New eco-friendly, decomposing construction foam unveiled

November 25, 2020 by  
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Researchers have come up with a new, more eco-friendly and effective form of building insulation material. The new material was developed due to the shortcomings of the traditional polyurethane-based foam insulators. These traditional insulators harm the environment via the release of volatile compounds into the atmosphere. A group of engineers from the University of North Texas College of Engineering led the research. The engineers, led by Professor Nandika D’Souza of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, have been working on the project since 2018. D’Souza’s lab earned a National Science Foundation grant worth $302,285 to help find a solution to the shortcomings of the conventional insulators. After much research, the team revealed a new type of insulation material, which is less harmful to the environment . By mixing corn-based polylactic acid with cellulose, in combination with supercritical carbon-dioxide, researchers found they could create an environmentally friendly product. This type of insulator is not only safe but also combustible and decomposable. “PLA on its own was good, but we found it wasn’t as strong as the conventional insulation, so we came up with the idea of mixing cellulose in,” D’Souza said. “ Cellulose is a degradable fiber and is often found as a waste in the paper industry, so not only is it stronger, but also is cheaper and easier to come by.” The team has already tested its new technology at the UNT Engineering Zero Energy Lab, a space designed to test alternative energy generation technologies. With the technology already tested and proven in the lab, it only has to go through trials in the construction industry to determine its viability. Kayode Oluwabunmi, one of the doctoral students in DSouza’s lab, says the undoing of conventional foam is its inability to break down once it’s no longer usable. This means the foam lingers in the environment. “The conventional foams are not environmentally-friendly and do not break down once they are no longer usable. They can stay in the environment for 1,000 years,” Oluwabunmi said. Besides its ability to decompose, the new material is also long-lasting. It shares a similar lifespan with the conventional foam and allows a 12% increase in heating and cooling. In other words, this material will help control energy flow better and with fewer risks. + The University of North Texas Images via The University of North Texas

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New eco-friendly, decomposing construction foam unveiled

The Ocean Cleanup launches sunglasses made from ocean plastic

November 25, 2020 by  
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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating island of waste located in the Pacific Ocean. Several organizations have taken part in cleaning up the area and transporting the garbage back to shore, where it is mostly hauled to landfills. But The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization based in Holland, has diverted plastic from the ocean and recycled it into fashionable sunglasses that are an essential part of the funding for future efforts. The organization spent years developing a garbage retrieval system, which eventually donned the moniker System 001/B when it was launched into the North Pacific Ocean in the middle of 2019. The team of more than 90 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers successfully returned the collected debris to land. The plastic was then carefully bagged and labeled to ensure transparency throughout the process. The goal is to guarantee the plastic used in the sunglasses comes directly from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch cleanup . Related: The Ocean Cleanup reveals the Interceptor to remove plastic pollution from rivers The certified plastic was then processed at a commercial scale, creating a strong, durable plastic for the sunglasses. The sunglasses are designed by Yves Béhar in California and manufactured by Safilo , a leading eyewear company in Italy. Every part of the product is made for recycling at the end-of-wear lifespan, including the polarized lenses and metal hinges. Because the amount of certified plastic is limited, the number of sunglasses produced is small. But the impact is mighty. Each purchase of the sunglasses supports cleaning up an area of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is equivalent to 24 football fields. The sale of all sunglasses in this initial release equates to 500,000 football fields full of waste removed from the ocean. The Ocean Cleanup will put 100% of the profits back into the process as it continues to innovate the best ways to clean up the ocean. This is not a one-time event, with plans well underway to improve the System 001/B for the next ocean exploration and cleanup. “It’s incredible to think that only a year ago this plastic was polluting our oceans and now it’s something beautiful, thereby turning a problem into a solution,” said Boyan Slat, founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. “Of course, The Ocean Cleanup is only here today because of our supporters, so I am excited these sunglasses are just another opportunity for everyone to be part of the cleanup and help us maximize our impact. I am thankful for the support of our followers and our partners and for their dedication and efforts to realize this very important step on our mission to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.” + The Ocean Cleanup Images via The Ocean Cleanup

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The Ocean Cleanup launches sunglasses made from ocean plastic

The secret behind the Leaning Tower of Pisa’s resilience is revealed

May 14, 2018 by  
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A team of engineers has finally solved the mystery of how the seemingly unstable Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy has managed to stay standing for more than six hundred years, even in a seismically active region. A team led by Roma Tre University concluded that the tower’s height of 183 feet, the soft soil in which it stands, and the structural strength of the its marble all contribute to its remarkable resilience. This phenomenon is known as dynamic soil-structure interaction (DSSI). “Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the Tower to the verge of collapse, can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events,” said University of Bristol researcher George Mylonakis in a statement . Construction on Pisa’s bell tower began in 1173, and the tower reportedly started to lean when builders reached the third story. Even then, engineers understood that the site’s unique soil mix was responsible for the leaning. After religious wars and conflict interrupted construction, the tower was finally completed in 1370. Though the tower’s lean appears to be stable, efforts throughout the 20th and 21st century have decreased its severity over time. Related: Building Inspectors Deem Tilting Shanghai Towers Safe to Live In The research team expanded on previous studies by examining structural and seismic data records over time. They also engaged with a deep analysis of the physical, mechanical, and chemical properties of the materials used to build the tower, as well as the rock and soil in which it was anchored. Because of DDSI, the ground in which the Tower stands is insulated from seismic shocks, protecting it from the frequent and powerful earthquakes that have historically affected Pisa. These findings will be presented at the 16th European Conference in Earthquake Engineering in June. Via IFLScience Images via Depositphotos (1)

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The secret behind the Leaning Tower of Pisa’s resilience is revealed

Minimalist living meets luxury in the Sturgis Tiny Home

February 22, 2018 by  
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Designing small yet sophisticated spaces is quite a challenge – but Cubist Engineering proves it can be done with the Sturgis tiny home . The compact 21.5′ x 8.5′ space packs a big punch when it comes to beautiful design. Built with highly-insulated CLT timber, the serene, light-filled home on wheels can be installed virtually anywhere. The Sturgis tiny home was built to be a serene retreat, free of clutter and flooded with natural light . To that end, an abundance of windows fills the interior with light and storage areas help keep everything organized. The living room has enough space for a full-size sofa and a small office. The kitchen is adjacent to the living room and comes with a stove top, fridge, deep sink, and plenty of storage. Related: Firefighter’s self-built tiny house is an earthship on wheels In order to create optimal space without feeling cramped, the designers came up with a few tricks such as hiding the queen-sized bed in the ceiling above the sofa. With just the push of a button, it rises and lowers on thin railings in the walls . This tiny home on wheels is much more than just aesthetically pleasing. Working with CLT timber provider, SmartLam, the makers of the Sturgis used SFO-certified wood to create a resilient shell for the home. Prefabricated to reduce construction times, the wood frame is incredibly strong and highly-insulated. The Sturgis’ compact size and strong materials mean that the home can be installed quickly virtually anywhere, in any climate, and can always be moved, leaving little to no carbon footprint. + Cubist Engineering + SmartLam

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Minimalist living meets luxury in the Sturgis Tiny Home

Incredible new "super wood" is as strong as steel

February 9, 2018 by  
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It’s a twig, it’s a branch, it’s… Super Wood! Researchers at the University of Maryland have created a so-called “super wood” that is stronger than many titanium alloys. The research team used a two-step process to drastically increase the density of the wood , thus reinforcing its strength to 10 times that of traditional wood. “It is as strong as steel, but six times lighter,” research team co-leader  Teng Li told ScienceDaily . “It takes 10 times more energy to fracture than natural wood. It can even be bent and molded at the beginning of the process.” To create the super material, the research team first boiled wood in a mixture of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. With lignin and hemicellulose partially removed, the wood is then hot-pressed to crush cell walls and forge strong nanofibers. The resulting density provides its super strength. “This kind of wood could be used in cars , airplanes, buildings — any application where steel is used,” research team co-leader Liangbing Hu Hu told ScienceDaily . Related: Milan’s striking wooden UniCredit building is powered by the sun Another of super wood’s special powers is its ability to be sourced sustainably . “Soft woods like pine or balsa, which grow fast and are more environmentally friendly, could replace slower-growing but denser woods like teak in furniture or buildings ,”said Hu. “Given the abundance of wood, as well as other cellulose-rich plants, this paper inspires imagination,” said professor of mechanics and materials at Harvard University Zhigang Suo, who was not involved in the study. The team at University of Maryland has also created a kind of transparent wood, which could be used to replace glass and plastic with more sustainably sourced, stronger alternatives. Via ScienceDaily and New Atlas Images via University of Maryland and Depositphotos

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Video: NASA tests its supersonic parachute for the first time

November 20, 2017 by  
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NASA has performed the first test of its supersonic parachute as part of its Mars 2020 mission. This essential component will allow the Mars-bound spacecraft to slow down as its enters the planet’s atmosphere whilst traveling at speeds of over 12,000 MPH. “It is quite a ride,” said Ian Clark, the test’s technical lead from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The imagery of our first parachute inflation is almost as breathtaking to behold as it is scientifically significant. For the first time, we get to see what it would look like to be in a spacecraft hurtling towards the Red Planet , unfurling its parachute.” Take a look at the video after the jump. The first test of this parachute was conducted with the Black Brant IX sounding rocket, which launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on October 4, 2017. After the rocket reached 26 miles in altitude and a speed 1.8 times that of sound, its parachute was deployed successfully. The rocket landed off the coast of Virginia shortly after. “Everything went according to plan or better than planned,” said Clark. “We not only proved that we could get our payload to the correct altitude and velocity conditions to best mimic a parachute deployment in the Martian atmosphere, but as an added bonus, we got to see our parachute in action as well.” Related: The world’s first space nation is now officially in orbit The Mars 2020 mission aims to search for signs of life on Mars by investigating evidence on location through the use of a remote rover and by gathering drilled rock samples to be studied upon their return to Earth. As indicated by its name, the mission aims to launch in 2020 and will require new technology , such as the supersonic parachute, to complete the ambitious undertaking. Although this marked the first parachute test for the Mars 2020 mission, the parachute itself has been used before for Mars exploration. In 2012, a parachute with the same design was used to land NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory on the planet itself. Future tests will incorporate a strengthened parachute, which may be used in the Mars 2020 mission. Via NASA / NBC News Images via NASA

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Video: NASA tests its supersonic parachute for the first time

Whale mother can’t let go of dead calf likely poisoned by plastic

November 20, 2017 by  
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The impact of humanity’s pollution on nature became all too real in a heartbreaking clip from Blue Planet II . A mother pilot whale grieved her dead baby, carrying it around with her. The calf may have died because of industrial chemicals – and our plastic littering the oceans . A preview for episode four of BBC One’s Blue Planet II revealed a tragic scene: a mother pilot whale who seemingly couldn’t let go of her dead calf. The calf might have been poisoned by the mother’s milk, contaminated with pollutants of ours which enter the oceans. Narrator David Attenborough said she’d been carrying the baby for several days. “In top predators like these, industrial chemicals can build up to lethal levels. And plastic could be part of the problem. As plastic breaks down, it combines with these other pollutants that are consumed by vast numbers of marine creatures,” Attenborough said in the video. Related: Plankton Pundit video shows exact moment plastic enters the food chain Pilot whales possess large brains, Attenborough explained in the video, and have the capacity to feel emotions. He said the adults’ behavior following the death of the calf reveals its loss impacted the whole family. “Unless the flow of plastics and industrial pollution into the world’s oceans is reduced, marine life will be poisoned by them for many centuries to come,” he said. Around eight million metric tons of plastic enters Earth’s oceans every single year, according to the Blue Planet II website, and can kill ocean creatures. They offered several suggestions for how concerned viewers can get involved with ocean conservation , such as picking up trash or downloading the Beat the Microbead app, which tells users if a cosmetic or household product contains microbeads so they can avoid purchasing it (click the links to download for Android or iOS ). + Blue Planet II Images via BBC on YouTube

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World’s cheapest solar power to be generated in Mexico

November 20, 2017 by  
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Solar power set to be generated in Mexico will be the world’s cheapest — with prices as low as 1.77¢/kWh, according to data from Mexico’s  Centro Nacional de Control de Energía (Cenace) . Mexico’s Department of Energy recently announced the companies selected to complete new renewable power projects and the rates for which this electricity will be sold. The lowest price for solar in Mexico has been set just below that of Saudi Arabia at 1.77¢/kWh, and is expected to continue to decrease to 1¢/kWh in 2019 or sooner. In this most recent bidding round, 15 bids from eight solar and wind energy companies, including Canadian Solar, ENEL Green Power, and Mitsui, were approved in a sign that Mexico’s renewable surge is not slowing down. The clean energy projects recently approved by Mexico will be online and selling power by 2020. These projects and others are important steps towards meeting Mexico’s goals under the Paris agreement as well as regional goals established by Mexico, the United States, and Canada . In 2016, all three countries pledged to source 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. Canada is on track to meet this goal while Mexico continues to build up its renewable portfolio. As it was when the regional pledge was made, the United States still lags behind in its transition to clean energy. Related: World’s largest solar plant in a refugee camp opens in Jordan Mexico’s achievement of cheap solar energy exceeds the expectations of skeptics who believed that such a price in a country like Mexico, rather than one like wealthy Saudi Arabia , would be highly unlikely. Despite its economic challenges, Mexico is proving that affordable renewable energy is possible around the world, brightening the prospects of the Paris agreement even as the United States refuses to participate. If current trends continue, the world may soon be faced with the prospect of plentiful, clean, affordable energy, the possibilities for which are endless. Via Electrek Images via Presidencia de la República Mexicana/Flickr   (2)   (3)

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World’s cheapest solar power to be generated in Mexico

Lithium-ion batteries made from recycled glass bottles store almost 4x more energy

April 24, 2017 by  
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A team of researchers at UC Riverside developed a low-cost way of turning disgarded glass bottles into lithium-ion batteries that store almost four times more energy and can last much longer than conventional batteries. This could mean significantly fewer charges for laptops, cell phones and electric cars, not to mention reducing waste. The team, led by Cengiz Ozkan, professor of mechanical engineering, and Mihri Ozkan, professor of electrical engineering at UC Riverside, asked themselves whether silicon dioxide found in waste beverage bottles would be able to provide high purity silicon nanoparticles that can be subsequently used for lithium-ion batteries. The three-step process of producing the anodes starts by crushing and grounding glass bottles into fine white powder, silicon dioxide is then converted into nanostructured silicon, followed by coating the silicon nanoparticles with carbon. Related: 94-year-old inventor of lithium-ion cells develops new battery that can store 3 times more energy According to lab test, coin cell batteries that were made using the glass bottle-based silicon anodes considerably outperformed conventional batteries and demonstrated excellent electrochemical performance. The team expect these high-performance batteries to not only extend the range of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles, but also provide extra power with fewer charges to laptops, cell phones, and other gadgets. Photos via University of California, Riverside

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Lithium-ion batteries made from recycled glass bottles store almost 4x more energy

INFOGRAPHIC: The exciting future of sustainability

July 18, 2016 by  
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Modern civilization has been relying on non-sustainable energy sources that pollute the earth. Once we learned the depth of the problem, people from around the globe started coming together to come create solutions for greener energy.  Thanks to these thinkers, we now have some incredible new technologies like smarter batteries  and salt power, and things are only getting more exciting as time goes on. To learn more, checkout this infographic created by Ohio University’s online Master of Engineering Management program. + Ohio University’s online Master of Engineering Management program.

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INFOGRAPHIC: The exciting future of sustainability

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