Imagining windmills – solar sail revolving ones

Building windmills to clean the air may be a job for Don Quixote – an impossible task or imaginary one but new creations are imaginary until they are tried in prototype and then replicated. The above images are of a windmill (VAWT) that didn’t work right, unfortunately for investors, but the memory of its design led to a new creation in my imagination for the purpose of powering a giant air filter for cleaning urban smog. Giant air filters/purifiers have been tried successfully and unsuccessfully in other areas.

China created a large air purifier that didn’t work well enough for the size of the problem (the sky is large) ( but an inventor there has created another one which is in the initial experimental phase of development (South China Morning Post/air purifying tower). So far the new tower air purifying system seems to be more successful at reducing urban smog levels then the previous attempt. The experimental tower is over 100 meters (328 feet) tall and seems to be reducing smog levels in the surrounding ten square kilometer (3.86 square miles) radius around the air purifying tower. It is producing an estimated 10 million cubic meters (353 million cubic feet) of clean air per day. Air is drawn into glass greenhouses that cover about half a soccer field at the base of the tower, the warming effect of the glass houses heats the air and causes it to rise within the tower which contains many layers of cleaning filters. The previous attempt at a giant air purifier did improve air quality but in a smaller radius around the unit. (

The Dutch have developed a tube like air filter to place on top of buildings and it cleans like a vacuum cleaner, taking in smog filled air from a radius of 300 meters and from up to seven kilometers (four miles) above it and blowing clean air out the other end of the tube. (TheGuardian)

Smog is a significant problem in many areas in urban areas of China and elsewhere. The nation set more stringent standards for coal use and factory production in a five year plan that began in 2013 to try to improve air quality. The nonprofit environmental group Greenpeace review of air quality suggests that improvements have occurred in urban areas but there may be less change in other areas where factory production has led to increased ozone output. Ozone in excess quantities may increase risk for strokes and heart disease. (South China Morning Post/Greenpeace)

My tilting at windmills idea combines wind power and solar power to try to make a sustainable air purifying tree shaped unit that also helps draw in and push out air across a wide region (the sky is really large). Picture the windmill in the images as spinning with kite like or somewhat pinwheel like flexible solar fabric sails attached to the spiral shaped blades. A rotating windmill would catch breeze from any direction and convert it into power. The solar fabric on the spinning blades would catch sunshine from whatever angle it was shining and convert it into power. The power generated could help pull the smog filled air in to be cleaned at the base of the tower/tree trunk/post or push out the clean air at the top once it had been cleaned within air filter located in layers going up the tree trunk.

My idea was based on a tree as I am more familiar with botany than with windmill or air purifying technology and I hadn’t read about the Chinese attempts at giant air purifiers but have seen tree like wind power or solar power generating units with leaf like solar panels arranged on a branching tree trunk – decorative for an urban area while also generating power. In Singapore giant solar trees have various functions including generating solar energy, supporting flowering plants, and collecting air and dispersing it for reducing heat. (Wind Trees/Paris) (Israeli design Solar Tre/France) (Solar Trees/Singapore)The Chinese experimental tower with the glass houses at the base is using solar energy passively by drawing in the unclean air at the base and allowing the solar heat trapping effect of glass greenhouses to heat it and hot air naturally rises upwards which if directed into a narrow smokestack like tower would force it up through the air filters.

Air flow will also tend to move upwards when there is larger amounts flowing in at the base and a smaller opening at the top so the half a soccer field size of greenhouses moving air up through a small smokestack shaped tower are also capitalizing on that principle of air flow. The large air intake at the base and small outflow at the top increases upward flowing air pressure.  Having an upward and downward circulation of air was what I visualized in my idea, with larger intakes at the base forcing upward to a smaller opening at the top which the spinning blades of the windmill would help push out over a large region around the air filtering tree shaped solar windmill.

Creative use of natural wind and airflow patterns was used effectively in a building designed for the Manitoba, Canada area which gets windy.  See: Chapter 7 for a discussion of the creative ventilation system designed by Kawabata, KPMB Architects, for Manitoba Hydro, p157, Ch. 7, Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking, by J Riel & R. Martin. Great Choices eBook./pdf,

The solar trees in Singapore have multiple functions that beautify and clean and cool the environment and the building design in Manitoba also supports employee and customer comfort in many ways. Citizen and employee wellness can lead to less lost time due to illness and reduce turnover rate for employees seeking better quality of life or sense of purpose. A discussion of the value of addressing many aspects of quality of life for a business started many decades ago and more recently improved for modern times while retaining some of the original goals is discussed in Chapter 9 of the same book, Creating Great Choices: Ch. 9, p 199 See the history of Mr. Polman’s work on enlightened capitalism and its effects on employee wellness-modernized as the Lever Brothers.

I pictured the air filter layers to be vertically aligned like the rings in a tree trunk. The cellulose fibers of a tree trunk are somewhat shaped like the pages of a book that can’t be opened because it is round like a doughnut. See this book for more about cellulose: S.A. Brooks, M. V. Dwek, U. Schumacher, Functional and Molecular Glycobiology, (BIOS Scientific Publishers, Ltd., 2002), Amazon.

In trees there is an up and down circulatory system somewhat similar to the arteries and veins of the human circulatory system. Nutrients and water flow up from the roots and down from the leaves, there just isn’t a heart to pump anything but tiny pores on the leaves can be more or less open for respiration exchange with the air depending on the moistness of the air.

Some types of plants naturally are good at removing toxic chemicals from the air and moisture might be part of difference in why some are better than others. Ferns tend to be good at cleaning air quality. See: B. C. Wolverton, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office, Penguin Books, 1996,

If some houseplants were kept alive in the half a soccer field of greenhouses in the tower experimental air purifier then they could be reducing ozone concentration in the air while it was also being passively warmed before rising through the air filters in the tower.

“Three common indoor houseplants, snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), spiderplant (Chlorophytum comosum), and golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), were evaluated for their species effectiveness in reducing ozone concentrations in a simulated indoor environment.” – Effectiveness of Houseplants in Reducing the Indoor Air Pollutant Ozone, HortTechnology (

An innovative idea using the power of plants to clean ozone and other chemicals from the air is being used in Berlin. the design is called a CityTree even though it isn’t tree like in appearance. The  design is multi-functional for urban areas, combining WiFi capability with park benches on both sides of a vertical wall garden that is embedded with moss on both sides. The wall of moss is estimated to have the air cleaning capability of 275 trees, hence the name, the CityTree. ( As a simple and useful solution for improving urban air quality and providing residents or visitors a chance to relax or access the internet, that idea seems like a winner even if it doesn’t clean air in a wide or tall radius – just build many of the moss wall park benches.

Clean air is healthy air.

Once I start imagining I like to just keep going – it may be due to 1000s of science fiction books I’ve read in the past. Science fiction authors imagine entire new planets with different types of challenges that residents or space travelers have to cope with. Society rules and politics also can vary widely across the genre of science fiction. Fantasy and historical books or history based fiction also introduces a wide range of ideas to consider.

In our current, actual present day we as a species are at a point where we need to face the reality that our Industrial Revolution began and our expanding technology and population has escalated – our air and water and soil are all becoming polluted in more places and with a broad range of chemicals that include types that never existed until humans invented them. The repercussions on human health are becoming more apparent and plants,  animals and aquatic species are also being affected. Transitioning to more sustainable agricultural techniques is necessary to slow down the use of phosphorus. Bioactive phosphorus is in limited supply on Earth and current agricultural techniques doesn’t reuse it the way that more traditional small farm methods did for most of human existence. Only forty years worth of bioactive phosphorus is estimated to be left. Changing agricultural techniques to use less would also help protect the oceans and other waterways from the hazards of excess phosphates being washed off the land and causing overgrowth of potentially toxic algae species.

Transitioning to sustainable individual, public, and shipping transportation is also needed. Biofuel still uses agricultural or other biomass to produce and is still burnt so electrical powered vehicles that can use solar or wind power are needed. If a spinning wind/solar turbine could be created that worked it might be possible to sail the oceans in any direction using wind power from whatever direction it was blowing. Old style sailboats can move the sails somewhat but if the wind is blowing the opposite direction  or is too strong then the sails need to be taken down until the weather changes. No wind meant no movement. A combination of solar and wind power that spun could mean the ability to transport cargo across the oceans without burning fossil fuel. (Disclosure I have sailed a tiny sailboat as a hobby and as a Water Safety Instructor but do not have experience in larger sailboats besides looking at them.)

The masts of an old fashioned wooden ocean going sailboat with the sails down.
An old fashioned wooden sailboat with the sails down – it’s big but not as big as a modern cargo vessel or cruise ship.

Old fashioned sails often used hemp rope and hemp fabric for the sails. Hemp fiber is very strong and water absorbent and the plant is easy to grow and quick growing so more sustainable than some other plant materials. Currently a variety of products are being designed using hemp fiber including insulation and fiberglass like material. Solar sail fabric would need to be fairly sturdy to stand up to wind and weather conditions and a system for preventing ice buildup would also be helpful. A flexible mesh like metal chainmail-like fashion trend from the 90’s might be worth experimenting with for solar sail fabric. flat solar plates of hemp fiberglass could be linked into a chainmail flexible mesh. The small gaps between the individual pieces could allow brisk wind to blow through while the flat areas would catch the wind. The mesh-work could include electrical conductivity to collect the solar energy and allow the plates to be heated somewhat in icy weather to prevent ice buildup. Examples of metal mesh fashion:

A spinning mast that generated energy from wind or solar sources might also be useful for “sailing” across the sand dunes of large desert areas. Masts on sailboats were traditionally wood because it was available but also because it is strong and flexible. Many layers of cellulose form the rings of a tree trunk like a doughnut shaped very tall book that can’t be opened. See this book that can be opened for more information and images portraying cellulose: S.A. Brooks, M. V. Dwek, U. Schumacher, Functional and Molecular Glycobiology, (BIOS Scientific Publishers, Ltd., 2002), Amazon.

Maybe 3D printing could use hemp fiber fiberglass tech to print masts in a pasta extrusion style in the strong yet flexible many layered doughnut effect of tree trunks.

You don’t know what is possible or isn’t possible until you try it or variations of it a few thousand times. Edison and the others who preceded his work, worked on light bulb technology with many thousands of attempts before a successful model was created, and now the technology is lighting laptops and cellphones and still lighting houses and flashlights, and now we have more energy efficient LED light bulbs too.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.



Sumac tea was a lemony drink used by Native Americans

Sumac is  a shrubby tree that grows easily in many areas of the U.S. and other countries. Types with reddish berries/seed clusters are safe for tea or use as a ground spice while a type with whitish berries is not safe. As a plant it is considered an invasive species because it grows so easily it can be difficult to remove from an area. It grows wild in patches along highways in some areas such as Iowa for example:

Sumac growing wild along U.S. Highway I-80 in Iowa during the winter season. when no leaves are present but last years seed clusters can still be observed on the top branches

Why care about Sumac? I bought a jar at a Middle Eastern grocery store of the plant prepared as a ground dried spice to sprinkle on foods during cooking or at the table. The jar I bought was imported from Lebanon. I paid $3.99 for a little less than a half pound size container so it isn’t a high profit margin spice but on the other hand I would be happy to by Sumac that was harvested in Iowa or Oklahoma or Michigan – all places where it grows wild.

One species that is safe for use is known to grow in all 48 contiguous states. Early in the spring the newly sprouted shoots can be eaten as a salad like vegetable. the lemony flavored tea can also be made into a jelly or candy: (

Research performed with the plant in other nations regarding its medicinal benefits have found the spice or extracts to have a wide range of benefits.  More information about medicinal benefits are in an earlier post on the topic and are also listed with summertime images of the red seed clusters in an article Sumac: Nutritional Properties: and one about Sumac Tea:

The spice or tea can have significant diuretic properties similar to drinking coffee or alcoholic beverages so having smaller amounts earlier in the day along with plenty of water throughout the day can help the body cleanse toxins early in the day without waking you in the middle of the night. Overly acidic urine may cause an extreme urge to urinate but then produce only a small amount – which means the body is working hard to remove acidity without adequate water to dilute it – so drink plenty of water and acidity and toxins will be readily removed in the more dilute urine. Diuretic medications are often given to patients who are retaining excess water with a goal to help the body remove the excess water and salt from edematous areas between organs and outside of blood vessels.  They are different but similar in effect to a diuretic beverage such as coffee or alcoholic beverages.

The acidic and antimicrobial properties of sumac have also been studied in food preparation of raw chicken to reduce the risk of salmonella and other food pathogens: The Effect of Water Extract of Sumac (Rhus coriariaL.) and Lactic Acid on Decontamination and Shelf Life of Raw Broiler Wings,

Gallotannins are one of the phytonutrients in sumac with medicinal benefits and is concentrated enough that the plant can be a source for extracting the substance, gallotannins and sumac. While the active phytonutrients in pomegranate peel extract and sumac extract are slightly different they both exhibit antifungal properties that may be beneficial for commercial, agricultural use: Chemical Characterization of Different Sumac and Pomegranate Extracts Effective against Botrytis cinerea Rots

To connect the dots for those who don’t see the bigger picture in the same way that I do – one easy to grow crop that grows across the nation could be used to flavor anything lemon flavored for possibly less cost that lemons cost.  The lemon flavor is from the terpene content, it contains the same type as lemon and limes: limonene. Sumac could be used for a variety of products for direct use by humans and might also be useful as a medication for humans or for animals. It also might have industrial and agricultural uses for its antimicrobial and antifungal properties. One negative side effect that has become more apparent in agriculture is that pathogenic fungal strains seem more prevalent in soil that has had a buildup of Roundup/glyphosate. Hard to treat fungal illnesses in humans may also becoming more common. A lemony drink or food that treats hard to treat diseases in humans or farm animals and which can be grown very inexpensively could be useful if it was recognized as useful instead of simply an invasive weed.

The seed clusters left over from last fall could likely be harvested now, before spring growth occurs, and used for agricultural experiments this season, instead of waiting for the next new crop of seed clusters that would be ripe at the end of next summer, approximately in August.

The pomegranate peel leftover from making pomegranate juice is currently also being wasted when it might be useful as a medicine or food substance or even as an agricultural antifungal treatment.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Pomegranate extract – Master Chef Challenge update

For anyone following along with the pomegranate peel experiments  (previous post)- update, I had a lot of pomegranate extract thawed at the same time and for a dietitian that means reheat to steaming to assure food safety. So it was an opportunity to experiment some more with trying to adjust the acidity again. When baking soda is added to a hot acidic liquid there is an obvious bubbling reaction and change in color of the liquid. I have pH strips to check acidity and did manage to adjust the acidity of the extract. The taste is still not great but chronic illness and mood issues are not great either. After three cups of experimental attempts my mood is awesome *(see additional note) and I have some recipe details:

6 cups of pomegranate extract  (previous post)

2 Tablespoons Cardamom powdered spice

1 teaspoon Gumbo File powdered spice (Sassafras Leaves, powdered and used in Gumbo’s in Creole style cooking)

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

  1. Add the Cardamom and Gumbo File to the Pomegranate Extract and stir well to break apart any dry lumps of the powdered spices. The Gumbo File acts as an emulsifier and is a digestive aid and the Cardamom adds flavor, phytonutrients and would help alkalize the mixture in addition to the alkalizing power of the Baking Soda.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Add the Baking Soda and stir. Remove the mixture from the heat and keep stirring. It will froth up and stirring helps keep it from frothing over the top of the pan. The color changes from pinkish to brown from the Cardamom spice.
  4. To drink as a beverage dilute with equal parts water to Pomegranate Extract.

This would be an acquired taste – aka “not good” until you get used to it, or not good at all but the mood and health benefits are worth for me at least. It is also a diuretic which means it is like beer or coffee in the way it increases kidney activity and urine production so it is best to have it earlier in the day followed by plenty of glasses of water early in the day so that you aren’t waking up in the middle of the night as much. Overly acidic, dehydrated body fluids can increase work for the kidneys and result in a frequent feeling of needing to go urgently but then not producing much quantity – drink plenty of water early  in the day and produce plenty of dilute quantity early in the day and a diuretic can help cleanse toxins from the body instead of being a middle of the night problem.

Since pomegranate growing season is limited the powdered spice made from Sumac might be a health substitute. It has been shown to have a range of health benefits, and is also a diuretic. Its phytonutrients are similarly colored suggesting there might be some similar antioxidant content as well. The gallotannin group of phytonutrients are in common and would likely promote Nrf2. (More about Sumac in this post) (a series of posts on Nrf2)

To put a financial perspective on this – for my health needs the pomegranate extract or pomegranate seeds and cardamom powder and a few other good sources of phospholipids are adequate replacements for my medical marijuana which cost me around $1000-1200 per month. The medical effects are slightly different and not quite as good for pain killing properties but the negative psychological effects that can occur with withdrawal for some people are also not present.

To review – cannabinoids are a group of chemicals that are made within the cells of most species and are similar to the group of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plants commonly known as marijuana or hemp. Medical marijuana has a euphoria producing one known by the chemical initials THC while hemp has only non-euphoria producing cannabinoids. Both types can have medical or other basic health benefits. Cannabinoids are found throughout membranes and add to cell wall flexibility and help with messenger chemical type activities that can help reduce inflammation and fight infection. Some people such as myself can have genetic differences that make it impossible to make the chemicals internally as in average health. I have had minor health problems since infancy and having external dietary sources of phospholipids or cannabinoids helps my body and mood and immune system. More information about the topic is available in the post/article Is it Addiction or Starvation?

People with problems with binge eating disorders, alcohol abuse tendencies, meth or heroin/opioid abuse tendencies, or seem to have an excess use of marijuana, and nicotine to a lesser extent all may actually have underlying genetic differences that leave them in need of increased dietary sources of phospholipids/cannabinoids. The article Is It Addiction or Starvation? has some legal food sources in addition to pomegranate seeds and cardamom spice. It doesn’t mention the Middle Eastern spice Sumac but it might help also.

*Additional note – three cups was likely to large of a serving, an awesome mood for someone with unstable mood issues was too much of a good thing – Newton’s Law of Gravity may apply metaphorically, “What goes up must come down.” I had a worse mood problem later in the evening. Today (the next morning) I’ve enjoyed a few spoonfuls of the spicy, creamy slightly thickened mixture in my coffee and it is good to my “acquired taste.” The thing about having acquired an acquired taste for something is that you then want to acquire more – pun intended.  The pomegranate season in Australia turns out to also be November to March so that isn’t much help. Processing pomegranate peel during the growing season would be necessary if I hope to continue to be able to acquire pomegranate extract all year long. It has medicinal benefits according to the research that is available, (see links in earlier posts on this site).

New Zealand isn’t ideal for pomegranate either as the summer length may be too short some years, however their harvest season is February-April: “Pomegranates grow best in areas with cold Winters and long hot, dry Summers.” (Pomegranate Wonderful)

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.