New technological process transforms everyday trash into graphene

January 29, 2020 by  
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Rice University researchers have succeeded in creating graphene, not from costly purified starting materials, but from everyday trash . The amount produced is in kilograms per day, rather than the customary small batches of grams per day produced via traditional methods. With the researchers’ novel technique using electricity, even carbon sourced from food scraps, plastic waste and wood clippings can be the starting material for high-quality graphene. This breakthrough study holds both environmental and market promise for various scaled-up applications. Research team lead James Tour said on The Engineer , “With the present commercial price of graphene being $67,000 to $200,000 per ton, the prospects for this process look superb.” Tour has co-founded the startup company Universal Matter, Inc. to commercialize this new waste-to-graphene technique. Related: ‘Game changing’ graphene concrete is twice as strong and better for the planet Graphene is highly prized in sectors like battery energy, (flexible) electronics, semiconductors, solar and even DNA sequencing for its outstanding mechanical, electric and thermal properties. Structurally, graphene can be visualized as ultra-thin sheets or films of pure carbon atoms, leveraged to create high-strength materials. For decades, graphene had only been conceptualized by theoretical physicists. Then in 1962, it was observed via electron microscopes. However, its instability led to it remaining on the fringes of physics . That changed in 2002, when Andre Geim, a University of Manchester physics professor, re-discovered graphene.  The New Yorker documented Geim’s specialty as microscopically thin materials. Hence, it wasn’t much of a leap for him to rethink stacking carbon atoms into thin layers to see how they’d behave in particular experimental conditions. Geim was thereby the first to isolate and produce graphene so that it was no longer an elusive substance. In 2010, Geim was recognized for his pioneering work with graphene and awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Although the knowledge of isolating and producing graphene has been known since the early 2000s, the costs have been prohibitive. Why? Methods of creating graphene required, as Chemical & Engineering News cited, “expensive substrates on which to grow graphene and/or reagents such as methane, acetylene and organic solids that must be purified before use.” But with this breakthrough from the Rice University and Universal Matter, Inc. team, the industry is about to change. Just think, this new trash-to-treasure technique with graphene poses a win-win in terms of both cost for production and the environment. + Nature Via Science Image via CORE-Materials

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New technological process transforms everyday trash into graphene

Adventurous, sustainable cricket-based snacks

January 29, 2020 by  
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For Westerners, snacking on  insects  isn’t mainstream. But that may change, thanks to the rising trend of edible bugs and cricket-based snacks — like those from Chirps, Don Bugito, EXO, Hotlix, Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch and SEEK. There are even dog biscuits from Chippin (yes, even a cricket-based Scooby Snack!). A recent market  study from Meticulous Research Ltd finds that “The global edible insects market is expected to reach 7.96 billion by 2030.” Food security  worries have prompted food innovators to rethink the wheres and hows of sourcing healthy protein. As the  Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) has documented, “by 2050, Earth will host 9 billion people. To accommodate this number, current food production needs to double. Land is scarce, and expanding the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option. Oceans are overfished, and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for food production.” Related: Pet food manufacturers are experimenting with insects instead of meat A possible solution to the food insecurity conundrum is insects as a food source. The FAO consequently announced, “Edible insects contain high quality protein, vitamins and amino acids for humans. Insects have a high food conversion rate –  crickets  need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Besides, they emit less greenhouse gases and ammonia than conventional livestock…Therefore, insects are a potential source for conventional production (mini-livestock) of protein, either for direct human consumption, or indirectly in recomposed foods (with extracted protein from insects).” “Of the 1.1 million species of insects scientists have identified and named, 1,700 are edible,”  PBS News Hour reported. Over 2 billion people already dine on cicadas, grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and more. These insects’ textural crunchiness can be likened to that of crawfish or shrimp popcorn. And just as sushi was not yet widely appealing 40 to 50 years ago, so, too, can Western culture learn to accept crickets as a viable meal source. Crickets, after all, present many advantages. For one, they’re a more sustainable alternative to beef, lamb and pork. David Glacer,  Entomological Society of America (ESA)  academic, elaborated that crickets “reproduce rapidly, have short lifecycles, can be farmed in urban agriculture at high concentrations without antibiotics, unlike what’s seen in farmed vertebrates. And, insects do not produce potentially harmful byproducts, unlike pig farms that have large and toxic liquid lagoons, and unlike the salmonella issues we have with chickens and E. coli from beef.” Secondly, crickets don’t spread diseases as cattle do with mad cow disease, or as pigs do with swine flu. As described by Brian Fisher, California Academy of Sciences entomologist, “There is almost zero chance that any disease that affects an insect could actually impact a human after it’s cooked.” Moreover, crickets are generally healthier than traditional meat by being low-fat, iron-rich, high-protein and even high in omega-3 content. As PBS News Hour explained, “A six-ounce serving of crickets has 60% less saturated fat and twice as much vitamin B-12 than the same amount of ground beef.” Likewise, a  University of Wisconsin-Madison study  found that crickets are beneficial for gut bacteria and for reducing systemic inflammation in the body. That’s attributed to the crickets’ chitin fibers , which are unlike plant-based fibers. These cricket-derived chitin fibers promote a different set of bacterial growth, or probiotic environment, found to be beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract. Given the positive feedback on crickets as a meal source, these edible insects can be processed into protein-rich flour for baked goods or into other meal products, since cricket-rich nosh also packs a nutritious protein punch! Here are Inhabitat’s recommendations for cricket-based morsels to try: Chirps Cricket Protein Chips and more.   Chirps  crafts 100% pure cricket powder, plus several varieties of chips, protein powder, flour and cookies. Chirps Cricket Protein Chips are popular, emblazoned with the “Eat Bugs” logo. They’re flavored in cheddar, barbecue or sriracha. Bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts can try Chirps Cricket Protein Powder for high protein milkshakes or smoothies in either creamy vanilla or rich chocolate flavors. Those preferring to bake their own goodies can try Chirps Cricket Powder, a cricket-based flour free of gluten, GMOs , grain, soy, wheat and whey. Or, sample the Chirps Chocolate Chirp Cookie Mix to bake homemade cricket cookies. Don Bugito edible cricket snacks.  San Francisco-based  Don Bugito  offers “planet-friendly protein snacks, featuring delicious edible insects.” Don Bugito’s merchandise includes Chile-Lime Crickets with Pumpkin Seeds, Dark Chocolate Crickets with Amaranth Seeds, Cricket Protein Powder, Granola Bites with Cricket Flour, and Toasted Crickets. EXO cricket energy and protein bars.  Originally founded by Brown University graduates,  EXO  was eventually acquired by Aspire Food Group (AFG), becoming AFG’s consumer brand. EXO’s forte includes cricket-based energy bars and protein bars, whole roasted crickets, and even cricket flour. EXO energy bar flavors include banana bread, blueberry vanilla, coconut, and PB&J. EXO’s indulgent protein bar flavors are chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate fudge brownie and peanut butter chocolate chip. The whole roasted insects come in Crispy Taco Roasted Crickets, Sea Salt and Vinegar Roasted Crickets, Sriracha Roasted Crickets and Texas BBQ Roasted Crickets. Crick-ettes and cricket lollipops from Hotlix.   Hotlix  began as a Pismo Beach candy store back in the early 1980s. The proprietor crafted candy products reflecting his interest in entomophagy, the consumption of bugs and insects. So, in 1982, Hotlix unveiled its first insect product, a tequila-flavored lollipop with a real worm inside it. Ants , crickets, earthworms and arachnids were later added to other lollipop offerings, followed by Crick-ettes and Larvets snacks. Hotlix claims it began the candy insect food revolution almost four decades ago. It continues its mission “to bring a smile to people’s faces when they see our amazingly colorful and creative insect-based sweets and savory insect snacks.” Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch cricket jerky and cricket pasta.  Colorado’s first edible insect farm, the  Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch (RMMR) , has raised crickets for wholesale as well as processed them into flour. RMMR’s client list includes restaurants, food manufacturers and wholesalers. For example, RMMR crickets and cricket flour goes into the hand-crafted Insectables Roasted Crickets snack, which comes in Ranch, Mexican-Spiced or Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper flavors. But perhaps RMMR’s uniqueness is its cricket-based Chirpy Jerky, made from whole crickets, as well as its Cricket Tagliatelle Pasta, made from cricket flour.  SEEK’s cricket protein granola.   SEEK ’s online store features flours, granola and energy bites — all made from cricket protein. Another favorite is SEEK’s Cricket Cookbook with delicious recipes to make use of all its cricket protein products. Chippin cricket-based dog treats.  Your family’s canine best friend can also enjoy cricket protein snacks.  Chippin ’s Smokehouse BBQ dog snack is made from sweet potato and cricket. Bananas, crickets and blueberries, meanwhile, are combined to formulate Chippin’s Antioxidant Boost dog snack. What’s wonderful about Chippin dog treats? These dog snacks have no artificial flavors nor preservatives. Neither do they have wheat, corn or soy. Images via Pixabay

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Adventurous, sustainable cricket-based snacks

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