Wednesday, March 3, 2021


Xingyu Li, Kaiyuan Chen, Fangli Song (2020)

There is no doubt that global resources consumption is on the rise. Human society heavily relies on non-renewable resources, which are continuously decreasing [I1]. All other renewable resources, freshwater, wood and so on are also in danger. The way we generate power and we survive, will continuously deteriorate the environment. This process is very likely to be irreversible.
Around 2100, we will use up almost all non-renewable resources. However, there will be 10.9 billion people on this planet. Humans have no choice but rely on nuclear technology, the only sort of energy that could meet society needs at that time. Nuclear energy will penetrate every aspect of human society, automobiles, homes, transportations etc.There will be countless nuclear plants on the planet [I2]. However, there is a great danger lurking. Once a nuclear plant explodes, humans simply can not stop the spread of nuclear pollution because the plants are too dense [I3]. The chain reaction will ultimately destroy every piece of remains of human civilization. All animals and plants will be killed by radiation and the nuclear winter will influence most of the planet's surface except for the poles where it is too far for the firestorm to reach [I4]. The survivors have no choice but migrate to these barren areas as the last spark of mankind.
However, it’s not suitable for long-term living at the poles. The climate is too severe and there are no plants, animals except for endless barren lands. Human food reserves will soon be used up within years. While most places outside of the safe zone are still shrouded in firestorms, which is lifeless due to the lack of sunlight, luckily, some plants might recover and flourish in few areas where they are not covered by the firestorm [I5]. Scientists have discovered a plant which had mutated during the radiation and could essence the surrounding environment [I6]. This plant is the last hope of human beings. While robots will fail in high radiation exposure [I7], humans must risk their lives to go outside the safe zone. they must find and bring back those plants as many as they can. However, they can’t bring seeds since seeds can’t survive during this journey [I8]. While it’s lifeless everywhere on the way back, humans have to utilize energy and nutrition generated only from their own body to keep them alive [I9]. Thus, we designed an apparatus to accomplish this task.

  • I1: Since the first industrial revolution, the need for energy has reached unprecedented levels. We are not only facing the problem of environmental warming caused by large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions, but also fuel depletion [5]. Since the advent of commercial oil drilling in the 1850s, we have pumped more than 135 billion tons of crude oil to power our cars, fuel our power plants, and heat our homes. The number of consumption of oil has improved. However, based on the data from the World Energy Council, it is estimated that oil deposits could run out in just over 53 years, gas reserves only give us just 52 years left, and our known coal deposits could be gone in 150 years to make up for depleted oil and gas reserves [1].
  • I2: Hence we infer that, in the near future, to cope with the pressure from global climate warming and fossil fuel depletion, people have to replace fossil fuel by clean and high-efficient energy, nuclear, the most efficient energy ever. At present, nuclear energy has been used in many aspects of human society. In the 1950s, the first power station to produce electricity by using heat from the splitting ofuranium atoms was built. Until 2020, there are 457 nuclear power stations built. Especially in France, nuclear power accounts for the country's total electricity generation is high to 71.7%.[6] So, it is inferable that nuclear reactors will be everywhere to provide energy in future cities.
  • I3: However, the use of nuclear resources has also laid a huge hidden danger for the city. A nuclear accident will cause incalculable and terrible consequences. For example, the Chernobyl disaster which nearly distructed the whole of Europe. Besides, the total number of nuclear warheads is high to 13400 at present [7]. And the figure is still growing. It’s unimaginable once they are affected.
  • I4: Once the disaster happens, robots have modeled a hypothetical worst case scenario which suggests that widely dispersed smoke from just one small regional nuclear conflict could cause cooling of several degrees across parts of the world, not to mention numerous nuclear failures and explosions across the globe. At that time, Antarctica and the Arctic pole, far from the continent and uninhabited, will be the places that remained unaffected[2]. So, we will imagine how people survive at that time.
  • I5: Interestingly, we find some research demonstrating that plants show great survivability after nuclear disasters. Only three years after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, vegetation was recovering even in the most radioactive areas of the zone [3]. Unlike animals, plants, however, they can’t move. To survive, they have to adapt to the new circumstances where the light, temperature, water and nutrition condition is different. Besides, the effect of ionizing radiation (IR) on plants also helps DNA repair, which increases the radio-resistance, and sometimes even the ability to adapt to radiation, in some extant prokaryotes [4].
  • I6: At the same time, plants might also mutate after nuclear radiation. The FAO/IAEA Mutant Variety Database registers numerous new cultivars each year, including many produced using IR. Such mutagenesis also has an important role in the development of new horticultural varieties [9]. Contrast to acute high dose radiation, radiation from nuclear disaster is a chronic low-level dose, which actually induces greater rates of mutation according to various post-Chernobyl studies. Furthermore, some plants have been testified to have the ability to absorb nuclear radiation. After the Hiroshima, Fukushima, and Chernobyl nuclear disasters, fields of sunflowers were planted across the affected landscapes to help absorb toxic metals and radiation from the soil [10].Besides, in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine, several plants have been used to treat free radical-mediated ailments, gym-nosperms and angiosperms and are known to provide protection from oxidative damage in biological systems [11]. Therefore, it’s reasonable to predict that, under the influence of radiation, some anti-radiation plants have mutations in their genes which leads to amplification of their radiation resistance.
  • I7: To bring back those plants, humans must rely on themselves, since robots will fail in such high radiation conditions. After the Chernobyl disaster, some lunar landers were once used to clean the radioactive materials close to the reactor. However, they couldn't work but shut down immediately [12].
  • I8: Only plants can be brought back, since the seed storage process is much more complicated. Firstly, it needs to be dried thoroughly, disinfected using insecticide or left long enough to kill all live insects on the sample. Then, for long time storage, it needs to be placed in the condition below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and less than 50 percent humidity to keep its validity and increase the chance of successful germination and planting [8].I9: Finally, to feed the plants, humans have to provide the plants with water and nutritions, the most important elements. There are two possible resources, blood and urine. On the one hand, blood is composed of 90% water. researchers have developed a way to remove solute-free water from bovine plasma and from bovine blood with the use of polytetreafluor-oethylene (PTFE) membranes [14]. One the other hand, urine is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus and has been used for generations to help plants grow. Urine can be used as a fertilizer without fear it will fuel the spread of antibiotic resistance, researchers have revealed. However, they urge caution against using fresh bodily waste to water crops [13]. Moreover, there must be plenty of light during the journey.

Design Exploration

We went through several rounds of concept generation and developed lots of ideas. We tried different forms, including balloon shape, womb shape, armour shape, cell pattern . Based on the technical and usable feasibility, and to best demonstrate the relationship that humans support and feed plants, we combined the womb shape and cell pattern into our final concept

Design Concept

Based on previous sketches, we performed a 3D modeling to express our ideas more clearly. The entire body consists of a transparent apparel with internal pipes and plant seeding culture cell modules. The oxygen will enter through the intake valve on a special mask, and the exhaled carbon dioxide will enter each cell through the pipeline. The human respiratory environment is open up with plant seedlings. The blood will be extracted directly from the body and the useful fraction will be distributed by the filter to each individual cell to feed plants. Through previous research, filtered urine is a good nutrient for plants. Here the urine will be collected and filtered and distributed to individual cells. Plant units with health problems or energy supply problems will change color, indicating that the plant is dying. The entire mini-plant cell is connected to nutrient and gas tubes to provide plant seedlings with the nutrients they need to stay alive. The mask screen can display the growth of plants in each cell in real time. This is a more intuitive way of display. The design of the open hatch makes it easy to take out the modules inside the shield. The whole system is powered by the movement of the body, mainly from the lower limbs. The battery on the back can store excess electricity for emergency use.


*This prototype illustrates a reduced version of the design concept in a bagpack form. It is one of earlier design concepts that is prototyped to demonstrate working interactions.


4. Caplin Nicol, Willey Neil, Ionizing Radiation, Higher Plants, and Radioprotection: From Acute High Doses to Chronic Low Doses. Frontiers in Plant Science, volume 9, pp. 847 (2018)
9. Taheri, S., Abdullah, T. L., Ahmad, Z., and Abdullah, N. A. P. (2014). Effect of acute gamma irradiation on Curcuma alismatifolia varieties and detection of DNA polymorphism through SSR Marker. Biomed Res. Int. 2014:631813. doi: 10.1155/2014/631813
10. 11. Arora, R., Gupta, D., Chawla, R., Sagar, R., Sharma, A., Kumar, R., Prasad, J., Singh, S., Samanta, N. and Sharma, R.K. (2005), Radioprotection by plant products: present status and future prospects. Phytother. Res., 19: 1-22. 12. -what-happened 13. 14. ASAIO Transactions: July-September 1986 - Volume 32 - Issue 1 - p 397-400