Turning skyscrapers into trees

Illustration by Clare Mallison

UBC scientists take a leaf from nature’s book. Article by Jared Downing.

After years of research, a wood scientist, a mechanical engineer, and a chemical engineer have invented a new way to protect cities from climate change: turning buildings into giant trees. Or at least, their invention can make some buildings do some of the things that trees can. The team behind the “Developing Artificial Trees for Extreme Weather-Resistant Cities” project is developing a tri-layer film that can absorb water from the ground and release it into the air, the same way the roots, trunks, and leaves of trees do. When stuck to urban structures, this film could help soak up water during floods and keep cities cool in scorching weather.

“We were prompted by increasingly frequent extreme weather,” says co-lead Dr. Jongho Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering. “We thought, ‘If only there were more trees, we could minimize the damage.’”

Lee is developing the film along with assistant professor Feng Jiang, a Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Functional Biomaterials based in the Faculty of Forestry, and associate professor Simcha Srebnik from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, with backing from the federal New Frontiers in Research Fund.

To read the full story, please visit the UBC Applied Science announcement.

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