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

Iceland will unveil monument for the first glacier lost to climate change

July 24, 2019 by  
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Scientists and local Icelanders will unveil a monument next month that memorializes the first glacier out of the country’s 400 glaciers to be lost to climate change. The Okjokull glacier, nicknamed “Ok”, no longer qualifies as a glacier, given that it is melting at a faster rate than it can expand. When this happens, glaciers become known as “dead ice”. Scientists in Iceland and Texas’ Rice University believe that this will be the fate of all Icelandic glaciers by year 2200— unless the world takes drastic action to curb climate change . “By marking Ok’s passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth’s glaciers expire. These bodies of ice are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and frozen within them are histories of the atmosphere. They are also often important cultural forms that are full of significance,” said Cymene Howe, a professor at Rice University. Related:Earliest human air pollution detected in glaciers The unveiling celebration will be held on August 18 and attended by scientists, locals, media and Hiking Society members. Just 100 years ago, the glacier covered nearly six square miles and was over 150 feet thick. The plaque, located at a site where the glacier once covered, will read: “Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.” The plaque is in both Icelandic and English. The plaque also monumentalizes the current count of carbon parts per million in the atmosphere, which reaches a record breaking 415 parts per million in May. “An Icelandic colleague said: ‘Memorials are not for the dead; they are for the living,’” Howe said. “We want to underscore that it is up to us, the living, to respond to the rapid loss of glaciers and the ongoing impacts of climate change. For Ok glacier it is already too late.” The Guardian Image via RICE University

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Iceland will unveil monument for the first glacier lost to climate change

Topas ecolodge aims to be a model of sustainability

February 19, 2019 by  
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From conception, the goal of the Topas Ecolodge in Vietnam has been to encapsulate sustainable practices at every turn. They also carry a heavy burden of social responsibility by focusing on providing local jobs and sourcing materials from the surrounding areas whenever possible. Nestled into a mountainous region in North Vietnam, they aim to assist the five local hill-tribes that remain largely untouched by the modern world. The vast majority of the 100 employees live in surrounding villages or are housed on campus with the supplies to grow and cook their own food . Investing in their employees, Topas offers educational and occupational training, opportunities for advancement and full medical benefits. Related: Bolivia’s Ecolodge del Lago takes inspiration from traditional Lak’a Uta architecture As stewards of the land, Topas Ecolodge also incorporates practices that help the local community as well as the environment . For example, food scraps are sent to local farms for pig feed and aluminum cans are reused by women in a local village. Thinking locally, the food served at Topas is sourced from local farmers, alongside property-raised chickens and a vegetable and herb garden behind the restaurant. Providing adequate energy in a sustainable way has been a challenge for the remote resort. Originally attempting solar energy, they found that inconsistent supply was not accommodating their needs so they switched to hydroelectricity and request that guests conserve wherever possible. Overcoming the struggles of sustainability in a remote mountain resort, Topas has implemented some innovative processes. As a solution for glass recycling , they invested in a glass-crushing machine that breaks it into sand that they then recycle into concrete for construction and maintenance. With no reliable recycling options and an understanding of the problems associated with single use plastic , they have a near zero single-use plastic policy and work to educate staff and guests about the reasons behind it. Inasmuch, they’ve become a member of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World and help promote their “Planet or Plastic?” campaign. For water filtration, the property has a man-made wetland that treats wastewater from kitchen and bath facilities before releasing it into the rice fields. The Topas Ecolodge first opened in 2005 and offers 33 chalet-style stone bungalows built using local white granite from the Hoang Lien Mountains. They’ve since opened a second, more rustic accommodation named Topas Riverside Lodge, a short distance away. + Topas Ecolodge Images via Topas Ecolodge

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Topas ecolodge aims to be a model of sustainability

Higher CO2 levels may lead to decreased nutrients in rice

May 24, 2018 by  
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According to new research from an international team of scientists, the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may cause a decrease in the nutritional value of  rice . Published in the journal Science Advances , the study concludes that rice contains lower levels of four essential B vitamins when grown under atmospheric conditions similar to those expected by the end of the 21st century. This aligns with similar studies that found that higher levels of carbon dioxide can result in reduced amounts of protein, iron and zinc in rice. The scientists conducted the study using 18 common strains of rice grown in fields in China and Japan. For the first time, research reveals that vitamins B1, B2, B5 and B9, all of which are important to the body’s ability to turn food into energy, decrease in rice as carbon dioxide levels increased. “This is an underappreciated risk of burning of fossil fuels and deforestation,” study co-author and director of the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment Kristie Ebi said in a statement . The adverse effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide reflect the unanticipated consequences of climate change. “People say more CO2 is plant food, and it is. But how plants respond to that sudden increase in food will impact human health as well, from nutritional deficits, to ethno-pharmacology, to seasonal pollen allergies — in ways that we don’t yet understand,” study co-author Lewis Ziska said. Related: Chinese scientists created a type of rice that can grow in saltwater The conclusion that rice will become less nutritional as climate change continues carries significant consequences for more than two billion people who depend on the grain as their primary food source. “Rice has been a dietary staple for thousands of years for many populations in Asia and is the fastest growing food staple in Africa,” Ebi said. “Reductions in the nutritional quality of rice could affect maternal and child health for millions of people.” Via University of Washington School of Public Health Images via University of Washington School of Public Health and  Depositphotos

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Higher CO2 levels may lead to decreased nutrients in rice

Flint representative’s staff barred from attending EPA chemical summit

May 24, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been trying to keep certain people out of a toxic chemical summit, according to reports. Some journalists were barred from entry on Tuesday, and representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan), who represents Flint , said on Twitter  that his staff wasn’t allowed to attend the EPA’s summit on Wednesday. Kildee said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s “lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling.” My staff was not allowed to attend today's @EPA #PFAS summit, and I represent communities affected by drinking water contamination. @EPAScottPruitt 's lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling. https://t.co/TK6ojDQ77o — Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) May 23, 2018 Several sites in Kildee’s district are contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Kildee’s district, according to Earther — and those substances were the focus of the National Leadership Summit on PFAS. So, it seems like it would have made sense for Kildee’s staff to attend an event on the chemicals. Pruitt said in an op-ed piece published by the Detroit Free Press that, at the summit, representatives “from more than 35 states — including Michigan — more than 20 federal partners, several tribes, dozens of industry, non-governmental groups and other national organizations will share valuable recommendations for how EPA should deal with PFAS in communities and communicate the risks associated with PFAS.” Related: The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations Tuesday’s attendee list included Kildee’s staff, and they were told Wednesday sessions were “limited to federal agency folks and states.” A spokesperson for Kildee said that was accurate but the “larger issue, in the Congressman’s opinion, is the EPA limiting or denying access to the taxpayer-funded PFAS summit, either to Members of Congress, the media, or the general public.” Pruitt said Michigan is to spend $1.7 million on testing water supplies — “including in 1,380 public water systems and 461 schools” — after finding PFAS in drinking water and lakes. Michigan stopped providing bottled water to Flint residents in April and said the water is safe. Many Flint residents don’t buy that; local LeeAnne Walters, a 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner , and other residents launched an ongoing Chuffed campaign to get water to the housebound, elderly, and disabled. + White House Via ThinkProgress and Earther Images via Depositphotos (1)

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One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs

February 16, 2018 by  
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The village of San Gregorio Atlapulco is one of the only remaining communities that farms in the Aztec agricultural tradition. Located in Mexico City ’s Xochimilco municipality, San Gregorio Atlapulco is home to vast fields known as  chinampas , small islands which are connected by canals used for irrigation and transportation. Farmers cruise on boats through canals between fields to plant, cultivate, and harvest. Tenochtitlan, the Aztec island capital located in the middle of the Lake of Texcoco, was once fed by an integrated, complex system of chinampas. Though the Lake of Texcoco was drained and Tenochtitlan became Mexico City, echoes of Mexico ‘s agricultural past still exist, though they remain under threat. The region’s altitude, consistent sunlight, and abundant water makes for an ideal all-year growing environment. “We basically keep the fields producing all year. How [much we] harvest depends on what crops we put in,” José Alfredo Camacho, a farmer from San Gregorio, told CityLab . “Spinach will take a month and half, radishes one month. It depends on the crop rotation we decide on.” Chinampas are created with help from the huejote tree . “The huejote is the only tree which can resist this much moisture,” Gustavo Camacho told CityLab . “The roots keep the banks of the canals firm. To make a chinampa you first have to make an enclosure of branches and plant willow trees in the water. Then you fill the enclosure with mud and water lilies.” Related: Tired of red tape, indigenous leaders are creating their own climate fund While chinampas are fertile and bountiful, they are not especially profitable. “Nobody makes chinampas anymore,” said Camacho. As the ground beneath Mexico City has warped under the exploitation of underlying aquifers , low-laying chinampas have flooded while highland chinampas have dried out. Though the situation is not hopeless, change would require compromise. “We could solve the subsistence problem ourselves without asking anything of the government by making a system of cascading dikes like the rice paddies of China , but that would require a communal effort which is difficult to organize,” said Camacho. “Such a system of would cut some people off from their fields, which is why they disagree. But if things continue like this the chinampa economy will have disappeared completely in 20 years.” Via CityLab Images via  Serge Saint/Flickr (1) (2)

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One of the last remaining communities still farming like the Aztecs

Chinese scientists created a type of rice that can grow in saltwater

October 25, 2017 by  
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For the first time, rice grown in diluted saltwater has yielded a crop sufficient enough to be commercially viable, according to a new study by Chinese scientists . The research team led by agricultural scientist Yuan Longping, also known as China’s “father of hybrid rice,” planted 200 types of rice in spring in the coastal city of Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong Province and then subsequently tested their resilience to saline-alkali soil and diluted saltwater; four types of rice showed particular promise. If successful on a large scale, these salt-resistant rice varieties could turn previously non-arable space into productive agricultural land. In order to test the rice’s resilience in saline-alkali environments, the scientists pumped in saltwater from the Yellow Sea, on which Qingdao is located. The seawater was first diluted to achieve a salinity level of .3 percent, then gradually increased to .6 percent. Although researchers expected only an output of around 4.5 tons per hectare, “the test results greatly exceeded our expectations,” according to Liu Shiping, a professor of agriculture at Yangzhou University. The four mentioned rice varieties ultimately produced yields of 6.5 to 9.3 tons per hectare. While some wild varieties of rice are known to survive in salty environments, they typically only yield 1.125 to 2.25 tons per hectare. Related: 7 plants that could save the world Increased yield from salt-resilient varieties of rice could have significant economic benefits. “If a farmer tries to grow some types of saline-tolerant rice now, they most likely will get 1,500 kilograms per hectare. That is just not profitable and not even worth the effort,” said Yuan. “Farmers will have an incentive to grow the rice if we can double the yield.” The current 100 million hectares of saline-alkali soil in China, one-fifth of which could be cultivated with the right crop, also may experience significant change as farmers move onto previously unusable land. Salt-resilient rice would prove to be an asset for South and Southeast Asia as well, regions where millions of hectare are left unused due to high salinity. The team plans to refine its rice varieties and growing techniques, so that salt-resilient rice may soon become a supplemental extension of the region’s staple crop. Via Xinhua / South China Morning Post Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Chinese scientists created a type of rice that can grow in saltwater

This company wants to turn food waste into building materials heres how

October 20, 2017 by  
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What do peanuts, rice, bananas, potatoes, and mushrooms have in common? In addition to being delicious, they could be transformed into building materials. In a report entitled The Urban Bio-Loop , the Arup group proposes to use food waste (something developed nations have an abundance of) to develop low-cost and eco-friendly materials for use in construction. The authors of the report aim to demonstrate ‘that a different paradigm for materials in construction is possible.” Because first-world nations, such as the United States , waste up to 40 percent of all food , the goal is to turn the waste into a resource for the creation of “construction, engineering, and architecture products,” reports Archinect . This could be done by modifying the traditional waste management system. Discarded organic materials that could prove useful include peanut shells, which could be used to create low-cost partition boards that are resistant to fire and ice; rice , which could be turned into ash and mixed with cement to eliminate the need for fillers; bananas, a fruit whose leaves can make rugged textiles as a result of high-strength fibers; mushrooms, which can be used to grow buildings ; and potato peels, which can be cleaned, pressed and dried to produce a light, fire-resistant and water-repellent insulating material. The group argues that using food waste for building would contribute to a circular economy where organic waste is put to use, rather than tossed into landfills . Repurposing food waste would also reduce the amount of methane that is produced when fruit and vegetable scraps slowly decompose. The gas contributes to global warming , a phenomenon which results in warming temperatures, rising sea levels, and worsening natural disasters. Related: The free grocery store fighting food waste and hunger Arup’s goal is to ameliorate rising levels of waste and a shortage of raw material. Using the low-cost, low-carbon materials would go a long way towards this goal. + “ The Urban Bio-Loop” Via Archinect Images via Wikipedia , Arup Group

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This company wants to turn food waste into building materials heres how

Flour power DIY: use a coffee grinder to make gluten-free flours at home

March 26, 2015 by  
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As I’m writing this, I’m stuffing a delicious piece of toast into my face and crunching on it rather happily. That might not seem like a big deal for most people, but for those of us who have to adhere to a gluten-free (GF) diet, a gorgeous piece of toast is worthy of a fair amount of celebration. Although more GF products are appearing on shelves, there’s something to be said for being able to bake one’s own items from scratch as well, but many GF flours are still insanely expensive. Luckily for us, milling our own flours isn’t just cost effective, it’s crazy easy too. Read the rest of Flour power DIY: use a coffee grinder to make gluten-free flours at home Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: amaranth , amaranth flour , baking , buckwheat flour , DIY , gluten free , gluten-free baking , gluten-free flour , oat flour , oats , quinoa , quinoa flour , rice , rice flour , sorghum

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Flour power DIY: use a coffee grinder to make gluten-free flours at home

9 Exceptionally delicious (and easy) vegan meals you can make on a budget

March 1, 2015 by  
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Read the rest of 9 Exceptionally delicious (and easy) vegan meals you can make on a budget Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: bean fritters , beans , budget meals , burrito , cheap vegan meal ideas , congee , healthy budget meals , healthy budget recipes , healthy meal ideas , lentils , Moroccan stew , mujadara , mujadarah , Onigiri , pancakes , pasta , pesto , ramen , rice , soup , tofu , vegan , vegan budget recipes , vegan cooking , vegan food , vegan recipes , vegetable stew , vegetarian

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