Carbonscape close ... but no cigarHome » Blog » Annabel McAleer » Carbonscape close ... but no cigar
Kiwi company Carbonscape wins the judges vote for the Climate Change Challenge—but the public vote (and US$75,000 prize) goes to ... a cardboard box. Stink!
The Financial Times and Forum for the Future hosted a competition to find the most innovative solution to the effects of climate change. A Hewlett-Packard-sponsored US$75,000 prize was offered to turn the best idea into reality.
A judging panel of business leaders and climate change experts chose New Zealand company Carbonscape as their favourite. The vote was then opened up to the public, who overwhelmingly voted for a carboard box cooker, dubbed the Kyoto Box.
Nearly 15,000 people visited the website during the public vote, and Carbonscape fell to last place among the five finalists.
Carbonscape's Black Phantom is a machine designed to turn biomass into charcoal, a very stable form of carbon that can be stored underground in a carbon sink, reported the Financial Times.
The machine, small enough to fit inside a shipping container and be transported anywhere in the world, is “effectively one giant microwave”. In goes biomass—agricultural waste, wood thinnings, even possibly sewage—and out comes a dense, carbon-rich material. The machine can fix nearly half of the biomass as charcoal.
The technique has been used for tens of thousands of years by farmers worldwide to improve yields. But scientists have now discovered that charcoal remains “remarkably stable”, making an ideal carbon sink. The material could be buried underground in former coal mines or used to fertilise soil as ‘biochar’.
Maybe we're biased—we've been rooting for Carbonscape since we profiled one of its founders, Vicki Buck, in the first issue of Good—but it seems a crying shame that the winner wasn't decided by the emminently qualified judging panel.
Of course, the Kyoto Box is nothing to sniff at. It's a cheap, solar-powered cardboard oven for use in rural Africa, estimated to prevent two tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per family per year. The Financial Times reports:
The $5 cooker uses the greenhouse effect to boil and bake. It consists of two cardboard boxes, one inside the other, with an acrylic cover that lets the sun’s power in and stops it escaping and doubles as a ‘hob top’. A layer of straw or newspaper between the boxes provides insulation, while black paint on the interior and the foil on the exterior concentrate the heat still further.
The design is so simple that the Kyoto Box can be produced in existing cardboard factories. It has just gone into production in a Nairobi factory that can produce 2.5 million boxes a month. A more durable model is being made from recycled plastic.