Scientists create revolutionary ultra-white paint inspired by beetles

March 27, 2018 by  
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Researchers have unveiled what could be the whitest natural substance, composed of cellulose and inspired by the  Cyphocilus beetle native to Southeast Asia . The material, which has yet to be named, is lightweight, thin, and has the ability to effectively scatter light, resulting in an exceptionally bright white color. The coating is also edible and non-toxic and could change how we use paint. The secret to the coating’s success is its insect inspiration, whose thin chitlin scales are formed in a dense light-reflecting mat that causes the beetle to appear vibrantly white. In a new study published in  Advanced Materials , scientists at the University of Cambridge and Aalto University in Finland explain how they used fine strands of cellulose , or cellulose nanofibrils, to create a scale-like membrane through a process known as mechanical defibrillation. At only a few millionths of a meter, the subsequent membrane is one of the thinnest materials ever created that is capable of appearing white. “What is cool is that with a really low amount of material, you can achieve a high intensity of reflection and whiteness,” Cambridge University researcher Dr. Silvia Vignolini told Hyperallergic . “You don’t need to have thick material to have get 100% white, 100% reflection.” Related: Praying mantises wearing tiny glasses help researchers discover new type of 3D vision At the moment, the coating is still somewhat weak. However, researchers hope to develop a more hardy version for wider applications. “Ideally we would like to make a powder that can be readily used and applied directly as you would do with a standard pigment,” explained Vignolini. When this pigment is mixed with an organic solvent, it would then enable for the quick, one-layer application of white paint to most surfaces. The coating’s cellulose composition makes it an ideal replacement for other white products, most of which contain unsustainable materials such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Importantly, the ultra-white powder will likely be quite inexpensive. Via Hyperallergic Images via Olimpia Onelli/University of Cambridge

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Scientists create revolutionary ultra-white paint inspired by beetles

Four living trees grow through this dreamy treehouse retreat in Montana

March 27, 2018 by  
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Many of us can remember having a childhood treehouse, but Montana Treehouse Retreat owners Kati and Daren Robison have taken this idea one step further. Nestled on seven acres of private woods near Glacier National Park in Montana, this two-story cabin has four living trees growing through it—two through the decks and two through the interior. Although spacious enough to accommodate a group of up to five people, the Montana Treehouse Retreat is also a perfect romantic getaway for two. The treehouse’s grand entrance takes the form of a spiral staircase that winds around a giant Douglas fir tree . This unique stairway provides access to 500 square feet of living space, with two outside deck ares, a full kitchen, dishwasher, and three padded benches that double as sleeping quarters. The first floor also has a full bathroom with a full-sized shower and sink. Related: The Treebox is an amazing modern home set high up in the treetops On the second floor, the master suite loft has a queen mattress, private bathroom, and a sliding glass door that leads out to the second-story deck. Here, guests can relax and enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee, all while taking in the secluded forest setting. The cabin also offers a private wooded space with a campfire ring, walking trails, and cross-country ski trails for the winter months. Whether inside the cabin or out, visitors to the Montana Treehouse Retreat can experience a dwelling that harmonizes with nature in a unique and innovative way. + Montana Treehouse Retreat Via Uncrate    

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Four living trees grow through this dreamy treehouse retreat in Montana

How 4 billion years of diversity can help us surpass our ‘clone-drone’ workstyles

March 8, 2018 by  
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Although we are “apes, not ants,” we nevertheless can learn from superorganisms to evolve for the greater group.

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How 4 billion years of diversity can help us surpass our ‘clone-drone’ workstyles

How business should embrace the Norwegian concept of ‘Friluftsliv’

February 1, 2018 by  
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Nils Faarlund has worked with Bergans and Helsport on mountaineering gear. Now the rock-climbing legend pushes for incorporating nature into designs of all kinds.

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How business should embrace the Norwegian concept of ‘Friluftsliv’

Deb, Unilever scrub plastic microbeads from consumer products

February 1, 2018 by  
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A closer look at the corporate and university-level innovation driving plastic-free cosmetics.

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Deb, Unilever scrub plastic microbeads from consumer products

Ignore environmental, social and governance risks at your peril

February 1, 2018 by  
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Environmental, social and governance costs lead to risky business if ignored, yet there’s a flip side.

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Ignore environmental, social and governance risks at your peril

redhouse studio is making a mobile machine that recycles old buildings

January 25, 2018 by  
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Did you know that buildings are responsible for 39 percent of the United States’ carbon emissions? Architect Chris Maurer of redhouse studio told Inhabitat he loves being an architect, but finds it difficult to reconcile that figure. To help lighten the construction industry’s footprint, Maurer is teaming up with NASA , MIT , and the University of Akron to create the Biocycler: a mobile machine that literally recycles old buildings. The machine will use living organisms, not glue, to bind construction waste into durable bricks that can be used to build brand new structures. Read on for a closer look at this groundbreaking project. Maurer was inspired to create the Biocycler in part through his experience at demolition sites throughout Cleveland. “We do many projects that are adaptive reuse to preserve old buildings, but even then the demolition waste can be quite extensive,” he said. During a design/re-build project at Kent State University, the team was dismayed at how much waste their preservation project produced. “We dropped the material ourselves at the landfill ,” Maurer said. “It was hard to do (it was hard to see it all go to waste) but there was no economically feasible way to use the materials.” Related: New self-healing concrete uses fungus to fix cracks The Biocycler could change all that. redhouse plans to experiment with fungal mycelium and calcite-producing microbes as building and binding materials in the Biocycler. Maurer explains that “A symbiosis of the microbes and fungi can be made to feed each other and [they] are working towards using the microbes as bio-signals to tell us things about the structure and air-quality within it.” The incorporation of fruiting fungus (i.e. mushrooms) could serve the additional purpose of food production. “Where food security is an issue, we are looking to make mushroom production the main activity and the bio-materials the secondary output,” he said. redhouse studio is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the construction of a proof of concept. “Truth be told, we’re already recycling buildings, or at least materials,” said Maurer. “The kickstarter will lead to a mobile unit to put these processes on display and get closer to building entire structures out of the waste.” redhouse has already constructed and tested bricks and panels from recycled materials, as well as some model prototypes, and hopes to complete a full-size structure in 2018. Related: Church built for $35k stays naturally cool in Malawi Prior to starting the Cleveland-based studio in 2014, Maurer served as director for studioMDA in Malawi and MASS Design Group in Rwanda, where he came to more fully understand the value and potential of sustainable design. “[In Africa], we needed to innovate with limited resources,” said Maurer. Related: This company wants to turn food waste into building materials — here’s how redhouse has worked for commercial clients, such as the Hulett Hotel in Cleveland , while also developing humanitarian design projects, such as the Bioshelter , a prefabricated home that mitigates waste while providing food security and economic opportunity through crops grown on-site. As with much of the studio’s work, the Bioshelter was conceived to be as self-sustaining as possible. “We are constantly looking for new resource loops, finding benefits to waste streams,” he said. Change can sometimes be uncomfortable for the mainstream consumer, particularly if it includes the words “fungus” and “microbe.” Nonetheless, Maurer believes the time has come for fresh, green solutions to global problems. “Think about the pro-biotic craze right now,” he said. “People are waking up to the fact that antibiotic medicines and sanitizers can be dangerous, and that you want the right kinds of microbes around.” Similarly, biological building materials can also be pro-biotic. “There are many organisms that can be used in bio-materials that naturally battle pathogens,” he said. “We want them on our team.” Related: These amazing zero-waste buildings were grown from mushrooms To complete a project as ambitious as the Biocycler, collaboration is key. “ Architecture is by nature collaborative,” said Maurer. “Through our network in biomimicry, we’ve learned the advantages of working with biologists in addition to engineers.” redhouse is collaborating with scientists at NASA and MIT to create the Biocycler, which may only be the beginning of a revolution in smart, living building materials. “When you consider all the possibilities of the materials – bio-luminescence, radiation protection, self cleaning, pathogen protection, etc, it sounds sci-fi, but we’re not that far out from some of these features,” he said. With a Biocycler proof of concept in action, redhouse will have taken us another step further into this sustainable, bio-future. + The Biocycler on Kickstarter + redhouse studio Images via Keith Hayes/redhouse studio

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redhouse studio is making a mobile machine that recycles old buildings

Scientists use banana skins to create new cancer detection technique

December 13, 2017 by  
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Bananas are quite a magical fruit and they’ve been used for everything from  “vegan leather” for wallets to durable  bioplastics and feedstock . Now, scientists have found yet another purpose for this versatile edible: cancer detection. As first reported by the  Huffington Post , researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have been using banana skins in a  new study to develop a technique for locating, mapping, and killing cancer in the body. Their work focused on the black spots of an overripe banana, which they discovered to contain the same biomarkers as skin melanoma. In mainstream practice, when a biopsy is conducted, dyes and fluorescent markers (or contrast agents) are used to color any suspicious areas. By comparison, the new electrochemical microscopy instrument uses eight soft micro-electrodes, lined side by side, that are brushed across potentially-cancerous tissue samples to trigger an electrochemical response in the body. The resulting electric currents from the action are then used by researchers to construct an image that will reveal any areas producing abnormal chemicals. As the Huffington Post writes, “It gives an idea of both the physical structure of the tissue and composition.” Related: Research shows the UK tosses out 1.4 million edible bananas – a day According to Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, the researchers found that the typical biomarkers of melanoma in humans can also be found in the black spots of overripe bananas. In a press statement, they note, “Taking advantage of this similarity, they [the researchers] were able to work on the fruit to develop an imaging technique capable of measuring tyrosinase in human skin and mapping out its distribution. An important step forward has also now been made in applying the imaging technique to thick tissues – like a biopsy of human skin – in addition to thin cross-sections of cells.” In the future, the hope is the technique can be used to kill cancer cells during surgery. As Hubert Girault, head of the Laboratory of Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry at EPFLnotes in the study, they are “perfectly capable of using electrochemistry to kill cancer cells on microscope slides and in petri dishes, but doing so in thick tissue is another story.” He sees a device with interconnected microelectrodes capable of generating an image that will reveal any tumors and then electrochemically destroy the cancerous cells found with a burst of voltage.“Around two volts, that’s not much, but it’s enough to generate oxygen radicals and eliminate cancer cells,” says Girault. Via Huffington Post

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A look inside Google’s biophilic Chicago offices

November 11, 2017 by  
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The tech giant made nature-inspired design a central architecture strategy, not an afterthought.

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A look inside Google’s biophilic Chicago offices

NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants

November 3, 2017 by  
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In its quest to sustainably serve the needs of urban farmers , NexLoop  found inspiration for its water management system in the natural world. Seeking to create a system that is self-sufficient and adaptable to local needs, the NexLoop team observed the ability of cribellate orb weaver spiders to craft webs that capture water from fog in the air. The team then incorporated this design into their system, called the AquaWeb, to passively capture water from the atmosphere. The biomimetically-designed AquaWeb incorporates ideas from fungi, bees, and plants to create a naturally-inspired solution to the complex human problem of growing food. For its work, NexLoop was awarded the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and the Biomimicry Institute. After determining how water capture would work, the team looked at drought-tolerant plants such as the crystalline ice plant to learn how it effectively stores water to survive in dry areas and applied these lessons to the AquaWeb’s storage system. As for distribution of this water, the team studied fungi , which are essential organisms in places like forests where mycorrhizal fungal networks transport water and nutrients to trees that need them. As for a solid structure, the team incorporated the hexagonal shape of honey bee nests. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry The AquaWeb seeks to meet the needs of a global community that is increasingly urban . The global population is expected rise to at least 9 billion by 2050, 70 percent of which will live in cities. This historic shift towards urban living will require adoption of food systems that are locally based, resilient, and efficient in its use of resources. AquaWeb’s passive capture and storage of rainwater is a key feature for stability in a world increasingly plagued by extreme weather. As part of the 2017 Ray of Hope Prize, the NexLoop team received $100,000 to promote and refine its design. The second place prize was awarded to Team Windchill, which designed an electricity-free refrigerator based on animal temperature regulation, while the third place prize went to Team Evolution’s Solutions, which invented a food waste nutrient recycling and supply system aimed to help hydroponic farmers . + Biomimicry Institute Images via NexLoop and Depositphotos

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