There’s room for progress on tackling sustainability through the supply chain

February 20, 2018 by  
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Many consumer-facing companies with recognizable brands are taking action, but companies lower down in the supply chain are not, a new Stanford University study finds.

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There’s room for progress on tackling sustainability through the supply chain

Report Report: Planting trees, circularity, risk and responsible exits

February 20, 2018 by  
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The latest crop of research and insights for sustainable business professionals.

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Report Report: Planting trees, circularity, risk and responsible exits

Stanford’s new accelerator on a chip could revolutionize medical care

October 31, 2017 by  
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Researchers at Stanford University are developing a linear accelerator that is the size of a chip — instead of two miles long — and it could herald a medical breakthrough. Linear accelerators are commonly used for external beam radiation treatments for patients with cancer . However, only a handful have been constructed as they are very expensive to build, maintain and operate. Stanford’s accelerator on a chip could provide every hospital with access to this life-saving technology. Standford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory houses a linear accelerator that measures 3.2 kilometers in length. Because it emits radiation , it’s buried 25 feet under the hills of northern California. Dubbed LINAC, it relies on klystrons to generate high-energy electron beams. At one end of the line, electrons are generated. They are then accelerated to 99.99999 percent of the speed of light and zip down the 2-mile long instrument. The setup is expensive, however – which is why scientists in the same lab are working to create an accelerator small enough to fit in a large shoebox. After receiving a $13.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in 2015, the “accelerator on a chip” (ACHIP) project was born. When the project launched in 2013, SLAC physicist Joel England said: “Making them much smaller and cheaper would democratize accelerators , potentially making them available to millions of people. We can’t even imagine the creative applications they would find for this technology .” The minuscule device would work similarly to the LINAC. However instead of shooting electrons down a copper vacuum tube, they would be pushed along with microwaves. Engadget reports, “The AoaC will shove electrons through a precisely-engineered silica chip, smaller than a grain of rice, and excite them with laser beams.” Related: Japanese ‘mutant’ chickens are laying eggs with cancer-fighting drugs By adjusting the width of the ridges in the channel, with respect to the wavelength of the laser, the chip’s acceleration gradient could be tuned to a whopping 700 megavolts per meter (MeV/m). That’s ten times what the LINAC can generate. The inexpensive device could replace multimillion-dollar radiotherapy machines in hospitals – and it could be paired with a simple fiber laser power source to “burn out” tumors faster than traditional radiation therapy — and without the need for anesthesia. Said Joel England, SLAC’s lead researcher for this program, “Once you get into a million electron volts or more then you’re sort of in the regime of where you can have practical applications; where something like a medical accelerator is more viable. So typically for cancer treatment, you’re using particles with between one and 20 million electron volts of energy.” He explained in 2013, “We still have a number of challenges before this technology becomes practical for real-world use, but eventually it would substantially reduce the size and cost of future high-energy particle colliders for exploring the world of fundamental particles and forces.” + SLAC Via Engadget Images via Stanford University

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Stanford’s new accelerator on a chip could revolutionize medical care

High House lets you enjoy the outdoors even in the middle of winter in Quebec

October 31, 2017 by  
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As if built out of snow, this discrete house on stilts blends perfectly into the white winter landscape of Quebec, Canada . Parisian architecture studio Delordinaire raised the house above the ground to capture expansive views of Mont Saint Anne, soak up as much natural light as possible and form a heated outdoor space beneath the volume, all while blending in with the wintry landscape. The building, named High House, has painted white concrete panel cladding and corrugated steel roof panels in order to blend into the landscape during winter, and stand out against green hills in summer. A warming stove allows the underside to function as an outdoor space that can be used throughout the year. Related: This cozy cottage sits on stilts made out of recycled gas pipes This unusual space is where residents can be in direct contact with nature and the snowy exterior while still enjoying a level of protection from the elements. The volume above provides uninterrupted views of the Mont Saint Anne from the lounge room. Large windows allow natural light to directly enter the house at all hours of the day. + Delordinaire Via Fubiz

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High House lets you enjoy the outdoors even in the middle of winter in Quebec

Stanford sodium-based battery could be more cost-effective than lithium

October 18, 2017 by  
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The quest for the best battery is of vital importance as the world transitions to renewable energy . Now a Stanford University -led team has designed what they think might offer a cheaper alternative to lithium – a sodium -based battery. While it’s not the world’s first sodium ion battery, the Stanford design costs 80 percent less than a lithium-ion battery , and it is capable of storing the same amount of energy . Lithium-ion batteries may currently reign supreme, but according to Stanford, sodium-ion batteries could compete in terms of cost-per-storage. They said lithium costs around $15,000 per ton to mine and refine, while the “widely available sodium-based electrode material” they utilized in their new battery costs a fraction of that at $150 per ton. It’s a significant difference as materials comprise around one quarter of the price of a battery. Related: Researchers successfully made a battery out of trash Stanford chemical engineer Zhenan Bao said in a statement, “Nothing may ever surpass lithium ion in performance. But lithium is so rare and costly that we need to develop high-performance but low-cost batteries based on abundant elements like sodium.” The sodium-based electrode is made up of a positively charged ion, sodium, and a negatively charged ion, myo-inositol. You may not be familiar with myo-inositol, but Stanford says it’s in baby formula, and derives from rice bran “or from a liquid byproduct of the process used to mill corn.” Like sodium, it too is naturally abundant. While the researchers think they have shown sodium-based batteries can be cost effective compared to lithium ion batteries, they aim to keep working on the design . They’ve optimized the charging cycle and cathode, according to Stanford, but engineer Yi Cui says optimizing the phosphorous anode could improve the battery. The journal Nature Energy recently published the study online . Stanford University engineers collaborated on the project with a researcher from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory . Via Stanford University and New Atlas Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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Stanford sodium-based battery could be more cost-effective than lithium

Stanford study says fossil-fueled cars will vanish in 8 years as big oil collapses

May 17, 2017 by  
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A new study published by Stanford University suggests that fossil-fueled cars will vanish within eight years – and citizens will have no choice but to invest in electric vehicles or similar technologies. This is because the cost of electric vehicles – including cars, buses, and trucks – will ultimately decrease, resulting in the collapse of the petroleum industry. Led by Stanford University economist Tony Seba, the report has caused spasms of anxiety within the oil industry . Entitled “Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030,” it details how people will ultimately switch to self-driving electric vehicles, as they are ten times cheaper to maintain than cars that run on fossil fuels and have a near-zero marginal cost of fuel. Additionally, EVs have an expected lifespan of 1 million miles. In comparison, most fossil-based cars barely last 200,000 miles. Seba predicts that in less than a decade, it will become very difficult for consumers to find petrol stations, spares or mechanics knowledgeable enough to fix combustion engines. His ultimate premise is that modern-day car dealerships will disappear by 2024 as the long-term price of oil falls to $25 USD a barrel. Those who cling to their outdated cars will probably have to pay to dispose of them in the future, says Seba. In the author’s own words, there will be a “mass stranding of existing vehicles.” Related: Iceland’s “Thor” volcano power plant can generate 10X more energy than oil or gas wells The Sanford researcher is also confident that within the next decade, humans will predominantly rely on self-driving vehicles as they are significantly less dangerous. “We are on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history,” said Seba. “Internal combustion engine vehicles will enter a vicious cycle of increasing costs. What the cost curve says is that by 2025 all new vehicles will be electric , all new buses, all new cars, all new tractors, all new vans, anything that moves on wheels will be electric, globally.” The Professor estimates that the “tipping point” will occur in the next two to three years when EV batteries surpass 200 miles and electric car prices plummet to $30,000 USD. By 2022, the low-end models will be sold for as low as $20,000. Following that, it will be the death of big oil . + Stanford Via Financial Post Images via Pixabay

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Stanford study says fossil-fueled cars will vanish in 8 years as big oil collapses

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

Uranium from seawater could provide an "endless" supply of nuclear energy

February 21, 2017 by  
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No discussion of a post-carbon future can be complete without raising the specter of nuclear power. Although it’s a contentious subject, any concerns about large-scale adoption have been largely rendered moot by the fact that the world’s uranium deposits are finite—and dwindling. Stanford researchers are convinced, however, that the solution may lie in seawater, which contains trace amounts of the radioactive metal. “Concentrations are tiny, on the order of a single grain of salt dissolved in a liter of water,” said Yi Cui, a materials scientist who co-authored a paper on the subject in the journal Nature Energy . “But the oceans are so vast that if we can extract these trace amounts cost effectively, the supply would be endless.” Wind and solar power are gaining traction, but some experts say that they’re still too intermittent to be truly reliable in the long term. “We need nuclear power as a bridge toward a post-fossil-fuel future,” said Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former U.S. secretary of energy who championed seawater extraction research before he left the Department of Energy for Stanford. A co-author of the paper, he noted that nuclear power currently accounts for 20 percent of U.S. electricity and 13 percent worldwide. A practical way of extracting uranium from seawater, he added, could go a long way to bolstering the energy security of countries that rely on nuclear power but lack uranium reserves of their own. “Seawater extraction gives countries that don’t have land-based uranium the security that comes from knowing they’ll have the raw material to meet their energy needs,” he said. Related: Uranium extracted from the oceans could power cities for thousands of years Although many have attempted to harness the oceans’ uranium before, previous efforts have failed to yield sufficient quantities in a fiscally meaningful way. Till now, anyway. Uranium doesn’t bob freely on the waves, of course. In seawater, the element combines chemically with oxygen to form positively charged ions called uranyl. Building on years of prior research, the Stanford team refined a technique that involves dipping plastic fibers containing a uranyl-attracting compound called amidoxime in seawater. When the strands become saturated with the ions, the plastic is chemically treated to free the uranyl, which can be refined for use in reactors – much like you would do with ore. By tinkering with different variables, the researchers were able to create a fiber that captured nine times as much uranyl as previous attempts without becoming saturated. Sending electrical pulses down the fiber collected even more uranyl ions. “We have a lot of work to do still but these are big steps toward practicality,” Cui said. + Stanford University Via Engadget Top photo by apasciuto

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Uranium from seawater could provide an "endless" supply of nuclear energy

Stanford scientist develop a blood-separating centrifuge out of paper

January 12, 2017 by  
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If you were a kid before the age of smartphones, you probably played with a whirligig at least once. The design for this simple toy, which will spin twine threaded through a button at rapid speeds with only a gentle pull, inspired Stanford University researchers to create a cheap and effective medical tool for countries in need. The “paperfuge” is, quite literally, a centrifuge made out of paper . The human-powered device can separate blood in just 90 seconds and costs only $.20 to make. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPePaKnYh2I There are still many parts of the world without access to the medical technology necessary to properly diagnose and treat disease. Stanford bioengineers hope to change that by providing a cost effective centrifuge to affected regions so medical professionals can detect deadly diseases , such as malaria, HIV, African sleeping sickness and tuberculosis. With the paperfuge, there is no need for electricity, as it is powered by human touch. Related: Shining lasers on human blood could help detect tumors The engineers behind the design say the device can spin at speeds up to 125,000 rpm. The paperfuge can also exert centrifugal forces of 30,000 Gs and separate blood in just a minute and a half. “To the best of my knowledge, it’s the fastest spinning object driven by human power,” said Manu Prakash, a Stanford bioengineering assistant professor. Prakash’s lab is also responsible for creating a “ foldscope ” miscroscopy instrument that costs lest than one dollar to produce and a tiny chemistry kit inspired by children’s music boxes. + Stanford University Via Stanford University Images via Youtube (screenshot)

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Stanford scientist develop a blood-separating centrifuge out of paper

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