Treepods air-scrubbers could clean up Boston


March 8, 2011

At night, multi-color lighting enhances the beauty of the Treepods structures

At night, multi-color lighting enhances the beauty of the Treepods structures

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Heading away from the use of polluting fossil fuels towards sustainable clean energy, we are discovering more and more novel ways to use or harness the wind. Even though solar panels have become almost commonplace, we're still seeing the technology being pushed into new ground. More projects are surfacing that harvest energy from the oceans. Meanwhile, we're also coming up with inventive ways to monitor pollution. Now an initiative from Mario Caceres and Cristian Canonico of the Influx Studio in Paris, working with SHIFTboston, is looking to roll out a man-made forest of air-cleaning Treepods throughout Boston ... which are powered by solar and kinetic energy.

SHIFTboston is an incentive aimed at focusing new, exciting, innovative and environmentally responsible ideas to transform Boston into a more dynamic city. Hoping to help the city of Boston reduce its carbon dioxide, Caceres and Canonico from Influx Studio in Paris have come up with what they describe as a CO2-scrubbing living machine called Treepods, that is said to "embody and artificially enhance the capacity of trees to clean the air."

The carbon dioxide removal process used by Treepods is based on technology developed by Dr Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University. It enables the energy-efficient capture of carbon dioxide from air. He was inspired by his daughter's prize-winning 8th grade project which successfully extracted carbon dioxide from the air using a fish tank pump and a battery, and proceeded to create a machine which cleansed the air like a living tree.

Influx Studio says that an eco-friendly, alkaline resin within the Treepods structure will react with the air around it and strip it of carbon dioxide. The cleansed air will then be free to go on its way. When this CO2-drenched resin reacts with water it will then release the carbon dioxide for storage.

Treepods would be made from recycled and recyclable plastics, such as the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) commonly used to make water bottles, and would be modular. The designers see the structures taking on three different modular shapes – a single isolated unit, three units together to form a hexagonal structure, and a group of Treepods to create an urban canopy. The intention would be to create a network of Treepods to embrace the whole of Boston.

The appearance of the Treepods was inspired by Dracaena cinnabari or the Dragon Blood Tree. Its umbrella-shaped canopy offers the perfect wide platform to hold the solar-tracking photovoltaic cells that will provide the Treepods with energy to power the air cleaning system and the myriad lighting on alveoli-like branches. Not all of the energy requirements could be met by solar power alone, so the designers also propose installing some sort of playing device, such as a seesaw which could harvest the kinetic energy of play.

In addition to providing the public with some shade, Treepods would also encourage interaction and learning, displaying augmented reality information about the decarbonization process or more general educational information.

Whether the Treepods will actually be planted throughout the Boston area remains to be seen. We'll be keeping an eye on this project and will keep you posted.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

\"Treepods would also encourage interaction and learning, displaying augmented reality information about the decarbonization process or more general educational information.\"

Why not just put an LSD dispenser out in the park so the same hippies can dance around in eco-induced joy? Obviously a lot of them are in Boston with lots of extra money and time on their hands.

Has it become suddenly cool to come up with the most idiotic nonsense as long as it is eco-themed? Objects like this, with no value or utility whatsoever seem to popping up, justified by including the word \'carbon\' somewhere in the description.

There are so many other great inventions on gizmag with serious application value, but don\'t have a chance without a leaf-shaped logo to appeal to the sub-80 IQ trendies.

Todd Dunning

I agree. What an absolute waste of space and time. REMOVING carbon dioxide from the AIR???? So all the CO2 that trees and every living organism on earth EXHALE will be reabsorbed by these gizmos??? What a CROC


paulgo: trees intake c02 from the air and pump out oxygen as a waste product which is what we need to exist. I think this idea is like those useless Japanese ideas that just don\'t make any sense at all and will never see the light of day.

My advice to these inventors is if they want to reduce carbon, plant some trees and tell industry to stop chopping them down!

Denis Klanac

99 ... 100 ... change hands


The point of these trees is perhaps to collect CO2!

Not just capture it slowly in a tree.

C)2 is mostly produced in cities and if you want to cpature it it makes sense to do this where its made.

In the future we might be using Co2 to create FUEL from Solar dishes that split water H20 and then recombine the H\" with CO2 to create a BioDiesel.

If this does take off then collecting CO2 will be part of that process. These trees might well be the part of the fuel of the future.

Like the initial idea of using resin and then water to collect it. There would need to be a method of getting the CO2 out of the water and compressing it for transport. Might take too much energi, so it would be better to have these trees in amongst the solar dishes in the dessert.

Perhaps there could be a dual function.. Perhaps they could collect dew and store or drain it into the ground. maybe there could be a real tree growing in the centre. Like an OAk or Giant Red Wood..

Regards, Karsten Online using Good Honest Broadband from Yorkshire

Facebook User

Why not just put an LSD dispenser out in the park so the same hippies can dance around in eco-induced joy? Obviously a lot of them are in Boston with lots of extra money and time on their hands.

I would not live in Boston for any reason, but it is good to see that even a hide bound, grunting, luddite curmudgeon understands the value of LSD.

Robert Walther

So, this concept has what advantages over planting real trees? I mean, if someone wants to put up a few of these as art as you would with a statue or sculpture, I see no problem with that but, to promote them as a way to make a serious dent in CO2 in a city while simply planting more real, living trees would do a much better job for a much lower price and with far better aesthetics, seems poorly thought out at best.

Mark Dixon

So- we are going to spend tens of thousands of dollars creating artificial trees to feed off Co2???Just plant the REAL THING for heavens sake! They will do a far better job and need far less maintenance, never break down and not cost an arm and leg to maintain...what a waste of time and money so someone can \"feel good\" about technology...

Facebook User

wtf!?!?!?.....soooo dumb.....and UGLY!!! Just plant trees for pity sake. Reminds me of the lyrics from Joni Mitchell....\"pave paradise, put up a parking lot\"


rgwalther, glad you\'re happy about the LSD part - but the word \'luddite\' applies to those who hate technology.

And what better definition of a luddite than right here - to harness technology to do something profanely useless? Here we have a designer who is so luddite he can\'t even figure out forward-thinking applications, unlike the rest of gizmodo articles.

Since I\'m a \'curmudgeon\' for pointing out this little detail, I prefer that to being a trendoid greenie to whom \'technology\' is defined only by its eco-political correctness.

Todd Dunning

You would expect eco-kooks to like trees. After all, trees absorb carbon dioxide, which is harmless, but held to be a pollutant according to moonbat ideology. But being liberals, they can never leave well enough alone, preferring instead to replace trees (no doubt at public expense) with preposterous pseudo-trees. But Treepods are even more enviro-friendly than real trees because they don\'t replace the carbon dioxide with oxygen, which only encourages humans who breathe it to exhale more carbon dioxide. Also, Treepods are made of recyclable polyethylene terephthalate. This is fortunate, since it won\'t be long before they are recycled into something more useful, like disposable water bottles. Maybe the idea is to cause visiting Yankees to laugh so hard that the Red Sox will be able to handle them

Facebook User

Lemme get this straight: SHIFTboston wants to remove trees, which absorb CO2 and turn it into energy for the tree to live and oxygen for all non-plant life, and replace them with artificial plastic constructs that capture CO2 until it rains, at which point it\'ll just go back into the atmosphere to join whatever CO2 was exhaled by non-plant life forms? Oh, it has little LEDs underneath and they\'re powered by solar panels, so that makes it OK.

I thought environmentalists LIKED trees, thought we didn\'t have enough of them because big eeeeevil corporations keep clear-cutting forests to build oil derricks or houses or farms or something else useless. How \"green\" are the companies responsible for building these fake trees? How many endangered species will be displaced from their habitats to clear space for the facilities to build these stupid things?

Nelson Butterworth

Why not Boston raise the metered parking to... $100/hour, this way they\' ll have plenty of money to set up a CO2 removing plant, ha??? Eventhough this trees structures work, then it would be stupid that they cant get all the power from sun and they need some kids to to play on a seasaw just for making more power. Cm\' on, in Boston best thing is use some device make energy from falling snow, there\' s plenty of this whitish thing there, or just utilize the wind. DID YOU EVEN FIGURE OUT THAT THERE IS NO SUN IN BOSTON? IT HARDLY MAKES ANY SUN EVEN THE LAST TWO MONTHS OF SUMMER. WHAT IDIOTS ARE GOING TO PUT SOLAR PANELS IN BOSTON??


I joked a few years ago that what we need was an invention that took CO2 from the air and turnd it into a useful product, provided shade and habitat for animals and could be recycled into a building product. The Joke being well it has existed for melinnia, its called a tree. Not so funny when someone actually thinks it is better to crerate at great expense (money, time, resourced and energy) to do soemthing that can be otherwise created by the simple act of planting. Its amazing how we can make things more complicated then they really need to be.

Reece Agland

OMG, yup, here is yet another completely environmentally un-helpful idea. Sure in theory it may do as it says, but hmm, trees have been around much longer and do a pretty good job, plus you can cut them down and use them to make houses once they\'re full of CO2.. What\'s really frustrating with these so called scientists is that they are missing the whole point of tackling issues from the source of the problem, putting another band-aid on a problem isn\'t going to fix it. The problem is simple.. HUMANS ARE PUMPING TOO MUCH CO2 INTO THE ATMOSPHERE! reduce the amount of CO2 emission\'s and the CO2 problems will slowly go away like magic. What this entails is to use renewable energy sources and use electric cars. ALL CAR COMPANIES SUCK AS THEY THROW AWAY SUCH TECHNOLOGY. go watch \'Who killed the electric car\' to see what I mean. Do not take this for face value, go and research for yourself or you might as well FOAD


Silly, but some of the basic ideas here will be utilized in more useful technology. Topographical analysis to make most efficiently branching structures integrated with microbial bioreactors, yada yada.

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