Lets biocharcoal our buildings, shall we?

Lets biocharcoal our buildings, shall we?

Recently, I have been doing a lot of research and practice on Interior Terrariums and learning about some interesting new things about them, including tiny plants such as succulents and tinnier, like moss.
For those who don’t know about Terrariums, these are tiny gardens with natural scenes and landscapes created inside glass pipes, spheres or any other beta fish glass. It looks like this.

Personal terrarium with cactus, succulents and moss.

Personal terrarium with cactus, succulents and moss.

If we dissect this terrarium, its under-linings look this way:

image-2 copy

photo: glogster.com

What captivated me the most, besides how beautiful Terrariums end up being, is the use of Activated carbon or Activated charcoal (carbón activado) AC, as one of the key layers on the bottom of a terrarium. It is in close relation to Bio-Charcoal.
According to science, activated carbon has a surface area of 500 sqmts in 1 gram due to it’s high microporosity, which equals to 5,381 sqft. Now that is a lot of area to cover with all that this by-product can do for us! This tiny bits of black material has great properties for our well-being and it’s suggested to be used daily at home for almost anything healthy! It removes water pollutants, environmental gases, great for room odors, cleansing for digestive system, soil revitalization (terrariums!). It has the power of removing toxic intestine bacteria, food poisoning, dog’s bad breath remover and even lessening the intensity of snoring on us humans! We do need this! I suggest you to also read an interesting story about body preservation with activated carbon here.

Taking in account all this great properties on our behalf, it is necessary to look inside of it’s structure to see how it works right? Biomimicry has taught us to do so when great things happen. So here’s what’s inside:

activated carbon sketch


Smog-eating hospital skin in Mexico City

Pay very good attention to the shapes in section and how contaminants tend to disappear as activated carbon absorbs it. Pores tend to reduce the size up to zero and in vertical section and electro-microscopical view there are multiple cells which are the same pores in constant absorption.
So the question is: How can we create a new material containing activated carbon and benefit our living interiors with this great properties? In Mexico, Architects created a hospital building skin made of titanium dioxide (dióxido de titanio) with a technology that makes this skin eat smog generated from cars and neutralizes carbon dioxide and water. That’s pretty neat. I bet that Activated carbon is used to filter the water created by this skin.
The idea I might be looking at is the use of carbon itself. As it is a lightweight material, with a structure similar to graphene, I ask: Which are the possibilities of designing a skin or material composite that can help us breathe better at home? Titanium dioxide is good in terms of its manufacture also, it doesn’t emit contamination to the environment as concrete does, it is carbon negative. We still need more information about carbon and activated carbon, coming from scientists and experts. Please enlighten us!

*Carbon dioxide (dióxido de carbon) C02 is one of the main contaminants of our environment (the one we produce with machines, the unstable one) and it is not the same as Activated Carbon (AC). 

For those interested in learning more about Activated Carbon and it’s absorption I suggest reading this Kindle book available here.

For more information about terrariums and expanding your pupils to beautiful tiny nature, get this book! Great one for starting a fun experience at home!

For all of you my dear readers, Happy New Year 2014!!! Thank you for the constant support!

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Mabelle Plasencia

Founder and Editor at INmatteria©
• Architect | LEED AP BD+C, with an intense passion for materiality, innovation, technology and science. • Arquitecta | LEED AP BD+C apasionada por la materialidad, innovación, tecnología y ciencia.