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

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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A new eco-minded neighborhood in Utah ski resort emphasizes land stewardship

August 6, 2019 by  
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On a Utah ski mountain, a new neighborhood is bucking the trend of gaudy, environmentally insensitive construction that has long dominated Mountain West resorts. For their first completed project in the United States, Canadian architecture firm MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple recently finished phase one of Horizon, the first pre-designed neighborhood on Powder Mountain, Utah. With eight cabins now complete, the village—which will consist of 30 cabins—has been designed to follow passive solar principles and to allow the majority of Powder Mountain to remain undeveloped as part of the project’s commitment to climate responsiveness and land stewardship. The Horizon village was created to serve as the “home base” for Summit Series , a startup for a conferences comparable to TED. Six years ago, the startup purchased Powder Mountain, the largest ski mountain in the U.S., for the purpose of making the site “an epicenter of innovation, culture, and thought leadership.” To translate the startup’s values of community, environmental responsibility, and social good into architecture, Summit Series tapped MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple to design a village with reduced site impact and an appearance that evokes the traditional mountain vernacular. Located at 9,000 feet elevation, Horizon will consist of 30 cabins of four different typologies ranging in size from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet, a series of strategically placed garages, and a communal lodge called the “Pioneer Cabin.” Every building will be elevated on steel stilts and oriented for optimal passive solar conditions. Moreover, thermal mass concrete flooring with hydronic in-floor heating will help keep energy costs down. Inspired by the region’s cedar-clad barns, the cabins will be wrapped in vertical shiplap cedar and topped with cedar-shingled roofs. Related: Affordable wooden cabin is precariously perched over a cliff in Nova Scotia “The theme and variation strategy, in combination with the dramatic topography, results in a neighborhood that has a powerful sense of both unity and variety,” says the project press release. “The dense neighborhood will allow the majority of Powder Mountain’s 11,500 acres to remain undeveloped, and conserved for future generations.” + MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Images by Doublespace Photography

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A new eco-minded neighborhood in Utah ski resort emphasizes land stewardship

Kiverdi CEO Lisa Dyson seeks to extract value from CO2

November 28, 2018 by  
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With inspiration from NASA, her startup is brewing up solutions to recycle CO2 into an array of useful products.

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Kiverdi CEO Lisa Dyson seeks to extract value from CO2

The hidden vulnerability in our transportation infrastructure

November 28, 2018 by  
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The latest government report on climate change gives new insight into the state of our transit system.

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What role do incubators play in the clean economy?

September 19, 2018 by  
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“Humanizing the startup process” can be one step toward a circular economy.

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What role do incubators play in the clean economy?

What sub-Saharan Africa shows us about serving communities that are ‘under the grid’

September 19, 2018 by  
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Entrepreneurs are increasingly investing in clean minigrids to cover unreliable utility services.

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What sub-Saharan Africa shows us about serving communities that are ‘under the grid’

Measuring progress to SDGs with a chemicals management survey

September 19, 2018 by  
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We worry about our carbon footprints. What about our chemical footprints?

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Bill Gates-backed startup will give you real-time video of nearly anywhere on Earth

April 27, 2018 by  
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Start-up EarthNow is aiming to bring us real-time video taken from space  of any point on our planet. Backed by such high-profile supporters as Bill Gates and Airbus, EarthNow promises to boldly go where no one has gone before through a proposed “constellation” of satellites that will offer clients their pick of locations and angles from which to capture real-time video of Earth. EarthNow promises the delivery of video with only a one-second delay, without the need to wait for any satellite to be in range due to a comprehensive network that covers the entire planet at any given time. According to EarthNow, the system will one day let us “instantly create “living” 3D models of a town or city, even in remote locations,” observe conflict zones and react in real time, and catch forest fires the minute they start. In its very early stage at the moment, EarthNow intends to initially focus on “high-value enterprise and government customers,” offering services such as weather monitoring, tracking illegal fishing or poaching, or surveillance of conflict zones. Although there is no defined timeline for creating a prototype and testing the system, EarthNow is nonetheless making moves to bring its vision into reality. Thanks to its collaboration with  OneWeb founder Greg Wyler, EarthNow will be able to build its system using a significantly improved version of OneWeb’s satellite network. “Each satellite is equipped with an unprecedented amount of onboard processing power, including more CPU cores than all other commercial satellites combined,” said EarthNow in a press release . Related: Airbus wants to harpoon a satellite and bring it back to Earth Though EarthNow is targeting larger clients to start, its objective is ultimately to share the Earth with all of its inhabitants.  “EarthNow is ambitious and unprecedented, but our objective is simple; we want to connect you visually with Earth in real-time,” said EarthNow CEO and founder Russell Hannigan in a statement . “We believe the ability to see and understand the Earth live and unfiltered will help all of us better appreciate and ultimately care for our one and only home.” Via Tech Crunch Images via Earth Now

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World’s fastest electric car charger offers 120-mile range in 8 minutes

April 27, 2018 by  
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Electric vehicle (EV) charging equipment is surging forward — maybe faster than the cars it’s supposed to fill up. ABB recently launched their Terra High Power (HP) charger , which provides a stunning 120 miles in eight minutes, but New Atlas pointed out many EVs can’t yet handle the 350 kilowatts at which this fast charger operates. The Terra HP DC charger can fill cars up at a rate nearly three times that of Tesla Superchargers . ABB said the charger is “the first 350 kW product on the market,” and that gas stations or highway rest stops are ideal for the fast charger. CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer said in a statement , “This high-power fast charger provides electric vehicles with up to seven times more range in the same charging time than previous models.” Related: Germany unveils plans for the world’s largest EV charging station Sounds impressive, but is ABB ahead of its time? New Atlas said there is nothing on the market able to handle 350 kW. Many vehicles are limited to 50 kW; preserving battery life is the reason. Charging batteries up super fast can be damaging to battery life. There are cars that can handle more; the 2018 Nissan Leaf is one such example, able to handle 100 kW. But enabling batteries to handle such rapid charging is just one more task on the list of things battery researchers need to tackle, New Atlas said, alongside thermal stability, energy density, and more. Of course, to compete with gasoline-fueled cars at long ranges better, EVs will need to be able to handle super fast charging. Filling up a fossil fuel car at the gas station usually takes just a few minutes right now. New Atlas said the Terra HP units will probably only get close to their charging capability when several cars are plugged in simultaneously — at least for now. + ABB ( 1 , 2 , 3 ) Via New Atlas Images via ABB ( 1 , 2 )

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