MIT students develop method to reinforce concrete using plastic bottles

October 26, 2017 by  
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Americans consume 8.6 billion water bottles — every year. Of those, only 1 of 5 is recycled . Fortunately, a handful of MIT students have developed a solution to this problem, and it involves repurposing waste plastic bottles to reinforce concrete. Because the newly-invented method results in the concrete being more durable than existing concrete, plastic bottles may soon be used to construct everything from stronger building foundations to sidewalks and street barriers. According to the study , which was published in the journal Waste Management, MIT students discovered a method to produce concrete that is up to 20 percent stronger than conventional concrete. First, plastic flakes are exposed to small amounts of harmless gamma radiation . Then, they are pulverized into a fine powder, after which it is added to concrete. The discovery has far-reaching implications, as concrete is the second most widely used material on Earth (the first is water). MIT News reports that approximately 4.5 percent of the world’s human-induced carbon emissions are generated by manufacturing concrete. By replacing small portions of concrete with recycled plastic, the cement industry’s toll on the environment would be reduced. The newly-discovered method would also prevent millions of water and soda bottles from ending up in landfills . Michael Short, an assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, said, “There is a huge amount of plastic that is landfilled every year. Our technology takes plastic out of the landfill, locks it up in concrete, and also uses less cement to make the concrete, which makes fewer carbon dioxide emissions. This has the potential to pull plastic landfill waste out of the landfill and into buildings, where it could actually help to make them stronger.” Related: MIT battery that inhales and exhales air can store power for months MIT students Carolyn Schaefer and Michael Ortega explored the possibility of plastic-reinforced concrete as part of their class’s Nuclear Systems Design Project. In the future, the team intends to experiment with different types of plastic , along with various doses of gamma radiation, to determine their effects on concrete. So far, they’ve determined that substituting 1.5 percent of concrete with irradiated plastic significantly improves the mixture’s strength. While this may not seem like a lot, it is enough to have a significant impact if implemented on a global scale. “Concrete produces about 4.5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” said Short. “Take out 1.5 percent of that, and you’re already talking about 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge amount of greenhouse gases in one fell swoop.”’’ Via MIT News Images via MIT , Pixabay

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MIT students develop method to reinforce concrete using plastic bottles

New concrete roof includes thin-film PV cells to generate power

October 20, 2017 by  
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Digital design and fabrication techniques allowed researchers in Switzerland to create a curvy, super thin concrete roof that will one day help a residential unit produce more power than it consumes. Using the innovative methods, the researchers assembled the roof with much less materials than would otherwise be needed. The concrete roof is also equipped with thin-film photovoltaic cells to generate energy. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) recently unveiled the prototype for a sinuous, self-supporting concrete roof. The roof is comprised of multiple layers, including concrete , heating and cooling coils, insulation, and more concrete fitted with thin film solar cells. The prototype was around 25-feet-tall, with a surface area of around 1,722 feet squared. The average thickness of the concrete was around two inches; the support surfaces had a thickness of 4.7 inches and the edges of the roof were just around one inch thick. Related: The company that offered integrated solar roofs before Elon Musk A cable net supporting a polymer textile provided the formwork for the concrete roof. The researchers used a precise concrete mix, fluid enough to be sprayed but firm enough to not flow off. Professor of Architecture and Structures Philippe Block said in a statement, “We’ve shown that it’s possible to build an exciting thin concrete shell structure using a lightweight, flexible formwork, thus demonstrating that complex concrete structures can be formed without wasting large amounts of material for their construction.” The prototype has already been dismantled to make room for other experiments, but in 2018, the roof will be erected atop materials science and technology research institute Empa ‘s HiLo Penthouse. Guest faculty will live and work in the penthouse, which is expected to produce more energy that it uses thanks to the concrete roof’s solar cells and what ETH Zurich described as an adaptive solar facade . Via ETH Zurich Images © Block Research Group, ETH Zurich/Michael Lyrenmann and © Block Research Group, ETH Zurich/Naida Iljazovic

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New concrete roof includes thin-film PV cells to generate power

These Dutch designers are harvesting stardust from rooftops

October 10, 2017 by  
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Did you know that 37,000 to 78,000 tons of stardust falls on the earth’s surface every year? The dust is made up of micrometeorites that make it through the earth’s atmosphere – and now two Dutch designers are collecting this rare material from rooftops in the Netherlands. Kirstie van Noot and Xandra van der Eijk are exploring ways to utilize these mini meteorites as a precious resource that literally falls from the sky. Kirstie and Xandra believe that stardust could become a new resource for a world that is quickly using up its own natural resources: “As terrestrial resources are depleting and rare earth metals are arguably indispensable for our way of life and our survival as a species, we are in dire need of alternatives,” explains van Noot in her website. To salvage stardust, the pair first collects matter from the rain gutters and roofs of houses. They then incinerate the matter and use magnets to pull out particles for inspection. By studying the shape and composition of these particles, the pair is able to identify which ones came from outer space. The designers recently displayed their star dust exhibition, “As above, so below” at this year’s London Design Festival. The exhibition included the star dust itself as well as a solid cube made of meteoric material. + Dutch Invertuals Collected + Kirstie van Noot + Xandra van der Eijk + London Design Week Coverage Photography by Ronald Smits Photography

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These Dutch designers are harvesting stardust from rooftops

Alphabet X to beam wireless service to Puerto Rico with a fleet of balloons

October 10, 2017 by  
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Help is coming to Puerto Rico in the form of balloons. Alphabet X’s Project Loon — a former Google enterprise — recently received an emergency license from the FCC to equip the island with mobile data via high-altitude weather balloons. According to the FCC, 83 percent of Puerto Rico’s cell sites remain inoperable since Hurricane Maria — a category 4 storm — devastated the island. The US Virgin Islands hit by the same storm will also receive assistance. The next step for Alphabet X is to partner with a telecommunications service to bring the experimental service directly to the region, reports Engadget . A similar arrangement in March was tested in Peru earlier this year after extreme rains and flooding hit the nation. “We’re grateful for the support of the FCC and the Puerto Rican authorities as we work hard to see if it’s possible to use Loon balloons to bring emergency connectivity to the island during this time of need,” said Libby Leahy, a spokesperson for Alphabet X. “To deliver signal to people’s devices, Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network—the balloons can’t do it alone. We’ve been making solid progress on this next step and would like to thank everyone who’s been lending a hand. “ Related: Project Loon: Google to Test Balloon-Powered Internet in California’s Central Valley Gizmodo reports that Caribbean deployment is expected to take more time than the successful run in Peru. This is because X was already testing in Peru when the flooding struck. The company has until April 4, 2018 to fly the balloons. It is unknown how many territories will be covered by the experiment. Via Gizmodo , Engadget Images via Project Loon

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Alphabet X to beam wireless service to Puerto Rico with a fleet of balloons

Plasma Rock is a new material made from 100% recycled landfill waste

September 25, 2017 by  
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Could our overflowing landfills be converted into gold mines? Designer Inge Sluijs has found an way to turn landfill waste into “Plasma Rock” – an innovative material that can be used to create eco-friendly consumer goods. The durable rock is the result of plasma gasification – a process that heats landfill materials at extremely high temperatures. Although plasma gasification technology is not necessarily new, Sluijs’ process of using Plasma Rock to create usable products is unique. The rock is quite durable and completely non-toxic – and Sluijs imagines that a worldwide circular economy could turn landfill junk into environmentally-friendly consumer goods. According to the designer, 20 kg of Plasma Rock can be created out of 100 kg of landfill waste. Related: Artist recycles leaf waste into biodegradable Beleaf chair Sluijs has focused her efforts on coastal landfill sites, starting at the East Tilbury landfill located in Essex, England. Scientists consider coastal landfills to be ticking time bombs, considering that the land is being quickly eroded by rising sea levels . Transforming waste into Plasma Rock would reduce landfill volume while diverting dangerous materials that would otherwise pollute the water. Plasma Rock starts as a powder, which can be formed and sculpted into different objects. Sluijs recently used the material to create Tilbury Tiles, which are distinctively decorated and marketed as souvenirs from the East Tilbury area. She has also developed glass vases decorated with specks of the rock. Through her designs, Luijs hopes to demonstrate not only the potential of Plasma Rock, but also the possibility of using landfill waste to the benefit of the environment. + Inge Suijs

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Plasma Rock is a new material made from 100% recycled landfill waste

Scientists warn new "super malaria" in SE Asia poses alarming global threat

September 25, 2017 by  
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If you’re planning a trip to South East Asia , take note. An evolved form of malaria which is resistant to anti-malaria medication is spreading at an “alarming global rate,” according to scientists. The parasite was first documented in Cambodia but quickly migrated to other regions. Researchers predict mass casualties should the “super malaria” spread to Africa , where over 90 percent of cases occur. This “super malaria” is more dangerous than the original malaria parasite , as it cannot be killed with the main anti-malaria drugs. According to the BBC , it was first reported in Cambodia, but quickly spread throughout parts of Thailand , Laos and later, Vietnam. The team at the Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok said there is a real concern the new malaria may be “untreatable.” Professor Arjen Dondorp, who heads the unit, said, “We think it is a serious threat. It is alarming that this strain is spreading so quickly through the whole region and we fear it can spread further [and eventually] jump to Africa .” Related: FDA approves genetically modified mosquitos to fight Zika Each year, approximately 212 million people are affected with the parasite that is spread via blood-sucking mosquitos . Malaria is a major killer of children, especially in poverty-stricken locations. When one begins to notice symptoms of the sickness, the first line of treatment is artemisinin in combination with piperaquine. However, artemisinin is becoming less and less effective, as a letter, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases , points out. The “super malaria” is now resistant to piperaquine, as well. The letter notes an “alarming rate of failure” with both treatments. Dondorp said about one-third of the time, the treatment failed in Vietnam . In some areas of Cambodia, the failure rate was closer to 60 percent. In Africa, where 92 percent of malaria cases occur, the “super malaria” is expected to be disastrous. It’s now a race against the clock to prevent the blood-transmitted bug from reaching Africa. Said Dondorp, “We have to eliminate it before malaria becomes untreatable again and we see a lot of deaths. If I’m honest, I’m quite worried.” “The spread of this malaria ‘superbug’ strain, resistant to the most effective drug we have, is alarming and has major implications for public health globally,” said Michel Chew, from the Welcome Trust medical research charity. “Around 700,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections, including malaria. If nothing is done, this could increase to millions of people every year by 2050.” Via BBC Images via Pixabay

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Scientists warn new "super malaria" in SE Asia poses alarming global threat

Woven bamboo pavilion offers shelter to passion fruit farmers in China

August 18, 2017 by  
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A team of students at the University of Hong Kong is exploring the limitless potential of bamboo as a sustainable alternative to conventional building materials. After completing a glowing pavilion in their hometown, they designed another innovative bamboo structure– this time in China– using traditional weaving techniques and digital technologies. The 215-square-foot Sun Room pavilion is located in the village of Peitian, amidst a passion fruit plantation. The structure references the area’s cultural history, and it provides shelter from storms and sun while serving as a tea house where farmers can rest and relax. Related: Elegant bamboo bridge adds unexpected beauty to ancient Chinese town In an attempt to revive the ancient craft of bamboo weaving, the design team worked with the last remaining bamboo weaver in the village. They also used digital software and CNC machines to come up with an optimal wave-like form. The outer shell of the pavilion is made from woven bamboo, while the pine load-bearing structure was sourced regionally and cut by local carpenters. Related: Gorgeous bamboo gridshell combines Cambodian design with mathematical forms “Tools and jigs were developed and then digitally fabricated at HKU using the faculty CNC and robotic equipment,” said HKU architecture course leader Donn Holohan. “These elements along with the pattern maps allowed the villagers to achieve the complex form without a prior training in the craft of bamboo weaving ,” he added. + University of Hong Kong (HKU) Via Dezeen

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Woven bamboo pavilion offers shelter to passion fruit farmers in China

Cameroon student nonprofit recycles plastic bottles into boats

August 10, 2017 by  
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Humanity has a plastic bottle addiction, purchasing one million a minute , and many bottles wind up not in recycling bins but in our oceans. Cameroon -based nonprofit Madiba & Nature is pioneering a creative use for all those polluting bottles: boats . They’re fabricating floating canoe-shaped crafts out of collected empties in an effort to prompt people to think differently about how they consume and dispose of plastic bottles. A group of students is transforming plastic trash into boats. They aim to promote a circular economy in Africa ; according to their website: “…we want to help change people’s attitudes and bad habits on the management of plastic waste that degrades sensitive ecosystems.” One Green Planet reports Cameroonian Essome Ismael invented the boats. Related: The world’s population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute Madiba & Nature volunteers have gathered to pick up thousands of plastic bottles near Cameroon’s largest city, Douala, to use those bottles for what they call ecological canoes. The boats could help not just the environment , but the local community as well. In a video, Ismael said there’s a great need for fishing boats in his area, and the plastic bottle boats could meet that need. Local fisherman Emmanuel Japa said at first they thought the plastic bottle boats were a joke, but it turns out the crafts are actually strong and seaworthy. Ismael also said plastic bottles clogging their waterways have led to flooding in the local area. The boats are just the beginning. Madiba & Nature’s website says in around a year of work, they’ve started a program for students and engineers to learn more about green business , and have developed an environmental awareness and education program. They’ve also helped develop a local waste management system and have supported other groups laboring to protect the environment. Their website also says they aim to research how to use recycled plastic in building or paving systems. + Madiba & Nature Via One Green Planet Images via Madiba & Nature Facebook

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Cameroon student nonprofit recycles plastic bottles into boats

Amazing Hive comes alive with sights and sounds in Washington, D.C.

July 13, 2017 by  
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Incredible sights and sounds have popped up at the National Building Museum in the heart of our nation’s capital. Thousands of giant paper tubes have been stacked together to construct soaring mountain-like structures in the Hive, an interactive sculpture created by Studio Gang Architects for the museum’s annual Summer Block Party. Read on to see the interior of the stunning installation and to hear the Hive come alive. Every year, the National Building Museum invites a different architecture firm to craft a large-scale, immersive installation for its Great Hall. Past projects included BIG’s concave Maze , Snarkitecture’s massive BEACH ball pit , and James Corner Field Operations’ cool ICEBERGS . Studio Gang Architects created the museum’s tallest installation yet that comprises 2,551 Sonotubes, wound paper tubes typically used to pour concrete. If laid end-to-end, the recyclable tubes would measure over a mile in length and have a combined weight of 72,961 pounds. A giant Hive has popped up in D.C.! Explore the National Building Museum's summer installation by Studio Gang Architects. It's made with #recyclable materials, interactive, and absolutely massive. #hivedc @nationalbuildingmuseum @studiogang #architecture #dc #washingtondc #ecofriendly ?: @landscapevoice A post shared by Inhabitat (@inhabitatdesign) on Jul 11, 2017 at 9:10am PDT To complement the National Building Museum’s neoclassical Great Hall, Studio Gang Architects used a silver shade for the tube exterior. The tube interior and the Hive floor were painted magenta, a color inspired by the pink used in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. last January. Ninety different tube sizes were used to construct the three interconnected chambers and allow filtered light into the spaces to create beautiful patterns of light and shadow that change throughout the day. Related: ICEBERGS immerse visitors in a beautiful underwater world in Washington, D.C. “We’ve also incorporated a lot of sound elements in here,” Emma Filar, NBM’s Interim Director of Marketing & Communications told Inhabitat. “Jeanne Gang, the founding principal of Studio Gang, is really interested in the way that people move through spaces and how they interact with space here, so that’s why we have instruments inside. Sound travels in a really interesting way through these paper tubes; they both absorb sound and reflect it in different ways.” Visitors at the Hive are free to play with the installation’s many instruments, which range from hanging wind chimes constructed from a variety of materials including wrenches, CDs, and metal pipes. Some paper tubes are used as drums, while others are combined with other common building materials like pipes to create more complicated instruments. Round openings at the top of each chamber allow natural light into the chambers and frame views of the Great Hall’s ceilings and columns. The Hive also has a hands-on building area, where people can play with paper diskettes to build their own structures. The National Building Museum will host a full slate of programs that complement the installation, from concerts to late-night events with food. The Hive is open to the public July 6 through September 4, 2017. + Studio Gang Watermarked photos © Lucy Wang , non-watermarked photos © Tim Schenck

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Amazing Hive comes alive with sights and sounds in Washington, D.C.

The Sax: MVRDV-designed towers to create a striking modern icon in Rotterdam

July 13, 2017 by  
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Prolific architecture firm MVRDV has won a competition to design new mixed-use towers for Rotterdam that are sure to turn heads. Designed for the Wilhelminapier port development, the project, called The Sax, comprises two interconnected towers with an eye-catching contemporary facade. The Sax will house a mix of residential, retail, restaurant space, and public areas and function like a “vertical city.” The 51-story Sax will cover a total surface area of 82,000 square meters across two structures—the Philadelphia and Havana residential towers—connected with an air bridge, where a 150-room hotel will be located. The new high-rise is set to rise between the New Luxor Theater and the Boston & Seattle residential areas. The Sax will include 450 apartments , a hotel, wellness center, parking, public viewing platform, and a lively plinth with numerous commercial facilities such as restaurants, shops, bars, and cafes at street level. Related: MVRDV to upgrade historic French city with modern, ecological design “Rotterdam is more and more a city of towers and The Sax will add a new element to this collection,” says Jacob van Rijs, co-founder of MVRDV. “The façade features a contemporary reinterpretation of the bay window, providing views for each unit with the advantage of allowing individual and unique apartments in this large collective complex. This windowed effect adds an extra dimension in experiencing the view onto Rotterdam. The plinth and the bridge which contains a hotel will be open to the public making Wilheminapier even more lively.” All apartments will be filled with natural light and have access to 270-degree panoramic views of Nieuwe Maas and city. The public viewing terrace is located on top of the hotel at 80 meters high. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV, WAX Architectural Visualizations, Wikipedia

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The Sax: MVRDV-designed towers to create a striking modern icon in Rotterdam

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