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Putting the 'green' into greenhouses

Post Time:Feb 13,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:140

Roses and other cut flowers are always in season—if more popular perhaps on Valentine's Day—thanks to greenhouses. These hothouses provide a warm, safe environment in which all kinds of plants can thrive year-round. But what's good for the plants may not be good for the planet. It turns out that greenhouses aren't so green on the energy conservation front.

The Dutch are working on "greening" the greenhouse. Until recently, most efforts to improve them involved installing thicker insulation or blocking sunlight during summer months. But Piet Sonneveld, an agricultural engineer at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and his colleagues designed a prototype greenhouse that creates an indoor environment ideal for the Netherlands's crops and saves energy in the process.He designed a special removable film that blocks near-infrared radiation—a wavelength of sunlight that, unless filtered out, can overheat and damage plants during the summer. The film is just 80 microns thick (one micron equals about four one hundred-thousandths of an inch) but contains hundreds of layers of plastic polymers that filter out infrared light while allowing plant-nourishing visible light to pass through. In the wintertime, when heating is necessary, the film is removed, according to a Feb. 12 article in Scientific American.

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