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.

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