New biodegradable semiconductor could make e-waste a thing of the past

May 8, 2017 by  
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50 million tons of electronics are expected to be trashed this year, according to a United Nations Environment Program report . A Stanford University team was concerned over the escalating epidemic of e-waste , so they created a semiconductor – a component in most of our electronics – that can actually be broken down with a weak acid such as vinegar. Nine Stanford researchers, joined by one scientist from Hewlett Packard Labs and two engineers from the University of California, Santa Barbara , set out to rethink electronics. Engineer Zhenan Bao, who heads up the Bao Research Group at Stanford, said they found inspiration from human skin . Skin stretches, can heal itself, and is ultimately biodegradable . The researchers wanted to take these characteristics and apply them to electronics. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: The dangerous untold story of e-waste They created a flexible polymer able to decompose. Postdoctoral fellow Ting Lei said it’s the first ever “semiconductive polymer that can decompose.” But that’s just one part of a semiconductor. The team also designed a degradable electronic circuit and a biodegradable substrate material. They used iron – a nontoxic, environmentally friendly product – instead of the gold usually used for electronic components. They made a paper-like substrate with cellulose ; the transparent substrate allows the semiconductor to adhere to rough or smooth surfaces, like onto an avocado as seen in the picture above or on human skin. The semiconductor could even be implanted inside a body. According to Stanford, “When the electronic device is no longer needed, the whole thing can biodegrade into nontoxic components.” The team envisions a number of uses for their semiconductors, like in wearable electronics . They could be made into patches allowing people to track their blood pressure, for example, or could be dropped via plane into a forest to survey the landscape, and eventually they would biodegrade instead of littering the environment . The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America published the research online the beginning of May. Via Stanford University and New Atlas Images via Stanford University/Bao lab

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New biodegradable semiconductor could make e-waste a thing of the past

Airtight prefab House in the Woods pops up in just ten days

May 8, 2017 by  
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Airtightness , minimal site disturbance, and speedy construction are just a few benefits of the striking House in the Woods. Designed by London-based architecture firm alma-nac , this prefabricated timber home is nestled within a particularly beautiful wooded lot in England’s South Downs National Park. Constructed from structural insulated panels (SIPs), the fully insulated, watertight building frame was erected in a speedy ten days. House in the Woods was built to replace a bungalow that had been in the family for over sixty years. Despite the new home’s contemporary appearance, the design pays homage to its traditional predecessor with its single-story dual-pitched appearance and occupies roughly the same 240-square-meter footprint. Ample glazing and large sliding doors connect the home with the landscape while a large deck and roof terrace extend living spaces to the outdoors. Related: Ancient Party Barn blends historic preservation with energy-smart design The adaptable interior can accommodate up to ten people in five bedrooms thanks to full-height sliding partitions . When not in use by guests, the home can be comfortably transformed to a one-bedroom home with a studio and study. Heat zoning allows for areas of the home to be controlled independently to minimize energy loss. Energy efficiency is further improved thanks to SIPs construction with rigid insulating lining that offer high levels of thermal efficiency and air tightness. + alma-nac Via ArchDaily Images © Jack Hobhouse

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Airtight prefab House in the Woods pops up in just ten days

Researchers close in on world’s first 100% self-charging lithium-ion battery

April 26, 2017 by  
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We’ve all experienced the nuisance of a dying phone when there’s no outlet in sight, but that moment could become a relic of the past thanks to new technology being developed by an international team of 19 scientists. The group, led by the Institute de Recherche d-Hydro-Québec and McGill University in Canada , want their battery to harvest and store light energy all on its own – without the help of solar panels . Lithium-ion batteries can only hold so much power, and must be recharged often. So researchers are developing a device that can harvest energy from light and store it. They just published a study showing a lithium-ion battery cathode can be sensitized to light by combining lithium-ion materials with dye molecules including solar cell technology. Here’s how study lead author Andrea Paolella of Hydro-Québec puts it: “In other words, our research team was able to simulate a charging process using light as a source of energy.” Related: 94-year-old inventor of lithium-ion cells develops new battery that can store 3 times more energy The cathode is only half of the process. The researchers must develop an anode that can store the light energy. If they can accomplish that feat, they will have created the first 100 percent self-charging lithium-ion battery in the world. And they’re already at work on phase two. “I’m an optimist and I think we can get a fully working device. Theoretically speaking, our goal is to develop a new hybrid solar-battery system, but depending on the power it can generate when we miniaturize it, we can imagine applications for portable devices such as phones,” said Paolella. Phase two could still take years, but co-author George Demopoulos, a professor at McGill University, thinks this passive form of charging could be significant for devices of the future. Nature Communications published the study online earlier this month. Scientists from institutions in Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom were also part of the research. Via McGill University Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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Apple announces goal to make products from 100% recycled materials

April 26, 2017 by  
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The electronics industry is notoriously harsh on the planet. Around 60 million metric tons of e-waste end up in landfills each year, and children are sometimes put to work to mine necessary rare earth elements. Technology giant Apple aims to fix these issues in their company. They recently announced plans to use 100 percent recycled materials in all of their devices. Apple’s aims are ambitious. In addition to using only recycled materials, the company also wants 100 percent of their supply chain to run entirely on renewable energy . They want their packaging to be made of 100 percent responsibly sourced and recycled paper. And they want to stop mining the earth. Related: Apple just unveiled a blazing fast iPhone recycling robot Apple has already made progress in many areas. Their data centers are 100 percent powered by solar, wind, or hydropower. 96 percent of their worldwide facilities run on renewable energy and over 99 percent of their packaging is already made with recycled and responsibly sourced materials. But they still have a long way to go. Apple didn’t offer a specific timeline for their mining goal. “It sounds crazy, but we’re working on it,” the company writes on their website. “We’re moving toward a closed-loop supply chain.” In their 2017 Progress Report , they said they’re challenging themselves to “one day end our reliance on mining” but that will require many years. They pointed to recycling programs and their recycling robots as evidence of progress. Apple Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson told Vice , “We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it. So we’re a little nervous, but we also think it’s really important, because as a sector we believe it’s where technology should be going.” Greenpeace Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook said in a statement Apple’s goal “highlights the need for greater urgency across the sector to reduce resource consumption and e-waste that are causing significant impacts on the environment and human health …While transitioning to 100 percent recycled materials is critical to reducing the sector’s footprint, it is also fundamental for Apple and other major IT companies to design products that last, are easy to repair, and recyclable at the end of their life.” Via Apple and 9to5Mac Images via Maurizio Pesce on Flickr and screenshot

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London’s Marston Court transforms shipping containers into emergency housing for the homeless

April 26, 2017 by  
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A newly-constructed emergency h ousing development in London’s Ealing borough provides 34 temporary apartments to the needy. CargoTek teamed up with QED Property , ISO Spaces and Ealing Council to build the innovative Marston Court development out of re-purposed shipping containers, using a kit of moveable and re-usable parts for maximum flexibility. The project addresses the issue of homelessness with flexible, temporary and affordable design solutions. Marston Court is located on a disused brownfield site on Bordars Walk in Ealing. The project revitalizes vacant land by providing emergency accommodation to those in need, including young families and low-income individuals. Related: CargoTek taps shipping containers for affordable UK homes and offices The project will house up to 72 people in 34 fully furnished apartments with a management office, laundry and refuse storage. It includes a landscaped outdoor area with a playground. ISO Spaces manufactured the modular components in their production facility in Cornwall. The company’s founder Gregg Curtis said: “Homelessness is an issue that is always critical at any scale, We need to design and develop more solutions to these issues. Our focus is on providing real products to do that. And working in partnerships with organizations that can deploy those solutions at scale is critical.” + CargoTek + ISO Spaces + QED Property

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London’s Marston Court transforms shipping containers into emergency housing for the homeless

Build your own indoor garden with modular LEGO-like blocks

April 26, 2017 by  
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Humans are spending more of their lives inside, missing out on the health benefits and beauty of plants . Winmart Design from Singapore decided to bring nature indoors with LeGrow, a creative indoor garden users can design themselves with LEGO -like pieces. The gardens can be equipped with LED lights , allowing plants to thrive year-round, or with a humidifier to improve the atmosphere of interior spaces. Chinese designer Haobin Lin decided to create LeGrow after he realized his daughter, growing up in a city, might not have the nature-filled childhood he’d loved. Inspired by her favorite toys, building blocks, he came up with the sleek, clean indoor garden system. Related: 7 indoor plants that purify the air around you naturally A LeGrow system can include planter pots, Power Pots, a humidifier, and an LED grow lamp. The stackable planter pots incorporate internal water reservoirs to reduce mess. A two-bulb LED grow lamp can provide light in six-hour increments for multiple plants, with a maximum output of 50,000 lumens. A diffusing mist humidifier helps create an atmosphere conducive for growing plants indoors, an area that tends to be dry due to heating and air conditioning; but the humidity can also improve human health by reducing eye strain and softening skin. LeGrow’s Power Pots are specifically targeted towards home office use; they can power the system’s humidifier and lights but can also charge a smartphone or tablet via four USB ports. Winmart Design is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter ; with over 20 days to go they’ve already raised around $45,000 of their $30,138 goal. They offer several options, starting with one LeGrow Power Pot with an early bird price of $34 all the way up to a limited edition package with 36 standard pots, four dual-LED lamps, one humidifier, and two Power Pots for $392. You can find out more here . + Winmart Design Images courtesy of Winmart Design

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Build your own indoor garden with modular LEGO-like blocks

Apple announces plans to make all products from recycled materials

April 20, 2017 by  
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Apple just announced plans to close the loop and make all of its products from recycled materials. We tend not to realize how damaging our electronics are for the environment – from mining materials to the toxic effects when we dump them . Apple starting tackling these problems last year with its  recycling robot , and now the electronics giant wants to only use recycled materials in its devices. Apple recently released its latest environmental report, and in it, the company claims that it is working towards using recycled materials to create its next generation of products. This will happen, in part, by reclaiming and re-using old Apple devices. Obviously they aren’t there yet, but Apple has never been shy when setting goals. Related: Apple just unveiled a blazing fast iPhone recycling robot Apple has been steadily shifting towards renewable resources. Its data centers all run on renewable energy , and it has partnered with or built its own solar and wind farms to generate the energy it needs. The company has also been recycling old devices, which saved Apple over $40 million in gold re-use alone. Via Engadget

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Huge "light cannons" funnel daylight deep within this ultra green eco city in China

April 20, 2017 by  
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Giant “light cannons” funnel natural light deep within this new high-tech “eco city” in China. NBBJ designed the Nanjing Eco-Tech Island Exhibition Center as an incubator for innovative technology and environmental companies. To strengthen the project’s sustainability, the design team included green roofs , water retention systems, natural ventilation , responsive facades and geothermal conditioning. The Nanjing Eco-Tech Park includes an exhibition hall, research offices and residential buildings. The Exhibition Center welcomes visitors a they approach the island from downtown Nanjing. The peaks on the building’s roof each have an oculus that funnels natural light inside the structure. The complex consists of eight, pentagon-shaped office buildings with large interior courtyards. Related: Amazon’s biosphere domes are slowly taking shape in Seattle The architects conducted light studies to come up with optimal daylighting and shading strategies for different times of the day and year. Light gets diffused by the cone geometry of the light cannons, while the overhangs function as passive solar shading devices. Related: Diébédo Francis Kéré unveils 2017 Serpentine Pavilion with rain-gathering roof The Exhibition Center is the first structure to be built on the island, and it has received the MIPIM Asia Best Chinese Futura Project Bronze Award. + NBBJ Via World Architecture News Lead photo by Paul Dingman

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Huge "light cannons" funnel daylight deep within this ultra green eco city in China

Net-zero Acacia Avenue House saves up to 90% of heating and cooling costs

March 2, 2017 by  
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This energy-efficient home in Oakland Hills features a patented steel construction technology inspired by the aerospace industry. The house, designed by BONE Structure , features state-of-the-art sustainable technologies and materials which make it not only highly ecological, but also built to last. The house has a soy-based polyurethane thermal envelope that provides optimal insulation. This technology patented by BONE Structure allows homeowners to save up to 90% of their heating and cooling energy costs . All BONE Structure homes are open-concept living spaces without load-bearing walls and have large windows that let in ample amounts of natural light . Related: Low-impact Cape Cod house is designed to provide all its energy on-site The house that is currently for sale features bay and canyon views, floor-to-ceiling windows and a bright open interior. It boasts five bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, a living room, home office, gourmet kitchen and a two car garage with interior access. + BONE Structure

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Net-zero Acacia Avenue House saves up to 90% of heating and cooling costs

See how the "Kiss-Kiss House" snaps in half like a branch to embrace the landscape

March 2, 2017 by  
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Homes built to embrace the landscape, rather than working against it, always seem to have a good story to tell. The Kiss-Kiss House, a prefabricated home that gets its name from its linear shape broken into two bars kissing at an angle to frame the existing bedrock, is no exception. Designed by Minneapolis-based Lazor Office , the cedar-clad home is perched above bedrock on the shore of the remote Rainy Lake in Ontario. Inspired by driftwood, the Kiss-Kiss House is clad in unpainted cedar panels that also help blend the home into its forested surroundings. The home’s main structure, made up of two modules set at an angle, is set atop bedrock and is thus raised with elevated pathways that also preserve and frame the rock. Views of the water were prioritized and embraced through floor-to-ceiling , full-length glass on the lakeside facades of the two modules. The home’s elevated position and uninterrupted views create the sensation of floating over water when in the home. Related: Apple design director perfects a prefab home into an ultra-minimal, modern dwelling “At the kiss line between two prefabricated modules, the lineal form of the house snaps like a branch held together only by bark,” writes Lazor Office. “The open break forms a V-shaped outdoor room facing the water.” The larger of the two modules contains the master suite, kitchen, and lounge, while the other module houses the playroom, mudroom, and two bedrooms. The private areas are located at the ends of the modules, whereas the communal areas are closely linked together by the breezeway . Elevated walkways connect the modular home to a walled vegetable garden, dock house, and garage. + Lazor Office Images via Lazor Office

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See how the "Kiss-Kiss House" snaps in half like a branch to embrace the landscape

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