can be used as a foliar spray on the PKG (10) or food forest (14).

16) Solar oven

Vacuum tube with reflectors eg. GoSun 'Sport' solar oven (if you add one to your cart and wait 12 hours you get a discount code that results in free shipping to Australia (or anywhere else)). Good for camping/surfing in the fire season when you can't have a fire. Or if you can't access feedstock for cooking or if you're feeling lazy and don't want to build a fire.  Much more energy efficient than electric/gas ovens. Can use to bake bread, reheat food, cook meat and veg etc.

 

These 'Top 16' technologies could also be used to retrofit a shipping container home and ?garden for more remote living or used around the urban landscape on reclaimed land...

 

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Wed

13

May

2020

An Appropriate technology Renaissance?

Ecodemocratic Appropriate economic transitional/transformative/resilience planning to map our way out of the COVID-19 recovery with a focus on appropriate technology and de/re-carbonisation of the economy/Planet.

How could it work?

Solar Impulse Foundation label accreditation which permits rebates for those technologies accredited, produced and sold by apptech companies anywhere in the world including Australia. However Australian apptech would have larger rebates over imported apptech that meets similar standards because locally/Nationally produced technology is even more appropriate and ticks more boxes eg. sustainable local employment, lower logistical Carbon footprint compared to imports, use of Australian supply chains, manufacturing and local resources eg. steel, people

 

REFERENCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._F._Schumacher

https://solarimpulse.com

https://www.appropedia.org/Welcome_to_Appropedia

http://www.i4at.org/library.html

https://globalsolaratlas.info/map

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-29/military-leaders-warn-australia-prepare-for-worse-coronavirus/12193228

https://practicalaction.org/

https://www.ewb.org.au/

https://permacultureglobal.org/

https://www.resilience.org

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Fri

17

Apr

2020

A 'Green economics' for the future?

Serving suggestion...How to dismantle the 'Carbon bomb' with a modded 'industrial ecology'? Globally available sunlight harvesting - not the Ancient sunlight stuff

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Thu

12

Mar

2020

Micro-electrolysis for hydrogen fuel production

I read an exciting report today that Japan is moving to a Hydrogen economy, just like South Australia and potentially Australia and the greater region. It got me thinking about engines and I came up with a few learning issues which may be of interest to some people...

 

Transport

LI: Could you use graphene-based solar PV cells (integrated with the outside of a vehicle and powered from sunlight and moonlight) to produce Hydrogen via micro-electrolysis, first stored in a fuel tank then injected into Hydrogen fuel cells on demand (modifying existing fuel injection tech, using sensors and AI) to run an electric motor for unlimited range?

NOTE1: if this were possible, it would solve the problem of centralised 'Green Hydrogen' production and distribution of Hydrogen to fuel bowsers. For eg, in Australia we have the 'Tyranny of distance' to deal with. This design could be considered as a decentralised 'appropriate technology' for solar-rich countries

NOTE2: This could also avoid repeating the mistakes of the 'oil economy' but for the 'Hydrogen economy' instead. Timely given the volatility of oil prices and 'Peak oil', which many experts, such as Richard Heinberg, agree we have already passed. Arguably we've also hit 'Peak Civilisation' too with the 'coronavirus'/COVID-19.  'The race for what's left:The global scramble for the world's last resources' by Michael T. Klare is a great read!. Another good read is 'Soil not Oil' by Dr Vandana Shiva.

NOTE3: Why start a war for Hydrogen if it has been democratised, just like the 'Kon-Tiki' biochar kilns and 'TLUD' stoves (and others) democratised biochar?!

LI: What about submersibles?

In theory, if they were running on diesel engines, you could add Hydrogen to diesel with direct fuel injection of Hydrogen into the cylinders of diesel engines and have Hydrogen fuel cells (with biochar electrodes) as standalone power (less noisy) with different ratios of Hydrogen and Helium calculated for a given depth and temperature. Hydrogen could be produced elsewhere with solar-powered (heterojunction printed Buckminsterfullerene based ('buckyballs') PV cells) micro-electrolysis with Helium reserves on board

 

Here's a better idea...a hybrid electric/Hydrogen vehicle with electric engine:

-onboard STABLE micro-electrolysis

-vehicle covered with flexible Carbon-based PV cells

-when it's sunny or partly sunny or moonlit Hydrogen is made (+power for the battery if the tanks are full)

-when it's overcast/raining, power is drawn from a solid electrolyte battery (ceramic coated with graphene electrolyte, Cu/Carbon anode/cathode)

So, basically the solar micro-electrolysis would produce Hydrogen which would be stored in Hydrogen tanks. The tanks would supply the Hydrogen fuel cell on demand which would charge the battery that would provide power to the electric engine.

Backup battery charging and/or Hydrogen filling could be done if access points are available.

NOTE: This would probably be only worth building while the energy density of Hydrogen is higher than the battery. If batteries in the future have equal or higher energy density than Hydrogen then it makes sense to go with just battery storage

UPDATE - looks like people at H2x are working on something similar already:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-29/hydrogen-cars-port-kembla-future-australian-motor-manufacturing/12401494

https://www.h2x.earth/

 

Power

LI: Could you produce Hydrogen used for micro-grids running off a solar PV farm on the community scale?

LI: Could you produce virtual power plants of Hydrogen fuel cells running from buildings into a grid or micro-grid (like some companies are already doing with battery storage)?

eg. https://www.enapter.com/

 

Biochar

LI: Could you use a biochar-producing combined heat and power (CHAP)  machine (using micro-gasification in one turbine and a Stirling engine eg.ML1000 to capture heat and also produce power) to power electrolysis of water for small-scale production of Hydrogen that can be used in vehicle and building Hydrogen fuel cells?

LI: How would the cost-benefit of the above system compare to good quality solar PV panels (that don't produce biochar)?

NOTE: assuming an average price of biochar as a commodity which is a fast moving playing field

LI: Using seawater/brackish water could you use solar powered desalination (with (1) reverse osmosis with biochar electrodes and graphene membrane or (2) capacitive deionis(z)ation (CDI) with biochar electrodes) to produce low TDS water (<12.8 ppm) to supply water to the Enapter 'EL21' (modular and scaleable, also powered by solar) for Oxygen and Hydrogen production for air (O2) and Hydrogen (H2) fuel cells?

NOTE: most households won't need to worry about salty/brackish water

LI: Could you use a biochar cathode and anode inside a Hydrogen fuel cell?

NOTE: Biochar electrodes have been successfully used in Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs). You can find research on this on the 'Resources' page on this website

 

Space

LI: Could u produce water from ice (near the surface) then convert to O2 and H2 using solar power electrolysis?
LI: O2 for the suits and bases THEN use air batteries in the Oxygen rich environment to produce backup power for the bases and possibly fill space suits (along with air batteries inside the space suits that could power sensors and AR) and grow food, medicine and biomass?
LI: Hydrogen fuel cells to power the bases (along with air batteries) and Hydrogen fuel cells for vehicles (that could also be powered by the transport design mentioned above if anyone can get it to work safely)?
LI: Biomass to produce Biochar in the Kon-Tiki 'Rolls' (in an Oxygenated environment) eg. in a separate structure to a base in case the structure catches fire), used to grow more plants for more biochar (and more food and medicines)?

 

What about the bigger picture in Australia once the initial prototypes of 'Green Hydrogen' farms/plants are perfected?

 

How to find  future decentralised energy hubs for 'Green Hydrogen' production farms/plants in Australia and get off fossil fuels permanently...maybe a billion bucks for starters. 'Technology neutrality' in the space of global climate change/disruption/chaos? It's like decelerating decarbonisation and accelerating decarbonisation simultaneously!! Evidence-based policy would be more appropriate...Let the data be your friend!

 

I would suggest using a GIS with data found at solargis.com or elsewhere...if the Gov has the data

Site search criteria could include:

-high solar photovoltaic/solar insolation potential areas

-close to ports

-close to rail eg. North-South, East-West rail links

-close to the National Highway

-close to population centres for consumers and farm workers

-cheap land/available land for lease from TOs

-close to farmland that can benefit from 'Green Ammonia'

-access to seawater if the solar electrolysis is using seawater or if the solar electrolysis needs low TDS water, this could be obtained from solar desalination of seawater or in the case of brackish water from bore water and aquifers, Calcium removal as well (and whatever else needs to be removed)

 

I imagine that these questions will lead to many more research questions but could develop many green collar jobs in cottage or larger industries in Australia or even overseas...

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Wed

08

Jan

2020

The humble phytolith

This journey begins with a crazy ecofeministanarchist?marxist called Carrie who I fell in love with at St Mark’s College in Adelaide while studying a M.B.B.S. at the University of Adelaide. Carrie was studying ecological and sociological subjects at a hippie college in Oregon, USA. She decided to spend a year at the University of Adelaide in an exchange. It turned out there some radical students and lecturers there who Carrie enjoyed learning from and spending time with. We started going out with each other when it was clear that we both enjoyed having fun and good conversation. She taught me a lot about ‘The Environment’ and got me excited about public health and alternative ways of looking at the world which were not really promoted in the conservative medical curriculum at that time. At the end of the first year of Uni, Carrie went back to the USA to continue her studies and I was stuck in a heart wrenching long distance relationship with her and an increasing studyload at Uni. By the end of the third year, I’d managed to fail almost every subject and managed to pass 13 supplementary exams which may still be the record in the Adelaide Uni med school. After this, I decided to go overseas on a world backpacking tour when I was 21. I caught up with Carrie in the US, broke up, continued to travel with her in South America but the damage was done. She mistakenly took Larium for malaria prevention which wasn’t really needed and she became psychotic, depressed and often tearful. She left me with a friend at Punta Arenas in the Tierra del Fuego (land of fires) and headed back home – she’d had enough and that was the last time I’d seen her. She had left her mark on me – I was now deeply concerned about social and ecological issues and swore never to take Larium.

 

 

 

A couple of years later I quit medical school, joined up again then quit it again. I now had a strong desire to word up on environmental issues and started a Masters at Flinders University in ‘Environmental Management’. In one of my tutorials in ‘Environmental Politics’ I met a student who was a self-declared permaculturist or ‘permie’. I started researching it and realised that there were other people out there who were disillusioned by politics and wanted to live sustainably while achieving social and environmental change. I quit after passing all but one of my subjects ‘Environmental Politics’ - I got caught up in the politics of the Murray-Darling Basin and refused to submit my essay in fear of being labelled too ‘radical’ and realised then that down the rabbit hole we needed systemic change to implement bioregions with bioregional management plans based around river catchments such as the MDB. That was in 2003. A lot of stuff happened after that. I was restless, moving around the country and overseas too. I worked in many different jobs, lived in many places, had different partners and learned a shit load about survival.

 

 

 

I made the call. Time to study a Diploma of Permaculture as nothing else was working out for me. I went to Byron Bay and studied a Diploma under the Permaforest Trust directed by Tim Winton. Tim and his crew were great mentors. I met other mentors along the way. I spent some time with the late Geoff Moxham from Terania Creek who had been obsessed with biochar for 4 years before he ironically got killed by biomass (in an elaborate swinging tree trunk manouvre that knocked him on the head after which he went into a Tibetan Buddhist dying position while haematoma presumably ruptured his brain and killed him). Biochar is basically biomass (the mass of anything biological) that’s produced in an oxygen starved fire in a process known as ‘pyrolysis’. I got my Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and went on to design a ‘Top-Lit UpDraft’ stove out of Geoff’s reclaimed 304 stainless steel birko that I inherited for my main research project, inspired by Geoff and Dr TLUD that we could fight climate change, poverty and respiratory disease with the one simple technology that produces biochar. This is when I began to learn about phytoliths from Dr Jeff Parr’s research.

 

 

 

So, what is a phytolith? It’s basically a compound of Carbon and Silica that forms in plant cell walls, inside plant cells and between plant cells. It’s also known as ‘plant stones’, ‘plant opals’ and ‘PhytOCs’. What is it good for? We’ve all heard about climate change and probably other names for it as well to describe the end of days such as climate chaos, climate disruption, climate heating, and of course, climate hell. So many research papers and articles have been released around this topic, mainly in the last couple of decades but beginning as early as the 1950s. So what do phytoliths have to do with any of this? Carbon biogeochemical sequestration. Why do we need that? It is Carbon emissions causing the majority of climate heating. Who causes those? Mainly people and environmental runaway loops or cascades that feedback into themselves such as the Arctic melting (known as the ‘albedo flip effect’) and bushfires, such as those seen in California, the Amazon and Austalia in recent months and years.

 

 

 

I almost studied Archeology at Melbourne Uni and I had been interested in this topic for many years, inspired by different archeology celebrities and my own travel eg. I visited Egypt when I was 10 years old and was amazed by it’s culture. Phytoliths were one of the key tools in understanding archeological time. In fact, phytoliths of a bamboo genus, Pleioblastus have been recorded in parts of soils dated to the last interglacial period (130,000–74,000 BP ) from Japan...Bamboo biochar. According to PhytAID phytolith research group, fossil grass short cell phytoliths (GSSCP’s) have been found on every continent and the oldest GSSCP’s are at least 66 million years old....but this is just a snapshot of the potential of phytoliths, and long-term Carbon and Silica sequestration to heal the planet…

 

 

 

Many years went by via different projects which I hoped would kick start my business. It didn’t seem many people were listening – or maybe I wasn’t marketing my technology effectively? I instead made it a personal challenge to design many different kilns (devices used to make the biochar) for many different applications. I got sucked into ‘top fed open draft’ (TFOD) kilns in 2015 with the design of the Kon-Tiki biochar kiln by Dr Paul Taylor and Hans-Peter Schmidt which was a variation and adaptation of the Moki kilns from Japan. These were mainly cone based kilns with near zero Carbon emissions to make biochar if they were manufactured and operated appropriately. After various failures in work (though I did finish a few qualifications at TAFE), I became long-term unemployed. The longer I was out of work the more application rejections I received and the worse my mental health became. So, rather than give up hope I just kept developing appropriate tech as I predicted one day people, if not now, could benefit from it and make a positive environmental impact.

 

 

 

To help pass the time, I began learning programming on a super intuitive platform called ‘Datacamp’. A major growth area in coding is an area of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) called ‘Machine Learning’ (ML). Python seemed to be the the best language to learn for this exciting area of new applications. I then had a hunch that maybe people had used ML to recognise Phytoliths in a large volume of samples so I researched it and alas work had been done on this. In other research, people had made predictions about quantities of biochar produced based on kiln and biomass/plant properties. Adding 2 and 2 I realised you could probably make predictions of how much Carbon could be sequestered as Phytoliths/PhytOCs from a given type and amount of biomass for a given kiln design over time well into the future. Kiln designs could include the Kon-Tiki eg. the Kon-Tiki ‘Rolls’ (which is for sale on my website at permachar.net in a shameless plug). I contacted Dr Paul Taylor and it turns out that he was researching how to estimate tonnes of biochar produced over time as a basis for a Carbon Credit system for the United Nations (UN). This was interesting to me as I had been researching NORI, a blockchained Carbon removal/credit scheme (the potential competition) and I found that their weakness was the lack of the temporal dimension. Paul had worked it out with a physics proof of concept and I had done it with ML and Phytoliths (see previous '#Software for the hardware' blog and check out "http://phytaid-site.s3-website-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/#")! Carbon credits are probably doomed by capitalism and corruption anyway however ecocapitalism seems to be increasingly more ethical than other forms of growth capitalism :(

 

 

 

So now what? Well, all these megafires in Australia are killing my hope. I keep asking myself, is it too late to even bother trying to spread biochar throughout the main planks of the economy when so much Carbon is being released into the atmosphere making the conditions worse for future bushfires (on a macro scale, just like on a micro scale the bushfires create their own weather to increase the fire magnitude)? Then it occurred to me today, while I was reading an article that there are a small number of researchers saying that Phytoliths are not affected by bushfire. In other words, maybe the bushfires are adding soil Carbon to the soil (aka ‘Terra preta Australis’) in addition to the soil Carbon that was already there before the bushfire, locked up in Phytoliths? Also, as fire (and water) is used by nature to germinate various dormant seeds such as the Acacia species would the magnitude of the fires destroy the seeds? Obviously, it’s tragic that all that bushland, homes, communities and people’s lives in Australia have been all but destroyed and many species will struggle to repopulate, including us humans. But, when the recovery happens, will the same development and planning mistakes be made as they have in the past and will we miss an enormous opportunity to think like a Permie and solve various problems using elegant solutions so that ecosocioeconomic systems are resilient to future catastrophic bushfire, doughts, other climate events, global financial crises and even climate-related economic downturns?

 

 

 

All the technology in the world won’t make it rain. Climate change is changing rainfall patterns and causing droughts all over the planet and will only get worse before/if it ever gets better again. Cloud seeding shouldn’t be used – Indonesia tried it and it caused flash flooding and besides - you need clouds in the first place to seed which we presumably don't have in large quantity over drought-stricken areas. So, we are left with a small number of safe biogeochemical sequestration options such as biochar (which has a plethora of multiple uses) for long-term planetary sustainability and healing. Unfortunately, once the forest is gone, there will be virtually no evapotranspiration and evaporation in these areas to produce rain clouds which provide water for seed germination and long-term survival of the regenerating flora and fauna. Note that the charcoal remaining from the bushfires will be able to provide a buffering effect for water release into the ground once rainfall returns. The charcoal/biochar is like a sponge - when it's wet micro-organisms mainly live in the soil and the biochar adsorbs water into it's 3D matrix. When it's dry, micro-organisms enter the 3D matrix from the soil and use what moisture remains inside and the nanostructures as 'high rise accommodation' and continue to mine nutrients found inside the matrix. When it's dry, water is released from the outer areas of the matrix back into the soil.

 

Even if we seedball (google) (eg. biochar, clay and acacia gum binder) the hell out of these burnt areas with drones with pneumatic cannons (eg.AirSeed Technologies) we still need water eg. rain for germination which has been demonstrated in the Kenyan seedballing enterprise...eg. It has taken up to 7 years for some acacia seedball areas to germinate in Kenya due to lack of rainfall. But, what will we tell our young people if we don’t even try and regrow our forests?

 

We could establish key wildlife/biodiversity corridors connecting a patchwork of agroforestry ecosystems. For eg, if the drought hasn't broken soon, bores could be sunk and we could R&D fire-resistant/fire-safe irrigation to supplement the biochar water conservation strategy. These agroforestry ecosystems could be grown with selected fire-resilient food, fuel and fibre crops that don’t require excessive soil and water resources but still support some wildlife to link up with the wildlife/biodiversity corridors. For example, the hemp plant could be grown and used in combination with recovered biochar in biocomposite called ‘charcrete’ (refer to ‘Burn: Using fire to cool the earth’ ) to rebuild sustainable housing and infrastructure in bushfire affected areas.  WWF Australia wants to grow 2 billion trees by 2030. This could integrate well with agroforestry ecosystems. It would be a shame to just regenerate bushland only to have it unsustainably burn down again in the future - we need to think outside the box and adapt to the new environment the megafires have produced and will keep producing possibly to varying degrees every fire season from now on though it's hard to imagine a similar extent of damage could ever happen again...touch wood.

 

 

 

David Holmgren, co-founder of Permaculture with the late Bill Mollison, wrote an article called ‘The flywire house’ in 1993. I’ve got a book on earth covered houses and there are always ‘Earthships’ pioneered by Michael Reynolds and crews. I would like to see collaboration across the entire system and the thinking of the system needs to be updated to now and into the future. It’s not enough to just declare a ‘climate emergency’ and make a minimal effort to rethink policy. What is happening now in Australia with climate change is happening in other parts of the world and we still don’t have a comprehensive mitigation and adaptation strategy on the table. How much suffering is ‘needed’ before the system reboots onto a more positive footing for dealing with all this chaos? The key is time travel...could we use the humble phytolith to lead us down good cultural and survival pathways. So, I think a valid question to ask is then, which cultures were sustainable and in some case still are and what we can do to learn from them that also commits to building future policy, research and development goals for sustainable culture?

 

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Tue

03

Dec

2019

#Software for the hardware

Here's a rough unmanicured software idea, to be coded in Python, for determining Carbon credits for biochar production over time

 

NOTE1: competing Carbon credit systems don't take into account 'time' decay of Carbon

NOTE2:For your biochar producing tech, look no further than the 'Rainbow Beeeater' biochar kiln, 'The Big Roo' biochar kiln, 'Kon-Tiki' biochar kiln eg. 'Rolls' and 'Permastove' biochar-producing TLUD stove eg. the 'Permastove' V5

NOTE3: No microtransactions will be used in this 'point-of-sale' (POS) software (just trust with Federal/Government reserves). Getting rich while saving the planet isn't always the way to go (though ecocapitalists might disagree...). Why not create POS software for Carbon biogeochemical sequestration that gathers intelligence and becomes more intelligent over time? As an aside, maybe dumb POS terminals will become a thing of the past aka they can be more than just a glorified calculator and collect business intelligence too (a little Orwellian)!

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*Which tools to use for measurement of C and Si?
With an 'Our Sci' reflectometer/ BFA 'Bionutrient Meter' (a beta reflectometer with a bunch of sensors currently under development) (C + ?PhytOC) OR reflectometer(C) and fluorescent microscopy (PhytOC) (using a microscope set up for flurorescence and a fluroescence-capable camera) scan a biochar sample from a larger batch/quantity of biochar produced OR instead of using PhytOC as a proxy of time, use the Silica reflection. Interesting to note is that PhytOC has an approximate refraction level of 1.4 so it could be measured with a refractometer too. Maybe a 3D scanner that could calculate both the Silica AND Carbon (Si, C, PhytOC)?
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#START OF CODE
scan sample of biochar
output-)input: into a cloud database (eg.AWS, Azure, Cloud, Alibaba):
#These questions can be used to collect additional variable data for the sample database/training data
user input: 'What is the moisture content of the biochar sample?'
user input: 'How many tonnes of  biochar have been produced?'
user input: 'What is the main plant used in making the biochar?'
user input: 'What is the estimated percentage of the main plant used in making the biochar?'
user input: 'What are the other plants used in making the biochar with approximate percentages?'
#run some Pytorch machine learning algorithms based on previous graphs/images of UV to NIR taken via #reflectometer (or whichever tool is found most effective and versatile) to determine Carbon percentage
print ('Carbon percentage of biochar sample')
#run some Pytorch machine learning algorithms based on previous images of PhytOCs taken via reflectometer #(or whichever tool is found most effective and versatile) to determine PhytOC percentage
print ('PhytOC percentage of biochar sample')
#A 10,000 year projection or if u were even more optimistic, a million years
print('A graph  as a function of 'PhytOC' with 'Carbon sequestered over the next 10,000 years')
calculate: 'C credits (tonne.year(s)) earned over the next 10,000 years' * 'current market cost of tonne.year'
#(in US/Euro/local currency)
print ('Money earned for biochar produced')
#END OF CODE
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Any ideas or comments??
Any Python programmers interested in working on this code?
Let's build a sustainable and ethical future!
I can be contacted on my 'Contact' page...
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REFERENCES

*'Machine learning prediction of biochar yield and carbon contents in biochar based on biomass characteristics and pyrolysis condions' by Zhu, Xinze et el (2019). This prediction could be bootstrapped onto the POS software to make a financial quote based on how many tonne.years of Carbon could be produced based on 'biomass characteristics and pyrolysis conditions'. They used the random-forest ML algorithm from Python's scikit-learn module

*'Machine learning algorithms improve the power of phytolith analysis: A case study of the tribe Oryzeae
(Poaceae)' by Zhe Cai and Song Ge (2017). This paper quotes some very high percentages of phytoliths recognised with the SVM ML algorithm

*'Phytoliths as proxies of the past', by Irfan Rashid (2019). Great overview of phytoliths using examples mostly from fields of archeology

*'Role of phytolith occluded carbon of crop plants for enhancing soil carbon sequestration in agro-ecosystems' by Rajendiran, S. et al (2012). A little dated but great background reading.

*'Phytolith Formation in Plants: From Soil to Cell' by Nawaz, M. et al (2019). Long article, haven't finished reading it yet but very interesting so far...

*http://phytaid-site.s3-website-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/#

 

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