The bioengineering field is growing rapidly everyday. In a world that relies heavily on biological advancements in healthcare and research, there are risks that develop. Some methods can be harsh on the environment. Because of this it is important to have methods that are GreenFriendly or combat any waste that threatens the environment. Thankfully there are ongoing projects on top of this issue.
In 2021, one of the objectives of Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC) was to completely eliminate the use of carbon emitters with bioengineering methods. Their three finalists were AlgiKnit, Orbillion Bio, and LanzaTech. Seeing the approach that each company took on the long-standing issue of carbon emissions was equally fascinating and exciting. Each idea was fresh and promising with the prospect of a safer and cleaner world. Algiknit crafted a method to replace traditional textile materials, with one’s friendlier to the environment. OrbillionBio crafted an alternative option for meat. This is a direct attempt to decrease the vast amount of waste that comes from the livestock industry. Finally, LanzaTech is going directly for the waste emissions and reprocessing them to be used as premium fuels. With this in mind, it is no surprise why these were some of the top contenders of XTC.
Being that Green Technology concerns all areas of the environment, there is always room for improvement. One just as important as decreasing emissions is countering water pollution. Specifically, pharmaceutical compounds. Once in water sources, they are a threat to humans, wildlife, and the environment. While there are wastewater treatment plants (WWTP’s) to combat contamination, they are not effective against pharmaceutical compounds. The proposition of implementing White-Rot fungi in WWTP’s could make a significant difference in breaking these compounds down. White-Rot fungi hold certain properties that can facilitate WWTP’s in the decomposition process. This strategy shows the potential of utilizing natural sources in technology. Coupling man-made devices with White-Rot fungi and its ability to destroy certain chemicals, is a huge step for fighting water pollution. With this in mind, one cannot help but think of the ways different fungi could hold the key to current and future issues.
Another area of consumption in need of green bioengineering methods is the soil. There is a significant amount of metal contaminating land. Similar to water pollution, this creates a threat to humans and wildlife. As the issue festers, these metal deposits can enter food and in excess can create issues for the body. Thankfully, efforts to improve phytostabilization and phytoextraction, with genetic engineering have taken off in recent years. Phytostabilization and phytoextraction are fairly self-explanatory. In the stabilization process, plants are used to decrease the activity of heavy metals in soil, while the extraction process uses plants to eliminate traces of metal in soil. The bio-aspect comes in the form of genetic engineering. By genetically modifying these plants, their success in phytostabilization and phytoextraction can be increased.
The bioengineering field is taking the environment by storm. In each area of the environment, individuals are working constantly to improve the overall state of the Earth. Sustainability is the number one thing that they all have in common. With projects like these, seeing Green isn’t so bad after all.
Article by: Ayanna Johnson, GreenTech 2022 Content Writing Manager, IEEE EMBS SAC Executive Editor, Biomedical Engineering Student at the University of Oklahoma
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