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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A giant, air-purifying "cloud" just popped up in the middle of Milan

April 18, 2018 by  
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If you’re tired of breathing less-than-clean city air , Milan has a temporary respite for you. “Transitions,” a giant, cloud-like pod, has landed in the heart of the Brera Design District for Milan Design Week 2018 . As envisioned by Takehiro Ikeda, the enormous “water-drop pavilion” uses Panasonic ‘s cutting edge air-purifying technology to provide all those who enter with clean, cool air. Most cloud-like design installations create mist using gases, which aren’t exactly good for the visitors’ health. The Panasonic pavilion, however, employs only natural water to build an intangible and immersive experience: a walk through atmospheric, ultra-fine mist created with the company’s groundbreaking technology. Panasonic’s “Nanoe x” technology collects moisture from the air and uses high voltage to create nano-sized particles of water. Highly reactive components called OH radicals — which are generated in huge numbers and inhibit viruses and bacteria — remove odors and allergens and prevent mold. The pavilion utilizes compressed air to turn water into a “silky fine mist.” Unlike a conventional two-fluid nozzle model, this technology creates a fine mist using low-pressure air and eliminates the need for large compressors, making it an attractive option for city cooling technology. Takehiro Ikeda said the “Transition” installation is a preview of the latest air purification research, which will be used during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo to guarantee a pleasant, cool atmosphere during the hot Japanese summer. Related: Kengo Kuma wins bid for Tokyo’s Olympic stadium, Zaha Hadid speaks out The project is also energy-efficient. Instead of using large amounts of natural resources to power the air conditioning system, the pavilion – which measures about 20 meters in diameter – needs only a few liters of water for each functioning cycle. With this installation, Panasonic is celebrating its 100-year anniversary and transitioning towards a new creative philosophy: designing products, services and experiences that go beyond physical products to address emotional and environmental well-being. + Milan Design Week 2018 Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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The world’s largest beer brewer invents low-carbon beer bubbles

April 18, 2018 by  
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Belgium -based AB Inbev, the world’s largest beer brewing company, has created a new low-carbon method for adding bubbles to beer . The technique, which is expected to reduce the company’s CO2 emissions by 5 percent, involves heating the brew to just below boiling point, then pumping in CO2 or nitrogen to create gas bubbles. Typically, bubbles are created during the boiling process, which requires a great deal of heat and water. AB Inbev claims that using lower temperatures in the early brewing process cuts emissions and results in a beer that stays fresh for longer. AB Inbev fine-tuned and tested this method for four years at an experimental brewery in Leuven near Brussels, then later at large facilities in the United Kingdom. These bubbles are not to be confused with the bubbles that emerge when cracking open a cold one. The oh-so-satisfying suds are a product of fermentation — in which yeast consumes sugars within the brew to create CO2 and alcohol — and pressure formed through kegging or bottling. Related: Beer with biodegradable six-pack rings finally hits the market The company’s 5 percent annual emissions reduction is roughly equivalent of the energy consumption of 120,000 Western families. The method will also lead to a 0.5 percent reduction in water consumption which is the equivalent of 1,200 Olympic swimming pools. “Our innovation is to heat everything up to just below boiling point, which provides 80 percent energy savings at this point in time,” AB Inbev Europe research director David De Schutter told The Guardian . “There is a lot less steam released, which allows you to spend less on water. In our case, we managed to go from 5 percent evaporated water to less than 1 percent.” Cheers to that! Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Baboons use a barrel to escape biomedical research institute in Texas

April 18, 2018 by  
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Baboons  escaped a biomedical research facility over the weekend with the help of a 55-gallon barrel. Gizmodo reported  that one clever baboon figured out how to turn a barrel upright and use it to climb fencing. Three others followed and the group hit the road, although one returned on its own — but sadly, their freedom didn’t last long. Baboons hit the road after escaping from a Texas Biomedical Research Institute (TBRI) facility. Inward-leaning walls on their open-air enclosure (seen in the video above) have kept animals from leaving in the past 35 or so years, but that didn’t stop these primates . According to the institute’s statement , the animals rolled the barrel to an upright position to ultimately jump out of the enclosure. An animal capture team, wearing protective masks and suits, captured the three animals who did leave around 20-30 minutes after. Two baboons were held to the tree line, but one made it to a nearby street. ABC News shared a video on Twitter of members of the team chasing one of the baboons on a Texas highway. Four baboons escaped their enclosure at a San Antonio biomedical research facility Saturday. A woman then spotted one leading researchers on a wild foot chase down a Texas highway. All of the baboons were safely returned according to a statement. https://t.co/sA148VbSDd pic.twitter.com/pPBW4V5ZIu — ABC News (@ABC) April 15, 2018 Related: Scientists in China have successfully cloned monkeys There are over 2,500 animals at the institute’s campus; almost 1,100 are baboons. These four escapees were part of a group of 133 males, according to HuffPost , that aren’t currently being used for testing. TBRI assistant vice president for communications Lisa Cruz said in the institute’s statement baboons “have played an important role in the discovery of life-saving drugs, therapies, and vaccines and have led to greater understanding of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and so much more that impact the lives of millions of people.” The barrels, introduced in the enclosure just six to eight months ago, were what TBRI calls enrichment tools, and they’ve been removed. TBRI reported the returned baboons are doing well, but not everyone on social media thinks the baboons should have had to go back to the institute. People on Twitter called for the primates to find a new home in an animal sanctuary . This is heartbreaking. 4 baboons worked together to roll a 55 gallon barrel and escape the research facility where they were subject to horrifying medical experiments. They earned their freedom. Let them go to a sanctuary. Some animals are too sentient to be subjected to this. https://t.co/pWiykNdAW8 — Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 17, 2018 Four baboons planned their escape from your facility and escaped by positioning a 55 pound barrel so they could climb out. What does that tell you about your facility? You make me sick @txbiomed – have the decency to send them to a sanctuary. https://t.co/jRhD9xjG2L — Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) April 17, 2018 + Texas Biomedical Research Institute Via Gizmodo and HuffPost Image © Clem Spalding Photography (210) 271-7273, courtesy of Texas Biomed

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Baboons use a barrel to escape biomedical research institute in Texas

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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How millennials are changing home design

March 16, 2018 by  
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You won’t be hard-pressed to find an article about the next industry Millennials are killing. As more of them become homeowners, it’s no surprise that their tastes are starting to impact home design as well. As a group, Millennials have huge buying power, and the design world is taking notice of their preferences. Take a look at several home design trends that appeal to this generation, including green-focused fashions, small-space living, and dual-purpose furniture trends. 1. Urban and Size-Conscious It’s true; Millennials haven’t been queuing up to buy large suburban houses. They are more concerned with reasonable energy use, efficiency and of course, saving on the dollars. The importance of being within close proximity to necessary social and professional networks and city resources means this generation is generally found in urban areas , and naturally, this goes hand in hand with smaller properties, too. However, just because they choose to live in smaller quarters, doesn’t mean they’ll be cramped. 2. Open Plan Floor plans are more open and efficient than ever before. Simply put: Millennials just don’t have time for hallways! A big kitchen still remains a prerequisite, but it should flow into the other rooms for easy entertaining. For this reason, almost half of Millennials are keen on luxury kitchens with a preference for lounge furniture that serves more than one purpose. Who says a couch can’t have built-in storage or an end table can’t double as a coffee table during parties? 3. Sleek and Simple Baby boomers preferred rustic décor and plenty of accessories. Luckily for us, Millennials are keen on functionality and minimalistic design to keep a clutter -free home. That’s not to say that rustic and natural materials aren’t found in their homes, they are just limited in number. Part of this is due to the smaller spaces they are occupying , but it’s also because the increased use of technology means many accessories that were once physically found in the home can now be condensed into the palms of their hands. 4. Natural Materials and Features There is a hangover of the baby boomer rustic interior, but the youngest generation of homeowners are switching it up. We’re seeing more natural tones in today’s millennial homes such as reclaimed wood, neutral palates and barn doors. Scandinavian design is contributing to the pro-wood feel, but so is the tendency to bring the outdoors inside. 5. Tiles are Back One of the biggest changes identified as Millennial interior décor is a preference for tiles. Subway tiles are dominating the market ; whether they’re used as backsplashes or flooring, it’s the ultimate trend. Since Millennials have now occupied smaller homes , the financially savvy are more likely to have more room in the budget for the designs they want. That means more money is going into kitchen design and spa-like bathrooms. Tiles on floors will tend to be in natural stones or wood effect patterns, while low maintenance backsplashes dominate the kitchen. 6. Statement Appliances Diner-type restaurants with open plan kitchens and cookery shows may have had an impact here. This generation loves fancy kitchen appliances and probably also benefits from saving the cents with home-cooked meals instead of splashing out on dinner. 7. Green Building Materials Millennials are choosing eco-friendly materials such as non-toxic paint, Energy Star appliances and LEED-compliant light fixtures in and around the home. The EPA recently estimated that homeowners save up to $501 every year with eco-friendly windows, for example, so the trend is fitting in well with this cost-conscious generation. Related: These solar-powered tiny homes are designed just for millennials 8. Low Maintenance Since when could this ever be a bad thing? This generation is more and more conscious of the time, energy and expense that goes into the upkeep of living spaces. This means that Millennials are championing the move to high design at low cost which doesn’t require regular maintenance. 9. Smart Technology It’s reported that Millennials today are more inclined to boast about a home with integrated smart-technology than they are about a brand new kitchen. It’s clear that Wi-Fi-connected technology throughout homes is key for more reasons than one. Lighting, heating, smoke detectors, TVs and speakers can all be monitored from phones or tablets. This removes safety hazards as well as inconveniences such as needing to walk into a room to turn on the music. They also are demanding “technology friendly” spaces which mean lots of outlets and charging stations. 10. Sustainability This generation is the most sustainability-focused generation ever. They’re looking for renewable energy sources within apartment blocks, sharing resources, supporting surrounding independent businesses and using green materials. Almost half of Millennials are interested in solar panels for their homes, and show a keen interest in growing their own food. Gardening is good for the environment and works well with recent healthy living trends. Expect to see more small gardens, window-box gardens, or community gardens where this generation takes up residence. Millennials currently account for 83.1 million people in the United States alone. Their influence on demand and popular trends knows no bounds. The home design of today and tomorrow is all about flexibility, sustainability, minimalism and natural effect interiors – easy to live in, yet stylish and unobtrusive. Most importantly, awareness of environmental challenges we face globally is translating into eco-friendly lifestyles. It’s a change worth celebrating.

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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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Pape Bird Observation Tower is a glorious marriage of a birds nest and a jewel box

December 11, 2017 by  
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This charming bird observation tower looks like a mix between a bird’s nest and a jewel box. Berta Risueño Muzás and Manuel Pareja Abascal designed the structure to provide visitors of Latvia ’s Pape Nature Park with protection from the elements while also blending perfectly into its natural surroundings so as not to disrupt the local wildlife. The project, selected as the winner of the  Pape Bird Observation Tower Competition , combines timber and rope to achieve a sense of protection and privacy. The use of rope as a sustainable and economical material that is easy to transport, simplifies the fabrication of the structure. The tower can be completely assembled off-site, it is easy to maintain and replace. Related: Rammed-earth walls clad an observation tower to blend into a Belgian nature reserve Different-sized aluminum frames are placed in the shell, creating openings that connect the interior of the tower with the surrounding landscape. A light timber frame envelops the tower with a double function– it strengthens the structure and frames the façade. + Pape Bird Observation Tower Competition

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The world’s first "Biological House" opens in Denmark

November 29, 2017 by  
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Danish firm Een til Een just unveiled the world’s first “Biological House.” The designers developed a process that converts agricultural waste (including grass, straw and seaweed) into raw building materials – and the resulting home leaves virtually zero impact upon the environment. Supported by the Danish Ministry of the Environment Fund for Ecological Construction, the architects built the eco-friendly home in secret for the new BIOTOPE ecopark in Middelfart, Denmark. The project – which was designed by advanced digital production technology – was first and foremost guided by sustainability at every stage. The architects sourced various agricultural “leftovers” for the project’s building materials. Mounds of recovered grass, straw and seaweed – all of which would, under normal circumstances, be burned for energy – were processed into raw materials to be used in the home’s construction. Not only were the products upcycled, but the environmental impact of burning them was avoided. Related: Man builds ultra-efficient green home as a love letter to the environment The home’s sophisticated cladding was also chosen for its strong eco-friendly profile. Kebony modifies sustainably-sourced softwoods by heating the wood with a bio-based liquid, basically polymerising the wood’s cell wall. This innovative process, which was developed in Norway, coverts softwood pieces into durable hardwood panels, perfect for building. In the case of the Biological House, the silver-grey cladding will develop a patina over time, giving the home a beautiful rustic character. The home’s construction process was also environmentally-forward. The architects tested and developed many innovative technologies during the construction process that would reduce the project’s impact. Instead of building on a typical concrete foundation, for example, the home was built on screw piles. This allows the home to be easily removed at any point, without causing damage to the terrain. + Een til Een Via World Architecture News Images via Kebony Technology

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New super concrete makes buildings strong enough to withstand magnitude 9 earthquakes

October 12, 2017 by  
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Recent natural disasters such as hurricanes in the Caribbean and earthquakes in Mexico have laid bare the need for more resilient buildings. Fortunately, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have developed a sprayable, eco-friendly concrete that makes the exterior of buildings as strong as steel and able to withstand unforeseen disasters . The material is called Eco-friendly Ductile Cementitious Composite, or EDCC – and it’s is predominantly comprised of an industrial by-product called fly ash. Said UBC Professor Nemy Banthia, “The cement industry produces close to seven percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. By replacing nearly 70 percent of cement with fly ash, we can reduce the amount of cement used. This is quite an urgent requirement, as one tonne of cement production releases almost a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” The final product is very similar to steel. It is durable, malleable and much more ductile than ordinary concrete. To test the invention, researchers sprayed EDCC on concrete block walls about 10 mm (one-half inch) thick. They then simulated a magnitude 9 earthquake — the same strength of the earthquake that rocked Tohoku, Japan, in 2011. “The results of these tests have been amazing,” said UBC engineering Ph.D. candidate Salman Soleimani-Dashtaki. “We can shake the wall extensively without it failing.” The video above shows that the unreinforced wall collapsed at about 65 percent intensity. In contrast, the reinforced wall withstood full intensity shaking and flexing. “A 10 millimeter-thick layer of EDCC … is sufficient to reinforce most interior walls against seismic shocks ,” said Soleimani-Dashtaki. EDCC is already on the market – in British Columbia, Canada , the product has been designated as “an official retrofit option.” The product is growing in popularity, as it is more cost-effective than major structural renovations or the steel bracings often required for earthquake protection. Plans are already in motion to reinforce the walls of an elementary school in Vancouver, B.C., and to upgrade a school in the seismically active area of northern India . With this technology, the costs of retrofitting buildings is cut in half. Said Banthia, “This can be very easily scaled to other projects. It costs about half of what other retrofit strategies would cost.” Via Metro News Canada , Engadget Images via UBC Civil Engineering Department, Pixabay, YouTube

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