Score one of 4 solar-powered Voltaic Converter backpacks in Inhabitats Back to School Contest

August 1, 2017 by  
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With summer coming to a close, it’s back-to-school time for many students – but it doesn’t have to be a drag. We’ve teamed up with Voltaic to give four lucky readers an amazing solar backpack for their return to the studious life! Voltaic’s newly launched Converter backpack charges your phone and other USB devices using built-in solar panels , so you’ll never run out of juice between classes – and a single hour in the sun provides three hours of smartphone use. We’re giving away four backpacks over four weeks of August, so enter today! a Rafflecopter giveaway Voltaic is constantly reinventing itself with some of the coolest solar products out there, and this new backpack ranks high on their list of innovations. At a relatively low price point of $129, the Converter backpack is a great deal for what you’re getting. With a battery in your backpack, and a 5-watt solar panel that can fully charge a smartphone after three hours in the sun, you’ll never run out of juice again. The battery can also be charged via the grid, and the backpack is packed with even more useful features beyond its solar capability. Made of recycled PET , the Converter is large enough to accommodate a 15″ laptop and comes with a couple of extra pockets – including plenty of storage for all your cables and adapters. It’s waterproof, lightweight and UV resistant, and high-density padding in the shoulder straps and back make it super comfortable to wear – even for a day trip in the great outdoors. We’ll be announcing our winners in our newsletter on 8/11, 8/18, 8/25, and 9/1, so sign up now for your chance to take one of these beauties home! That said, we’re only shipping to US addresses, so please keep that in mind when you enter. Good luck! + Voltaic

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Score one of 4 solar-powered Voltaic Converter backpacks in Inhabitats Back to School Contest

Researchers turn recycled aluminum foil into cheaper, eco-friendlier biofuels

August 1, 2017 by  
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Don’t toss your bagel wrapper in the trash just yet; scientists at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland say they have discovered a way to turn used aluminum foil into a catalyst to create cheaper, eco-friendlier biofuels . Working with engineers from the university, Ahmed Osman, an early career researcher at the school of chemistry and chemical engineering, has developed a technique that extracts 100 percent pure single crystals of aluminum salts from contaminated foil, without creating harmful emissions or waste. The salts can be used to kickstart the preparation of alumina catalyst, which can then be used to produce dimethyl ether, a nontoxic, clean-burning fuel that is typically manufactured from plant-based biomass. This process has a couple of distinct advantages, Osman said. Current methods of creating this type of alumina involves bauxite ore, the mining of which causes appreciable environmental damage in countries such as West Africa, the West Indies, and Australia. Related: Breakthrough algae strain produces twice as much biofuel There’s also the abundance of aluminum foil packaging waste. Because grease in used foil can muck up recycling equipment, nearly 20,000 tons of the stuff—enough to reach the moon and back—is either landfilled or incinerated in the United Kingdom alone. Osman plans to fine-tune his research so he can explore opportunities for commercialization, whether for biofuel production or the use of the modified alumina catalyst in the catalytic converters of natural-gas vehicles. “This breakthrough is significant as not only is the alumina more pure than its commercial counterpart, it could also reduce the amount of aluminum foil going to landfill while also sidestepping the environmental damage associated with mining bauxite,” Osman said in a statement . + Queen’s University Belfast Via New Atlas Photo by blikss/Flickr

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Researchers turn recycled aluminum foil into cheaper, eco-friendlier biofuels

Madrid’s new ‘Desert City’ is a spectacular home for over 400 species of cacti

August 1, 2017 by  
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Madrid’s dry heat may not bode well for lush flower gardens, but the hundreds of cacti in the city’s new cactus park are sure to thrive. Designed by GarciaGerman Arquitectos , the massive 54,000-square-feet Desert City is an educational, sustainable , and ecological complex aimed at educating visitors about the vibrant world of the xerophytic plants. Located on a formerly vacant lot in the Madrid suburb of San Seastián de los Reyes, the expansive complex includes a large garden space as well a massive indoor greenhouse . The park – one of Europe’s largest spaces dedicated to cacti – grows over 400 xerophytic species. The complex also includes exhibition space as well as a shop and a restaurant. Related: Cactus Park in Taiwan draws architectural inspiration from prickly succulents At the heart of the complex is an extended glazed “billboard building,” which is elevated over the ground level. It connects the greenhouse space to a cloister-like outdoor garden with a shallow water pond. Additional spaces located in the greenhouse will be used for presentations, exhibitions, workshops, etc. The architects used a number of green building strategies in the park’s construction such as prefabricated materials, photovoltaic glass, and geothermal power. The greenhouse and gardens were also installed with a high-tech water recovery system that helps the park reduce its water usage. + Desert City + GarciaGerman Arquitectos Via Curbed Images and video courtesy of Imagen Subliminal

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Madrid’s new ‘Desert City’ is a spectacular home for over 400 species of cacti

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