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titanium dioxide as nitrogen fixer  RSS feed

 
                                
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I wonder if anyone knows of quantitative work done in this area. What I'd like to see are numbers like how much N can I expect to be deposited in the rainwater collected from a roof of a given size in an area with 45-inch annual rainfall. The roof would be covered with a concrete layer containing the T02.
 
                    
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I was wondering about the numbers on this as well - a while back, read something by Bill Mollison about a nitrogen fixing box -it was  a simple glass topped box with titanium sand, and water trickled through, the sunlight activated titanium to catalytically convert N2 to available nitrogen forms.
 
tel jetson
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isn't TiO[sub]2[/sub] rather expensive and energy intensive to produce?  it would have to have some serious advantages over, say, beans, to overcome those drawbacks.  does it?
 
                                
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I read that it is being tested in concrete pavement to break down smog Nitrogen compounds into nitrates which then are water soluble and wash away in the rain. I'd think that little boost of nitrate in each rain would be a plus for gardening. The TiO2, if I understand it correctly works as a catalyst only so a little goes a long way.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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tel jetson wrote:
isn't TiO[sub]2[/sub] rather expensive and energy intensive to produce?  it would have to have some serious advantages over, say, beans, to overcome those drawbacks.  does it?


It's cheap and not very energy-intensive, unless you need extreme purity. Titanium is a very common element in the Earth's crust, the only energy-intensive part of using it would be if one wanted to refine it into a metallic state, and then try to keep it that way (titanium is extremely fond of oxygen; it is used as a sacrificial anode versus sodium metal, in the same way that magnesium protects steel).

Some of its advantages versus beans as a roofing surface are its light weight, drought and frost tolerance, and effect on solar gain.
 
                    
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tel jetson wrote:
isn't TiO[sub]2[/sub] rather expensive and energy intensive to produce?  it would have to have some serious advantages over, say, beans, to overcome those drawbacks.  does it?


Platinum is rare, expensive, and energy intensive to produce. Titanium is cheap enough to use as a coloring agent in paint, toothpaste, and packing materials (try doing that with Gold or Platinum). There are ancient sand formations along many coasts where wave action concentrated black mineral sands rich in titanium-iron oxides; some are mined near me in Florida.

I found this on Appropedia:


Mollison's third world endless nitrogen fertilizer supply system

Around 1977, a researcher {Bill Mollison} noted the possibility of using titanium oxide to make ammonia in chemical abstracts, and then went to a discussion of the whole atmospheric circulation. One of the mysteries of the atmosphere was that it had an excess of ammonia, which they have never accounted for. When the researcher considered the amount of dunes and deserts in the world, he said, "This is it!" Where do we get titanic oxide from? Sands. So he calculated it. Three acres of desert under this system would supply as much as a commercial fertilizer plant.

http://www.appropedia.org/Liquid_fertiliser_system#Mollison.27s_third_world_endless_nitrogen_fertilizer_supply_system


It really is an extra-ordinary claim that such a small space could fix so much nitrogen using such simple inputs and technology... if 3 acres is equivalent to a fertilizer factory, a 5' x 5' box should be able to fertilize a hundred acres.

The fact that 30 years have passed without this idea catching on make me wonder if a few zeros got misplaced in the calculations.
 
                                
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This whole idea does help explain some of the phenomenal blooming when it finally does rain in the dessert, such as around Vegas.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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tel jetson wrote:
isn't TiO[sub]2[/sub] rather expensive and energy intensive to produce?  it would have to have some serious advantages over, say, beans, to overcome those drawbacks.  does it?


Amazingly expensive to produce.  Its also in a lot of foods that are bad for us. 
 
tel jetson
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seeing some conflicting information here.  my understanding was that while titanium is a very common element on earth, it only exists in usable quantities in a couple different minerals that need to be mined and refined and all that does cause some fair amount of nastiness.  if all that's really involved is scooping up sand from a beach, them I'm obviously way off my mark.  metallic titanium requires magnitudes more energy and processing, but we're not interested in metallic titanium in this discussion.  at any rate, this isn't something I'm terribly familiar with, so I won't pretend to be.

when I mentioned beans, I wasn't suggesting beans be used for roofing, just that if a person is looking for more nitrogen, that plants/bacteria might be a more cost effective strategy.

if it's about reducing smog, I imagine there could be some advantages to titanium.  some plants effectively reduce air pollution (though some increase it), but growing a high concentration of plants in some climates also requires a lot of water and energy to move that water around.

so I would like to register myself as skeptical, but curious.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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tel jetson wrote:
seeing some conflicting information here.  my understanding was that while titanium is a very common element on earth, it only exists in usable quantities in a couple different minerals that need to be mined and refined and all that does cause some fair amount of nastiness.  if all that's really involved is scooping up sand from a beach, them I'm obviously way off my mark.  metallic titanium requires magnitudes more energy and processing, but we're not interested in metallic titanium in this discussion.  at any rate, this isn't something I'm terribly familiar with, so I won't pretend to be.

when I mentioned beans, I wasn't suggesting beans be used for roofing, just that if a person is looking for more nitrogen, that plants/bacteria might be a more cost effective strategy.

if it's about reducing smog, I imagine there could be some advantages to titanium.  some plants effectively reduce air pollution (though some increase it), but growing a high concentration of plants in some climates also requires a lot of water and energy to move that water around.

so I would like to register myself as skeptical, but curious.


Well, the former artist in me knows it is dug up out of sand by large equipment.  That, IMO, is already expensive for the environment & the 7 generations of people down the road.  I don't see it as a good return on the permaculture farm.  Use of chemicals is bad, even if natural.
 
C Shobe
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My gut feeling on this is that it's a lot like aluminum.  Sure, it exists plentifully in nature, but the form we use it in most readily (pure aluminum) does not exist in nature at all (and has a high likelihood of negative health impact)!

I avoid titanium dioxide, personally.  IMHO, if you can't produce it yourself using straightforward methods, it's not worth using.
 
                    
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In many areas of the world, adding one ounce of Molybdenum to an acre of land can double or quadruple the activity of Rhizobium bacteria that fix nitrogen in legumes. Molybdenum is essential as a catalyst in the bacteria enzymes that split N2 into available nitrogen. I suggest that some mining of this metal can be quite beneficial to food production in general and permaculture in particular. Certainly less damaging than all the mining that is needed to produce computers and keep the internet up and running.



 
Mekka Pakanohida
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Jonathan_Byron wrote:
In many areas of the world, adding one ounce of Molybdenum to an acre of land can double or quadruple the activity of Rhizobium bacteria that fix nitrogen in legumes. Molybdenum is essential as a catalyst in the bacteria enzymes that split N2 into available nitrogen. I suggest that some mining of this metal can be quite beneficial to food production in general and permaculture in particular. Certainly less damaging than all the mining that is needed to produce computers and keep the internet up and running.






I utterly disagree, with proper maintaining of the soil, you shouldn't have to need to drop one ounce of any chemical.  That's the problem with so many farmers, they keep looking for chemical short cuts instead of being stewards of their land!
 
                    
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I don't think of adding minerals like limestone or selenium or molybdenum as any more 'artificial' than adding compost or seaweed ... in all cases, it is an import of nutrients. A variety of Molybdenum compounds are allowed under organic standards.

Such additions can build the soil, and are quite different from heavy application of nitrogen (which weakens or destroys destroys the soil).  If the productivity of clovers, cassias, beans, and other legumes can be doubled for a decade or two by a minute application of Molybdenum sulfate, that seems like one pretty good approach for building the soil IMO. 

Where I live, the soils have been highly leached over thousands of years of humid/warm conditions, and the natural levels of most water soluble nutrients are quite low... it limits plant growth and the nutritional quality of food.  I go up and down the street to haul back leaves when my neighbors are possessed to treat them like trash ... that has boosted the organic matter levels but still has not changed very low levels of some key nutrients - local natural biomass is lacking in some key elements, and trucking in compost from far away is energy intensive.
 
C Shobe
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Jonathan_Byron wrote:
I don't think of adding minerals like limestone or selenium or molybdenum as any more 'artificial' than adding compost or seaweed ...


That's fair enough, but I don't think adding seaweed to an inland farm is a very natural thing to do, either!
 
                    
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What about Goiter? That deficiency was once common in the Midwestern US and other places where localvores lived entirely off of inland agriculture produced on soils low in Iodine.  I would much rather import a bit of iodine or seaweed or ocean fish and be healthy rather than be 'natural.'
 
C Shobe
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Jonathan_Byron wrote:
What about Goiter? That deficiency was once common in the Midwestern US and other places where localvores lived entirely off of inland agriculture produced on soils low in Iodine.  I would much rather import a bit of iodine or seaweed or ocean fish and be healthy rather than be 'natural.'


I think the soil could be restored over time without import, but it would take significantly longer.  True enough, sometimes compromise involving natural means is a big win over being fanatical.

Not meaning to say "don't do that!", but just pointing out that it's not something that would be practical without shipping stuff far from where it originated and/or doing industrial processing, which isn't really in line with the concept of permaculture, IMHO.
 
                          
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This sounds rather risky.
 
tel jetson
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Raptelan wrote:
Not meaning to say "don't do that!", but just pointing out that it's not something that would be practical without shipping stuff far from where it originated and/or doing industrial processing, which isn't really in line with the concept of permaculture, IMHO.


just make sure the transportation is in a cart behind a burro and you're in the permaculture clear.
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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Jonathan_Byron wrote:
I don't think of adding minerals like limestone or selenium or molybdenum as any more 'artificial' than adding compost or seaweed ... in all cases, it is an import of nutrients. A variety of Molybdenum compounds are allowed under organic standards.


That's the difference.  I am on the far end of the organic spectrum not believing in a need for added compost except to start my seedlings in.  I do not believe the USDA Organic standards and practices are correct by any means.  US Organic standards find it OK to add chemicals of various kinds, I do not. 

To each their own. 

 
Margaret Anderson
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I think we all get a little bit distracted from the main topicstarter's theme
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Raptelan wrote:
My gut feeling on this is that it's a lot like aluminum.  Sure, it exists plentifully in nature, but the form we use it in most readily (pure aluminum) does not exist in nature at all (and has a high likelihood of negative health impact)!

I avoid titanium dioxide, personally.  IMHO, if you can't produce it yourself using straightforward methods, it's not worth using.


Yes, and no.

Titanium is very much like aluminum, and in many ways more so.

Most of the aluminum that has been used, was in the form of a relatively-impure aluminum oxide. It is an important component of porcelain, for example, and other ceramic materials like fire bricks rely on it quite heavily.

Similarly, the uses for titanium oxide dwarf the uses for metallic titanium. The infrastructure to refine large amounts of that metal are largely a legacy of the cold war: it's a fascinating substance, but usually not practical if you account for all the externalities of refining it.

Titanium oxide is often a by-product of iron smelting: it's an insoluble component of slag. While it's true that only a rare deposit has enough titanium to be worth refining for titanium's sake, in practice enough mining happens of titanium-bearing deposits that consuming titanium dioxide has very little impact on the environment.

I mostly agree about things produced simply and locally being more likely to be worthwhile, when all things are considered. There are exceptional cases where an infrequent purchase of something one can't produce simply at home is justified, based on how much use it offers. Presumably, you used a microprocessor to post that opinion, right? I think that's a good example of an exception to the rule.
 
C Shobe
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Titanium oxide is often a by-product of iron smelting: it's an insoluble component of slag. While it's true that only a rare deposit has enough titanium to be worth refining for titanium's sake, in practice enough mining happens of titanium-bearing deposits that consuming titanium dioxide has very little impact on the environment.


Okay, I appreciate that insight.  Indeed, the problem with aluminum is not the aluminum oxide that occurs naturally so much as the refined elemental form.  I guess I sort of was blind to the word "dioxide" in this post.  And well, as I said, it's just a "gut feeling", not a well-researched valid opinion.   This is not a subject I've researched at all and clearly you have more knowledge on the subject, which I respect.

I mostly agree about things produced simply and locally being more likely to be worthwhile, when all things are considered. There are exceptional cases where an infrequent purchase of something one can't produce simply at home is justified, based on how much use it offers. Presumably, you used a microprocessor to post that opinion, right? I think that's a good example of an exception to the rule.


Yes, but the microprocessor is an unnecessary luxury.  My food and the things involved in it's production are not.  Generally it seems that when we apply unnecessary luxury conveniences (say, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) to nature's actions using unnatural things, that's when things start to go wrong.  I don't have a problem with certain luxuries existing - I just take an extremely conservative stance when it comes to meddling with nature.  That said, I'm always open to learning more!
 
                                      
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Titanium di is used extensively in cosmetics and paint products.  Most of the available stuff is created by tech transfer out of Arco Idaho.  Spent Uranium Pellets from Nuclear Research and Power Production Plants are the raw material for the production of this very white powder.  Any idea that the stuff you can get to use in any application in Permaculture is at all similar to what naturally occurs in the Earth's crust is not very well thought out.

Here's a better way to get more nitrogen into your soil.  Grow it! 
 
Alan Patrick
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I remembered reading about this idea, too. Sad to see that nobody has yet experimented with it. Seeing as a pound of TiO_2 is pretty cheap on ebay, I may give this a shot, myself. For anyone interested, here are some sources I found about it.


http://www.pnas.org/content/80/12/3873.full.pdf

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4113590.html


I might be missing something, but my impression is that you can basically have a panel coated with the TiO_2, exposed to sunlight, and trickle some water down the panel to collect the nitrogen. As explained in one of the links, the catalyst loses some efficiency while exposed to oxygen and other things in air, which could be a reason we haven't seen it used on any kind of industrial scale. It's likely just easier and cheaper (monetarily) to use methods and infrastructure already in place to produce on the scales that industry relies on.

I'm figuring smearing some sort of waterproof adhesive over a board, and liberally applying the TiO_2 before it dries. Then simply wait for a good sunny day, and run some water down the board, collect it in a bucket. Should be easy enough from there to see if it is functional, marginally or otherwise. And cheap and simple enough that it's no biggie if it fails. I'll post results once I get things together (It could be a few weeks to a few months before I get to it, but it IS boldly written down on my to-do board.)
 
Dave Turpin
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Cloudpiler Hatfield wrote:Titanium di is used extensively in cosmetics and paint products.  Most of the available stuff is created by tech transfer out of Arco Idaho.  Spent Uranium Pellets from Nuclear Research and Power Production Plants are the raw material for the production of this very white powder.  Any idea that the stuff you can get to use in any application in Permaculture is at all similar to what naturally occurs in the Earth's crust is not very well thought out.

Here's a better way to get more nitrogen into your soil.  Grow it! 


Actually most TiO2 comes from Ilmenite ore, common in many countries including the USA. It is very low-tech.

How exactly would you get Titanium from a "spent" Uranium "pellet"? Plutonium and Neptunium maybe....
 
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