In pretty much the epitome of best practices for a sustainable cleantech manufacturing process, trees literally manufacture wood out of sunlight, H2O and CO2. Like photosynthesis, this is not a process that we humans have yet mastered.
Trees began this factory-type processing millions of years ago, taking the available raw materials and turning them into a sustainably produced and recyclable new material that we have borrowed to build our ephemeral things with, over the last twenty thousand thousand years or so.
New research sheds some light on just why trees began this early clean tech manufacturing process, beginning some 400 million years ago.
Scientists have gone back and forth on this question. Some supposed that wood evolved to help plants grow taller. Others think growing wood developed as a way for plants to pull water up.
Philippe Gerrienne, a geologist at the University of Liège in Belgium, who has just published research in the current issue of the journal Science, is among the latter group.
He and his researchers have found the very earliest specimens of trees. One was building wood 10 million years earlier than the oldest tree yet found.
Because their recently identified earliest plants were just a few inches tall, he and his researchers believe it is more likely that the wood served as plumbing: able to draw water up.
So if the latest scientific thinking is correct, trees invented clean tech manufacturing as a very early plumbing system.
Image: Christopher Kraemer