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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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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‘Game changing’ graphene-reinforced concrete is stronger and better for the planet

May 3, 2018 by  
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Add concrete to the list of things graphene can improve. Scientists at the University of Exeter ‘s Center for Graphene Science developed a new technique to incorporate graphene in concrete production with the help of nanoengineering technology — and the resulting material was not only over twice as strong as concretes we have today, but “drastically reduced the carbon footprint of conventional concrete production methods.” Is there anything graphene can’t do? It can boost both the strength and durability of concrete. The resulting University of Exeter composite material is four times as water resistant as existing concretes, and, according to professor Monica Craciun , “by including graphene we can reduce the amount of materials required to make concrete by around 50 percent — leading to a significant reduction of 446 kilograms per tonne of the carbon emissions .” Related: MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in long rolls The research, published in late April in the journal Advanced Functional Materials , pioneers a novel, low cost technique that is, according to the university, compatible with requirements for modern, large-scale manufacturing. The composite material can be utilized right on building sites. Craciun described the new green concrete as an absolute game-changer. She said its strength, durability, and water resistance make it “uniquely suitable for construction in areas which require maintenance work and are difficult to be accessed.” Lead author Dimitar Dimov, a PhD student at the university, described the research as a first but crucial step “in the right direction to make a more sustainable construction industry for the future.” He said in the statement, “Finding greener ways to build is a crucial step forward in reducing carbon emissions around the world and so help protect our environment as much as possible.” + University of Exeter + Advanced Functional Materials Images via Depositphotos and Derek Torsani on Unsplash

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This dreamy cluster of cabins houses light-filled live/work spaces in Hokkaido

May 3, 2018 by  
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Japanese architect Makoto Suzuki has carved out a slice of live/work paradise with this cluster of cabins in Hokkaido . While each mono-pitched structure appears to stand independently, the timber-clad buildings are interconnected. The project, called the House in Tokiwa, also achieves harmony with the landscape through the use of natural materials and low-profile structures that embrace nature at every turn. Located near Sapporo, House in Tokiwa comprises a series of structures of varying heights clad in vertical timber planks. Mono-pitched roofs top the taller volumes, while greenery covers the roofs of a few of the lower-profile structures. Large windows frame views of the surroundings while the relatively remote location mitigates privacy concerns. Outdoor terraces also reinforce the connection with nature. Related: Tidy Japanese home mimics the greenhouse effect to keep warm The home is divided into two roughly equal-sized clustered halves connected by a centrally located bathroom. The main living areas are set in a cluster that wraps around a small courtyard planted with lilac trees. This cluster contains a two-story villa for Suzuki’s father, a kitchen and dining area with full-height windows, the master bedroom, and an office for Suzuki’s wife that sits above the living room. The majority of the workspaces are housed in the second cluster, which includes a meeting room, bathrooms, and two spacious work areas, one of which is used by sculptor Takenobu Igarashi . + Makoto Suzuki Via Dezeen Images via Koji Sakai

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This dreamy cluster of cabins houses light-filled live/work spaces in Hokkaido

Go glamping in this retro Airstream camp surrounded by redwood forests

May 3, 2018 by  
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Traveling the country in an renovated Airstream is a dream for many, but those looking for just a little weekend Airstream glamping will find all they need at this beautiful retreat. Located by the Russian River in the heart of Sonoma’s Wine Country, AutoCamp is a picturesque getaway that offers custom-made Airstream accommodations with luxurious amenities, all surrounded by majestic redwood forests. The Airstream resort offers a number of custom-made Airstreams that were designed by Dan Weber Architecture in collaboration with Airstream USA. While the vintage charm of the Airstreams is clearly visible, the campers were created to provide guests with the ultimate glamping experience. The designers outfitted each suite with plush, modern interiors and amenities that rival any top-quality boutique hotel. Related: This dreamy boutique hotel in California is made up of 11 refurbished Airstreams Inside, guests can enjoy a comfy queen-sized bed with high-quality linens. The iconic campers also come with small kitchens with basic cooking utensils, wine glasses and silverware. The spa-like bathrooms have a large walk-in showers and custom vanity sinks. Each camper features a large sofa bed to accommodate additional overnight guests. To best enjoy the surrounding nature, each Airstream comes with a small deck and fire pit. Guests can rent bicycles from the site to explore the beautiful redwood forests or head to nearby Guerneville. The campsite also has a beautiful clubhouse, where campers can visit the reception desk, canteen and cool lounge areas with hanging rattan chairs. + AutoCamp + Anacapa Architecture Via Dwell

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Go glamping in this retro Airstream camp surrounded by redwood forests

Magical new classroom reconnects children with nature in the UK

May 3, 2018 by  
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Dramatic swooping roofs top this new timber-clad building designed by Studio Weave for Belvue School, a secondary school for children aged between 11 and 19 with moderate to severe learning difficulties. Appropriately dubbed The Wooden Classroom, the building was created to help reconnect students with nature and opens up to the adjacent woodland recently acquired by the school to serve as an educational nature reserve. Constructed from a low budget originally allocated for a cargotecture school expansion, the 1,600-square-foot The Wooden Classroom comprises a “cozy lounge” informal teaching space and a “sociable kitchen” student-run school cafe next to the woods. “We identified that the boundary between the playground and woods marks the border between familiar school territory and the magical, mysterious world of trees,” said Studio Weave. “This very important threshold, symbolising the entrance to another world, like the gate to the secret garden, or the cupboard to Narnia became a focal point and we consequently designed the woodland classrooms to act as a gatehouse between one world and another.” Related: Free off-grid shelter pops up for urban explorers in Bordeaux The wood-lined interior is flooded with natural light with curved ceilings and clerestory windows . The Wooden Classroom is entirely naturally ventilated. Large window walls frame views of the outdoors and bring nature in. Studio Weave also worked with a forest management specialist for their sensitive approach to the landscape. + Studio Weave Images via Studio Weave

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MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in large sheets

April 18, 2018 by  
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Scientists used to make graphene -based membranes in small batches in a laboratory. But a new breakthrough at MIT enables researchers to roll out large sheets of high-quality graphene. The continuous manufacturing process can produce five centimeters of high-quality graphene per minute. The longest run was nearly four hours, and it generated around 10 meters of continuous graphene. MIT is calling the development “the first demonstration of an industrial, scalable method for manufacturing high-quality graphene that is tailored for use in membranes that filter a variety of molecules.” These membranes could be utilized in biological separation or desalination , for example. The researchers drew from the common industrial roll-to-roll approach blended with chemical vapor deposition, a common graphene-fabrication technique. Related: Newly discovered property of graphene could lead to infinite clean energy Their system is comprised of two spools linked by a conveyor belt, which runs through a furnace. According to MIT, here’s how it works: “The first spool unfurls a long strip of copper foil, less than one centimeter wide. When it enters the furnace, the foil is fed through first one tube and then another, in a ‘split-zone’ design. While the foil rolls through the first tube, it heats up to a certain ideal temperature, at which point it is ready to roll through the second tube, where the scientists pump in a specified ratio of methane and hydrogen gas, which are deposited onto the heated foil to produce graphene.” MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering John Hart said, “In the end-to-end process, we would need to integrate more operations into the manufacturing line. For now, we’ve demonstrated that this process can be scaled up, and we hope this increases confidence and interest in graphene-based membrane technologies, and provides a pathway to commercialization.” The journal Applied Materials and Interfaces recently published the work; scientists from Vanderbilt University , the California Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore contributed. + MIT News + Applied Materials and Interfaces Images via Christine Daniloff, MIT and courtesy of the researchers

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MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in large sheets

Groundbreaking new energy storage device charges up in just 20 seconds

March 2, 2018 by  
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A new aqueous storage device can be fully charged in a mere 20 seconds. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Kangwon National University scientists developed the device suited for portable electronics , with KAIST emphasizing in a statement that their device is both safe and environmentally friendly. Aqueous storage devices are less flammable than today’s lithium batteries , and could be cheaper too, according to ScienceAlert , but limitations have held scientists back. Cells comprising a battery transfer electrons between two materials, but aqueous solutions limit voltage range between the points, according to ScienceAlert. But scientists at institutions in South Korea , according to KAIST, “came up with new structures and materials to facilitate rapid speed in energy exchange on the surfaces of the electrodes and minimize the energy loss between the two electrodes.” They described their strategy for high-performance aqueous hybrid capacitors in the journal Advanced Energy Materials in January . ScienceAlert said hybrid capacitors like this one are basically a mixture of capacitor and battery. Related: Scientists just created a new type of battery inspired by electric eels Graphene to the rescue again: the scientists utilized graphene-based polymer chain materials for anodes. Graphene’s web-like structure afforded a high surface area, enabling higher capacitance, according to the institute. Metal oxide nanoparticles served as cathode materials. KAIST said, “This method realized higher energy density and faster energy exchange while minimizing energy loss.” The device they developed can charge up in 20 to 30 seconds via low-power charging systems like flexible solar cells or USB switching chargers. It boasts a power density 100 times greater than conventional aqueous batteries. And it can sustain capacity for more than 100,000 charges, according to ScienceAlert. KAIST professor Jeung Ku Kang said in the statement, “This eco-friendly technology can be easily manufactured and is highly applicable. In particular, its high capacity and high stability, compared to existing technologies, could contribute to the commercialization of aqueous capacitors.” + KAIST Via ScienceAlert Images via

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Newly discovered property of graphene could lead to infinite clean energy

November 30, 2017 by  
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Physicists at the University of Arkansas have discovered a new property of graphene that could be exploited to generate endless, clean energy . While investigating the simple phenomenon of graphene’s ability to ripple and shake, physicist Paul Thibado and a group of graduate students uncovered a previously unknown behavior in which the wonder material buckles and twists in small, random fluctuations, potentially allowing graphene to be used as an ambient power source. When two electrodes are added on either side of a subtly shaking sheet of graphene, a small shifting voltage is produced, one that can could be magnified for practical use through layering. This new discovery was made over the course of a fairly mundane exploration of graphene’s known tendency to jiggle. It is this random movement of atoms that allows the nearly 2D graphene to function as a 3D material. To study this behavior, students laid sheets of graphene on a copper grid and observed the atomic movement through a scanning tunneling microscope . “The students felt we weren’t going to learn anything useful,” said Thibado , “but I wondered if we were asking too simple a question.” The students then searched for a pattern in graphene’s movement. “Looking at large-scale averages hid the different patterns. Each region of a single image, when viewed over time, produced a more meaningful pattern,” said Thibado. Related: New graphene sieve can remove even small salts from seawater This meaningful pattern of small, random fluctuations that result in dramatic shifts is known as a Lévy flight. Although the phenomenon had been previously observed in biology and climate studies , this marks the first instance in which it was observed on an atomic level. These movements allowed for the production of a small voltage within the graphene. Thibado estimates that a single ten micron by ten micron piece of graphene may produce ten microwatts of power. While this may not seem like much, graphene’s ability to be layered heavily even in a small space could result in a practical electrical charge, one that may be used to power bioimplants. Thibado is working with the US Naval Research Laboratory to further investigate and develop the concept. Via Futurism Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Scientists invent graphene paint that makes your house super efficient

May 30, 2017 by  
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Graphene – the strongest material known to science – is used to create everything from condoms to night-vision contact lenses. Now, thanks to the ingenuity of  The Graphene Company , paint containing the world’s “thinnest, strongest and most conductive” substance is hitting shelves in the UK. The new lime-based paint is incredibly thin, beneficial for the environment and capable of making your home, or any building, more efficient. Because  Graphenstone is composed of a lime-base with a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms one atom thick thanks to the inclusion of graphene , the lime-based paint has superconductivity , which means it can improve the thermal regulation of buildings. As Dezeen reports , this means the invention lowers the necessity for heating and air conditioning. According to The Graphene Company director, Patrick Folkes, ”When used on interior wall surfaces, rather than heat being radiated through the walls, the graphene within the paint captures the heat. It then conducts the heat through the paint, and across the whole Graphenstone-painted surface of interior walls. This enhances the insulation measures used in buildings by slowing heat conduction through walls and out of buildings.” Because graphene is one atom thick in the paint, less is required to achieve a durable finish that is resistant to corrosion. One liter of paint would cover two eight-meter-square coats, says The Graphene Company. An additional benefit is that the paint is extremely eco-friendly . With a base made from 98 percent pure lime, the paint purifies the surrounding air as it absorbs carbon dioxide. For this reason, the company boasts it is “the most sustainable and eco-friendly paint in the world”. “Sustainability is becoming more and more important as people realise the damage that acrylics do to the environment throughout the manufacturing process and its use on walls,” said Folkes. “Graphene’s inclusion in paints, coatings and other building materials exponentially enhances hardness, durability, compression, tensile strength, elasticity, and coverage.” Related: New graphene super batteries charge up in seconds and last virtually forever After the paint is applied, a hard shell forms as the lime hardens up in the carbonization process. According to Folkes, the initial consistency is a “little bit watery.” Over a period of 10 days, however, hard coverage is provided. The best part? No fumes are released in the process. Already, the product has been used to coat the walls of hospitals , hotels, and schools. As demand for the graphene paint increases, it will likely be sold elsewhere in the world. + The Graphene Company Via Dezeen Images via The Graphene Company

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