Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No. 115: Using carbon dioxide to grow vegetables in the plant factory (February 23, 2012)

Chiba University and Tokyo Gas are jointly working on the effective utilization of carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is the driving force of the fuel cell vehicle, and carbon dioxide is generated in the process to create hydrogen. Chiba University uses the generated carbon dioxide to grow vegetables in the plant factory it operates. The research team led by Associate Professor Toru Maruo tries to sweet vegetables, facilitate their growth, and increase their production by enhancing photosynthesis using carbon dioxide for the first time in the world. They liquefy carbon dioxide collected in the hydrogen station operated by Tokyo Gas and transport the liquefied carbon dioxide in cylinders to the plant factory. The research members supply 320 kg of carbon dioxide to tomatoes every month.

It is currently a widespread method to burn LPG and heating oil and send the generated carbon oxide into the greenhouse. Tokyo Gas buries the carbon dioxide in the ground. If the research members get successfully results, Tokyo Gas can reduce the disposal cost and Chiba University can reduce procurement cost. As proverb goes, it is like killing two birds with one stone. In the ongoing research, members try to increase the carbon dioxide concentration of the 1,000-square-meter greenhouse by 2.5 times to 1,000 ppm. The research is expected to increase tomato production by 20% and increase the sugar content by 0.5-1.0 degree. The cost to separate, collect, and transport carbon dioxide needs further study, according to the engineer of Tokyo Gas. The report of the joint research is scheduled to be published in March.    

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