Monday, September 15, 2008

TN scientists branch out to building robot trees

MADURAI: Driving down a tree-lined road in 2020 might not have quite the meaning it does today, if a Madurai Kamaraj University experiment is successful. Its department of bioenergy and centre for biodiversity and forest studies is working to build 'robot' that will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The trees look nothing like the leafy, green ones we know and carelessly destroy, though they have structures that represent the stem, roots and leaves.

Each robot tree looks more like a giant fly swatter, but a single 'tree' can equal the carbon absorption of 1,000 natural trees. One 'tree' is said to have the capacity to absorb 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

The artificial tree comprises huge solar panels, representing leaves, constructed on the end of a tall plastic pole.

Tiny pores on the sides of the poles will absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which gets dissolved in a solution of calcium hydroxide inside, explains Dr K Muthuchezhian, professor and head, department of bio-energy and centre for biodiversity.

"Trees are the first line to fight global warming," he says. "But man continues to destroy forests, ignoring the dangers of global warming. Forests are being replaced by industries that emit dangerous greenhouse gases. Robot trees will go a long way in tackling this problem."

The energy absorbed by the solar panel leaves is converted into electricity. The solution in which the carbon dioxide is dissolved gets heated with the help of this solar power and is split into oxygen, hydrogen and water vapour, which are released through the outlets in the solar panel. Carbonic acid, formed as a result of the reaction, is released into the earth via the artificial root system.

The trees were invented by US scientist Klaus S Lackner, and the university is trying to build 'trees' based on his design. It has been estimated that 2.5 lakh such trees would be sufficient to control the emission of vehicles throughout the world at present.

Times of India: link

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