‘Bling Boxes’

2011-04-01

in Economics, Science, The environment

You may recall the much-hyped ‘Bloom Box’ which promised to be a climate change solution, but which mostly just shifted natural gas burning from big central facilities to a handful of small distributed ones.

More promising is the air capture and sequestration system developed by Bling Box Systems. Their system takes advantage of the 1797 discovery that diamonds are composed of pure carbon, along with the High-Pressure High-Temperature (HPHT) synthesis process developed by General Electric and others in the 1970s. The internet-equipped Bling Box calculates the annual carbon footprint of the individual or family who it belongs to, and then uses an amine process to separate an equivalent quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2) from ambient air. It then uses a patented process to subject the gas to over ten gigapascals of pressure (compared with about 100 kilopascals for ordinary atmospheric pressure), inducing the transformation of the CO2 gas into diamonds made of pure carbon, along with oxygen gas.

Naturally, the amine separation and HPHT processing take up energy themselves. Bling Boxes are configured to calculate the associated emissions based on the electricity generation mix in the area where they are installed. They then produce additional gems to compensate. This ‘bonus bling’ can actually be more massive than the ordinary offset variety, for people living in areas where electricity comes from carbon-intensive sources like coal-fired power plants. People living in areas with lots of wind farms or nuclear power stations will find themselves with smaller heaps of bonus bling at the end of the year.

The oxygen produced by the Bling Boxes can also be put to use: for instance, in equipping an oxygen bar or tent for the use of the owners of the device.

The deployment of Bling Boxes is set to substantially alter the global market for diamonds. Even before taking into account bonus bling, the average Canadian’s Bling Box would produce about 23,000 kg worth of diamonds per year. For the sake of comparison, an African Elephant weighs about 5,000 to 6,000 kg. If they become universal, Canada as a whole would be putting out about 700 billion kilograms worth of stones, bonus bling excluded. That compares with a global total of about 26,000 kg of diamonds mined around the world each year. Each Canadian emitter will be a De Beers unto themselves.

As the technology is deployed globally, bling production will increase still further. Total human CO2 production is sitting at around thirty billion tonnes per year. Converted into bling, that would represent about a million years worth of diamond mining, produced each and every year until humanity changes its sources of energy. Diamond output at that scale would swamp any conceivable set of uses for the stones, so I expect they will mostly end up being dumped into depleted oil and gas reservoirs, and perhaps injected into underground aquifers. Diamond-based carbon capture and storage (DBCCS) would have many advantages over plans to inject the carbon underground in gas or liquid form. For instance, there would be no risk of suffocating leaks.

By changing the economics of the global diamond market substantially, Bling Boxes do risk undermining the traditional role of the clear stones as a girl’s best friend. The ability of these rocks to not lose their shape (whether square cut or pear-shaped) will be less impressive when the world is liberally scattered with billions of fist-sized stones. As such, material girls are advised to shift their preferred form of wealth storage before Bling Boxes become commonplace. There is no reason to believe that the deployment of this technology will undermine the traditional relationship between boys having cold hard cash and them being Mr. Right.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Milan April 1, 2011 at 6:09 pm

It’s good to have a day of levity from time to time.

Has anybody seen any especially good jokes this year?

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