Proposed skyscraper concept captures CO2 from the air and turns it into starch

This unique form of carbon capture is the result of a 2021 scientific study of synthesizing starch from CO2. The City Chloroplast skyscraper concept puts this research into practical use, doing the job of a massive plant that absorbs CO2 from the city air on a regular basis.

An entry at this year’s eVolo Skyscraper Contest, the City Chloroplast is a massive carbon-capture device inspired directly by nature. Following the Chinese Government’s proposed policy of “Carbon Peak” in 2030, and “Carbon Neutrality” as early as 2050, the City Chloroplast works by removing CO2 from the air. The CO2 reduced to methanol by a catalyst and then converted by enzymes to carbon sugar units, then to starch. “In our skyscraper design, we designed different parts of the skyscraper, combining the steps and processes of carbon dioxide collection and capture, transportation, storage, and eventually starch production,” say the designers behind the concept. The primary structure of the skyscraper is equipped with membranes that collect and divide CO₂, which will then be directed through a massive transverse pipeline to an expansive circular chamber for storage. A series of devices for the synthesis of starch from carbon dioxide (CO₂) and hydrogen are distributed within the tower’s large annular space, while solar panels located on the top of the tower help provide the clean energy required to power the City Chloroplast’s underlying tech.

Designers: Kaiyu Chen, Yong Lin, Ziyi Li, Zhipeng Tao

In September 2021, the Chinese scientific research team presented a chemical-biochemical hybrid pathway for starch synthesis from carbon dioxide (CO₂) and hydrogen in a cell-free system. The artificial starch anabolic pathway (ASAP), consisting of 11 core reactions, was drafted by computational pathway design, established through modular assembly and substitution, and optimized by protein engineering of three bottleneck-associated enzymes. Although the laboratory method is a long way from being sustainable, energy efficient, economically viable or a replacement for traditional agriculture, it’s a breakthrough in artificially synthesizing starch from CO2, which is a world-first.

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Interstellar-inspired futuristic ‘cylindrical’ city concept combines farmland with urban dwelling

The ‘Urban Condenser’ was proposed as a concept to help cities become more cohesive units of society, allowing for farming as well as urban living to be done on the same plot of land in a way that allows both to coexist and benefit from each other. Although an entirely wild concept, it finds its roots and inspiration in ‘Cooper Station’ from the popular sci-fi movie Interstellar. Unlike Cooper Station, however, this cylindrical city doesn’t have a variable gravitational point. Instead, it features a curved land base for farming, and an arch-shaped floating city on top, complete with houses, commercial spaces, and other urban amenities. The unique shape of the Urban Condenser also opens it up to a lot of tourism, keeping the city lively and funded.

The case that the designers behind the ‘Urban Condenser’ involves accepting migrant workers as a part of a singular community that bridges the rural and urban divide. Migrant workers form the main chunk of the workforce responsible for helping develop urban communities, but they seldom enjoy the benefits of these communities. “They work in cities but do not have urban hukou, or household registration, and do not enjoy social security,” say the designers. “They make great contributions to the city, they yearn for the city, but are not accepted by the city and are free from mainstream society.”

The large cylindrical community (one might call it a literal representation of a ‘pipe’ dream!) houses these migrant workers in its unique design, while being located within the city that they wish to be a part of. The lower part of the city is connected to the land, making it perfect for agriculture, while the sides and the upper elements are ideal for dwelling, amenities, and commercial/cultural parts of the city experience. “With community, city, migrant workers, residents, and other dimensions of identity as the object, and with lifestyle, tourism, community mechanism, and other connections within the community as the link, the Urban Condenser builds a super community to stimulate social development”, the designers mention.

Designers: Yunheng Fan, Baoying Liu, Rongwei Gao, Junliang Liu

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This tsunami-blocking coastal city draws inspiration from the shape of mangrove roots

The volcanic eruption of Tonga on the 14th of January in 2022 created a major tsunami hazard for the entire pacific rim. The pacific rim is said to be the most prone to tsunamis, given its connection to all four major tectonic plates. It’s only natural for the architecture of the area to evolve to match this unique threat, and that’s what the Tsunami Park Skyscraper aims at doing. This eVolo Skyscraper Award-winning architectural design models itself on the shape and layout of mangrove roots that help break waves and currents by almost instantly slowing down water currents to help distribute their impact.

“Mangroves are woody plant communities in the intertidal zone of tropical and subtropical coasts, with developed root systems and staggering growth, which have the best effect on tsunami mitigation”, mention the designers. “Therefore, the skyscraper is inspired by the principle and mechanism of mangrove resistance to tsunamis, and consists of a single unit aggregated to form a vast complex along the coastline. Each cell consists of a bottom pillar and a top multi-level platform. The bottom pillar is made up of thick concrete columns that form a porous structure to dissipate the enormous force of the tsunami, while the upper platforms are of varying sizes, heights, and interconnections to carry people’s lives.”

Designers: Wang Jue, Zhang Qian, Zhang Changsheng, Li Muchun, Xu Jing

The skyscrapers have two functional states – a normal state, and a disaster state. The large towers hover many meters above the coastline, and while they created an elevated city-of-sorts to live in, the base of their massive vertical columns create the perfect area for tidal fishing and water-based bazaars (like the ones found in Thailand). This is where people gather for recreational activities like fishing, swimming, and boating.

However, in the face of a tsunami alert, the lower areas are immediately evacuated. As the tidal wave hits the skyscraper, it’s immediately broken into much smaller waves that instantly dissipate as the water is slowed down by the mangrove-root columns of the skyscraper park. Water is also absorbed by these columns and is channeled down into an underground desalination area for treatment (this happens on a daily basis too, during high tide). “Our solution strategy is therefore to turn a disaster into something, which means conforming to the tsunami, rather than fighting it. Transforming the catastrophic nature of the tsunami into a gift from nature to mankind,” the designers mention.

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