Biomaterial To Replace Plastics And Reduce Pollution

An inexpensive biomaterial that can be used to sustainably replace plastic barrier coatings in packaging and many other applications has been developed by Penn State researchers, who predict its adoption would greatly reduce pollution. Completely compostable, the material — a polysaccharide polyelectrolyte complex — is comprised of nearly equal parts of treated cellulose pulp from wood or cotton, and chitosan, which is derived from chitin — the primary ingredient in the exoskeletons of arthropods and crustaceans. The main source of chitin is the mountains of leftover shells from lobsters, crabs and shrimp consumed by humans.

These environmentally friendly barrier coatings have numerous applications ranging from water-resistant paper, to coatings for ceiling tiles and wallboard, to food coatings to seal in freshness, according to lead researcher Jeffrey Catchmark, professor of agricultural and biological engineering, College of Agricultural Sciences.

In the research, paperboard coated with the biomaterial exhibited strong oil and water barrier properties. The coating also resisted toluene, heptane and salt solutions and exhibited improved wet and dry mechanical and water vapor barrier properties.

The material’s unexpected strong, insoluble adhesive properties are useful for packaging as well as other applications, such as better performing, fully natural wood-fiber composites for construction and even flooring,” Jeffrey Catchmark said. “And the technology has the potential to be incorporated into foods to reduce fat uptake during frying and maintain crispness. Since the coating is essentially fiber-based, it is a means of adding fiber to diets.”

Source: http://news.psu.edu/

The Rise Of The Hydrogen Electric Car

Right now, if you want an alternative-fuel vehicle, you have to pick from offerings that either require gasoline or an electrical outlet. The gas-electric hybrid and the battery-powered car — your Toyota Priuses, Chevy Volts, and Teslas — are staples in this space. There are drawbacks for drivers of both types. You still have to buy gas for your hybrid and you have to plug in your Tesla — sometimes under less than favorable conditions — lest you be stranded someplace far away from a suitable plug. Beyond that, automakers have been out to find the next viable energy source. Plug-in vehicles are more or less proven to be the answer, but Toyota and a handful of other carmakers are investigating hydrogen.

toyota-mirai

That’s where the Toyota Mirai comes in. The Mirai‘s interior center stack has all the technology you would expect from a car that retails for $57,500, including navigation, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. It’s all accessible by touch screens and robust digital displays.
A fill-up on hydrogen costs just about as much as regular gasoline in San Francisco. The Mirai gets an estimated 67 MPGe (67 Miles per gallon gasoline equivalent = 28,5 kilometers per liter)), according to Toyota.
It’s an ambitious project for Toyota because the fueling infrastructure for this car is minimal. There are only 33 public hydrogen-filling stations in the US, according to the US Department of Energy. Twenty-six of those stations are in California, and there’s one each in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.

If you include public and private hydrogen stations, then the total climbs to 58 — nationwide. Compare that to the more than 15,100 public electric-charging stations and the 168,000 retail gas stations in the US, and you can see the obvious drawback of hydrogen-powered cars. Despite this, the Mirai is an interesting project, and you must keep in mind that Japan at the Government level seems to bet on a massively hydrogen powered economy in the near future (fuel, heating, replacement of nuclear energy, trains, electric vehicles, etc…).

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com

How To Scavenge Simultaneously Solar And Wind Energy

To realize the sustainable energy supply in a smart city, it is essential to maximize energy scavenging from the city environments for achieving the self-powered functions of some intelligent devices and sensors.

solar and wind powered houseAlthough the solar energy can be well harvested by using existing technologies, the large amounts of wasted wind energy in the city cannot be eectively utilized since conventional wind turbine generators can only be installed in remote areas due to their large volumes and safety issues.
Here, the researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences rationally design a hybridized nanogenerator, including a solar cell (SC) and a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG), that can individually/simultaneously scavenge solar and wind energies, which can be extensively installed on the roofs of the city buildings. Under the same device area of about 120 mm × 22 mm, the SC can deliver a largest outputpower of about 8 mW, while the output power of the TENG can be up to 26 mW. Impedance matching between the SC and TENG has been achieved by using a transformer to decrease the impedance of the TENG. The hybridized nanogenerator has a larger output current and a better charging performance than that of the individual SC or TENG.
This research presents a feasible approach to maximize solar and wind energies scavenging from the city environments with the aim to realize some self-powered functions in smart city.

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/

Green: How To Clean Oil Sands Water Waste

Researchers have developed a process to remove contaminants from oil sands wastewater using only sunlight and nanoparticles that is more effective and inexpensive than conventional treatment methods.

Frank Gu, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo and Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology Engineering, is the senior researcher on the team that was the first to find that photocatalysis — a chemical reaction that involves the absorption of light by nanoparticles — can completely eliminate naphthenic acids in oil sands wastewater, and within hours. Naphthenic acids pose a threat to ecology and human health. Water in tailing ponds left to biodegrade naturally in the environment still contains these contaminants decades later.

oil sands pond

With about a billion tonnes of water stored in ponds in Alberta, removing naphthenic acids is one of the largest environmental challenges in Canada,” said Tim Leshuk, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering at Waterloo and the leader of the study . “Conventional treatments people have tried either haven’t worked, or if they have worked, they’ve been far too impractical or expensive to solve the size of the problem.  Waterloo’s technology is the first step of what looks like a very practical and green treatment method.

Source: https://uwaterloo.ca/

3D Printed Homes Are The Future Of Construction

This Amsterdam building site is a little different. The Europe’s first 3D-printed house is being constructed here. It’s being made from a bio-plastic mix, containing 75 percent plant oil reinforced with microfibres. DUS Architects co-founder Hans Vermeulen says the house won’t be perfect, but an important staging post to a sustainable, eco-friendly, future for construction.
3D printed anal-house-by-DUS-Architects
CLICK THE PICTURE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The building industry is a little bit more conservative at the moment but digitalisation can totally transform that industry into a more agile industry as well where you can actually share online and upgrade your neighbourhood online, and share world-wide good ideas and then send it to the machine“, he added.  Vermeulen calls traditional construction polluting and inefficient. 3D-printing homes will reduce waste and transportation costs, creating homes that can be taken down and reconstructed if the owners wants to leave town. He says the technology offers endless design possibilities. “Digital fabrication allows us and allows customers to tweak designs into their own personal needs,” he concluded. Last year Chinese firm WinSun displayed a five-storey apartment building it said it 3D-printed using recycled materials. But the technology remains in its infancy. Vermeulen’s 13-room complex should be ready by 2017.

Source: http://www.dusarchitects.com/

Solar-powered Bike Path Could Cover A Fifth of The Netherlands

SolaRoad isn’t your average bicycle path? Now, for the first in the world a bike path is fitted with embedded solar panels. Dutch finance minister Henk Kamp got in the saddle to launch the 70 metre stretch of a busy Amsterdam commuter road and made a comment: “This is not economically feasible but we will make it economically feasible and we are working on it very hard.
Co-inventor Sten de Wit says SolaRoad consists of rows of miniscule crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass.
solar-powered bike path

The top layer is the main innovation of this road, because it has to combine a number of functions: it has to be transparent, because the sunlight has to go through the top layer to the solar cells that are underneath, but it also has to be sufficiently skid-resistant, sufficiently rough.” Because the path can’t be adjusted to the sun’s position, it produces 30 percent less energy than solar roof panels, says Sten De Wit. But he added that it’s suitable for up to a fifth of Dutch roads, and could eventually be used to power traffic lights and electric cars. “If in the future we could put that electricity from the road into electric cars that drive over the road, then we could make a huge step towards sustainable mobility system.” De Wit’s colleagues at the TNO research institute say they’ll have a commercially viable product within five years…once this initial trial gets into gear.

Source: http://www.reuters.com

You Will Wear Clothes Made From Sugar

In the future, the clothes you wear could be made from sugar. Researchers at the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) – Singapore – have discovered a new chemical process that can convert adipic acid directly from sugar. Adipic acid is an important chemical used to produce nylon for apparel and other everyday products like carpets, ropes and toothbrush bristles. Commercially, adipic acid is produced from petroleum-based chemicals through the nitric acid oxidation process, which emits large amounts of nitrous oxides, a major greenhouse gas that causes global warming.

In the face of growing environmental concerns over the use of fossil fuels and diminishing natural resources, there is an increasing need for a renewable source for energy and chemicals. We have designed a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to convert sugar into adipic acid via our patented catalytic process technology,”said IBN Executive Director Professor Jackie Y. Ying

Bio-based adipic acid can be synthesized from mucic acid, which is oxidized from sugar; and the mucic acid can be obtained from fruit peels. Current processes are either performed using multiple steps with low product efficiency and yield, or under harsh reaction conditions using high-pressure hydrogen gas and strong acids, which are costly and unsafe.

This work shows the tremendous potential of developing bio-based adipic acid. We are excited that our new protocol can efficiently convert adipic acid from sugar, bringing us one step closer toward industrialization. To complete this green technology, we are now working on using raw biomass as the feedstock” said Dr Yugen Zhang, IBN Group Leader in green chemistry and energy.

This finding was published recently in the Chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Source: http://www.a-star.edu.sg/

Self-regenerating Objects Used In Daily Life

When a chair leg breaks or a cell phone shatters, either must be repaired or replaced. But what if these materials could be programmed to regenerate-themselves, replenishing the damaged or missing components, and thereby extend their lifetime and reduce the need for costly repairs? That potential is now possible according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, who have developed computational models to design a new polymer gel that would enable complex materials to regenerate themselves.
Self-Regenerating polymer gel2
Animation of the Self-regenerating Composites

This is one of the holy grails of materials science,” noted Principal investigator Anna C. Balazs, PhD, the Swanson School’s Distinguished Robert v. d. Luft Professor of chemical and petroleum engineering. “While others have developed materials that can mend small defects, there is no published research regarding systems that can regenerate bulk sections of a severed material. This has a tremendous impact on sustainability because you could potentially extend the lifetime of a material by giving it the ability to regrow when damaged.

The article, “Harnessing Interfacially-Active Nanorods to Regenerate Severed Polymer Gels” (DOI: 10.1021/nl403855k), was published November 19 in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.
Source: http://www.engineering.pitt.edu/

New very efficient photovoltaic cells

By tweaking the smallest of parts, a trio of  engineers is hoping to dramatically increase the amount of sunlight that solar cells convert into electricity. The researchers from the University at Buffalo, Army Research Laboratory and Air Force Office of Scientific Research have developed a new, nanomaterials-based technology that has the potential to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic cells up to 45 percent.

 

Specifically, the scientists have shown that embedding charged quantum dots into solar cells can improve electrical output by enabling the cells to harvest infrared light, and by increasing the lifetime of photoelectrons. The technology can be applied to many different photovoltaic structures.

A new company the researchers founded, OPtoElectronic Nanodevices LLC. (OPEN LLC), is commercializing this technology.

Source: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/13138