Sunday, June 3, 2007

3. Building materials/Tool construction

Soup's on. You'll be eating it, and your children will be eating it--and all species will be eating it--unless you find a novel recipe. Perhaps graphene--see below: 200x stronger than diamond and cheaper than most building materials

Drowning in Plastic
Every bit of plastic ever made is still with us—and it's wreaking havoc on the ocean.
Jun 14, 2007
By Kera Abraham

(L) Washed Up: An albatross gazes at a sea of trash on the Midway Atoll.
(C) Jarring: Captain Moore holds a sample of plastic-contaminated seawater from the North Pacific Gyre.
(R) Sick to the Stomach: The carcass of an albatross that died with a gut full of plastic trash rots of the beach. —Cynthia Vanderlip / Algalita Marine Research Foundation; (c) Matt Cramer / Algalita Marine Research Foundation

LIFE ON EARTH depends on little specks floating in the ocean. Tiny plankton convert sunlight to energy to form the base of the marine food chain, sustaining all seafaring creatures, from anchovies to whales and the land-based animals that eat them.

But increasingly, researchers are peering through their microscopes at the specks in seawater samples and finding miniscule bits of poisonous garbage instead of life-sustaining mini-critters.

It's plastic— broken by sunlight and water into itty bitty pieces, but still intact. And now scientists are discovering the implications of one troubling attribute of petroleum-based plastic, known since its invention, but ignored under the assumption that technology would eventually resolve it: Every plastic product that has ever been manufactured still exists.

Only 50 years since we began mass-producing it, our plastic waste has built up into a poisonous mountain we have never really learned how to deal with. It makes up 10 percent of California's garbage, is toxic to burn and hard to recycle.

Out in the Pacific Ocean a vortex of trash swirls and grows, forming a garbage dump twice the size of Texas. ...

rest of article

And a video:

Alphabet Soup - A Trip to the Eastern Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre
12 min 49 sec

A Canadian filmmaker travels to the north Pacific Ocean to discover a world of unknown plastic pollution.

For one solution to change material choices:

Eben Bayer: Are mushrooms the new plastic?
9:05 min

"Product designer Eben Bayer reveals his recipe for a new, fungus-based packaging material that protects fragile stuff like furniture, plasma screens -- and the environment. Eben Bayer is co-inventor of MycoBond, an organic (really -- it's based on mycelium, a living, growing organism) adhesive that turns agriwaste into a foam-like material for packaging and insulation."

For another alternative on the same theme, find out what more durable wastes are (unlike plastics that are very fragile and unstable materially) and ingenious solutions can be found for using the more stable wastes as future materials as a natural part of the product cycle to have many social uses. For instance, tires as having multiple uses socially instead of only one categorical use of transportation: note the particular way the recycled products structurally are in sync with building materials in many different stages of use and conservation of this material throughout this eco-modernization home:

Dennis Weaver's Earthship
27 min 5 sec

"Dennis Weaver, the US retired actor, here builds himself a mansion made almost entirely from....old tyres and dirt. This is eco-modernisation, proving once and for all that eco-friendly design and construction/building does not have to smell or look funny. In fact, it is cheaper, quicker, easier and safer to construct such an 'earthship' than any conventional construction technique! This is eco-rationality in action. Prepare to be amazed."

Several interesting examples:

1. The recycled tires bulge structurally when packed with 300 pounds of packed dirt apiece, and, as if they were really designed for this, they serendipitously lock themselves into place against each other in the tire wall in that way.

2. Use of aluminum cans as filler in other places conserves concrete, making a cheap building matrix just like identical bricks would when stacked. Moreover, the cans' open end

3. serves as an inexpensive support and attachment point for the final adobe layer on the outside--almost as if they were intended for that purpose.

4. The dirt-filled tires in the wall core additionally have a form of coolant when it absorbs more heat from a hot room; and only in the winter, the reverse happens: the lower sun will come through and hit the walls in that season, warm these walls, and serve as a heat storage through the colder nights.

5. Most building materials are entirely free in this house--thus making it possible for building homes for the very poor with these techniques that can have a very modern, clean finish to them when complete.

Or grow your own home. Takes a few years though permanently renewable and integrated into the environment. However, depends upon a water source for environmental conditions as well as stable climates I presume year-round?

Mitchell Joachim: Don't build your home, grow it!
2:57 min

"TED Fellow and urban designer Mitchell Joachim presents his vision for sustainable, organic architecture: eco-friendly abodes grown from plants and -- wait for it -- meat. Soft cars, jet packs and houses made of meat ['printed' with cells from inkjet printers--printed into the 3D shaped desired without harming or killing anything sentient like an animal; all this is]...all in a day's work for urban designer, architect and TED Fellow Mitchell Joachim."

Or more durably, use straw bales, with have some additional benefits of putting in forms of infrastructure quickly like electrical and plumbing. For instance:

Straw Bale Building Methods
5 min 29 sec

"Straw Bale Building is the ultimate in rustic, self-build and ecological building technology. Simple, cheap and effective, straw bale is super-efficient in retaining heat and super-stable thus doing away with the need to build complex supporting frames. The plastering that you can choose means you can make straw bale look rustic or modern depending on your preference!"

1. Doesn't burn either. Harder to burn than regular timber frame due to compaction "like a telephone book", says the video.

Straw Bale Construction DVD from
3 min 52 sec

The several steps are detailed here (less than four minute summary). A lot of the myths about this are addressed here: Straw Bale Building - Debunking the Myths Straw bale homes are three times the fire resistant of a common home, etc. and more. Water isolation and showers discussed here.

"Hempcrete": Hemp Waste Makes a Better Concrete
1:24 min

Hemp Waste + Lime = far stronger 'Hempcrete' than very pollutive industrial production of concrete: "How would like like a building material that is stronger than cement and SIX TIMES lighter?

Better yet, one of its main ingredients in the waste product of a plant that literally grows like a weed.

Here's the reality about [mineral based] cement [monopolies]:

1. The manufacture of traditional cement is incredibly energy intensive, so much so that many cement companies seek and receive legal variances to not only burn coal, but also medical waste and used automobile tires as fuel for their kilns.

2. After oil refineries and chemical plants, cement factories are the most polluting factories in the world, spewing tons of microparticles containing toxins like arsenic and mercury into the air."
The film relates that people in France can build up to 300 cheap houses a year for people using hemp wastes, because hemp is legal in the far freer country of France.

Here's use of hemp to make a private house, by what looks like volunteer labor:

Here's an Irish architectural firm that have published a book about their method, using the same method see above on a larger scale. They mention that the insulation properties of hempcrete is very good: they say "zero" additional energy required to heating such a house made of the hempcrete because of its high thermal mass (keeping heat in itself) and other insulating properties as well as the tiny air pockets in the material itself.

Or is graphene the next environmentally sound plastic?

We have so many options for sustainability, being held back by degradative politics preserving old raw material regimes in the commodity ecology categories that are unintegrated in each other. There's nothing to stop full sustainability except a handful of psychopaths in their previous infrastructural investments gatekeeping against it and with violence and repression of our sustainable options as well.

With more knowledge assembled about how possible complete sustainability is, it is more likely unavoidable. For instance: graphene:

The wonder stuff that could change the world: Graphene is so strong a sheet of it as thin as clingfilm could support an elephant

By David Derbyshire
Last updated at 7:39 AM on 7th October 2011

Revolutionary: Graphene, which is formed of honeycomb pattern of carbon atoms, could be the most important new material [transparent, electric, and strong building material as well] material for a century [it's a completely unique mixture of consumptive categories in this material: a thin, transparent, super-strong (harder than diamond) structural building material that has electrical conduction properties better than copper (copper is hardly a structural material), though graphene's lack of semiconductor principles may make it difficult for some fantasy computer operations that currently are based on mostly silicon's physical capacities of 'on/off' switching in the material itself (there are other options for this switching though than polluting silicon industries: see the category on communication materials for more options); thus with graphene always 'on' in other words, and very efficiently so, it makes it difficult to do any anticipated Boolean/operations in the material itself in base 2--the insight of all computers from Shannon onward.]

Revolutionary: Graphene, which is formed of honeycomb pattern of carbon atoms, could be the most important new material for a century

It is tougher than diamond, but stretches like rubber. It is virtually invisible, conducts electricity and heat better than any copper wire and weighs next to nothing. Meet graphene — an astonishing new material which could revolutionise almost every part of our lives.

Some researchers claim it’s the most important substance to be created since the first synthetic plastic more than 100 years ago.

If it lives up to its promise, it could lead to mobile phones that you roll up and put behind your ear, high definition televisions as thin as wallpaper, and bendy electronic newspapers that readers could fold away into a tiny square.

It could transform medicine, and replace silicon as the raw material used to make computer chips [perhaps everything except this however, see note above.]

The ‘miracle material’ was discovered in Britain just seven years ago, and the buzz around it is extraordinary.

Last year, it won two Manchester University scientists the Nobel Prize for physics, and this week Chancellor George Osborne pledged £50 million towards developing technologies based on the super-strong substance.

In terms of its economics, one of the most exciting parts of the graphene story is its cost. Normally when scientists develop a new wonder material, the price is eye-wateringly high.

But graphene is made by chemically processing graphite — the cheap material in the ‘lead’ of pencils.
Every few months researchers come up with new, cheaper ways of mass producing graphene, so that some experts believe it could eventually cost less than £4 per pound.

But is graphene really the wonder stuff of the 21st century?

For a material with so much promise, it has an incredibly simple chemical structure. A sheet of graphene is just a single layer of carbon atoms, locked together in a strongly-bonded honeycomb pattern.

Pledge: George Osborne, pictured visiting the University of Manchester lab where graphene is being researched, has said £50m will be set aside to help with development of technologies based on the substance

That makes it the thinnest material ever made. You would need to stack three million graphene sheets on top of each other to get a pile one milimetre high. It is also the strongest substance known to mankind — 200 times stronger than steel and several times tougher than diamond.

A sheet of graphene as thin as clingfilm could hold the weight of an elephant. In fact, according to one calculation, an elephant would need to balance precariously on the end of a pencil to break through that same sheet.

Despite its strength, it is extremely flexible and can be stretched by 20 per cent without any damage.

It is also a superb conductor of electricity — far better than copper, traditionally used for wiring — and is the best conductor of heat on the planet.

But perhaps the most remarkable feature of graphene is where it comes from. Graphene is made from graphite, a plentiful grey mineral mostly mined in Chile, India and Canada.

A pencil lead is made up of many millions of layers of graphene. These layers are held together only weakly — which is why they slide off each other when a pencil is moved across the page.

Graphene was first isolated by Professors Konstantin Novoselov and Andrew Geim at Manchester University in 2004. The pair used sticky tape to strip away thin flakes of graphite, then attached it to a silicon plate which allowed the researchers to identify the tiny layers through a microscope.

Discovery: Professors Andre Geim, left, and Dr Konstantin Novoselov first isolated graphene in 2004. They later won the Nobel Prize for Physics last year

Russian-born Prof Novoselov, 37, believes graphene could change everything from electronics to computers.

‘I don’t think it has been over-hyped,’ he said. ‘It has attracted a lot of attention because it is so simple — it is the thinnest possible matter — and yet it has so many unique properties.

‘There are hundreds of properties which are unique or superior to other materials. Because it is only one atom thick it is quite transparent — not many materials that can conduct electricity which are transparent.’

Its discovery has triggered a boom for material science. Last year, there were 3,000 research papers on its properties, and 400 patent applications.

The electronics industry is convinced graphene will lead to gadgets that make the iPhone and Kindle seem like toys from the age of steam trains.

Modern touch-sensitive screens use indium tin oxide — a substance that is transparent but which carries electrical currents. But indium tin oxide is expensive, and gadgets made from it shatter or crack easily when dropped. Replacing indium tin oxide with graphene-based compounds could allow for flexible, paper-thin computer and television screens. South Korean researchers have created a 25in flexible touch-screen using graphene.

Ancient history: If the development of graphene is successful it will make the iPad and Kindle seem like toys from the age of the steam train

Imagine reading your Daily Mail on a sheet of electric paper. Tapping a button on the corner could instantly update the contents or move to the next page. Once you’ve finished reading the paper, it could be folded up and used afresh tomorrow.

Other researchers are looking at many ways of using graphene in medicine. It is also being touted as an alternative to the carbon-fibre bodywork of boats and bikes [and car tires?] Graphene in tyres could make them stronger.

Some even claim it will replace the silicon in computer chips. In the future, a graphene credit card could store as much information as today’s computers.

‘We are talking of a number of unique properties combined in one material which probably hasn’t happened before,’ said Prof Novoselov. ‘You might want to compare it to plastic. But graphene is as versatile as all the plastics put together.

‘It’s a big claim, but it’s not bold. That’s exactly why there are so many researchers working on it.’

Dr Sue Mossman, curator of materials at the Science Museum in London, says graphene has parallels with Bakelite — the first man-made plastic, invented in 1907.

Resistant to heat and chemicals, and an excellent electrical insulator, Bakelite easily made electric plugs, radios, cameras and telephones.

‘Bakelite was the material of its time. Is this the material of our times?’ she says. ‘Historically we have been really good at invention in this country, but we’ve been really bad at capitalising on it.’

If graphene isn’t to go the same way as other great British inventions which were never properly exploited commercially at home — such as polythene and carbon fibre — it will need massive investment in research and development.

Core material: Graphene comes from a base material of graphite and is so thin that three millions sheets of the substance would be needed to make a layer 1mm thick

That’s why the Government’s move to support its development in the UK got a warm round of applause at the Conservative Party conference.

But compared to the investment in graphene in America and Asia, the £50 million promised by the Chancellor is negligible. South Korea is investing £195million into the technology. The European Commission is expected to invest one billion euros into graphene in the next ten years.

Yet despite the flurry of excitement, many researchers doubt graphene can live up to such high expectations.

It wouldn’t be the first wonder material that failed to deliver. In 1985 another form of carbon, called fullerenes or buckyballs, was hailed as the revolutionary new material of the era. Despite the hype, there has yet to be a major practical application.

And there are already some problems with using graphene. It is so good at conducting electricity that turning it into devices like transistors — which control the flow of electrical currents, so need to be able to stop electricity flowing through them — has so far proved problematic.

Earlier this year computer company IBM admitted that it was ‘difficult to imagine’ graphene replacing silicon in computer chips.

And sceptics point out that most new materials — such as carbon-fibre — take 20 years from invention before they can be used commercial use.

You might think from all the hype, that the road to a great graphene revolution has already been mapped out.

But its future is far from certain. In fact it’s barely been penciled out in rough.

Read more:


Mark said...


Instead of burning lime, it's a non-heat process...

[this is a direct quote]

Here is a another most unusual and eye-opening little tale to add to your ever expanding files that is currently unfolding around yet another one of those most serendipitous laboratory finds.

This one seems to indicate that whoever built the pyramids actually employed a little nano-technology along the way, though oddly enough, through far less mysterious, sophisticated, or outrageously expensive methods than we've normally come to associate with it.

There is, as it has turned out, something of a variety in the limestone blocks in the Great Pyramid as well as some of the others that has gone completely unrecognized, as has the lost ancient technique used to actually "manufacture" some of them essentially from scratch, so to speak...that is, up until now.

This is becoming very much "big news" in materials engineering circles which don't actually give a tinker's damn about any of the archaeological implications, unless of course, there's something decidedly new that can be applied from it and there most assuredly is in this particular case.

The molecular analysis of some of the blocks has actually rendered a workable formula that can effectively replace Portland Cement, (which only lasts 200 years before turning into dust), with a dirt cheap 4,500 year old formula that has not only lasted those 4,500 years, it comes from completely natural sources that are quite abundant and readily available virtually all around the world!

That Portland Cement industry, incidentally, currently accounts for well over 8% of all the CO2 emissions on the planet not to mention being the most expensive ingredient involved in the making of modern concrete so there's going to be far more of a hubbub over this before any of either the new or old dust surrounding this discovery settles.

All that CO2 comes from the tremendous heat that is needed to currently burn limestone and of course uses a similarly staggering amount of the world's limited energy supplies to do it.

That, of course is a far more significant issue these days than any of those huge heaps of stone or whatever they are on the plain of Giza and why it's very much worth keeping an eye on this one to see what develops.


ericswan said...

I agree with the kaolin portion to make concrete but the pozzalin portion could just as well be zeolite. The fact is we currently use fly ash from coal fired generators. We have to hope and pray that we won't need coal fired generators in the future and that zeolite will be recognized for the superior quality for a light weight concrete in the future. The Roman Aquaducts now some 2,000 years old used zeolite and the examination of the pyramid blocks using microscopes to identify the kaolin structure can be used to identify the use of zeolite for thousands of years.

Compare the pix here.

Mark said...

Cryogenic Treatment of Metals, More Durable Somehow for Motor Efficiency, More Durable, Harder, Longer Wearing, etc.

Freezing gas prices

May 25, 2005, 10:11 AM

David Hutchinson with his cryogenically enhanced hybrid Honda. (Photo: KFOR-TV-DT)


Americans guzzle 65 billion gallons of fuel a year and lately we have been paying a pretty penny at the pump. NewsChannel 4 has done reports in the past on how to get the most out of your gas. Now we introduce you to a new way to save on those gasoline dollars.

There is a man who fills up his tank once every two months. One tank of gas, literally, lasts him two months. He is freezing the price of gas by freezing something else.

People complain about the price of gas and we are all spending dearly to stay on the road these days. The money we spend on gas seems to burn up faster than the fuel.

While there may be little rhyme or reason to why the prices are on a perpetual roller-coaster, there is one man who has found a way to freeze them in their tracks, literally.

David Hutchison is a Cryogenics expert. He built this Cryo-Process himself. He runs a business out of his garage where he cryogenically tempers all kinds of metals. He submerges them in a frozen tank of nitrogen vapor that is 300 degrees below zero.

David says, “During that time, at minus 300 degrees, the molecules slow down. Then they reorganize themselves. That's when the actual chemical change happens.”

Hutchison cryogenically tempers machine parts, tools, golf clubs and even razors. He says it makes them last three to five times longer.

A few years ago he began an experiment on his hybrid Honda, freezing the engine components. The results were a fuel-efficiency dream.

David Hutchison says, “You should expect a “Cryo'd” engine to last anywhere from 600,000 to 1 million miles without wearing out.”

A hybrid Honda typically gets really great gas mileage anyway, around 50 miles to the gallon, but David Hutchison's cryogenically tempered engine has been known to get close to 120 miles a gallon.

“It's just a very efficient vehicle.” Hutchison says,

Racers have picked up on David's trick of cryogenically freezing car parts. It is now widely accepted among NASCAR and Indy-car racers.

Hutchison has no plans of taking his Honda to the track. His prize is in his pocketbook.

David says, “I thought about selling it, but gas prices keep going up. So, I thought, I'm not going to sell it.”

Hutchison tells us cryogenically tempering car parts has more benefits than just fuel efficiency. He freezes all of the brake rotors at a car dealership near his home in Missouri. It makes them last three to five times longer.

Related Website
David Hutchison's Website

Mark said...

Conspiracies, CoverUps, Truths,
Facts, Oddities, Research

Facts and Factoids

The Ford Car Made of Hemp

excerpt from:
Grown to drive ~ Metal, plastic, glass... and plants?
What kind of cars are they building?
by Curt Guyette

What some might call the car of the future has already made its big debut. The unveiling came in Dearborn — more than 50 years ago. David Morris, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, described the event in a recent issue of his organization’s newsletter:

"On August 14, 1941, at the 15th Annual Dearborn Michigan Homecoming Day celebration, Henry Ford unveiled his biological car. Seventy percent of the body of the cream-colored automobile consisted of a mat of long and short fibers from field straw, cotton linters, hemp, flax, ramie and slash pine. The other 30 percent consisted of a filler of soymeal and a liquid bioresin.

"The timing gears, horn buttons, gearshift knobs, door handles and accelerator pedals were derived from soybeans. The tires were made from goldenrods bred by Ford’s close friend Thomas Edison. The gas tank contained a blend: about 85 percent gasoline and about 15 percent corn-derived ethanol."

To prove the vehicle’s superiority, Ford demonstrated the strength of the car body by smashing an ax against the trunk, only to have it bounce off. For some it remains a landmark event.

"That’s one of my favorite pictures," says Richard Wool, who is at the vanguard of an emerging industry that’s rediscovering what Ford thought to be a better way of making cars. Following in Ford’s track, Wool is developing adhesive bioresins from soy oil at the University of Delaware.

"To Henry Ford," wrote Morris, "the vegetable car was the perfect vehicle for driving the American farmer out of a 20-year economic depression. But after World War II, the maturation of the petrochemical industry and the export-driven revival of American agriculture seemed to relegate the idea of a biological car to the dustbins of history. Fifty years later, at the twilight of the 20th century, Ford’s dreams are again attracting attention. Working independently, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are finding more and more ways to incorporate vegetable-derived products into your standard car."

Popular Mechanics, December, 1941

Over in England it's saccharine for sugar; on the continent it's charcoal "gasogenes" in the rumble seat instead of gasoline in the tank. Here in America there's plenty of sugar, plenty of gasoline. Yet there's an industrial revolution in progress just the same, a revolution in materials that will affect every home. After twelve years of research, the Ford Motor Company has completed an experimental automobile with a plastic body. Although its design takes advantage of the properties of plastics, the streamline car does not differ greatly in appearance from its steel counterpart.

The only steel in the hand-made body is found in the tubular welded frame on which are mounted 14 plastic panels, 3/16 inch thick. Composed of a mixture of farm crops and synthetic chemicals, the plastic is reported to withstand a blow 10 times as great as steel without denting. Even the windows and windshield are of plastic. The total weight of the plastic car is about 2,000 pounds, compared with 3,000 pounds for a steel automobile of the same size. Although no hint has been given as to when plastic cars may go into production, the experimental model is pictured as a step toward materialization of Henry Ford's belief that some day he would "grow automobiles from the soil."

When Henry Ford recently unveiled his plastic car, result of 12 years of research, he gave the world a glimpse of the automobile of tomorrow, its tough panels molded under hydraulic pressure of 1,500 pounds per square inch from a recipe that calls for 70 percent of cellulose fibers from wheat straw, hemp and sisal plus 30 percent resin binder. The only steel in the car is its tubular welded frame. The plastic car weighs a ton, 1,000 pounds lighter than a comparable steel car. Manufacturers are already taking a low-priced plastic car to test the public's taste by 1943.

Mark said...

The Low, Dishonest Decade

by David P. West

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade...
--W.H. Auden "September 1, 1939"

The Marihuana Tax Act slithered largely unremarked through the slime of the "low dishonest decade" to then lay coiled and hidden awaiting devotees seeking the origins of marijuana prohibition to roll the rock off it. And when the beast was described it was given the head of Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) Commissioner Harry Anslinger, the body of the DuPont Chemical Company and rattles of Randolph Hearst.

The myth arrived as revealed truth and grew to orthodoxy.

The scripture tells how DuPont with its vested interest in synthetic fibers conspired to have the FBN undo the nascent hemp industry with the eager collusion of yellow journalist Hearst whose self-interest in the issue was rationalized by his position in pulpable timber.

Far from a threat to anyone, in 1930, there were only 1500 acres of hemp grown annually in Wisconsin.

Around 1933, the acreage began expanding although it remained under 7000 acres until the war emergency, a paltry area for an agricultural crop.

By 1935, new nuclei of hemp processing could be found in Minnesota and Illinois in addition to the stalwart industry in Wisconsin, still growing about 1500 acres. They kept on growing about that much in Wisconsin until 1957. But the industries in Minnesota and Illinois were gone by the war, due to the Marihuana Tax Act. The hemp they were growing was Kentucky Hemp; today we call it ditchweed. People don't smoke it. But the FBN in 1935 could obfuscate that fact, who knew?

The Marihuana Tax Act was supposedly a drug control measure.

One thing is clear: The brunt of the enforcement of the MTA was born by these new midwestern producers of hemp, while the industry in Wisconsin went on undisturbed.

The agency responsible went to great lengths to force the identification of hemp with marijuana to rationalize their intrusion.

Why go to the trouble to hassle Minnesota farmers when they knew the marijuana was actually coming in from Mexico?

If we're going to understand the MTA--a big IF--we must look within the zeitgeist of the age that hatched it: the complicated, formative, low, dishonest and totally paranoid decade of the thirties.

That was the introduction, read up here.

Anonymous said...

[It's currently possible to put a biodegradable key in plastics, though of course that requires recollection; what is required is a biodegradable key that can be done elsewhere that is non-toxic, perhaps activated by extreme salt water that would somehow break into useful organic things for the ocean?]

(L) Washed Up: An albatross gazes at a sea of trash on the Midway Atoll. (C) Jarring: Captain Moore holds a sample of plastic-contaminated seawater from the North Pacific Gyre. (R) Sick to the Stomach: The carcass of an albatross that died with a gut full of plastic trash rots of the beach. —Cynthia Vanderlip / Algalita Marine Research Foundation; (c) Matt Cramer / Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Drowning in Plastic
Every bit of plastic ever made is still with us—and it’s wreaking havoc on the ocean.

Jun 14, 2007
By Kera Abraham

LIFE ON EARTH depends on little specks floating in the ocean. Tiny plankton convert sunlight to energy to form the base of the marine food chain, sustaining all seafaring creatures, from anchovies to whales and the land-based animals that eat them.

But increasingly, researchers are peering through their microscopes at the specks in seawater samples and finding miniscule bits of poisonous garbage instead of life-sustaining mini-critters.

It’s plastic— broken by sunlight and water into itty bitty pieces, but still intact. And now scientists are discovering the implications of one troubling attribute of petroleum-based plastic, known since its invention, but ignored under the assumption that technology would eventually resolve it: Every plastic product that has ever been manufactured still exists.

Only 50 years since we began mass-producing it, our plastic waste has built up into a poisonous mountain we have never really learned how to deal with. It makes up 10 percent of California’s garbage, is toxic to burn and hard to recycle.

Out in the Pacific Ocean a vortex of trash swirls and grows, forming a garbage dump twice the size of Texas.

~ ~

Out in the Pacific Ocean a vortex of trash swirls and grows, forming a garbage dump twice the size of Texas.
~ ~

Sea turtles choke on plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish. Albatross parents ingest lighters and plastic shards along with squid and small fish, regurgitating them into their chicks’ open throats, eventually killing them.

Shrimp, jellyfish and small fish eat the particle-sized plastic debris that look a lot like plankton, and which, in some places, are three times more abundant than the real thing.

A 2004 report from the congressional Commission on Ocean Policy identifies synthetic marine debris as “a serious threat to wildlife, habitat, and human health and safety,” calling for a set of immediate measures to address the crisis. A growing number of decision-makers are finally paying attention, positioning California to lead the world in staunching the flow of plastic to sea.
~ ~ ~

CAPTAIN CHARLES MOORE stands in a business suit before an audience of about 50 California district attorneys attending an environmental law-enforcement conference at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, giving his pitch about just how abundant and dangerous marine debris has become. The mass of plastic already in the sea is so big that researchers with his nonprofit, Algalita Marine Research Foundation, have found it throughout the water column in every sample they’ve ever taken from the Pacific Ocean. Most of it is so small and so abundant that it would be nearly impossible to filter out.

Yet the state’s current response to the proliferating debris, Moore tells the prosecutors, wrongly puts the most emphasis on cleanup, followed by control and prevention. He argues that it would be much more effective for the state to flip priorities and dedicate a majority of resources to preventing plastics from reaching the ocean in the first place. The DAs, here to discuss environmental crime prosecution, listen attentively.

After his keynote, Moore changes into a Hawaiian shirt for our lunchtime interview. He seems more comfortable this way, like he’d rather be playing on the beach than giving presentations. The founder of the Long Beach Surfrider chapter briefly considers catching a few waves with Monterey chapter chair Ximena Wiassbluth before heading back to the airport, but there’s no swell. He tells me that just a few weeks ago, on his 60th birthday, he surfed 30 waves in 90 minutes. “It’s a way to stay in contact with Mother Ocean,” he says.

Moore stumbled into his career as an environmental pioneer 10 years ago. In the summer of 1997, while steering his catamaran home from a sailing competition in Hawaii, he ventured into the North Pacific Gyre, a 10-million-square-mile, slow-moving vortex that sailors usually avoid. What he saw there shocked and disgusted him: truck tires, disposable utensils, shopping bags, buoys, toys, a mountain of trash spread across hundreds of miles— the world’s largest garbage dump, circling unceremoniously in the open sea.

Upon his return to the mainland, Moore took up his cause through the Long Beach-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which he’d founded in 1994 to do restoration work on kelp forests and wetlands. The nonprofit has since become the West Coast’s go-to organization on the topic of synthetic marine debris. “The ocean is still beautiful,” he says. “We’re really taking on this issue because we’re mad as hell that the most common thing that we find in the ocean now is plastic.”

Algalita researchers have found that the amount of micro plastics in the Central North Pacific has tripled in the last decade. Their colleagues on the other side of the Pacific concluded that off the coast of Japan it has shot up by a factor of 10 every two to three years.

A recent study found that plastics now make up 90 percent of all floating marine debris.

Plastic is not biodegradable, but rather photodegradable. Sunlight makes plastic brittle and breaks it down, but leaves its molecular structure intact. The little plastic shards disperse throughout the ocean, with buoyant pieces floating and denser bits sinking to the sea floor, in so many shapes and textures that hundreds of marine species mistake it for food. It can travel thousands of miles across the sea and wash up on remote uninhabited islands, whose beaches are beginning to look more trash-strewn than LA’s worst. The rate of trash accumulation is greatest at the poles, with Antarctica’s shores becoming the industrial world’s junkyard.
~ ~ ~

THE MOST DRAMATIC accumulations of trash are found in “gyres” such as the one Moore sailed into— these sort of giant toilet bowls where atmospheric pressure weakens currents and winds, causing marine debris to idly swirl toward the gyre’s eye. Researchers know of six such gyres, including the one in the Pacific north of Hawaii that Moore is credited with discovering.

Researchers dubbed it the Eastern Garbage Patch, a neighbor to the Western Garbage Patch off the coast of Japan. In 1999, Algalita’s samples from the eastern patch contained six times more plastic than plankton by weight, roughly 400,000 particles per square mile— triple the amount counted in 1990.

The expanse of trash is estimated to be 540,000 square miles, but Moore says it’s growing so fast it’s nearly impossible to give it dimensions. When he sampled water 600 miles from the center of the gyre in November 2006— an area that had contained relatively low debris levels six years earlier— Moore was horrified to find nearly as much plastic as he’d found in the center of the gyre in 2000.

He now thinks the Eastern and Western Garbage Patches have merged into a mega-garbage patch stretching across the Pacific Rim, like sprawl connecting New York and Boston into a megacity of continuous development.

“It’s a single strip of polluted ocean,” he says. “Huge increases in production are making the whole ocean this plastic soup. Every creature in the ocean is eating plastic.”

Blending a seaman’s charisma with a businessman’s polish, Moore has managed to capture the attention of some powerful players— he’s met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the heads of various state agencies, and the Pope’s science advisor.
~ ~ ~

ALGALITA STAFF MEMBERS conduct their own research, and also compile and analyze hundreds of other studies to understand the implications of a plastic-choked ocean.

The worst effects are seen in a sea-going bird that lives on Midway Atoll in the north Pacific. Researchers estimate that 40 percent of the albatross chicks that die on the atoll are killed by the plastic filling their guts, fed to them by their parents. The plastic contaminates their blood and blocks their digestive tracts, leaving them dehydrated and undernourished.

~ ~

“Huge increases in production are making the whole ocean this plastic soup.” —Charles Moore
~ ~

Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer of Beachcombers Alert says that plastic debris is taking a toll on hundreds of marine species. Baby sea turtles who get stuck in six-pack rings grow distorted shells; birds choke on plastic shards that mimic fish and krill; and sea lions are caught in nylon nets abandoned by fishing vessels.

Ebbesmeyer believes that plastic marine debris is also hurting people. Because plastic accumulates up the food chain, be says, some level of plastic is present in all of the seafood we eat.

In addition to the physical impacts, plastics are wreaking biological havoc on both marine and land-based animals, including humans. Virtually every kind of petroleum-based plastic leaches chemicals into the substances it encounters. Some of the chemicals added to make plastic products more flexible, durable and flame-retardant are suspected endocrine disrupters and hormone mimickers that can affect the development of creatures exposed to them. For example, recent research has linked bisphenol-A exposure with early breast development and menstruation in girls, feminine characteristics in boys, and decreased fertility in both sexes.

Tim Shestek, a spokesman for plastic industry group the American Chemistry Council (ACC), argues that the studies are misleading— that the effects of high concentrations of plastic additives on lab animals don’t translate to humans exposed to chronic low doses.

“The scientific consensus is that these compounds are safe in the current applications that they’re being used for,” Shestek says.

Moore counters that industry is on a mission to confuse consumers with biased science. He notes that of 149 government-funded studies on bisphenol-A, 93 percent found that the compound is harmful, but all 12 industry-funded studies concluded that it is benign.

Plastics also can absorb hazardous synthetic chemicals such as PCBs and pesticides. Researchers are finding that plastic debris pick up these compounds from the sea water, carry them for hundreds of miles, and then leach them out elsewhere, leading Algalita staff to dub them “poison pellets.”
~ ~ ~

MANUFACTURERS make 60 billion tons of plastic every year, the majority of it for products that will be used once and thrown away.

Many of those single-use products are molded from melted pre-production resin pellets as tiny and light as lentils, and known as nurdles. A June 2006 Algalita report, funded by a state grant and produced in collaboration with the state Coastal Commission and Water Control Board, concluded that nurdles manufactured in the LA area often fly into the air or spill out of shipping containers, slipping through storm drains into coastal waterways and out to sea. They look disconcertingly like fish eggs to marine mammals with a taste for roe.

Escaped nurdles may now comprise about 10 percent of the ocean’s plastic debris. Abandoned fishing gear and trash from ships account for another 20 percent. The rest, 70 percent, is post-consumer litter from the land: fast-food containers thrown from car windows; renegade stuff from insecure loads on the backs of pickup trucks; litter that flows down rivers, spews from sewage treatment outfalls, and runs from urban streets through storm drains to the sea. And, of course, beach trash washed away with the tides.

While it might be feasible to clean up drift nets and other large marine debris, the Algalita report concludes that there’s just no way to scoop the billions of little bitty pieces of plastic out of the sea. The best we can do, the authors write, is to prevent more junk from flowing to the ocean.

Easier said than done.

Algalita reports that each person throws away an average of 185 pounds of plastic every year, and knee-jerk disposal has become a cultural habit. People tend to get rid of used products as soon as possible— and if there’s not a garbage or recycling can nearby, they often litter.

But as surely as plastics are flowing to the ocean, awareness of the problem is flooding into the mainstream.

This February, the Governor’s Ocean Protection Council unanimously adopted a six-part resolution to reduce and prevent marine debris. The Council suggests expanding California’s bottle bill to create rebates for recycled plastic debris; beefing up enforcement of litter laws; researching alternatives to petroleum-based plastic; coordinating regionally to reduce plastic pollution; banning the most toxic kinds of synthetic materials; and launching an anti-littering campaign called “Don’t Trash California.”

The OPC’s resolution set the stage for a raft of five Assembly bills, collectively called the Pacific Protection Initiative, aimed at tackling the problem. AB 258 would regulate nurdle discharge; AB 904 would require 25 percent of food service packaging to be compostable or recyclable; AB 820 would prohibit the use of Styrofoam at state facilities; SB 899 would phase out packaging containing certain compounds known to be toxic to ocean creatures; and SB 898 would set benchmarks for cleaning up abandoned fishing gear. The American Chemistry Council is lobbying against two of the bills.

Shestek, the ACC’s Sacramento lobbyist, attacks AB 820, the bill to ban polystyrene (Styrofoam), on the grounds that alternative packaging materials are just as ecologically questionable. Paper, he points out, takes about three times more water and energy to produce. “We haven’t really figured out how this [bill] is going to address litter other than change the composition of it,” he says. “There’s an environmental footprint no matter what kind of packaging you manufacture.”

The ACC also opposes AB 904, the bill regulating restaurant packaging. Shestek notes that even bio-plastics made from vegetable materials such as corn, sugar and potato starch linger in the environment, only biodegrading quickly in compost.

The ACC does not oppose the bill regulating nurdle discharge. Shestek notes that the industry already has a set of internal Best Management Practices aimed at proper nurdle containment, with suggestions as simple and cheap as using a shop vacuum to clean up spills.

Algalita’s June report found that most plastic producers ignore the BMPs because there is no penalty for violating them. That, Shestek admits, is a shame: “Anybody who’s using resin pellets ought to be taking responsibility for keeping them out of the storm drains.”

Nor does Shestek dispute the fact that recent years have seen a monumental increase in plastic packaging, though he doesn’t believe that’s a bad thing. In his view, plastic pollution results from a problem with people, not with the material. “We’ve been advocating for additional recycling opportunities to reduce disposal and reduce litter,” he says.

But activists argue that the ACC isn’t making a good faith effort to deal with the plastic plague it manufactures.

“They really haven’t come up with any kinds of solutions,” says Bryan Early, a policy associate with Californians Against Waste, which sponsors two of the plastic-tackling Assembly bills and supports the other three. “It’s their lobbying that holds these bills back.”

Even if none of the proposed legislation becomes law, we have plenty of options for reducing plastic marine pollution.
~ ~ ~

ONE OBVIUOS SOLUTION is more recycling, but that’s tricky. Americans currently recycle less than 5 percent of their plastic waste, largely because only products coded #1 and #2— milk jugs, soda and water bottles— melt at low temperatures. These can’t be re-used as food containers because chemicals and residues stay in the plastic and the quality degrades, so they’re destined to become less intimate products like furniture, carpet and fleece clothing. Higher codes, including polypropylene stuff like bottle caps, need high temperatures to melt. The toxic emissions they release make them virtually unrecyclable.

Some activists are putting their faith in another kind of technology: bio-plastics made from vegetable materials. Moore is skeptical about this solution. Although the products are renewable, biodegradable and increasingly economical, he points out, they still leave an environmental footprint. And some brands are engineered to break down rapidly in compost piles, but not in a cold sea with scarce fungi and insects. Bio-plastics that are mistakenly thrown in the recycle bin can muck up petro-plastic recycling, and bio-plastic litter can still clog storm drains and choke sea creatures.

A no-brainer is to prevent people from littering, especially in coastal rivers and beaches— through placement of more trash and recycling cans, better enforcement and education. According to an article in the DA Association’s most recent environmental prosecution newsletter, prosecutors already have a bunch of legislative tools for going after marine polluters: the federal Refuse Act, Clean Water Act and Ocean Dumping Act; the state Water Code and Fish and Game Code; and the international MARPOL Protocol. If ongoing research finds plastic debris impacting whales’ and otters’ survival, plastic disposal may also be regulated under Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

But, as Drew Bohan of the California Ocean Protection Council pointed out at the District Attorneys’ recent conference, prosecutors don’t tend to go after environmental violations with the same vigor as other crimes.

After hearing Moore’s presentation, Steve Holett, deputy district attorney for Monterey County, says he doesn’t have any fresh ideas for reducing the flow of plastic debris into the Bay. “We are not aware of any [local] manufacturers of plastic, and we have not received any reports from our health department regarding issues of plastic disposal,” he says. “I’m not aware that there is plastic in Monterey Bay.”

But other agencies are taking action. The Monterey Regional Waste Management District recently convened a Litter Abatement Task Force, co-chaired by Carmel Mayor Sue McCloud and County Supervisor Dave Potter, which set up a website allowing citizens to report litter violations. One tip about illegal dumping on Highway 68 led to a jail sentence and several years of probation for the offender. In May and June, the Salinas Valley and Monterey Regional waste authorities teamed up to sponsor a theatrical performance called “¡Basta Basura! Enough Trash!,” featuring a garbage-covered character who encouraged visitors to the Monterey Bay Aquarium not to pollute the sea.

And local activists are pushing ahead. Surfrider’s Monterey chapter has launched a campaign called “Plankton, Not Plastic,” with members working to turn back the tide of litter flowing from the Peninsula.

Monthly beach clean-ups make a difference on the ground, while a public outreach campaign encourages food servicers to shift to compostable packaging and City Councils to adopt plastic waste-reduction measures. Individual actions can be as simple as bringing canvas bags to grocery stores, re-usable mugs to coffee shops and Tupperware to restaurants.

Surfrider’s campaign builds on momentum created by other cities. In March, the city of San Francisco mandated that grocery stores use recyclable or compostable bags. And last December, Capitola’s City Council became the first on the Monterey Bay to pass a resolution regulating the use of Styrofoam take-out containers. The ordinance was to take effect on July 1 of this year, but the new City Council has announced that it will reconsider the prior council’s ban. Local Surfrider activists have joined forced with the Santa Cruz chapter to encourage the City Council to stand by its earlier decision, in hopes that Monterey County cities will follow suit.
~ ~ ~

STROLLING NEAR the Municipal Wharf, Moore shifts into research gear. Along the dock he finds a chip bag, a plastic water bottle and a broken-up Styrofoam cup floating in a mass of twigs and dirt near a sunken orange traffic cone. “What are the fish eating underneath that?” he asks. “Some of it is mimicking food.”

A few hundred yards down the shore, he discovers plastic cups and nylon rope wedged into the cracks between some boulders. He nabs a drifting plastic bag, which he calls “the modern tumbleweed,” and shakes his head at sheets of black plastic laid under the rocks, likely intended to stabilize the slopes: they’re already tearing, broken down by the sun. “That’s all becoming part of the ocean environment right now,” he says.

After combing Monterey State Beach for a half hour, Moore peers into our bag of collected litter and does an impromptu analysis. He concludes that cigarette butts, whose filters are made from cellulose acetate, are the most common plastic debris, followed by Styrofoam and bottle caps. He finds a few broken-up, brittle plastic pieces that he says have floated in from afar, but he estimates that roughly 90 percent of the beach’s litter is local. “That means that you can do something about it through local enforcement.”

Eras of human history are defined by their most prominent materials, Moore theorizes. Throughout the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, societies have followed a pattern of extracting a resource, expanding its industry, and recycling only when it begins to run out. He says that since 1979, when the tonnage of plastic exceeded the tonnage of steel produced, we’ve been in the midst of the Plastic Age. We don’t recycle much of it now; only when oil becomes more scarce will we begin “mining our landfills.” And that, Moore asserts, is the central contradiction of our times: the popularity of disposable products made from a material that lasts forever. “Plastic is the lubricant of globalization,” he says. “That’s what facilitates all this junky stuff making it to all the corners of the earth.”

He’s quick to point out that he’s not an enemy of petroleum-based plastics per se; it’s just the temporary-use stuff that gets to him. “We really have to start thinking about plastics being forever,” he says. “The world needs to wake up for the potential of plastics to be what we wanted when we got into this thing: durable. It could be OK to have something you got when you were young and lasted you your whole life. But that is bad for an economy based solely on growth and waste. That’s the same paradigm as a cancer cell.”

“It’s like when you break your leg— it never heals totally,” Moore says. “There’s no such thing as complete recovery from an environmental insult.” But that’s not to say we shouldn’t try.

“Only politics guided by sound science can save us,” he adds. “The objective is to not screw things up in the first place.”


Mark said...

building materials
temporary structure

One solution for architects interested in helping the "shadow cities" would be to adapt something like the Huf Haus (described below) for work with more local materials.


Best House in England

see pic, halfway down the page

The overall winner of the coveted Best House in England award was the Huf House on St George's Hill in Weybridge, Surrey.

This remarkable project, a radical departure from traditional bricks and mortar, combines a flexible wooden frame with floor-to-ceiling glass walls to produce an exceptional energy saving building which can be erected and made completely weather proof, with all walls, windows and a roof fitted, in just one week (or two if it has a concrete basement).

Designed by a firm of German architects, it's most striking features are its amazing versatility and flexibility.

All the walls and glazing panels can be removed and re-arranged to create alternative layouts, and the house can have anything from one to five bedrooms and one, two or three stories.

The whole construction process is so stream lined and precise, the whole design so flexible, that you can even dismantle the entire building and move it to another site.

The structure comes with a 30 year guarantee and costs £80-100 per square foot, which, when you consider average prices in London of £170 to £800 a sq ft, means its pretty good value as well.

[The only drawback would be that it requires a team of specialized builders to assemble/disassemble it, it seems, see below, though this may be for legal issues instead of anything else.]

Another Huf Haus, with lots more pictures, and description

Dulwich Delight
28 Jan 2004

Not all housebuilders are obsessed with period pastiche: the stunning Huf Haus project in Dulwich Village owes nothing to its Georgian and Victorian neighbours...

It says something for the sea-change in British attitudes towards modern design that an innovative development of contemporary houses is currently under construction in Dulwich Village, one of London's leafiest and most well-protected corners.

Here, on a sensitive site tucked away off the High Street, in the heart of a conservation area famous for its mill pond, pristine period properties and country village exclusivity, Wates Homes has embarked on a daring collaboration with the acclaimed Germany company Huf Haus.

The upmarket timber-framed houses, notable for their dark Spruce beams and extensive glazed panels, are a far cry from the period brickwork typical of the area.

[see pictures at above link]

But Southwark Council chose this project over several more traditional proposals, local residents are said to be delighted with the scheme, and the government has already dished out a Housing Design Award and praised the development as "a welcome breath of continental fresh air".

Beam Me Up

Although the extensive glazed panelling gives the Huf houses a striking contemporary feel, the 'post-and-beam' method used by the company to assemble their system-built houses has been around for several thousand years.

Huf Haus 2

"It's a very old method of building," says Joe Branco, development manager of Huf Haus UK. "We combine this traditional method with modern technology. The beams, for example, are laminated for extra strength and this allows us to use concrete floors. The houses are heavily insulated and eco-friendly, and the components used are all high-specification."

Huf Haus have been perfecting their unique building system for the past ninety years and produce all of the components for the houses in their factory in Germany. New houses are shipped out from there and assembled by a skilled team of German craftsmen who must have five years of training before they can work on-site.

"There's not cutting or waste on site," Joe explains. "The houses are erected and water-tight within a week and are completed and ready for their new owners within twelve weeks. The system is very flexible. The walls are not load bearing and can be removed and re-arranged to create alternative layouts - the house can have anything from one to five bedrooms and one, two or three stories".

Woodyard Lane

Huf Haus 3

The judges who recently added another accolade to Huf Haus's long list of awards were especially impressed by the intelligence and quality of the design and singled out the vast useable space inside each home - a benefit of the non load-bearing walls - for special mention.

"The internal planning is rational, compact and generous, and allows considerable flexibility in the use of space."

The creative use of wall to ceiling glazing is a signature feature of the houses and allows the outside environment to become an integral part of the homes themselves.

This combined with the double height ceilings ensures that the homes feel light and spacious. [though probably rather drafty in winter or cool--though I guess you could move from a 'summer open plan layout' to a 'winter layout' of walls to close drafty down air flow--this would b like most traditional houses worldwide that were built before the invention of open-plans (an outcome engineering requirement to make air conditioning work that affected lots of building architecture, in ways people don't normally consider, by the way: in terms of home air flows, whereas before it would just make the home drafty to do so.]

Electrically operated external blinds are fitted to all the windows, providing shade and security; [like Korean/Japanese traditional homes] underfloor heating, thermal insulating glass, and turn-tilt windows make for exceptional energy-efficiency.

Woodyard Lane, London SE21


Four Bedrooms lead off a central first floor landing, which also doubles as a comfortable communal area. The award judges were again impressed by the intelligent layout and observed, "money is spent on useable space, and on high quality components, rather than on tacked on 'features' or minute additional bedrooms."

Huf Haus 4E

Each Huf Haus also has a full sized basement floor with natural light wells. This extra floor comes with a choice of fitted options including utility room, shower room, and two other spaces which can be adapted to a variety of purposes: as an office, gym, games room, home cinema, wine cellar or nanny annexe.

The low pitched roofs have wide overhangs which both protect and shade the house, as well as providing large covered external areas. The arrangement of the nine houses in a secluded courtyard style guarantees each home high levels of privacy.

Euro Vision

In Europe, Huf Haus has developed an enviable reputation for producing high-quality eco-friendly houses and the company has created several small villages of Huf houses in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Huf Haus 5

In the UK they've been in business for several years and have won just about every major housing accolade worth having, but prior to The Woodyard collaboration with Wates Homes [to build a group of them] they had confined themselves to individual commissions.

Paul Phipps, Wates MD says the partnership is in keeping with Wates' desire to build on their reputation for innovation: "This is an exhilarating project which has attracted an enormous level of both industry and public attention. We welcome this; it's where the company wants to be, challenging assumptions at all levels of the housing market and creating environments for today's highly discerning generation of house-buyer".

The Dulwich development of nine semi-detached and terraced houses is certainly like nothing else on the market but the enthusiastic response from planners and the public gives the lie to the notion that British homebuyers are innately conventional and conservative. Wates and Huf Haus are definitely onto a winner and it seems likely that the success of this development will pave the way for future schemes.

Michael O'Flynn

Well, my advert for the Huf Haus is closed now.


If only a "Huf Haus" solution could be found for the shadow cities.

The fact that other levels of a Huf Haus can be later constructed on top of each other--without the walls really bearing any weight only the post columns--would be ideal to the sociology of how Neuwirth describes the housing/land market as literally accretively built and sold out of roof rights of previous lower tenants, in many slum cities.

I would picture a one level Huf Haus arrangement being constructed with far more localized material solutions however.

The fact that they can be dismantled and mobile would serve as well if a government suddenly wanted to knock everything down. Instead of destroying the work, it could quickly be moved away as it is quickly "disassemble-able" as much as quickly assembled. It would save the material and labor that created it in the first place.

Moreover a local industry making the standardized pieces could be started, which could be endlessly adapted to particular single level or multiple level frameworks--with ongoing changes in the non-load bearing walls to adjust to sun, typical wind/draft direction, etc., or adjust with the seasons.

That's one rationale why I think a Huf Haus for slum cities would work out rather well: it fits really with what is already being done socially by building taller and taller structures, and would remove the danger of creating overburdened load bearing walls.

It would have the energy efficiency and plan flexibility for on site (and ongoing seasonable) adjustment which the Huf Haus seems to have as well.

It can be built quickly, and taken apart quickly, and the price could be brought down by using different materials I'm sure.

On this point once more, how it could be adapted:

This combined with the double height ceilings ensures that the homes feel light and spacious. [though probably rather drafty in winter or cool--though I guess you could move from a 'summer open plan layout' to a 'winter layout' of walls to close drafty down air flow--this would b like most traditional houses worldwide that were built before the invention of open-plans (an outcome engineering requirement to make air conditioning work that affected lots of building architecture, in ways people don't normally consider, by the way: in terms of home air flows, whereas before it would just make the home drafty to do so.]

and on this point, how to adapt:

Electrically operated external blinds are fitted to all the windows, providing shade and security; [like Korean/Japanese traditional homes] underfloor heating, thermal insulating glass, and turn-tilt windows make for exceptional energy-efficiency.

It could be turned into a form of berm heating or solar house, or where the concrete floor could be exposed or heated in the daytime, and closed up to provide ambient heat at night.

Mark said...

Disappearing Act

Optical Camouflage, Tachi Laboratory, University of Tokyo
While there has been a recent surge in interest about new materials for architecture and design - a new materialism, if you will - it is easy to overlook a fundamental counter-trend, which is that materials are slowly... disappearing. I'm not referring to some science fiction fantasy (e.g., "Invasion of the Material Snatchers"), but rather the fundamental and consistent technological trends leading to increased strength-to-weight ratios and light-transmittance. This tendency towards dematerialization is rooted in the natural trajectory of technology itself, which wants to maximize efficiency, miniaturize, and do more with less, coupled with an intriguing socio-environmental phenomenon concerning increased transparency in the physical environment. This 'de-solidification' has perhaps as much to do with a public desire for increased access and accountability as perceived from the outside of commercial and institutional structures, as much as the desire for increased access to light and views from the inside of structures. As a result, the frontiers of material development are defined significantly by high-performance, exotic materials and composites that shatter previous paradigms about solidity and opacity. Moreover, because these materials typically stretch resources farther than conventional substitutes, this development is encouraged in light of increased environmental concerns.

Windows into Walls
Nanogel, Cabot Corporation
There has been a fair amount of buzz in recent years surrounding aerogel, the NASA-developed, translucent insulating material which is the lightest human-made substance known. However, there is less knowledge about the extent to which this material will alter our preconceptions about solidity in architecture via its application in the product Nanogel. Developed by Cabot Corporation, Nanogel is a pelletized, nanoporous material that delivers unsurpassed thermal insulation and light transmission. Comprised by quartz particles mixed with 99% air, feather-light Nanogel weighs only 90 grams per liter. Compared with other insulation materials, Nanogel provides a superior combination of thermal and sound insulation as well as light transmission and diffusion characteristics – just half an inch of the material provides 73% light transmission with a solar heat gain coefficient of U = 0.25. What this means is that the relationship between the historically solid, insulating wall and the light-transmitting, thermally-conductive window has forever changed. Now walls can be windows and vice-versa, and the age-old battle between light vs. thermal protection is rendered moot.

When Concrete Becomes Something Else
Pixel Panels, Bill Price
Old notions about solidity are further shattered in new forms of concrete that transmit light – an idea that seemed the stuff of sci-fi novels until the new millennium brought us at least two such examples from different parts of the globe. Since his days working as an architect and materials researcher at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, Houston-based Bill Price has been on a quest to make concrete a light-transmissive medium. His Pixel Panels are comprised by a uniform array of acrylic rods set within a concrete binder, thus providing translucency at a given viewing distance. Bill has performed many modifications on the recipe, varying the ratio of concrete-to-polymer to allow for limitless variations, and achieving as much as 25% light-transmittance.

LitraCube, Áron Losonczi
Bill's contemporary Áron Losonczi has likewise developed a light-transmitting concrete, called Litracon, in his Hungary-based studio. Unlike Pixel Panels, Litracon utilizes thousands of fine fiber optic strands to carry light, which results in a high resolution of detail. Litracon is also manufactured in solid, brick-sized building blocks, whereas Pixel Panels are manufactured in thinner sheets. Given the expense of Losonczi 's material, he has cleverly designed new, small-scale products using Litracon, such as the LitraCube lamp. Although the concrete used in Pixel Panels and Litracon is similar to that which has been used for decades in conventional building construction, in a demonstration of the paradigm-shifting nature of these products, one of my colleagues asked, "But is it still concrete?"

Superstrong Windows
Transparent Ceramics, Fraunhofer Institute
Star Trek fans will remember the far-fetched Transparent Aluminum material used to contain a large aquarium in the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, but they may not have realized a similar material would be developed in the laboratories of Germany's Fraunhofer Institute. Transparent alumina ceramics allow unprecedented light-transmittance in a strong and durable medium. The next generation transparent corundum ceramics can be manufactured with complex (even hollow) shapes, and exhibit significant bending strength and micro-hardness. The in-line transmission of transparent ceramics is close to 60% in visible light and approaches the theoretical limit in the infrared range. An even higher visible light transmission of roughly 80 % at 1 mm thickness is enabled by a new sub-micrometer spinel. Faceted colored gemstones of about 1.5 carat have been manufactured with a polycrystalline microstructure of transparent ceramics, and filters have been manufactured for optical applications with the same material. Future applications include super-strong, heat-resistant windows as well as transparent armor. Like Nanogel, transparent ceramics revolutionize the window as it is conventionally understood, and in this case there is an added dimension of fire and blast-resistance, making transparent ceramics ideal for high-hazard applications.

Making the Visible Invisible
Optical Camouflage, Tachi Laboratory, University of Tokyo
While these high-performance, light-transmitting materials compel us to question the nature of solidity, a new technology developed by the University of Tokyo seeks to make matter disappear altogether. Scientists at the Tachi Laboratory have developed Optical Camouflage, which utilizes a collection of devices working in concert to render a subject invisible. Although more encumbering and complicated than Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, this system has essentially the same goal. Optical Camouflage requires the use of clothing – in this case, a hooded jacket – made with a retro-reflective material, which is comprised by thousands of small beads that reflect light precisely according to the angle of incidence. A digital video camera placed behind the person wearing the cloak captures the scene that the individual would otherwise obstruct, and sends the data to a computer for processing. A sophisticated program calculates the appropriate distance and viewing angle, and then transmits the scene via projector using a combiner, or a half-silvered mirror with an optical hole, which allows a witness to perceive a realistic merger of the projected scene with the background – thus rendering the cloak-wearer invisible. Potential applications of this technology include a process called mutual telexistence, in which real-time video of two or more distance-separated individuals is projected onto surrogate robotic participants via sophisticated communications technology, as well as various methods of removing tool-based optical obstructions, such as vehicles that allow pilots and drivers to see more of their exterior environment than is visible through windows, tools that allow doctors to witness an operation through their hands, or projectors that provide exterior views in windowless rooms.

Challenging Solidity
When we consider all of these new disruptive materials and technologies, we see the extraordinary extent to which solidity is being questioned. What is more, the fact that examples all exist in applicable forms today means that the future has already arrived. In the words of Marshall Berman, "All that is solid melts into air."

[This article will appear in the upcoming issue of Ambidextrous magazine.]

Labels: de-solidification, dematerialization, invisibility, transparency

posted by Blaine @ 5:21 PM

Mark said...

building materials plastic that repairs itself

Plastic that repairs itself

Friday, 16 February 2001

self-healing material

Self-healing in action. The crack in the polymer can be seen running along the bottom of the picture. The red spheres are the tiny capsules and the black flakes are the catalyst embedded in the material matrix (Picture courtesy of Nature.).
US researchers have developed a synthetic material that can heal itself when cracked or broken, and could be used in everything from spacecrafts to prosthetic organs.

The work by University of Illinois professor of aeronautical and astronautical engineering Scott R. White and colleagues is published in the current issue of Nature.

Composite materials, used to make everything from aircraft wings to dinnerware, are made by embedding small fibres of glass, carbon or the like in a polymer matrix. Vibrations and bending under loads, however, causes cracks that ultimately damage these materials beyond repair.

The new material developed by White and colleagues begins to repair itself as soon as a crack forms. "Often these cracks occur deep within the structure where detection is difficult and repair is virtually impossible," said White.

The self-healing polymer composite has a matrix peppered with tiny capsules of polymer monomers (the building blocks from which polymers are made), and catalysts that induce the linking of these monomers into polymeric chains and networks.

As cracks develop in this material, some of the embedded capsules rupture to release the monomers. These link up with each other as they come in contact with the catalyst dispersed in the polymer, bonding fracture faces together.

In recent fracture tests, the self-healed composites recovered as much as 75 percent of their original strength. And because microcracks are the precursors to structural failure, the ability to heal them will enable structures that last longer and require less maintenance.

"Filling the microcracks will also mitigate the harmful effects of environmentally assisted degradation such as moisture swelling and corrosion cracking," White said. "This technology could increase the lifetime of structural components, perhaps by as much as two or three times."

"Self-healing composites should prove especially useful in cases where it is not possible, or practical, to repair the material once it has been put into use. Components of vehicles used in deep space exploration, satellites, rocket motors and prosthetic organs are prime candidates for such treatment," comments Richard P. Wool of Cara Plastics Inc. and the Affordable Composites from Renewable Resources (ACRES) Program at the University of Delaware, Newark, in an accompanying commentary.

One of the many challenges the researchers faced in developing the material was obtaining the proper size of microcapsules. They currently use spheres about 100 microns in diameter. Larger spheres could have weakened the matrix, White said, and work continues on creating ever-smaller capsules.

"We also had to determine the correct shell thickness so the capsules would open under the appropriate stress," White said. "Capsule walls that are too thick will not rupture when the crack approaches, while capsules with walls that are too thin will break during processing."

Anna Salleh - ABC Science Online

Mark said...


"Anything that can be made from hydrocarbons (oil, coal,
natural gas), can be made from carbohydrates (plant material)." - source unknown.

The above quote is again important because it dispels the notion that we are dependent upon fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) for fuels, plastics and chemical feed-stocks in industry.

"Synthetic plastics were practically as old as agriculture itself. They were made in the shadow of the pyramids from cooked starch, and celluloid collars antedated the twentieth century, but it took a world war to disclose their infinite potentialities to American industrialists.

From 1918 on, the chemical industry made greater technological advances than even the automobile or aviation, and the great chemical companies which fed it, by getting in early, rapidly built up fabulous fortunes." (p.323, GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER).

Postcard Copyright 1989 Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI

The History Channel on cable television had a special show titled: "PLASTIC."

From this show came this general recipe for celluloid plastic: Cellulose [which is plant material] + Camphor (solvent) + Nitric Acid (NO3)

How does the hemp plant fit into the plastic scheme?

The white hemp hurds (shown left) or sticks left when the fiber has been removed are 77% cellulose and are 6 times the weight of the fiber.

Hemp is the most efficient crop for biomass and cellulose worldwide.


From the series "Speaking of Plastics." 1963. Fry Plastics International. Los Angeles, CA. 56 pages. Book size 8 1/2 X 5 1/2 inches. This booklet I picked up at a plastics store.

"Cellulosics is the pioneer story in the history and growth of the great plastics industry as we see it today...Because of the fact that during the middle of the nineteenth century there was a shortage of ivory from which to make billiard balls, one of the most important and versatile industries was born."

In 1869, the Hyatt brothers, in America, developed Cellulose Nitrate into a workable plastic mass they patented. Called Celluloid it was first used for billiard balls, dental plates, and collars and cuffs for shirts.

One interesting thing in looking at the chemical composition of cellulose is remembering that the carbon (C) of plant material such as cellulose is from carbon dioxide (CO2) pulled from the atmosphere, where excess CO2 from fossil fuel burning has created the greenhouse effect and is causing global warming. When carbon is tied up in cellulose plastic this process actually helps reverse global warming.

TYPICAL APPLICATIONS (1963) mentioned in the Cellulosics book are from 100 different formulations and are among the 50,000 viable industrial uses of the hemp plant.

Toys, lampshades, vacuum cleaner parts, combs, shoe heels...portable radio cases, pipe, tubing, tool handles, appliance housing...telephone hand sets, pens, pencils, edge moldings on cabinets...flashlights, frames, heel covers, fabric coating, outdoor movie speakers, knobs...electrical parts, packaging material, electrical insulation, photographic film, outdoor and indoor signs...telephone wires, steering wheels automobile arm rests, football helmets, pistol machine keys, toothbrush handles, fish net floats, fishing lures, hearing aid parts... optical frames, floor sweeper parts, furniture trim, luggage, military applications.

The greatest agricultural researcher of all time, George Washington Carver got his name from his slave owner's family. He discovered hundreds of useful food stuffs and products using agriculture as his basic resource.

We could use the likes of Carver to research the tens of thousands of uses of hemp.


Soybeans originally traveled to the United States by ship when Samuel Bowen smuggled them from China in 1765.

But it was Henry Ford who put them in cars.

When the Great Depression hit, it hit farmers especially hard. Huge farm surpluses meant low crop prices and dwindling income. All of a sudden, Henry Ford's best customers--American farmers--could no longer afford his cars, trucks and tractors. Ford knew that "if we want the farmer to be our customer, we must find a way to be his."

Figure out a way to use agricultural products in industrial manufacturing, and everyone would benefit. He put his chemists to work determining what products could be developed from plants.

After testing numerous crop plants, they narrowed their focus to soybeans. Experimentation was soon rewarded with the discovery of soybean oil which made a superior auto body enamel. Soybean meal was converted to plastic used to make over 20 parts including horn buttons and gearshift knobs.

By 1936, Ford was using a bushel of soybeans in every car that rolled off the line.

But Henry Ford didn't stop there.

While his chefs developed a variety of tasty and nutritious American-style foods from soy (including ice cream) Henry invented soybean "wool", a fiber half the cost of sheep's wool.

Soon a fabric containing 25% soybean wool was being used to upholster many Ford autos. And on special occasions Mr. Ford would sport a suit made of soybean fiber.

- Our thanks to Bill Shurtleff, Soyfoods Center. On a White Wave carton as pictured at left.

There is of course the rest of the Henry Ford story. He didn't stop with a few car parts, Ford predicted that he would some day "grow automobiles from the soil."

Which he did after 12 years of research.

Henry Ford's plastic car p.99 - HEMP, Lifeline to the Future.

(Left), Popular Mechanics Magazine, Vol. 76, No. 6, December, 1941.

Title: Auto Body Made of Plastics Resists Denting Under Hard Blows. (Text below)

(Left, same 1941 article above).
Henry Ford in straw hat.

Here is the auto Henry Ford "grew from the soil."

Its plastic panels, with impact strength 10 times greater than steel, were made from flax, wheat, hemp, spruce pulp.

(left), Quarter scale model of Ford plastic car and its welded tubular steel frame.

Popular Mechanics, 1941, text: "After twelve years of research, the Ford Motor Company has completed an experimental automobile with a plastic body.

Although its design takes advantage of the properties of plastics, the streamline car does not differ greatly in appearance from its steel counterpart. The only steel in the hand-made body is found in the tubular welded frame on which are mounted 14 plastic panels, 3/16 inch thick.

Composed of a mixture of farm crops and synthetic chemicals, the plastic is reported to withstand a blow 10 times as great as steel without denting. Even the Windows and windshield are of plastic.

The total weight of the plastic car is about 2,000 pounds, compared with 3,000 pounds for a steel automobile of the same size.

Although no hint has been given as to when plastic cars may go into production, the experimental model is pictured as a step toward materialization of Henry Ford's belief that some day he would "grow automobiles from the soil."

"When Henry Ford recently unveiled his plastic car, result of 12 years of research, he have the world a glimpse of the automobile of tomorrow, its tough panels molded under hydraulic pressure of 1,500 pounds per square inch from a recipe that calls for 70 percent of cellulose fibers from wheat straw, hemp, and sisal plus 30 percent resin binder.

The only steel in the car is its tubular welded frame. The plastic car weighs a ton, 1,000 pounds lighter than a comparable steel car. Manufacturers are already talking of a low-priced plastic car to test the public's taste by 1943."

I was making energy pellets for a hemp museum demonstration of the ability of hemp to burn. They were round about 1/2 inch in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. I had an iron fry pan heating and pressed a pellet onto the hot surface with a dowel keeping it in motion. The pellet melted to 1/4 its thickness and looked like plastic (shown left). The branding was done with a hot metal hemp leaf button.

The picture on the left shows the steps in making the plastic like substance to the right. I bought some imported hemp seed oil (left), filled the tall jar half full of the oil. With a cloth cover, I left it in a south window for two years to thicken in the sun.

I then poured the thick oil in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and placed it in the sun for two days for a rubbery plastic sheet.

Topics to write on:

Some special words to look up are Parksine, Bakelite, Celluloid.

Early plastic was created to replace Ivory, Tortoise shell, and other natural substances.

George Washington Carver

Hemp: Lifeline... p. 82, 98,

Mark said...

Anything made from hydrocarbons can be made from carbohydrates but was then shut down in 1930s, read this

The Low, Dishonest Decade

by David P. West

Mark said...

Magic microbes

WHAT IT IS: Custom-built microbes that can be manipulated to become the foundation for biodegradable material

LEAD INVENTOR: Synthetic biologist Chris Voigt, UC San Francisco

FANTASY APP: Creating an unlimited supply of cheap biofuels

THE STORY: Microbes called cyanobacteria have developed a mechanism for turning their ability to absorb sun for photosynthesis on and off, depending on the surrounding light. Isolating lab strains of E. coli and cyanobacteria DNA, Chris Voigt has custom-built his own microbes and discovered how to manipulate them using a red light to control their behavior, similar to the way that light controls film exposure. Cultured in quantity ona flat plate, the microbes become a
“living camera”; with a resolution of an estimated 100 megapixels per square inch, this could bring photolithography, a process for making computer chips, down to the nano scale. Eventually, Voigt thinks he can manipulate these microbes so that they become the foundation for a range of organic materials, from pharmaceutical drugs to biodiesel fuels.

Mark said...

Examples of Biomimicry in Development

Biomimicry--also known as biomimetics, bionics, and bio-inspired design--is practiced by thousands of innovators worldwide. Following in the footsteps of famous biomimics like Leonardo DaVinci, Buckminster Fuller, the Wright Brothers, and George Mistral, today’s biomimics are exploring nature-inspired innovation as a path to more sustainable design. They are learning to grow crops like a prairie, harness energy like a leaf, manufacture tough materials in benign conditions like an abalone, find drug plants like a chimp, compute like a cell, optimize via natural selection, and create material cascades in business like a mature forest.

Browse through the ever growing examples of Biomimicry being implemented in various R&D labs around the world.

Abalone Inspired Ceramics

Bat Inspired Walking Cane

Cicada Inspired Hearing Aid

Blue Mussel Inspired Glues

* Lung-inspired fuel cell optimization: Morgan Fuel Cell’s ( UK ) patented 'Biomimetic' bipolar plate technology (electrodes) drew its inspiration from the branching structures in animal lungs and plant tissues. The bipolar plates of the fuel cell contain two large conduits that feed into a system of capillaries. As with the lung, this maximizing of surface area for gas exchange allows gases to flow through the plate in a far more efficient way than has ever been achieved before. The biomimetic bipolar plates are cheaper to produce, and they boost peak power by 16%, while improving water management, enhancing reliability, and reducing backpressure.

* Butterfly-inspired Pigment-free Color: The feathers, scales, and exoskeletons of iridescent birds, butterflies, and beetles have structural features that cause light to diffract and interfere in ways that amplify certain wavelengths. This creates brilliant colors to the viewer through the use of structure rather than the addition of a chemical pigment. Imagine, instead of painting a product, simply adding surface layers that play with light. Thin-film interference of this sort can create color that is 1) four times brighter than pigment, 2) never needs repainting, 3) avoids the toxic effects associated with pigment mining and synthesis. The first products from this research include Morphotex, a pigment-free fiber produced by Teijin ( Japan), and a low-energy, sunlight-readable PDA screen from Qualcomm (USA).

* Beetle-inspired water harvester: A fog-catching device patterned on the Namibian Beetle’s prodigious water harvesting abilities captures ten times more water than existing fog catching nets. The beetle’s ability to pull water from fog is due to bumps on its wing scales that have water-loving tips and water-shedding sides. QinetiQ (UK) has developed plastic water-harvesting sheets that mimic the beetle’s bumps, useful for capturing water in cooling towers and industrial condensers, arid agricultural systems, and buildings in fog-rich areas.

* Mollusk-inspired fan: A three-dimensional logarithmic spiral is found in the shells of mollusks, in the spiraling of tidal-washed kelp fronds, and in the shape of our own skin pores, through which water vapor escapes. Liquids and gases flow centripetally through these geometrically consistent flow forms with far less friction and more efficiency. PAX Scientific (USA) has designed fans, propellers, impellers, and aerators based on this shape. Computational Fluid Dynamics and Particle Image Velocimetry tests showed the technology's streamlining effect can reduce energy requirements in fans and other rotors from between 10 and 85%, depending upon the application; the fan blade design also reduces noise by up to 75%. The first air-handling products scheduled for release are fans in computers, auto air-conditioners, and kitchen range hoods. The Pax streamlining principle could also lead to improvements in industrial mixers, water pumps, marine propellers, and devices for circulating blood in the body.

* Whale-inspired aircraft wings: Unlike commercial aircraft wings with a straight leading edge, the leading edge of humpback whale flippers are scalloped with prominent knobs called tubercles. In wind tunnel experiments conducted by Phillip Watts of Applied Fluid Engineering, Inc. and Dr. Frank Fish, West Chester University, the scalloped flipper proved a more efficient wing design than the smooth edges used on airplanes. In tests of a scalloped vs. a sleek flipper, the scalloped flippers have 32% lower drag, 8 percent better lift properties, and withstood stall at a 40 percent steeper wind angle. This discovery has the potential to optimize not only airplane wings but also the tips of helicopter rotors, propellers, and ship rudders. The improved stall angle would add a margin of safety while making planes more maneuverable, while the drag reduction would improve fuel efficiency.

* Termite-inspired air conditioning: Architect Mick Pearce collaborated with engineers at Arup Associates to build a mid-rise building in Harare, Zimbabwe that has no air-conditioning, yet stays cool thanks to a termite-inspired ventilation system. The Eastgate building is modeled on the self-cooling mounds of Macrotermes michaelseni, termites that maintain the temperature inside their nest to within one degree of 31 °C, day and night, - while the external temperature varies between 3 °C and 42 °C. Eastgate uses only 10 percent of the energy of a conventional building its size, saved 3.5 million in air conditioning costs in the first five years, and has rents that are 20% lower than a newer building next door. The TERMES project, organized by Rupert Soar of Loughborough University, is digitally scanning termite mounds to map the three dimensional architecture in a level of detail never achieved before. This computer model will help scientists understand exactly how the tunnels and air conduits manage to exchange gases, maintain temperature, and regulate humidities. The designs may provide a blueprint for self-regulating human buildings.

* Leaf-inspired solar cells: Plant biologists and engineers at many labs are looking to leaves to help them make smaller and more efficient solar cells. A leaf has tens of thousands of tiny photosynthetic reaction centers that operate at 93 percent quantum efficiency, producing energy silently with water, sunlight, and no toxic chemicals. Mimics of these molecular-scale solar batteries could one day be used to split water into clean-burning hydrogen and oxygen, or as computer switching devices that shuttle light instead of electrons. Konarka ( USA), Dyesol ( Australia), NexTech Materials, Ltd ( USA). And many other companies have commercialized dye-sensitized solar cells that mimic photosynthesis to maximize light harvesting and increase the efficiency of conversion of sunlight to electricity.

* Abalone-inspired ceramics: On the underside of the Red Abalone (Haliotis Rufescens) shell is a remarkable iridescent ceramic that is twice as tough as our high-tech ceramics. Mother-of-pearl, also called nacre, is composed of alternating layers of calcium carbonate (in a special crystal form called aragonite) and Lustrin-A protein. The combination of hard and elastic layers gives nacre remarkable toughness and strength, allowing the material to slide under compressive force. The “bricks” of calcium carbonate are offset, and this brick-wall architecture stops cracks from propagating. Several groups have mimicked nacre’s structure, using materials such as aluminum and titanium alloy to create a metal laminate tough enough for armor. Dr. Jeffrey Brinker’s group at Sandia National Laboratories used a self-assembly process to create mineral/polymer layered structures that are optically clear but much tougher than glass. Unlike traditional “heat, beat, and treat” technologies, Brinker’s evaporation-induced, low temperature process allows liquid building blocks to self-assemble and harden into very coatings that can toughen windshields, bodies of solar cars, airplanes or anything that needs to be lightweight but fracture-resistant. The complex nano-laminate structure of these bio-composite materials is characterized and related to their mechanical properties.

* Diatom- and sponge -inspired silicon manufacture: Silicon chips are now processed in energy intensive, toxic ways. Marine sponges, on the other hand, form silica dioxide structures at ambient conditions with the help of a protein called silicatein. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara have created a mimic of this protein called a “cysteine-lysine block copolypeptide.” Lab results confirm that these molecules are able to direct formation of ordered silica structures, just as silicatein does. This demonstrates the possibility of developing a non-toxic, low temperature approach to computer chip manufacture.

* Microbe-inspired replacement for platinum catalysts in fuel cells: One reason fuel cells are so expensive is the use of platinum in the membrane that conducts the hydrogen chemistry. Cyanobacteria catalyze this same reaction using an enzyme created from common and biocompatible metals. Cedric Tard and Christopher Pickett of the John Innes Centre in the UK have successfully mimicked the active site of the hydrogenase protein. The resulting iron-sulphur framework functions as an electrocatalyst for proton reduction, a potentially important step towards inexpensive materials to replace platinum in the anodes of fuel cells.

* Microbe-inspired mining: Dr. Irving DeVoe spent years studying how microbes capture essential elements such as iron, magnesium, chromium, selenium, copper, and even gold from water. He then realized that this same process could help humans mine in non-destructive ways. He learned how to make analogues of the molecules by mimicking the active sites that have the high affinity for various metals. Now, instead of digging into the earth’s crust and heap-leaching metals with harsh chemicals, his company, MR3 Systems (USA), mines wastewater streams, gathering and purifying the metals that are traditionally seen as pollution.

* Anhydrobiosis-inspired vaccine storage: Current vaccines spoil easily without refrigeration, and 50 percent fail to reach patients because of a break in the “cold chain.” The quest for thermally-stable storage led Bruce Rosner of Cambridge Biostability Ltd (UK) to study anhydrobiosis, the process by which organisms like tardigrades and resurrection ferns are able to remain in a long-term desiccated state. These organisms replace the water in their cells with a protective sugar called trehelose. By coating vaccines with trehelose and suspending them in vials of inert liquid, Biostability was able to create multi-valent vaccines which remain stable for years, despite freezing or high temperatures. Since the liquid formulations are anhydrous, they are inherently bacteriostatic, eliminating the need for antiseptics. Cambridge Biostability has already stabilized vaccines for conjugate meningitis A, hepatitis B, and tetanus toxoid. They are now developing programs for measles, pentavalent childhood vaccines, heptavalent botulinum and anthrax vaccines.

* Forest-inspired industrial economies: On the broader, macro-economic scale, some leading-edge planners, industrialists and entrepreneurs are studying the material cycling that occurs in mature ecosystems such as prairies, forests, and coral reefs. These industrial ecologists are trying to envision how we could shift our economy from a linear, throughput kind of economy to a closed-loop, diverse, highly interconnected system in which only solar ambient energy is coming in, all the “nutrients” are ju ggled forever in cascading loops, and very little waste results.

* Soil community-inspired residential wastewater treatment: The Biolytix Filter is a compact septic system that mimics the structure and function of decomposer organisms along a river’s edge. In the Biolytix system, worms, beetles, and microscopic organisms convert solid sewage and food waste into structured humus, which then acts as the filter that polishes the remaining water to irrigation grade. The treated water is then distributed through shallow tubes to irrigate lawn and landscape. The system uses 1/10 the energy of conventional sewage treatment systems, needs no chemicals, and produces irrigation water that is safe for the environment.

* Prairie inspired farming: Prairies hold the soil, resist pests and weeds, and sponsor their own fertility, all without our help. Prairie-like polycultures using edible perennial crops and biofuel candidates like switchgrass would over winter, making plowing or planting every year obsolete. Mixtures of plants would give farms resilience, reducing the need for oil-based pesticides. Instead of an extractive agriculture that mimics industry, prairie-inspired farming is a self-renewing agriculture that mimics nature while sequestering significant amounts of carbon.

Biomimicry Institute

Mark said...

Abalone-inspired ceramics:

On the underside of the Red Abalone (Haliotis Rufescens) shell is a remarkable iridescent ceramic that is twice as tough as our high-tech ceramics. Mother-of-pearl, also called nacre, is composed of alternating layers of calcium carbonate (in a special crystal form called aragonite) and Lustrin-A protein.

The combination of hard and elastic layers gives nacre remarkable toughness and strength, allowing the material to slide under compressive force.

The “bricks” of calcium carbonate are offset, and this brick-wall architecture stops cracks from propagating. Several groups have mimicked nacre’s structure, using materials such as aluminum and titanium alloy to create a metal laminate tough enough for armor.

Dr. Jeffrey Brinker’s group at Sandia National Laboratories used a self-assembly process to create mineral/polymer layered structures that are optically clear but much tougher than glass.

Unlike traditional “heat, beat, and treat” technologies, Brinker’s evaporation-induced, low temperature process allows liquid building blocks to self-assemble and harden into very coatings that can toughen windshields, bodies of solar cars, airplanes or anything that needs to be lightweight but fracture-resistant.

The complex nano-laminate structure of these bio-composite materials is characterized and related to their mechanical properties.

Mark said...

Forest-inspired industrial economies:

On the broader, macro-economic scale, some leading-edge planners, industrialists and entrepreneurs are studying the material cycling that occurs in mature ecosystems such as prairies, forests, and coral reefs. These industrial ecologists are trying to envision how we could shift our economy from a linear, throughput kind of economy to a closed-loop, diverse, highly interconnected system in which only solar ambient energy is coming in, all the “nutrients” are ju ggled forever in cascading loops, and very little waste results.

Mark said...

The production of cement is one of the major CO2 producers


new ways of producing cement could dramatically slash this. How can we
facilitate smooth technological transitions?

Fast facts

* Producing one tonne of cement using traditional feedstock generates one tonne of greenhouse gas

* Geopolymers are an attractive alternative to cement as less energy is consumed and less greenhouse gas is emitted during the production process [HOWEVER-- though above other solutions are ZERO emission..., this 'half solution' has already been surpassed by a full solution.]

* Mining waste-materials such as incinerator fly ash and red mud can be used to produce geopolymers
[why in the world would anyone want to institutionalize incinerator fly ash as a material requirement? This 'solution' is just institutionalizing unrequired dangerous wastes!]

A sounder solution here:

Mark said...

It's an insulator, retardant, purifier, catalyst, remediator, war material (perhaps to make wars impossible actually, if you think about it--indestructible things so humans applying violence to each other might be rendered useless--if equally supplied of course) and building material all rolled into one:


[Several other building materials are mentioned in this post as well, most of them not retardants though insulators instead]

from The Sunday Times
August 19, 2007
Scientists hail ‘frozen smoke’ as material that will change world

Image :3 of 3

Videos: Aerogel in the wild | 'The stuff of dreams': Aerogel in architecture | Peter Stothard on Aerogel, frozen smoke and Rupert Brooke |

A MIRACLE material for the 21st century could protect your home against bomb blasts, mop up oil spillages and even help man to fly to Mars.

Aerogel, one of the world’s lightest solids, can withstand a direct blast of 1kg of dynamite and protect against heat from a blowtorch at more than 1,300C.

Scientists are working to discover new applications for the substance, ranging from the next generation of tennis rackets to super-insulated space suits for a manned mission to Mars.

It is expected to rank alongside wonder products from previous generations such as Bakelite in the 1930s, carbon fibre in the 1980s and silicone in the 1990s.

Mercouri Kanatzidis, a chemistry professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, said: “It is an amazing material. It has the lowest density of any product known to man, yet at the same time it can do so much. I can see aerogel being used for everything from filtering polluted water to insulating against extreme temperatures and even for jewellery.”

Aerogel is nicknamed “frozen smoke” and is made by extracting water from a silica gel, then replacing it with gas such as carbon dioxide.

The result is a substance that is capable of insulating against extreme temperatures and of absorbing pollutants such as crude oil.

It was invented by an American chemist for a bet in 1931, but early versions were so brittle and costly that it was largely consigned to laboratories.

It was not until a decade ago that Nasa started taking an interest in the substance and putting it to a more practical use.

In 1999 the space agency fitted its Stardust space probe with a mitt packed full of aerogel to catch the dust from a comet’s tail. It returned with a rich collection of samples last year.

In 2002 Aspen Aerogel, a company created by Nasa, produced a stronger and more flexible version of the gel. It is now being used to develop an insulated lining in space suits...

Mark Krajewski, a senior scientist at the company, believes that an 18mm layer of aerogel will be sufficient to protect astronauts from temperatures as low as -130C. “It is the greatest insulator we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Aerogel is also being tested for future bombproof housing and armour for military vehicles. In the laboratory, a metal plate coated in 6mm of aerogel was left almost unscathed by a direct dynamite blast.

It also has green credentials. Aerogel is described by scientists as the “ultimate sponge”, with millions of tiny pores on its surface making it ideal for absorbing pollutants in water.

Kanatzidis has created a new version of aerogel designed to mop up lead and mercury from water.

Other versions are designed to absorb oil spills.

He is optimistic that it could be used to deal with environmental catastrophes such as the Sea Empress spillage in 1996,

[the best way to 'deal with' that is to get rid of oil, period! See "Energy" category.]

when 72,000 tons of crude oil were released off the coast of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire.

Aerogel is also being used for everyday applications. Dunlop, the sports equipment company, has developed a range of squash and tennis rackets strengthened with aerogel, which are said to deliver more power.

Earlier this year Bob Stoker, 66, from Nottingham, became the first Briton to have his property insulated with aerogel. “The heating has improved significantly. I turned the thermostat down five degrees. It’s been a remarkable transformation,” he said.

Mountain climbers are also converts. Last year Anne Parmenter, a British mountaineer, climbed Everest using boots that had aerogel insoles, as well as sleeping bags padded with the material. She said at the time: “The only problem I had was that my feet were too hot, which is a great problem to have as a mountaineer.”

However, it has failed to convince the fashion world. Hugo Boss created a line of winter jackets out of the material but had to withdraw them after complaints that they were too hot.

Although aerogel is classed as a solid, 99% of the substance is made up of gas, which gives it a cloudy appearance.

Scientists say that because it has so many millions of pores and ridges, if one cubic centimetre of aerogel were unravelled it would fill an area the size of a football field.

Its nano-sized pores can not only collect pollutants like a sponge but they also act as air pockets.

Researchers believe that some versions of aerogel which are made from platinum can be used to speed up the production of hydrogen. As a result, aerogel can be used to make hydrogen-based fuels.

* Read all 228 comments


From The Times
November 16, 2005
It's the stuff of dreams
Could buildings one day be made of carbon?

Tom Dyckhoff

Mark Miodownik got a box from Nasa the other day. It contained aerogel, the lightest solid on earth. You can barely feel it, save for a slight warmth on your palm.

It’s an insulator, but was mainly used by Nasa for collecting space dust — it’s so light that even the tiniest coating is detectable.

Dr Miodownik likes it, though, for its aesthetics. It’s like bath foam, he explains, “but imagine the bubbles are a nanometre wide”, and, like bath foam, it has a blue iridescence and rainbow refraction.

“I could gaze at it all day. Imagine a building coated in it.”

Dr Miodownik, a materials scientist at King’s College London, has a vast store cupboard of these goodies — “like a giant sweet shop, and I’m in charge”.

The Engineering Art Materials Co-operative is a library not of books but of materials, both sci-fi, such as aerogel, and more commonplace, though equally amazing. Here’s tungsten, “what they make light-bulb filaments from”, only a big fist of it — “people are astonished how heavy it is”.

The point of Dr Miodownik’s sweet shop is to inspire architects, artists and designers. “These materials shouldn’t be gathering dust in science departments. They should be out there,” he says.

Engineering Art is in part a dating agency between creatives and science, through events that Dr Miodownik organises at Tate Modern to get architects, artists and designers just to feel materials, to “innovate through their fingers”, learn their properties and get them “out there” on buildings.

Their obsession with novelty means that architects are as sensitive to trends as schoolkids. Right now you can’t move for buildings made from Cor-Ten steel and ETFE, the first a metal that intentionally rusts to a rich red, the second a cladding material like bubble wrap — the Eden Project is covered in it and the world’s largest ETFE building, the national swimming centre, is being built for the Beijing Olympics.

However, “conservatism is the overriding character of the building industry,” says Graham Dodd, an associate director at Arup, the world’s most innovative engineers. “So technological innovation happens incredibly slowly.”

Dodd’s department scours the globe for new components for buildings.

“There may be technologies or materials that seem new in architecture,” he says, “but by the time they’ve reached us they’re old news.”

Architects have long fantasised about the industrial production of buildings as if they were cars or boats. Future Systems famously used boat manufacturers to construct the Media Stand at Lords because there simply wasn’t the expertise within the building industry.

Today computer-aided design means that architects can dream faster and wilder than ever. Dodd spends much of his time perfecting double curved glass panels to create seamless blobs. Engineering, the actual making of the buildings, and the things they are made from are having to catch up fast with imaginations.

In fact, says Dodd, “we are on the foothills of the most exciting period of technological change since the 1960s”.

Fugitive Materials: The Art and Science of Impermanence, with Mark Miodownik, Cornelia Parker and others, takes place at Tate Modern, SE1 (020-7887 8888), on Nov 29 at 6.30pm.

Bye, bye brick? The future of building


Áron Losonczi, a Hungarian architect, laid glass fibres into structural concrete blocks before they set, rendering the light ethereal and see-through.


Used to insulate spaceships 30 years ago, Nanogel — sound absorbent, insulating and light transmitting — is now sandwiched within building facades.


American architects have invented a new façade material made from paper-thin, polymer-based film, stuffed with air gel pockets for insulation. It can be attached with flexible solar cells and LEDs, printed with patterns and wrapped around a frame.

Electrochromic glass

We already have glass that becomes opaque by running an electric current through it. More sophisticated versions change reflectivity, glare, colour and opacity: entire glass-clad buildings might act like Reactolite sunglasses, and reducing the heat gain and loss that can make glass so energy inefficient.

Responsive environments

Spaces that communicate with their user have been one of architecture’s dreams since the Sixties. One day walls will be soft, embedded with sensors and IT, so that walls become like skin, buildings like bodies. Coating walls in nanotechnology devices is being explored too, for instance to make surfaces self-cleaning — or coating them in electronic ink so that a wall becomes one giant LCD screen. The first small SmartSlab panels will emerge in the next three years.

Carbon fibre

Imagine a skyscraper, 40 storeys high, with a helical shell entirely woven by robots from IT-embedded carbon fibre, like a cocoon. The LA architects Peter Testa and Devyn Weiser are pioneering the transfer of carbon fibre technology to architecture. Most of their projects, like the Carbon Tower, remain speculative.

Mark said...

Geodesic The Concept
As related to a cost effective mass housing solution.

n'Kozi Developments (Pty) Ltd dba n'Kozi Homes is a start-up innovative company led by Joseph Feigelson and has been registered as private Company in Cape Town.

A Final Patent has been granted in South Africa and the principal is in favor of discussing FRANCHISE opportunities worldwide.

Brick and mortar structures are the norm for almost all housing in South Africa.

Small profit margins associated with low-cost brick and mortar housing projects have often resulted in inferior workmanship.

Consequently, there are few satisfied occupants of these new homes, many of which are plagued with rising damp, cracking masonry, lack of adequate insulation etc.

Traditionally these "box-like" like structures have no insulation or natural air circulation; they are hot in summer and cold in winter resulting in unnecessary health related problems.

Beneficiaries of these houses, in many instances within the affordable low-cost sector, have refused to continue to pay the rent and this has resulted in the present state of affairs.

The maturation of the SA Pine industry over the past decade, now makes timber a suitable, cost effective construction material, thereby facilitating n'Kozi Homes timber framed structures to make an impact in the entire housing market.

Our technology is unique, has a provisional patent, and has no competition with similar design. We have completed the design and development of our first product, allowing us to offer a larger, insulated, better and less expensive dwelling structure compared to the normal "box-like" structures.


n'Kozi Homes' vision is to play a significant role through the delivery of integrated housing solutions in a region whereby citizens live equitably, free from poverty and the suffocating grip of underdevelopment and the control of energy and information. A region where adequate access to basic needs, technology and information for development is secured by ensuring appropriate access for civil society to effectively participate in the Global Information Society (GIS).


n'Kozi Homes' mission is to contribute towards "greening" the environment through the delivery of integrated housing solutions whereby the free and equitable flow of information and the deployment of appropriate technologies and knowledge networks are applied to enhance and deepen citizen's rights, access, usage and participation towards an open society.

In doing this to become a leading provider throughout the region, of innovative, practical, energy efficient and affordable (less expensive than any conventional structures) geodesic structures suitable for traditional housing as well as the government subsidized low-cost housing sector, holiday homes, clinics, schools, resorts, agricultural buildings, game reserves, tuck shops, spaza shops, granny flats, thatched gazebos, storage facilities etc.,.

n'Kozi Homes is focused to invest in energy efficient housing, and in the development of strong communities through the support of community development financial institutions and socially conscious venture capital funds.

n'Kozi Homes has incorporated the delivery of clean, efficient, sustainable and renewable energy technologies to meet the energy needs of under-served populations, thereby reducing the environmental and health consequences of existing energy use patterns.

Future plans envisage:

The development of (gated) energy-efficient communities consisting of clusters of affordable units of approximately 33-99 square meters each, clustered around communal facilities that would include laundry facilities, communal meeting and recreational facility, Information, Communication and Technology facility as well as a Picnic/Park/Braai area.

It is our policy and intention to deliver solar and where relevant, wind power as standard offerings.

We envisage that the beneficiaries of our products will not have the choice, solar and other applicable sustainable alternate energy would be the norm with our product offers.

The development and delivery of integrated "Smart African Villages" whereby n'Kozi Homes will provide the backbone for enabling technologies in alternative and renewable energies as well as incorporating Information and Communication Technology (ICT), thereby contributing towards bridging the "digital divide."

The gap between those with access to and knowledge of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and those without is significant.

n'Kozi Homes' intends to use the power of ICT in their business and developments which can help bridge the Divide.

Social Responsibilities and Skills Development Programme.

n'Kozi Homes will train and empower certain of its construction crews to train additional crews in order to create new jobs.

We will also encourage and promote business people to affiliate themselves with our organization so as to encourage entrepreneurism and eco-preneurism through the manufacture and sale of our products. The construction of the n'Kozi Homes will be outsourced.

This will create new small enterprises as well as job creation.

© 2003 N'KOZI HOMES (PTY) LTD. 78 Pienaar Road, Milnerton, Cape Town, South Africa, 7441
TEL: 27.21.552.7660 CELL: 27.82.572.6722 EMAIL:

Mark said...

Biomimicry Inspired Solar Panels: 'Synthetic Chlorophyll' Organic Dyes Instead of Toxic Silicon Processes for Solar Energy--Can Be put in Walls, Roof, Glass, etc., as Building Materials as well

April 19, 2007

Taking Nature's Cue for Cheaper Solar Power
Auckland, New Zealand


Solar cell technology developed by Massey University's Nanomaterials Research Centre in New Zealand may one day enable the country's residents to generate electricity from sunlight at a tenth of the cost of current silicon-based photovoltaic solar cells.

Dr. Wayne Campbell and researchers in the Centre have developed a range of colored dyes for use in dye-sensitized solar cells.

"The refining of pure silicon, although a very abundant mineral, is energy-hungry and very expensive. And whereas silicon cells need direct sunlight to operate efficiently, these cells will work efficiently in low diffuse light conditions."
-- Dr. Wayne Campbell, Massey University, Nanomaterials Research Centre

The synthetic dyes are made from simple organic compounds closely related to those found in nature.

Green dye is synthetic chlorophyll derived from the light-harvesting pigment plants use for photosynthesis.

Other dyes being tested in the cells are based on haemoglobin, the compound that gives blood its color.

Unlike the silicon-based solar cells currently on the market, says Dr. Campbell, the 10x10cm green demonstration cells generate enough electricity to run a small fan in low-light conditions -- making them ideal for cloudy climates.

The dyes can also be incorporated into tinted windows that trap to generate electricity.

According to Dr. Campbell, the green solar cells are more environmentally friendly than silicon-based cells as they are made from titanium dioxide -- a plentiful, renewable and non-toxic white mineral obtained from New Zealand's black sand. Titanium dioxide is already used in consumer products such as toothpaste, white paints and cosmetics.

"The refining of pure silicon, although a very abundant mineral, is energy-hungry and very expensive. And whereas silicon cells need direct sunlight to operate efficiently, these cells will work efficiently in low diffuse light conditions," Dr. Campbell says.

"The expected cost is one-tenth of the price of a silicon-based solar panel, making them more attractive and accessible to home-owners."

The Centre's new director, Professor Ashton Partridge, says they now have the most efficient porphyrin dye in the world and aim to optimize and improve the cell construction and performance before developing the cells commercially.

"The next step is to take these dyes and incorporate them into roofing materials or wall panels. We have had many expressions of interest from New Zealand companies," Professor Partridge says.

He says the ultimate aim of using nanotechnology to develop a better solar cell is to convert as much sunlight to electricity as possible.

"The energy that reaches earth from sunlight in one hour is more than that used by all human activities in one year," said Partridge.

The solar cells are the product of more than 10 years research funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

For Further Information
* Nanomaterials Research Centre, Massey University

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Reader Comments (15)

Adrian Akau
Date Posted:
April 19, 2007
Nature's PV

Toothpaste that we brush with to make teeth clean and bright,
Titanium dioxide is sure to reach its height, For use in dye solar cells, will convert weak light,
We expect it will make solar power a very common sight.

For walls and for roofing,
this low cost dye will do,
Synthetic chlorophyll or hemoglobin too,
Low power for production of a PV cell that's new,
Less costly than silicon,
we like it through and through.
Comment 1 of 15
Gajraj Singh
Date Posted:
April 20, 2007

It's very good news ,we are going to the static energy source. Here is used Synthetic chlorophyll in the system,so we must take care of getting the chlorophyll from harmful plants. Cutting useful plants is harmful to all of us as the problem of glabal warming.

i hope we all will get the advantage of the new energy source.

Comment 2 of 15
Don Lemna
Date Posted:
April 20, 2007
Lovely! Go New Zealand!

Comment 3 of 15
Michael Halpin
Date Posted:
April 20, 2007
Great news on the home front.

Congratulations to you and the team Wayne "go kiwis go"

Massey is brimming with talent;I hope the next step is to demonstrate how your green cells can produce green hydrogen.

Then maybe I can convince your university design team to "get in behind" the H. pHenomena project.

I would love to showcase it at the new Albany centre

Mike H.

Michael Halpin founder HYDROGENHEADS

Comment 4 of 15
Scott Leone
Date Posted:
April 20, 2007

This gives even more significance to "green" energy. I just went online and bought the domain name "". Now, perhaps, I can deduct a trip to New Zealand.

Comment 5 of 15
Radhakrishnan Chirukandath
Date Posted:

April 20, 2007
This will be a great step forard to help millions of unlit houses in Kalimanthan Island of Indonesia and simlar places. I wish to paint my house roof with a solar energy capturing material

It is indeed a great development

Comment 6 of 15
Michael Gross
Date Posted:
April 20, 2007

Comment 7 of 15
Keith Ljunghammar
Date Posted:
April 21, 2007
It seems that E = MC2 is back in circulation. You evidently have the new formula. But this time everyone can understand it.

Comment 8 of 15
Clara Duran Reed
Date Posted:
April 21, 2007
Fantastic! Our company builds green communities and lower cost alternatives to current technology is encouraging! The savings can be passed on to the consumer.

Comment 9 of 15
Roy Bauer
Date Posted:
April 22, 2007
Best invention since the light bulb.
Good job Massey University.

Comment 10 of 15
Date Posted:
April 23, 2007
The efficient solar cell (40+%) would be fantastic. This would be much greater. Now the trick, is to get massive funding to accelerate the research, and get a product on-line. Please do it! The world is waiting.

Comment 11 of 15
sarat panigrahy
Date Posted:
April 24, 2007
Congratulations! Dr Wayne & Your team for your fantastic achievement - its great NEWS for the humanity.

It would be a wonderful fete to take solar power to the under privileged people in Asia , Africa and the rest of the World.

Comment 12 of 15
Date Posted:
April 25, 2007

If present thin-film solar roofing is cost-effective at only 3% conversion efficiency, think what the future holds with this technology! California's "Million Solar Rooftops" might become a cost-effective reality instead of a rebate-loaded PV nightmare.


Mark said...

Coconut tree trunks can be a sustainable wood product, and the tree has many other uses (see vegetable based foods for the main posts about coconut trees). They are used for building small bridges, preferred for their straightness, strength and salt resistance.

Mark said...

Bamboo as well can be a sustainable and quick growing wood product for easy and multi-use construction.

There are many books on bamboo related to this.

Bamboo might feasabily be used as a 'trellis forest' for reestablishing other endangered areas and biodiversity (a forest that dies out later when other taller trees choke it out..)

Phyllostachys is a genus of bamboo. The species are native to Asia with a large number of species found in Central China, but can now be found in many temperate and semi-tropical areas around the world as cultivated plants or escapes from cultivation.

Most of the species spread aggressively by underground rhizomes and some are considered invasive species in areas outside their native range, particularly in North America.

The stem or culm has a prominent groove, called a sulcus, that runs along the length of each segment (or internode). Because of this it is one of the most easily identifiable genera of bamboo.

There are approximately 75 species and 200 varieties and cultivars of Phyllostachys. The largest grow to be about 100 feet (30 m) tall in optimum conditions. Some of the larger species, sometimes known as "timber bamboo", are used as construction timber and for making furniture.


Commercial timber

Timber is harvested from cultivated and wild stands and some of the larger bamboos, particularly species in the genus Phyllostachys, are known as "timber bamboos".

Ornamental bamboos
Many bamboos are popular in cultivation as garden plants.

There are two general patterns for the growth of bamboo, "clumping" (sympodial) and "running" (monopodial).

Clumping bamboo species tend to spread slowly as the growth pattern of the rhizomes is to simply expand the root mass gradually, similar to ornamental grasses.

Running bamboos on the other hand need to be taken care of in cultivation because of their potential for aggressive behavior.

They spread mainly through their roots and/or rhizomes, which can spread widely underground and send up new culms to break through the surface. Running bamboo species are highly variable in their tendency to spread; this is related to both the species and the soil and climate conditions.

Some can send out runners several meters a year, while others can stay in the same general area for long periods. If neglected, over time they can cause problems by moving into adjacent areas. The reputation of bamboo as being highly invasive is often exaggerated, and situations where it has taken over large areas is often the result of years of untended or neglected plantings.

Invasiveness in not a trait of bamboos since they seldom flower, the seed produced usually has a low germination rate, bamboos do not survive well out of the ground, and do not establish well in wild areas.

Once established as a grove, it is difficult to completely remove bamboo without digging up the entire network of underground rhizomes. If bamboo must be removed, an alternative to digging it up is to cut down the culms, and then repeatedly mow down new shoots as they arise, until the root system exhausts its energy supply and dies. If any leaves are allowed to photosynthesize, the bamboo survives and may continue spreading.

There are two main ways to prevent the spread of running bamboo into adjacent areas. The first method is rhizome pruning or "edging", which involves removing any rhizomes escaping the desired bamboo area. Pruning shears, shovels, and pickaxes are useful tools for this task. Under typical soil conditions the rhizomes are generally very close to the surface(usually within 0-3 inches, sometimes as deep as a foot). Rhizome pruning maintenance should be done at least once per year, but better is to check in the spring, summer, and fall. Some species may be deep running (beyond typical spade depth). These are much harder to control and deeper cuts will need to be made. Regular maintenance will indicate major growth directions and locations. Once the rhizomes are cut they are typically removed; however, rhizomes take a number of months to mature and an immature, severed rhizome will usually cease growing if left in-ground.

If any bamboo shoots come up outside of the bamboo area afterwards, their presence indicates the precise location of the missed rhizome. The fibrous roots that radiate from the rhizomes do not grow up to be more bamboo so if they stay in the ground, that's no problem.

The second way to control growth is by surrounding the plant or grove with a physical barrier.

Concrete and specially rolled HDPE plastic are usual materials. This is placed in a 60-90 cm (2-3 feet) deep ditch around the planting, and angled out at the top to direct the rhizomes to the surface. Strong rhizomes and tools can penetrate plastic barriers with relative ease, so great care must be taken.

Barriers usually fail sooner or later, or the bamboo within suffers greatly. In small areas regular maintenance is the only perfect method of controlling the spreading bamboos. Bamboo in barriers is much more difficult to remove than free-spreading bamboo.

Barriers and edging are unnecessary for clump forming bamboos.

Clump forming bamboos may eventually need to have portions removed if they get too large.


Culinary uses

Bamboo shoot

The shoots (new bamboo culms that come out of the ground) of bamboo, called zhú sǔn (simplified: 竹笋; traditional: 竹筍) or simply sǔn (笋) in Chinese, are edible.

They are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths, and are available in supermarkets in various sliced forms, both fresh and canned version.

Bamboo shoot tips are called zhú sǔn jiān (竹笋尖) or simply sǔn jiān (笋尖).

In Indonesia they are sliced thinly and then boiled with santan (thick coconut milk) and spices to make a dish named gulai rebung.

Other recipes using bamboo shoots are sayur lodeh (mixed vegetables in coconut milk) and lun pia (sometimes written lumpia: fried wrapped bamboo shoots with vegetables).

Note that the shoots of some species contain toxins that need to be leached or boiled out before they can be eaten safely.

Pickled bamboo, used as a condiment, may also be made from the pith of the young shoots.

The sap of young stalks tapped during the rainy season may be fermented to make ulanzi (a sweet wine) or simply made into a soft drink. Zhúyèqīng jiǔ (竹葉青酒) is a green-coloured Chinese liquor that has bamboo leaves as one of its ingredients.

Bamboo leaves are also used as wrappers for zongzi, a steamed dumpling typical of southern China, which usually contains glutinous rice and other ingredients.

Bamboo is used in Chinese medicine for treating infections. It is also a low calorie source of potassium. In Ayurveda, a Indian system of traditional medicine, the silicious concretion found in the culms of the bamboo stem is called banslochan. It is known as tabashir or tawashir in Unani-Tibb the Indo-Persian system of Medicine. In English this concretion is called "bamboo manna". This concretion is said to be a tonic for the respiratory diseases. This concretion, which was earlier obtained from Melocanna bambusoides is very hard to get now and has been largely replaced by synthetic silcic acid. In most of the Indian literature, Bambusa arundinacea has been shown to be the source of bamboo manna (Puri, 2003).

The empty hollow in the stalks of larger bamboo is often used to cook food in many Asian cultures.

Soups are boiled and rice is cooked in the hollows of fresh stalks of bamboo directly over a flame. As well, steamed tea is sometimes rammed into bamboo hollows to produce compressed forms of Pu-erh tea.

In Sambalpur, India,the tender shoots are grated into julliens and fermented to prepare KARDI also synonymous with Bamboo Shoots the name is derieved from the Sanskrit word for Bamboo Shoot "karira". This fermented Bamboo Shoot is used various culinary preparation notably "amil", a sour vegetable soup. It is also made into pan cakes using rice flour as a binding agent along with spices and condiments to prepare a side dish in the local main meal. The Shoots that has turned a little fibrous is fermented dried and grounded to sand size particles to prepare a garnish known as "Hendua". It is also cooked with tender Pumpkin leaves to make Sag "Green Leaves".

Other uses

Bamboo scaffolding can reach great heights.

Chinese bamboo carving, late Qing Dynasty.

Bicycle frame made of bamboo (1896)

Making a bamboo mill in the Yangshuo countryside, Guanxi, China (March 2007)

When treated, bamboo forms a very hard wood which is both light and exceptionally durable. In tropical climates it is used in elements of house construction, as well as for fences, bridges, toilets, walking sticks, canoes, tableware, furniture, chopsticks, food steamers, toys, construction scaffolding, as a substitute for steel reinforcing rods in concrete construction, hats, and martial arts weaponry, including fire arrows, flame throwers and rockets.

Also, abaci and various musical instruments such as the dizi, xiao, shakuhachi, palendag, jinghu, and angklung.

The Bamboo Organ of Las Pinas, Philippines has pipes made of bamboo culms.

When bamboo is harvested for wood, care is needed to select mature stems that are several years old, as first-year stems, although full size, are not fully developed and are not as strong as more mature stems.

Bamboo is also widely carved for decorative artwork. Modern companies are attempting to popularize bamboo flooring made of bamboo pieces steamed, flattened, glued together, finished, and cut.

However, bamboo wood is easily infested by wood-boring insects unless treated with wood preservatives or kept very dry (see carving, right).

Bamboo canes are normally round in cross-section, but square canes can be produced by forcing the new young culms to grow through a tube of square cross-section slightly smaller than the culm's natural diameter, thereby constricting the growth to the shape of the tube.

Every few days the tube is removed and replaced higher up the fast-growing culm.

The fibre of bamboo has been used to make paper in China since early times. A high quality hand-made paper is still produced in small quantities. Coarse bamboo paper is still used to make spirit money in many Chinese communities.

The wood is used for knitting needles and the fibre can be used for yarn and fabrics. Bamboo fabric is notable for its soft feel and natural antibacterial properties.[4] Clothing made from bamboo fibre is popular for activities such as yoga. Bed sheets and towels made from bamboo have become luxury items[citation needed]. Sharpened bamboo is also traditionally used to tattoo in Japan, Hawaii and elsewhere.

A Chinese bamboo book, unfolded.Bamboo is used for the stems of traditional Chinese and Japanese smoking pipes, and was also utilized for crafting the stems of opium pipes.

A variety of species of bamboo was one of about two dozen plants carried by Polynesian voyagers to provide all their needs settling new islands; in the Hawaiian Islands, among many uses, Ohe (bamboo) carried water, made irrigation troughs for taro terraces, was used as a traditional knife for cutting the umbilical cord of a newborn, as a stamp for dyeing bark tapa cloth, and for four hula instruments — nose flute, rattle, stamping pipes and Jew's harp.

Some skateboard, snowboard deck manufacturers as well as surfboard builders are beginning to use bamboo construction. It is both lighter and stronger than traditional materials and its cultivation is environmentally friendly. At least one snow ski manufacturing company, Liberty Skis, now uses bamboo construction for these reasons.[5]

Bamboo has been used in the construction of fishing rods since the mid 1800s. However, following the invention of fibreglass and graphite, bamboo use in fishing rods has declined dramatically. There is something of a resurgence of the use of bamboo, particularly for bamboo fly rods as demonstrated by some companies because of their aesthetics and impact on the environment.

Woven Bamboo Basket kept for sale in K R Market, Bangalore, India

Bamboo is also used to make enclosures in fish farming, where cages can be made from a wooden frame and bamboo lattices. It is also used to make the high-end lightweight fishing rods used in fly fishing.

A single shoot of Bamboo can also be made into a didgeridoo, a wind instrument that is indigenous to Australia.

Bamboo has gained increasing popularity in the culinary world as a material for cutting boards, as they are hard enough to withstand years of knife abuse, yet more forgiving to the knife blade, causing less damage to the edged utensils over time.

In Indonesia, bamboo has been used for making various kinds of musical instruments. The most popular ones are kolintang and angklung. Especially for angklung, it is the pride and joy of the Sundanese people, and they have been safeguarding this tradition for centuries. Although, it is (in a lesser extent) also played by the Balinese, and later on spread to the neighboring countries in south east Asia.

In Vietnam, bamboo is the material to make a lot of houseware; table and chair, basket, rá, giần, sàng, fishing rod, bè, lantern, kite, chông (a kind of weapon), house, bamboo bridge which are only bamboo tree-trunk width, and some kinds of musical instrument: đàn tranh, đàn bầu. Bamboos grown in range as natural walls to protect Vietnamese villages from their enemies and to keep soil from Red River flood erosion. Bamboo duramen soup is a Vietnamese precious imperial meal.


Mark said...

Dynamic Architecture in Dubai
May 25th, 2007

Italian experimental architecture company Dynamic Architecture has proposed a revolving sustainable skyscraper for Dubai powered by wind turbines placed between each floor.


Each floor rotates separately, meaning the building’s profile will constantly change.


With 59 storeys and 58 turbines, the designers calculate the tower will generate enough surplus electricity to power a further five skyscrapers of similar size.


Above: hotel floor layout


Above: apartment floor layout

>> see architect Glenn Howell’s proposal for a revolving, solar-powered residential tower in Dubai in our earlier story here

>> see more architecture in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar on our interactive google map

Details from the architects below:

Our Architecture employs wind turbines, positioned horizontally between each floors, which will produce energy to the building itself and will supply as well energy for several other buildings. A tower of 59 floors will have 58 wind turbines, making the building to be also a Power Station producing Green Energy in the city. Because if tomorrow is the time where we all are going to live the rest of our lives, we want it to be a really better place.

The Dynamic Architecture building, which will be constantly in motion changing its shape, will be able to generate electric energy for itself as well as for other buildings. Forty-eight wind turbines fitted between each rotating floors as well as the solar panels positioned on the roof of the building will produce energy from wind and the sunlight, with no risk of pollution.

The total energy produced by this inbuilt ‘powerhouse’ every year will be worth approximately seven million dollars. 
Each turbine can produce 0.3 megawatt of electricity, cmpared to 1-1.5 megawatt generated by a normal vertical turbine (windmill).

Considering that Dubai gets 4,000 wind hours annually, the turbines incorporated into the building can generate 1,200,000 kilowatt-hour of energy.
As average annual power consumption of a family is estimated to be 24,000 kilowatt-hour, each turbine can supply energy for about 50 families. The Dynamic Architecture tower in Dubai will be having 200 apartments and hence four turbines can take care of their energy needs.

The surplus clean energy produced by the remaining 44 turbines can light up the neighborhood of the building. However, taking into consideration that the average wind speed in Dubai is of only 16 km/h the architects may need to double the number of turbines to light up the building to eight. Still there will be 40 free turbines, good enough to supply power for five skyscrapers of the same size.

The horizontal turbines of the Dynamic Architecture building are simply inserted between the floors, practically invisible. They neither need a pole nor a concrete foundation. In addition, they are at zero distance from the consumer, which makes maintenance easier. 
The modern design of the building and the carbon fiber special shape of the wings take care of the acoustics issues.

Producing that much electric energy without any implication on the aesthetic aspect of the building is a revolutionary step in tapping alternative energy sources. Furthermore, this energy will have a positive impact on the environment and economy.

This architecture is revolutionary even in the way it’s built. It is in fact the first building produced in a factory, apart from the concrete core. It’s produced of complete luxury units in a factory, including all plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and installed on the concrete core right on location.

This ready made implementation offers high quality finishing, high quality control and the use of a very few workers on site, with a real cost, life risks and time savings. Besides, this architecture, made of single separated floors offer higher seismic resistance than any other normal building. Dynamic Architecture is designed for better living even before it’s finished.

Thanks to the fact that it’s built in a factory and just assembled on site, the number of workers on site is reduced from 2000 to 90. 
The ready made technology allows a revolutionary implementation which is the quickest way to build a tower: building time is reduced from 30 to 18 months. 
The revolutionary ready made technology, plus the fact that it moves to the wind, allows the building to be 1.3 times more resistant to earthquakes.

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 25th, 2007 at 3:33 pm and is filed under Architecture, Green, all. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
6 Responses to “Dynamic Architecture in Dubai”

1. Reinhold Ziegler Says:

As “SOLARTECTS” and wind and solar engineers building building integrated high rises in the U.S. and China I question the following statement:
“Considering that DUBAI gets 4000 wind hours annually the windturbines can generate 1,200,000 kilowatt hours of energy. (every year)

Comment: There are 8760 hours in a year. The 4000 wind hours would have winds blowing at different velocities. In order to produce 300 kw per machine the wind would have to be wide open at 25 to 35 mph. This is unrealistic in the United Emirates!

The design would be more realistic if the south side of the tower would also be a collector for PV electricity. This would contribute energy when there is no wind and with no moving parts.

Reinhold Ziegler, P.E. General Partner
Synergy International Inc.
May 26th, 2007 at 1:10 am
2. Rafael Pérez Says:

Amazing story. Does anyone know the name of the engineer who designed this?

HAD - Journal of Algorithm-Generated Design.
June 5th, 2007 at 11:31 am
3. Martin Says:

Looks like Turning Torso in sweden.
June 14th, 2007 at 10:28 pm
4. hm budyal Says:

dynamic architecture

Is this environment is livable - because as we know architecture means creating a space for function.

As our earth is moving on its axis but we never feel the momentum because our body got adjusted to the earth movement (because we are born on this condition) we will feel disturbed because of small earth quake and it will affect our life.

Probably we might get adjusted to the dynamics of the structure but in due course we have to regulate its movements so that people get adjusted to environment of structure. But to do so we have to have working environment also with same concept so that they do not feel the change of environment.

In mean wile some malfunction happens in the dynamics of the structure .than that day every one living in the premises will be disturbed .if the dynamics of structure does not regulate within sort period than all the occupants in the building has to leave the premise for time un till The dynamics of structure is regulated

And as we all know we have some movable environments we are using to live or for reaching from one place to other. Our transportation system

People live and survive in this type of environment.
For very short period and for the cause they live in the environment. it
Maybe because they might have to reach some place or because they are working there. And if you ask them if they like to be there for any more time probably with out a reason they might not stay in that environment.

About a self generation of energy- it is good concept .I think we can generate energy with out the dynamics of architecture. We have some examples also which are built in Arab countries

About the construction technique explained can be best utilized .it will reduce the construction time. And with the prefab constructed units we can achieve quality. Also we can save valuable working hours on site
September 18th, 2007 at 7:02 am


Mark said...

The music and melodrama and platitudes over and over is a bit much. To summarize, it is a rotating, solar/wind tower you can live in. It has an interesting construction process that is discussed as well--that is the only fathomable tangible contribution I think that this video provides.

The first World Dynamic Architecture in DuBai project
6 min 35 sec

Mark said...

ScienceDaily (May 27, 2008) — A new study into the potential health hazards of the revolutionary nano-sized particles known as 'buckyballs' predicts that the molecules are easily absorbed into animal cells, providing a possible explanation for how the molecules could be toxic to humans and other organisms.

Using computer simulations, University of Calgary biochemist Peter Tieleman, post-doctoral fellow Luca Monticelli and colleagues modeled the interaction between carbon-60 molecules and cell membranes and found that the particles are able to enter cells by permeating their membranes without causing mechanical damage.

"Buckyballs are already being made on a commercial scale for use in coatings and materials but we have not determined their toxicity," said Tieleman, a Senior Scholar of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research who specializes in membrane biophysics and biocomputing. "There are studies showing that they can cross the blood-brain barrier and alter cell functions, which raises a lot of questions about their toxicity and what impact they may have if released into the environment."

Tieleman's team used the high-powered computing resources of WestGrid, a partnership between 14 Western Canadian institutions, to run some of the cell behaviour simulations. The resulting model showed that buckyball particles are able to dissolve in cell membranes, pass into cells and re-form particles on the other side where they can cause damage to cells.

Spherical carbon-60 molecules were discovered in 1985, leading to the Nobel Prize in physics for researchers from the University of Sussex and Rice University who named the round, hollow molecules Buckminsterfullerene after renowned American architect Richard Buckminster Fuller, the inventor of the geodesic dome.

Popularly known as buckyballs, carbon-60 molecules form naturally in minute quantities under extreme conditions such as lightning strikes.

They can also be produced artificially as spheres or oblong-shaped balls, known as fullerenes, and can be used to produce hollow fibers known as carbon nanotubes.

Both substances are considered to be promising materials in the field of nanotechnology because of their incredible strength and heat resistance. [though they kill you and destroy all life.]

Potential applications include the production of industrial materials, drug delivery systems, fuel cells and even cosmetics.

In recent years, much research has focused on the potential health and environmental impacts of buckyballs and carbon nanotubes.

Fullerenes have been shown to cause brain damage in fish and inhaling carbon nanotubes results in lung damage similar to that caused by asbestos.

"Buckyballs commonly form into clumps that could easily be inhaled by a person as dust particles," Tieleman said. "How they enter cells and cause damage is still poorly understood but our model shows a possible mechanism for how this might occur."

Journal reference:

1. Jirasak Wong-Ekkabut, Svetlana Baoukina1, Wannapong Triampo, I-Ming Tang, D. Peter Tieleman1 & Luca Monticelli1. Computer simulation study of fullerene translocation through lipid membranes. Nature Nanotechnology. doi:10.1038/nnano.2008.130

Adapted from materials provided by University of Calgary.



Vanderbilt Chemical Engineers Question Safety Of Certain Nanomaterials

ScienceDaily (Dec. 7, 2005) — Soccer-ball-shaped “buckyballs” are the most famous players on the nanoscale field, presenting tantalizing prospects of revolutionizing medicine and the computer industry.

Since their discovery in 1985, engineers and scientists have been exploring the properties of these molecules for a wide range of applications and innovations.

But could these microscopic spheres represent a potential environmental hazard?

A new study published in December 2005 in Biophysical Journal raises a red flag regarding the safety of buckyballs when dissolved in water.

It reports the results of a detailed computer simulation that finds buckyballs bind to the spirals in DNA molecules in an aqueous environment, causing the DNA to deform, potentially interfering with its biological functions and possibly causing long-term negative side effects in people and other living organisms.

The research, conducted at Vanderbilt by chemical engineers Peter T. Cummings and Alberto Striolo (now a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma), along with Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientist Xiongce Zhao, employed molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the question of whether buckyballs would bind to DNA and, if so, might inflict any lasting damage.

“Safe is a difficult word to define, since few substances that can be ingested into the human body are completely safe,” points out Cummings, who is the John R. Hall Professor of Chemical Engineering and director of the Nanomaterials Theory Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“Even common table salt, if eaten in sufficient quantity, is lethal. What we are doing is looking at the mechanisms of interaction between buckyballs and DNA; we don’t know yet what actually happens in the body,” he says.

Surprising findings

Despite the caveat, Cummings suggests that his research reveals a potentially serious problem: “Buckyballs have a potentially adverse effect on the structure, stability and biological functions of DNA molecules.”

The findings came as something of a surprise, despite earlier studies that have shown buckyballs to be toxic to cells unless coated and to be able to find their way into the brains of fish.

Before these cautionary discoveries, researchers thought that the combination of buckyballs’ dislike of water and their affinity for each other would cause them to clump together and sink to the bottom of a pool, lake, stream or other aqueous environment. As a result, researchers thought they should not cause a significant environmental problem.

Cummings’ team found that, depending on the form the DNA takes, the 60-carbon-atom (C60) buckyball molecule can lodge in the end of a DNA molecule and break apart important hydrogen bonds within the double helix. They can also stick to the minor grooves on the outside of DNA, causing the DNA molecule to bend significantly to one side. Damage to the DNA molecule is even more pronounced when the molecule is split into two helices, as it does when cells are dividing or when the genes are being accessed to produce proteins needed by the cell.

“The binding energy between DNA and buckyballs is quite strong,” Cummings says. “We found that the energies were comparable to the binding energies of a drug to receptors in cells.”

It turns out that buckyballs have a stronger affinity for DNA than they do for themselves. “This research shows that if buckyballs can get into the nucleus, they can bind to DNA,” Cummings says. “If the DNA is damaged, it can be inhibited from self-repairing.”

Computer simulations

The computer simulations showed that buckyballs make first contact with the DNA molecule after one to two nanoseconds.

Once the C60 molecules bind with the DNA, they remained stable for the duration of the simulation.

Researchers tested the most common forms of DNA, the “A” and “B” forms. The “B” form is the most common form. In a stronger saline solution, or when alcohol is added, the DNA structure can change to the “A” form. A third, rarer form, “Z,” occurs in high concentrations of alcohol or salt and was not tested.

The researchers found that buckyballs docked on the minor groove of “A” DNA, bending the molecule and deforming the stacking angles of the base pairs in contact with it. The simulations also showed that buckyballs can penetrate the free end of “A” form DNA and permanently break the hydrogen bonds between the end base pair of nucleotides.

As expected, the buckyballs bound most strongly to single helix DNA, causing the most deformation and damage. While buckyballs did bind to “B” form double-strand DNA, the binding did not affect the overall shape of the DNA molecule.

More research needed

What the researchers don’t know is whether these worrisome binding events will take place in the body.

“Earlier studies have shown both that buckyballs can migrate into bodily tissues and can penetrate cell membranes,” Cummings says. “We don’t know whether they can penetrate a cell nucleus and reach the DNA stored there. What this study shows is that if the buckyballs can get into the nucleus they could cause real problems. What are needed now are experimental and theoretical studies to demonstrate whether they can actually get there. Because the toxicity of nanomaterials like buckyballs is not well known at this point, they are regarded in the laboratory as potentially very hazardous, and treated accordingly.”

Adapted from materials provided by Vanderbilt University.


Mark said...

Posted: June 6, 2008

Problematic new findings regarding toxicity of silver nanoparticles

(Nanowerk Spotlight) Engineered nanoparticles are rapidly becoming a part of our daily life in the form of cosmetics, food packaging, drug delivery systems, therapeutics, biosensors, etc. A number of commercial products such as wound dressing, detergents or antimicrobial coatings are already in the market. Although little [A LOT!] is known about their bio distribution and bio activity, especially silver nanoparticles are extensively used for all kinds of antimicrobial applications.

Ultimately, these nanoparticles end up in the environment during waste disposal. Largely due to a scarcity of data on the toxicity, intracellular distribution and fate of silver ions and nanoparticles inside an organism, regulatory bodies so far have not felt the need to regulate the use of such materials in commercial products or disposal of such products.

In a major reversal, although more of a symbolic gesture, earlier last year the U.S. EPA has determined that clothes washing machines that use silver ions as a disinfectant will have to be registered as a pesticide (The first federal restrictions on nanotechnology could be coming soon).

The lack of regulation has even led to a dramatic demand from activist groups to completely ban the sale of nanosilver products (Groups file legal action for EPA to stop sale of 200+ nanosilver products).

In order to improve the scientific data and to enhance our insight on the health and environmental impact of silver nanoparticles, scientists in Singapore have initiated an in vivo toxicology study to examine nanosilver in a zebrafish model.

They conclude that silver nanoparticles have the potential to cause health and ecotoxicity issues in a concentration-dependent manner.

"Owing to the wide range of applications of nanoparticles in commercial products, it is certain that such particles will end up in environment through uncontrolled waste disposal" Dr. Suresh Valiyaveettil tells Nanowerk.

"Therefore, it is important to learn and assess the impact of such nanoparticles on the environment as soon as possible. Our work highlights the potential hazards of silver nanoparticles in aquatic animals such as zebrafish. We used zebrafish as a model system due to its fast developmental biology and transparent body structure. The zebrafish embryos exposed to silver nanoparticles showed deposition of particles in vital organs such as the brain and exhibited severe developmental defects."

nanoporous film for nanofiltration
Microscopic images of control embryos at 24 hours post fertilization (hpf) (A), which developed normally, Ag-BSA (5 µg per ml) treated embryos at 24 hpf (B) showing slimy fluid with brown flakes inside the chorion and live embryos (C) at 24 hpf showing cloudy appearance resembling dead embryos. Inset picture shows the distinct appearance of dead and malformed embryos at 48 hpf. Optical images of slimy coating with brown specks (D), isolated from the embryos (conc. of silver nanoparticle was 10 µg per ml). DAPI-stained chorionic fluid from control embryos (E) showing no nuclear staining and slimy coating from silver nanoparticle treated embryos (F) with clear evidence of nuclear staining. Optical micrographs of normal and healthy control larvae at 72 hpf (G), deformities in Ag-starch treated (H) and Ag-BSA treated (I) larvae (conc. 100 µg per ml). The unhatched embryos were decorinated using fine needles. Acridine orange staining (72 hpf): control embryos (J), Ag-BSA ((K) 50 µg per ml) and Ag-starch ((L) 50 µg per ml) treated embryos showing bright green spots on the skin indicating presence of apoptotic cells. (Reprinted with permission from IOP Publishing)

Valiyaveettil, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the National University of Singapore (NUS), together with collaborators from NUS, published his findings in the May 14, 2008 online edition of Nanotechnology ("Toxicity of silver nanoparticles in zebrafish models").

In this paper, the scientists described their findings that nanosilver-treated embryos exhibited phenotypic defects, altered physiological functions, namely bradycardia, axial curvatures and degeneration of body parts.

"The focus of our work is to understand the role of nanoparticles in living systems, in particular, how do nanoparticles interact with biomolecules such as proteins and DNAs inside a cell and what are the consequence of such interactions" explains Valiyaveettil. "We hope to understand the consequences of exposure of nanoparticles to living organism and develop proper waste disposal methods (industrial, research lab, commercial products etc.), so that the balance of the ecosystem is not challenged by nanotechnology."

In their study, the NUS researchers chose zebrafish embryos as model systems for testing ecotoxicity of the silver nanoparticles. As we have reported before, zebrafish embryos offer a unique opportunity to investigate the effects of nanoparticles upon intact cellular systems that communicate with each other to orchestrate the events of early embryonic development (First of a kind real-time study of nanosilver in fish embryos raises hopes and concerns).

Valiyaveettil and his team used different concentrations of Ag+ ions, silver nanoparticles capped with BSA (Ag-BSA) and starch (Ag-starch) to monitor the developmental abnormalities induced by the nanoparticles.

"The capping agent (stabilizing agent) was chosen to make the nanoparticle soluble in water and to protect nanoparticles from agglomerating in the medium" Valiyaveettil describes the experimental set-up. "The choice of starch and BSA was made in order to synthesize a water soluble and stable nanoparticle suspension.

Moreover, use of organic solvents and other toxic chemicals may yield highly toxic products that hinder bio-applications. The nanoparticles employed in our study were highly stable and water soluble."

The extent of toxicity was measured in terms of mortality, hatching, heart rate and abnormal phenotypes.

Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of the Ag-BSA treated embryos showed a significant concentration of nanoparticles inside the nucleus.

Of particular concern could be the fact that TEM images showed the presence of nanoparticles in the brain of the embryos.

"Nanoparticle deposition in the central nervous system could have deleterious effects, by negatively controlling the cardiac rhythm, respiration and body movements" says Valiyaveettil. "The pathological events following long-term deposition of nanoparticles in the nervous system and other organs remain unclear."

The scientists hypothesize that the deposition of nanoparticles inside the nucleus of the cells led to the observed toxicity through various mechanisms such as DNA damage and chromosomal aberrations.

Furthermore, the exposure of silver nanoparticles resulted in accumulation of blood in different parts of the body, thereby causing edema and necrosis.

Valiyaveettil expects that his team's data, along with other literature, can be used as guidelines for creating safety regulations on disposal of nanoparticles. "The critical lethal concentrations can be identified and precautions can be taken to eliminate such concentrations in future applications, especially in the biomedical field.

Also, understanding the nanoparticle-biomolecule interactions can be used for developing potential drug candidates as well as drug delivery systems for various diseases, using low concentrations of these nanoparticles."

The NUS team is planning to direct further studies towards the genotoxicity and the gene expression profile of silver nanoparticles treated embryos.

They also suggest that long-term exposure studies employing low concentrations should be carried out to see the effects of silver and other metallic nanoparticles in animals over time.

The team is currently unraveling various pathways that operate in silver nanoparticle toxicity and exploring cyto- and genotoxicity of these nanoparticles.

This hopefully will lead to a clear picture of the positive and negative aspects of silver nanoparticle exposure.

"Our study pointed out the adverse effects of silver nanoparticles in aquatic species. All applications involving silver nanoparticles should be given special attention and promoted only after detailed studies" says Valiyaveettil. "The release of untreated nanoparticle waste to the environment should be restricted for the well-being of human and aquatic species."


Mark said...

Scientists to probe role of nanoparticles in disease
April 3rd, 2008 - 2:56 pm ICT by admin

Washington, April 3 (IANS) Physiologists want to explore whether nanoparticles can cause diseases like atherosclerosis, kidney stones, gall stones and periodontal disease. Nanoparticles are a thousand times smaller than the bacteria, E. coli, but recent advances in microscopy have allowed researchers to watch them interact with cells in the body, said Virginia M. Miller and John C. Lieske of Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Lieske is investigating how nano-sized crystals in the kidney are linked with kidney stone formation.

Miller has been studying the link between atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) and nanoparticles that calcify within the arteries.

Because of their size, nanoparticles may more easily gain entry into the body, where the long-term effects are unknown. [though increasingly seen as "the new asbestos" instead of a useful industrial creation.]

Miller has found that some nanoparticles cause inflammation when injected into the blood vessels of animals, an early step in the development of atherosclerosis.

Using the latest in microscopy, she has begun to observe nanoparticles from atherosclerotic tissue.

She hopes to determine how these particles gain access to cells and whether the interaction eventually leads to cell activation or death leading to calcification.

Kidneys stones start as tiny calcifications that later become larger. Lieske hypothesises that the nanoparticle causes the initial calcification. Once that happens, other processes can take place that results in a kidney stone.

It is not yet known where nanoparticles that are implicated in kidney stones and atherosclerosis originate - whether our bodies contain them naturally or we obtain them from the environment.

Miller said research should proceed to determine if nanoparticles are safe over the long term. “We may not know some of the consequences until further down the road,” she said.

Miller and Lieske will moderate a symposium on the subject on April 8 at an experimental biology conference in San Diego, California.


Mark said...

Your non-stinky sock might be killing the environment
April 10th, 2008 - 1:09 pm ICT by admin

Washington, Apr 10 (ANI): Your stinky socks might not be the only toxic thing around, for even its smell-free counterpart made of silver nanoparticles may be a threat to the environment, warn researchers.

University of California, Davis researchers are worried that nanotechnology used to kill bacteria and eliminate odors in socks, food containers, medical dressings and even teddy bears might be harmful to the environment.

“People might not even be aware they are buying these things,” Discovery News quoted Troy M. Benn, an environmental engineer at Arizona State University in Tempe, as saying.

To find out, the research team bought six pairs of commercially available silver nanoparticle-treated socks. They soaked them in water and put them in a washing machine.

After as little as one washing, virtually all of the nanoparticles from two brands of the socks washed out. After four washings, two other brands lost just 1 percent of the silver nanoparticles. That suggested to researchers that it is the manufacturing process of the socks, not the nanoparticles themselves that caused the silver to disappear down the drain.

The researchers tested waterways for two types of silver: reportedly harmless nanoparticle silver and harmful ionic silver. They found both.

Ionic silver in waterways kills fish and other aquatic creates when it enters their gills, but is harmless to humans. The scientists raised concern about the overall level of silver, noting that the sludge and wastewater from the manufacturing plants is often sold to farms as fertilizer or dumped into waterways.

Increased silver concentrations could render bacteria used in water treatment plants less effective. Silver concentrations could also pose its own risks.

“With increased silver in waste water it could become so concentrated with silver that it could be classified as a hazardous waste,” said Benn.

A hazardous level would be as much as 20 times what their results suggest.

The study has been published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. (ANI)


Mark said...

New Fuel, End Of Fluoride Era
By Mary Sparrowdancer
© 2008 by Mary Sparrowdancer

If America's farmers and city growers planted crops of industrial hemp today, within 120 days we could harvest an abundant new source of clean-burning hemp seed fuel oil that is safe, efficient, renewable, sustainable, edible, uniquely nutritious, and easy to grow. The cultivation of hemp oil could end our dependency on nonrenewable petroleum fuel, a dependency that has been dictated to us since 1937.

In addition, this fast-growing, tall green plant is quite efficient in absorbing carbon dioxide contamination while also putting oxygen back into the air.

The absorption of carbon dioxide and creation of oxygen is one of the most important benefits that old-growth forests once provided for us, however, we have not only polluted the air with CO2 toxins but we have also destroyed much of our old forests, leaving us with nothing immediately available to clean up our mess - - except hemp.

In addition to providing solutions to the above problems, unlike corn that is currently being grown for test fuels, hemp is easily grown without chemicals or pesticides and can be grown on poor soils. Hemp's fibers produce paper products, clothing, and building materials that are far superior, cleaner, and safer than products made from trees, cotton, and petrochemical plastics. Hemp cultivation would allow us to restore, conserve, and respect what is left of the world's ancient forests. If this plant is truly so very useful, one might wonder why we have not yet "discovered" it. The answer is that it was discovered long ago. Humanity had been relying upon superior hemp products for all of known history, but hemp was outlawed in the United States in 1937.

Some say it is merely coincidental that in the same year that hemp was outlawed, DuPont filed its initial basic patent applications for a new synthetic product called "nylon." Coincidental or not, natural hemp was strong-armed out of the picture by placing an enormous tax on the cultivation and sale of hemp, a move that effectively taxed hemp out of existence in the United States. This piece of legislation was called the "Marihuana Tax Act" of 1937. (1)

Industrial hemp is a member of the cannabis sativa family, but it contains little or no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is one of the medicinal elements in its cousin, a plant that was demonized as "marijuana" by newspaper sensationalist, William Randolph Hearst. Hearst, along with Harry Anslinger of the Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, (hemp is not a "narcotic") whipped the 1930s gullible public into a frenzy of terror with their reefer-madness machinations. Unfortunately, many people, including physicians who were still prescribing medicinal cannabis for their patients at that time, did not realize that marijuana was hemp and hemp was cannabis, and that the banning of "marijuana" due to "reefer-madness" would also result in the total banning of all hemp cultivation in the United States, but that is exactly what happened.

It is worth noting that in 1935, as the reefer-madness campaign was raging in order to save the public from hemp's contrived "deadly potential to do harm," the "E. I. DuPont de Nemours & Company" obtained a patent on improving the manufacture of hydrofluoric acid. Much of DuPont's work in creating synthetic petrochemical products has involved the use of fluorides, and fluoride was destined to quickly become a new major, deadly pollutant. According to statements found in The Fluoride Deception, (by Christopher Bryson), "from 1957 to 1968, fluoride was responsible for more damage claims than all twenty other major air pollutants, combined." But it was hemp that was banned from the nation due to claims that it was potentially harmful. (2)

After fluoride wastes suddenly became prevalent and increasingly difficult to dispose of cheaply, Americans would soon become victims of more trickery, hysteria, and promotional media lies. Americans were soon told that toxic fluorides were "good for us." A brand new "use" for fluorides was discovered that would miraculously turn a nation angry over toxic wastes into a nation suddenly grateful for toxic wastes. In fact, Americans would be so grateful and so easily swayed by the unethical media and government promotion of fluorides, entire communities would pay to have this toxic waste poured into their drinking water. This would be based upon our government's promise that fluorides were now going to prevent tooth decay. For the first time in human history humans now needed fluorides to achieve optimum dental health. We are still paying for this HAZMAT to be poured into our drinking water, and their promise has yet to come true.

Fluorides had never before been needed for healthy teeth, and in fact, fluorides are known to cause periodontal (gum) disease. The body recognizes fluoride as a toxin that it tries to eliminate, including through the kidneys. Hemp, on the other hand, is treated quite differently by the human body. Hemp appears to have had a very ancient and unexplained connection with the human being as well as with other animal life forms. Within our bodies, there are natural cannabinoid receptors indicating an ancient, historic bond and therefore a need for what may in fact one of the most sacred plants on this planet: hemp. (3)

Current evidence suggests fluorides damage the body, and professional commentary is focused now on thyroid and kidney damage. In view of this, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) recently ended its position of endorsing water fluoridation, stating the "NKF position paper on fluoridation is outdated. The paper is withdrawn and will no longer be circulated." The NKF now claims that it "has no position." The NKF also stated, "Individuals with CKD [chronic kidney disease] should be notified of the potential risk of fluoride exposure" CKD is in turn linked to bone deformities, including brittleness, bone density problems, fractures, kyphosis, etc. (4) (5) (6)

While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 19 million U.S. adults have CKD, and that there was a "104%" increase in kidney failure during 1990 to 2001, the NKF describes a different number: "26 million Americans have CKD and another 20 million more are at increased risk." Many do not even know they have CKD, due to the wide range of symptoms that can include high blood pressure, fatigue, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, etc. Sadly for the millions of Americans now suffering or at risk for CKD the warnings about fluoride have been rather quiet and have seen little mainstream publicity. Although hemp continues to be banned from our use, the entire nation has been inundated with fluorides to such a degree it now contaminates most of our foods, as well as most of the national water supply, and yet the government continues to aggressively promote it. (7) (8) (9)

When hemp and its many products and uses were eliminated by Congress in 1937, the United States headed into a new direction. The ban created an immediate need in the marketplace for the soon-to-be-created synthetic petroleum and fluoride-based plastic products. That year can actually be seen as the one that led the US toward its dependency on petrochemicals. It was also the starting point for the hysterical "War on Drugs," which continues today to needlessly ruin and end lives. The dependency on nonrenewable petrochemicals has also ruined and ended lives. It has devastated the U.S.

We were not always dependent upon petroleum and petrochemicals, and there is no reason for us to remain dependent upon this unhealthy source of fuel today. As though the list of uses for the miraculous hemp plant is unending, at about the time of hemp's ban, Henry Ford was perfecting a hemp vehicle that was nearly indestructible. He had built a car constructed of a hemp-resin plastic that was lighter than steel but "ten times stronger." In a demonstration to prove this claim, a sledge hammer was used to pound repeatedly upon the shiny vehicle's trunk, but this action failed to create a single dent. The engine of this incredible car was humming quite nicely on the clean-burning fuel made from the renewable hemp oil that Henry was growing in his fields. (10)

The list of honorable uses for hemp continues and it appears to be nothing short of a miracle plant. In recent medical studies, hemp has been observed and reported as a potentially safe, effective and promising treatment for numerous cancers. The studies have shown that cannabinoids readily destroy cancer cells even in difficult-to-treat malignancies, including glioblastoma (a type of brain tumor), lung and pancreatic cancers, cervical carcinoma, and malignant melanomas. (11) (12) (13) (14) (15)

As the age of petrochemical dependency and our resulting contamination with fluorides finally draws to a close, an age of reason is being born. Hemp can no longer be labeled as having no "accepted medical use" as falsely claimed by the DEA. Fluoride can no longer be called a "safe for all" drinking water medication, as is falsely and unethically claimed by the CDC. (16)

In fact, The Lillie Center (a public health training firm) recently filed a charge of "Formal Ethics Complaint and Request for Investigation" against the CDC for its continued promotion of water fluoridation. It was in part this ethics complaint that caused the National Kidney Foundation to reconsider its position on water fluoridation. Lawyers throughout the United States are now educating themselves about fluoride and the damage it has done to an increasing number of new clients. The damage claims seen back in the 1950s and 1960s might pale in comparison to the long-overdue lawsuits we are now going to see regarding fluoride damage to human beings. (17)

In addition to the damage to humans, one must also ask how far-reaching the deliberate poisoning of our drinking water might be with regard to animals. Thorough investigation is certainly called for in view of the increasing incidence of injuries now occurring in racehorses. Many working horses drink far more than ten gallons of water a day, and Kentucky is one of few states that is nearly 100% artificially fluoridated. (Despite this, Kentucky continues to have one of the worst dental health ranks in the nation.) (18)

We have an inalienable, unchallengeable, absolute right to all that is considered to be God-given to humanity, and no government has the right to take from us anything that is God-given, including clean water and all God-given plant-life that bears seeds.

"And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every
plant yielding seed which is upon
the face of all the earth,
and every tree with seed in its fruit;
you shall have them for food.'" (19)


Mary Sparrowdancer is an independent journalist, and the author of a bestselling true book about the messiah, The Love Song. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida, along with her two now-grown children. Her son, John Shaw, (age 22) is a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives with the campaign platform of ending the "War on Drugs." He is currently trying to put his name on the official ballot.



1. Smithsonian, History of Inventions.
2. Fluoride patent, DuPont.
3. Fluorides, periodontal disease.
4. Effects of fluoride, National Academies NRC, 2006, study.
5. Kidney disease and bone deformities.
6. National Kidney Foundation statements on fluoride.
7. CDC ­ Trends in CKD.
8. Fluoride in Drinking Water & Kidney Damage
9. Cattle Deaths from Fluoride Ingestion
10. Ford hemp car:
11. Cannabis versus glioblastoma.
12. Cannabis destroys glio cells.
13. Cannabinoids "therapeutic option" for "highly invasive cancers."
14. Cannabinoids effective against pancreatic tumors.
15. Cannabinoids effective against malignant melanoma.
16. DEA "accepted medical use."
17. The Lillie Center's Formal Ethics Complaint Against CDC.
18. Kentucky, highly fluoridated but dental health problems remain.
19. Genesis 1:29, Old Testament.


Mark said...

Nanotech: The Unknown Risks

Carole Bass is an investigative journalist who writes about public health, the environment, and legal affairs. She is a 2008 fellow of the Alicia Patterson Foundation, reporting on toxic chemicals on the job. Her work on health and environmental risks of nanotechnology has appeared recently in Scientific American and The New Republic.

Nanotechnology, now used in everything from computers to toothpaste, is booming. But concern is growing that its development is outpacing our understanding of how to use it safely.
by carole bass

“It’s green, it’s clean, it’s never seen — that’s nanotechnology!”

That exuberant motto, used by an executive at a trade group for nanotech entrepreneurs, reflects the buoyant enthusiasm for nanotechnology in some business and scientific circles.

Part of the slogan is indisputably true: nanotechnology — which involves creating and manipulating common substances at the scale of the nanometer, or one billionth of a meter — is invisible to the human eye.

But the rest of the motto is open for debate. Nanotech does hold clean and green potential, especially for supplying cheap renewable energy and safe drinking water. But nanomaterials also pose possible serious risks to the environment and human health — risks that researchers have barely begun to probe, and regulators have barely begun to regulate.

What’s more, the potential damage could take years or even decades to surface. So these tiny particles could soon become the next big thing — only to turn into the next big disaster.

Nano enthusiasts see it as the next “platform technology” — one that will, like electricity or micro-computing, change the way we do almost everything. While that prediction is still unproven, there’s no question that nanotech is booming. Universities, industry, and governments around the globe are pouring billions into creating and developing nanoproducts and applications. A range of nanotechnologies is already used in more than 600 consumer products — from electronics to toothpaste — with global sales projected to soar to $2.6 trillion by 2014.

Environmentalists, scientists, and policymakers increasingly worry that nanotech development is outrunning our understanding of how to use it safely. Consider these examples from last month alone:

* An animal study from the United Kingdom found that certain carbon nanotubes can cause the same kind of lung damage as asbestos. Carbon nanotubes are among the most widely used nanomaterials.

* A coalition of consumer groups petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban the sale of products that contain germ-killing nanosilver particles, from stuffed animals to clothing, arguing that the silver could harm human health, poison aquatic life, and contribute to the rise of antibiotic resistance.

* Researchers in Singapore reported that nanosilver caused severe developmental problems in zebrafish embryos — bolstering worries about what happens when those antimicrobial products, like soap and clothing, leak silver into the waste stream.

* The U.S. Department of Defense, in an internal memo, acknowledged that nanomaterials may “present… risks that are different than those for comparable material at a larger scale.” That’s an overarching risk with nanomaterials: Their tiny size and high surface area make them more chemically reactive and cause them to behave in unpredictable ways. So a substance that’s safe at a normal size can become toxic at the nanoscale.

* Australian farmers proposed new standards that would exclude nanotechnology from organic products.

* The European Union announced that it will require full health and safety testing for carbon and graphite under its strict new chemicals law, known as REACH (for Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemical Substances). Carbon and graphite were previously exempt, because they’re considered safe in their normal forms. But the U.K. study comparing carbon nanotubes to asbestos, along with a similar report from Japan, raised new alarms about these seemingly harmless substances.

Old Materials, New Risks

The EU’s move is a critical step toward recognizing nanomaterials as a potential new hazard that requires new rules and new information.

The raw materials of nanotechnology are familiar. Carbon, silver, and metals like iron and titanium are among the most common. But at the nanoscale, these well-known substances take on new and unpredictable properties. That’s what makes them so versatile and valuable. It also makes them potentially dangerous in ways that their larger-scale counterparts are not.

Yet governments are only beginning to grapple with those dangers. Japan’s labor department issued a notice in February requiring measures to protect workers from exposure to nanomaterials: It may be the world’s first nano-specific regulation affecting actual practices. Previously, Berkeley, California — ever ready to stand alone — had adopted what is apparently the only nano-specific regulation in the United States: a requirement that companies submit toxicology reports about nanomaterials they’re using.

At the federal level, the EPA launched a voluntary reporting program in January; industry participation has been anemic. Both the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration have so far declined to regulate nanomaterials as such, saying they’re covered under existing regulations. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has issued recommendations for handling nanomaterials, but the agency has no enforcement power.

The European Union, by contrast, is taking a precautionary approach. While U.S. regulators generally presume products to be safe until proven harmful, the EU’s new REACH legislation demands that manufacturers demonstrate the safety of their chemicals. Just last week, the EU released a document concluding that nanorisks “can be dealt with under the current legislative framework,” with some modifications. For example, the document says that under REACH, when companies introduce nanoforms of existing substances, they must provide additional material about “the specific properties, hazards, and risks” of the nanomaterials.

At this point, however, many of the most basic questions about those nanohazards are unanswered. What materials are harmful, in what particle sizes and shapes, under what conditions? Who is at risk: Workers? People using nano-enabled products? Wildlife and ecosystems? How should we measure exposures?

The U.S. government spends $1.5 billion a year on nano research.

Less than 5 percent of that is aimed at addressing these fundamental questions.

Danger Signs

What is known about nanohazards counsels caution.

Nanomaterials are so small that they travel easily, both in the body and in the environment. Their tiny size and high surface area give them unusual characteristics: insoluble materials become soluble; nonconductive ones start conducting electricity; harmless substances can become toxic.

Nanoparticles are easily inhaled. They can pass from the lungs into the bloodstream and other organs.

They can even slip through the olfactory nerve into the brain, evading the protective blood-brain barrier.

It’s not clear whether they penetrate the skin.

Once they’re inside the body, it’s not clear how long they remain or what they do. What’s more, current science has no way of testing for nano-waste in the air or water, and no way of cleaning up such pollution.

The tiny cylinders known as carbon nanotubes, or CNTs, are among the most widely used nanomaterials.

These tubes, which come in different sizes and shapes, lend extraordinary strength and lightness to bicycle frames and tennis rackets; researchers are also investigating uses in medicine, electronics and other fields. The recent UK study found that long, straight CNTs, when injected into lab mice, cause scarring even faster than asbestos.

One of the investigators predicts the scarring will lead to cancer; other experts are less sure. The study doesn’t prove whether it’s possible to inhale enough CNTs to cause the same results as the injections. But which workers want to serve as the test cases?

Another red flag is silver.

Manufacturers are lacing ordinary household objects — from toothpaste to teddy bears — with nanoparticles of silver, long known for its disinfecting powers. A recent experiment on nanosilver-containing socks, touted as odor-eating, found that silver particles leaked out into the wash water.

Once there, the silver could interfere with water-treatment efforts, in part by killing good microbes as well as the nasty ones, and might threaten aquatic life (a fear supported by the zebrafish study).

When Samsung started marketing a washing machine that emits silver ions two years ago, a national association of wastewater treatment authorities asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate such equipment as pesticides.

And indeed, EPA has required some manufacturers to register nanosilver-containing products — like computer keyboards — as pesticides or drop their germ-killing claims.

A farm-oriented pesticide law dating to 1947 is scarcely the right tool for addressing the 21st-century hazards of nanotechnology.

But it’s the only tool that EPA enforcers have, since the agency’s policymakers have explicitly declined to regulate nanomaterials as such.

What Price Convenience?

Of the hundreds of nano-enhanced products now on the market, many are cosmetics, and many others, such as clothing and computer peripherals, are spiked with silver for unnecessary antibacterial effects.

Convenience items, like stain-resistant sofas and static-free fleece, are a third big category.

It would be easy to say, “Who needs this stuff? Just wash your hands (or feet, in the case of the smell-resistant socks), clean up your spills and keep the nano magic on the shelf until we know whether it’s safe.”

Indeed, some environmental groups are calling for a moratorium on nano-containing products.

But nanotech also has a tremendous upside in medicine — whether for treating cancer or regrowing bones [there are other methods than this risky nano one, see category] — and in green applications, from affordable solar cells to super-efficient water filtration.

In any case, this technology is not going away. The U.S. House of Representatives voted on June 5 to reauthorize the $1.5 billion-a-year National Nanotechnology Initiative; the Senate is expected to act in the coming weeks.

The House bill mandates “a detailed implementation plan for environmental, health, and safety research.”

That’s an important step forward, but it’s not enough. As we hurtle into this very small future, we need to pay much more attention to the potentially large risks.

POSTED ON 06.23.08 IN Business & Innovation Science & Technology Asia Europe North America


Mark said...

Unbreakable Bridges
Structural Engineers Develop Disaster-Resistant Technology

October 1, 2006 — A new bridge design replaces reinforced concrete columns and bars with steel tubes filled with concrete. The steel and concrete bind, creating strong yet supple columns For the bridge pier's footing, additional structural shapes are embedded in concrete to resist the large bending forces developing at the base of the piers. New or retrofitted bridges over highways and water could withstand fire, hurricanes and flooding.

See also:
Matter & Energy

* Construction
* Civil Engineering
* Thermodynamics
* Materials Science
* Energy Technology
* Nuclear Energy


* Engineering geology
* Geologic fault
* Tensile strength
* Viscosity

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- There are nearly 600,000 bridges in the United States. Millions of people cross bridges every day without giving a second thought to their safety. But many of them could be taken down by a natural disaster like an earthquake or flooding or worse, by a terrorist attack.

"We have already seen, after Hurricane Katrina, bridges massively pushed sideways and out of their piers and, and in a very large scale," says Michel Bruneau, a structural engineer at the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at University at Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y.

He says it's time to make our bridges safer. "The best way to avoid a disaster in the first place is to have infrastructure that will not fail in a disaster."

Bridges are typically held up by reinforced concrete columns and bars. In Bruneau's new design, steel tubes are filled with concrete. The steel and concrete bind, creating strong yet supple columns. In field tests, a massive blast causes the supports to bend, but not break.

"We definitely think it provides better protection against multiple hazards," Dr. Bruneau says. "It is important to be covered against all hazards, and that is essentially the main change in philosophy that we are trying to impact here."

These multi-hazard-resistant bridges are intended for use over highways and water and can withstand fire, hurricanes and flooding.

The new piers would be used for new bridges, but Bruneau says existing bridges could also be retrofitted with the new design.

BACKGROUND: An earthquake engineer at the University of Buffalo has developed a new "multi-hazard" design for bridges that will make them more resistant to collapsing from the impact of earthquakes and terrorist attacks. Michel Bruneau, director of the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research says his design for bridge piers -- the columns that support a bridge's superstructure -- is intended for small to medium sized bridges.

THE DESIGN: The new bridge-pier design uses steel tubes filled with concrete, but without reinforcing bars. The steel and concrete bind together, forming a composite structure, giving the piers strength. It also means they can bend without breaking when subjected to seismic forces or explosive blasts. Most bridges built today are supported by conventional reinforced concrete columns, but these would be likely to break or weaken after a major blast, leading the bridge to collapse.

WHAT CAUSES QUAKES: An earthquake is a vibration that travels through the earth's crust. It can be caused by any number of things, including meteor impacts, underground explosions (from a nuclear test, for example) or collapsing structures, such as a mine. But most naturally-occurring earthquakes are caused by the movement of the earth's tectonic plates. The earth's surface is made up of large plates that slide over the underlying layer. At the plate boundaries, plates can move apart, push together, or slide against each other.

WHOSE FAULT IS IT ANYWAY: Wherever plates meet, there will be faults at the boundaries: breaks in the earth's crust where the blocks of rock on each side are moving in different directions. There are many different kinds of faults, but in all of them, the various blocks of rock push together tightly and produce a lot of friction. If there is a large enough amount of friction the plates can become locked, increasing the pressure until the plates suddenly give way and snap forward suddenly, sending out a series of seismic waves. These fault lines are the main source of earthquakes.

WHAT IS ELASTICITY? Different materials can withstand different amounts of deformation, a property known as elasticity. Most materials are elastic to some degree: when they are deformed or bent by an infusion of incoming energy, they will bounce back to their original shape. But elastic materials all have their limits. Metal springs and rubber bands are very elastic. Plaster and glass are not very elastic; instead, they are brittle and snap with even a small deformation. Energy, like momentum, is conserved, but in a collision, it can turn into different forms of energy, such as heat or noise. How much of the energy is converted depends in part on both the relative toughness and elasticity of the materials involved in the impact. There is no such thing as a perfectly elastic collision, but if there were, all of the energy would be transferred to the target with nothing lost to heat or noise, for example.

The American Society of Civil Engineers contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.


Mark said...

Better Bridges
Civil Engineers Test New Concrete for Stronger, More Durable Bridges

January 1, 2006 — A new kind of concrete called Ductal will allow bridges to hold more weight and last longer. Made of a mixture of sand, cement, water, and small steel fibers, it is 10 times more expensive than traditional materials but also stronger and virtually impermeable, helping bridges become more durable.

AMES, Iowa--Bridges take a beating, and it can really break the bank to repair them. Now, researchers are breaking bridges to learn how to build them better and save you money.

Justin Doornink spends his mornings underneath bridges. He's an engineering student and, as part of his homework, he's installing sensors to measure the impact of traffic on the bridge. He's trying to figure out how to strengthen the structures. One option is ultra-high-performance concrete, which is made from sand, cement, water and small steel fibers.

Brent Phares, a civil engineer and associate director at the Iowa State University Bridge Engineering Center in Ames, says, "It's much, much stronger. It's basically impermeable to water. What those two things mean is you can build a bridge that has a higher capacity and should last a longer period of time."

Brent did a small-scale test with the new concrete, pushing it to its breaking point. It held close to 595,000 pounds -- that's more than seven semi trucks. The material costs 10-times as much as traditional concrete, but you need less of it, and it lasts longer.

"You're never going to advance the state-of-the-art unless you do some research, try some things out, maybe take some risks and see what might ultimately save the taxpayers money," he says.

BACKGROUND: Engineers at Iowa State University have developed a new type of concrete that is much stronger than conventional concrete. It can withstand pressures up to 595,000 pounds -- more than the weight of seven semi trucks.

LOAD-BEARING BRIDGES: The researchers conducted a load-bearing capacity test using a 71-foot beam made out the new concrete. They applied increasing amounts of hydraulic pressure to the top of the beam to see how much it could withstand before breaking. It finally broke with a loud pop at 595,000 pounds. The ultra-high performance concrete is made from sand, cement, water and small steel fibers. Standard concrete uses coarser materials. The new concrete is specifically engineered to include finer materials and steel fibers, making it denser and stronger.

WHY THE BEAM BROKE: Isaac Newton said it best: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the hydraulic pressure on the beam increases, the beam responds by exerting an equal but opposite counter-force. But it doesn't do so uniformly: certain areas bear the brunt of the increasing pressure. This produces a strain on the beam, which eventually becomes too great, and the beam cracks.

DIFFERENT DEFORMATIONS: Different materials can withstand different amounts of deformation, a property known as elasticity. Most materials are elastic to some degree: when they are deformed or bent, they will bounce back to their original shape. But elastic materials all have their limits. Metal springs and rubber bands are very elastic. Plaster and glass are not; instead, they are brittle and snap even with a small deformation.

The American Society of Civil Engineers contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.


Mark said...

[Perhaps a factory or two of these can be put on a barge in the middle of the plastic-polluted oceanic gyres, and thus clean up the oceans by taking the plastic bits out of them in the process.]

Recycling Revolution
Turning Old Plastic Bottles Into Valuable Recycled Materials

August 1, 2007 — Chemical Engineers developed a way to break down plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate -- or PET, and recycle it back into high value uses like more soda bottles, water bottles, beer bottles. Inside the recycling plant's extruder, water is removed from ground up plastic. Then, the plastic is melted and chemically broken down -- in a process called depolymerization. The breakthrough in this process is to be able to go from chips of this plastic to the recycled material in about five minutes.
See also:
Matter & Energy

* Materials Science
* Medical Technology
* Inorganic Chemistry

Earth & Climate

* Recycling and Waste
* Environmental Issues
* Energy and the Environment


* Recycling
* Waste management
* Biodegradation
* Plastic

Here's a loaded question -- do you recycle? Even if you recycle -- do you know where your plastic bottles go? Are they made into more bottles or something else? The answer may surprise you!

Recycled bottles are not made into new bottles -- they're used for lower grade plastics to build things like playgrounds -- but a new machine may change that!

"What you want to do, ideally, is take that material and recycle it back into high value uses like more soda bottles, water bottles, beer bottles", said George Roberts, a chemical engineer at North Carolina State University.

Roberts and his team developed a way to break down bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate -- or PET. Right now, this type of plastic is non-biodegradable and costs too much to recycle back into food-grade bottles.

"You're trying to complete that loop, then you don't have to make new bottles," said Joan Patterson, also a chemical engineer at North Carolina State University.

Inside the recycling plant's extruder, water is removed from ground up plastic.

Then, the plastic is melted and chemically broken down -- in a process called depolymerization.

"This is where the reaction begins and continues along the length of the extruder this way," said Patterson.

"The breakthrough in this process is to be able to go from chips of this plastic to the recycled material in about five minutes," said Roberts.

Good news considering Americans go through two and a half million plastic bottles every hour! Every year we make enough plastic to shrink-wrap Texas ý and most of it ends up in our landfills. But if every American household recycled just one out of every ten plastic bottles they used, we'd keep 200-million pounds of plastic out of landfills each year.

The Material Research Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

BACKGROUND: Chemical engineers at North Caroline State University have developed a more efficient way to chemically recycle your soda bottles back into new ones. Many companies are interested in the new process, both in the US and internationally, because of its potential for increased efficiency and increased value of the end product. NCSU is working with a startup company called DPoly Systems to commercialize the technology.

WHAT IS PET? All plastics are synthetic polymers, a high-molecular weight chemical compound made up of linked molecules called monomers. The combining of monomers to form a polymer chain is called 'polymerization'. Polyethylene perepthalate (PET) is a common plastic used in beverage bottles. Like most plastics, the bottles are non-biodegradable and will just sit in landfills if we don't recycle them. In addition, the PET bottle market continues to grow rapidly; in Europe, even beer is packaged in plastic bottles. PET is made out of petroleum, so more efficient recycling of old PET bottles would help reduce out dependence on oil.

THE PROBLEM: Recycling is an excellent concept, but we often waste more energy in reprocessing our recyclables than we are gaining. Furthermore, to date no one has found a cost-effective means of recycling food containers into new food containers. More efficient processes will bring us closer to the goal of not wasting our resources. Although there is a demand for recycled bottle-grade PET, the high cost of cleaning post-consumer beverage bottles, strict FDA requirements, and outmoded technology have favored the use of virgin PET over recycled bottle PET in the manufacturing of beverage bottles. Instead, most beverage bottles collected for recycling are reprocessed into non-food products such as fiber and strapping.

HOW IT WORKS: The NCSU researchers have developed a new chemical reprocessing method that uses a twin-screw extruder as a chemical reactor. The solid plastic pieces are melted down and then react chemically with ethylene glycol, reducing the molecular weight. Supercritical carbon dioxide lowers the viscosity even more, so that the plastic emerges as something more similar to water, rather than a strand of plastic. This is called 'depolymerization'. They then remove impurities and 're-polymerize' the material, resulting in resin that is purer and therefore more valuable to processors that incorporate post-consumer PET into their products. The technique takes 10 minutes, compared to two to four hours for conventional batch processing, in which the PET is placed in an autoclave, heated for five hours, them cooled down. The extruder runs continuously, reducing energy losses, and is capable of handling large amounts of polymer in a very short time frame.


Mark said...

Hempcrete: hemp waste and lime make a concrete that is stronger than 'regular concrete', cheaper to make, and avoids lots of environmental difficulties of regular concrete.

How would like like a building material that is stronger than cement and SIX TIMES lighter?

Better yet, one of its main ingredients in the waste product of a plant that literally grows like a weed.

Well, Big Brother says you can't have it because the plant - hemp - is "dangerous to society."

Here's the reality about cement:

1. The manufacture of traditional cement is incredibly energy intensive, so much so that many cement companies seek and receive legal variances to not only burn coal, but also medical waste and used automobile tires as fuel for their kilns.

2. After oil refineries and chemical plants, cement factories are the most polluting factories in the world, spewing tons of microparticles containing toxins like arsenic and mercury into the air.


Mark said...

Solving The Mysteries Of Metallic Glass

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008
by Lockergnome

Researchers at MIT have made significant progress in understanding a class of materials that has resisted analysis for decades. Their findings could lead to the rapid discovery of a variety of useful new kinds of glass made of metallic alloys with potentially significant mechanical, chemical and magnetic applications.

The first examples of metallic alloys that could be made into glass were discovered back in the late 1950s and led to a flurry of research activity, but, despite intense study, so far nobody had solved the riddle of why some specific alloys could form glasses and others could not, or how to identify the promising candidates, said Carl. V. Thompson, the Stavros Salapatas Professor of Materials Science & Engineering and director of the Materials Processing Center at MIT. A report on the new work, which describes a way to systematically find the promising mixes from among dozens of candidates, is being published this week in Science.

Glasses are solids whose structure is essentially that of a liquid, with atoms arranged randomly instead of in the ordered patterns of a crystal. Generally, they are produced by quickly cooling a material from a molten state, a process called quenching.

“It is very difficult to make glasses from metals compared to any other class of materials, such as semiconductors, ceramics and polymers,” Thompson said. Decades of effort by scientists around the world have focused on “understanding and on exploiting the remarkable properties of these materials, and on understanding why some alloy compositions can be made into glasses and others cannot,” he said.

They still haven’t solved that “why,” Thompson said. But this new work does “provide a very specific and quantitative new insight into the characteristics of liquid alloys that can most readily be quenched into the glassy state,” he said, and thus provides a much more rapid way of discovering new alloys that have the right properties.

The research was the result of a collaboration between Thompson and MIT post-doc Johannes A. Kalb with Professor Yi Li and graduate student Qiang Guo at the National University of Singapore, working together across thousands of miles of separation through the Singapore-MIT Alliance. Essentially, the work consisted of producing an array of different alloys with slightly varying proportions of two metals, each deposited on a separate microscopic finger of metal. Then, they analyzed the changes in density of each different mixture when the glass crystallized, and found that there were a few specific proportions that had significantly higher density than the others — and those particular alloys were the ones that could readily form glasses. Of three of these special proportions they found, two were already known glass-forming alloys, but the third was a new discovery.

The new work could even lead to a solution to the longstanding puzzle of why only certain alloys make glasses, he said. “I expect these new results, and the technique we developed to obtain them, will play a key, and hopefully decisive, role in solving the mystery of metallic glass formation.”

Such materials could have a variety of applications because of their unusual physical and magnetic properties, Thompson said. They are “soft” magnetically, meaning that it’s very easy to change the magnetic orientation of the material. This is a highly desirable characteristic for the cores of transformers, for example, which must switch their magnetic orientation dozens of times per second. Transformers made from metallic glasses could potentially greatly reduce the amount of electricity wasted as excess heat in conventional transformers, reducing the need for new generating plants.

In addition, these glasses are unusually hard mechanically and have a high degree of springiness (known technically as a high “elastic modulus”). This springiness could make them a useful material for some sports equipment such as golf clubs or tennis rackets, Thompson said. Although metallic glasses are relatively expensive, he said, for some people interested in the best-performing sports equipment, or in virtually unbreakable housings for cellphones, for example, “no expense is too high.”

The new research is a major accomplishment for the Singapore-MIT Alliance, Thompson said, and would not have been possible without the high-quality communications and collaboration tools it provides. Despite their physical separation, “Prof. Li and I have been working together now for almost ten years,” he said. “We routinely meet via video conferencing and have both been deeply involved in the co-supervision of the remarkable PhD student, Qiang Guo, who carried out this research.”

Thompson said he sees such collaborations as a significant example of a growing trend. “I think this and other accomplishments within the SMA program demonstrate that the future of research lies in technology-mediated collaborations among people with common interests and complementary capabilities, regardless of where the different parts of the team are located,” he said.

The research was supported by the SMA program, and Kalb was partially supported through a fellowship from the German Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation.

[Elizabeth Thomson @ Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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Bygningsentreprise said...

Excellent work on your "3. Building materials/Tool construction". Keep up the good work.

Mark said...

[Biocomposites, "non-Wood wood" structural material, breaks down quickly in anerobic environment, stable elsewhere, degradation yields methane that is used to recompose the material itself!]

By Mark Shwartz

Stanford University researchers have developed a synthetic wood substitute that may one day save trees, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shrink landfills.

The faux lumber is made from a new, biodegradable plastic that could be used in a variety of building materials and perhaps replace the petrochemical plastics now used in billions of disposable water bottles.

"This is a great opportunity to make products that serve a societal need and respect and protect the natural environment," said lead researcher Sarah Billington, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

In 2004, Billington and her colleagues received a two-year Environmental Venture Projects (EVP) grant from Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment to develop artificial wood that is both durable and recyclable.

The research team focused on a new class of construction material called biodegradable composites, or "biocomposites"-glue-like resins reinforced with natural fibers that are made from plants and recyclable polymers.

Graduate students Aaron Michel and Molly Morse hold samples of the biodegradable wood substitute.

Photo credit: L.A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Billington’s group began by testing a number of promising materials. The best turned out to be natural hemp fibers fused with a biodegradable plastic resin called polyhydroxy-butyrate (PHB).

"It’s quite attractive looking and very strong," said EVP collaborator Craig Criddle, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. "You can mold it, nail it, hammer it, drill it, a lot like wood. But bioplastic PHB can be produced faster than wood, and hemp can be grown faster than trees."


Mark said...

The hemp-PHB biocomposites are stable enough to use in furniture, floors and a variety of other building materials, he added. To degrade, it must be kept away from air, e.g., buried in a landfill, because its decomposition depends on microorganisms that live in anaerobic environments.

"The ideal is to have nice, stable material when it’s being used," Criddle explained. "But when it’s out of use, it goes to a landfill, degrades quickly, and is reprocessed into new material that stays in a nice, stable form."

Recycling methane

Unlike wood scraps that can sit in landfills for months or years, hemp-PHB biocomposites decompose a few weeks after burial. As they degrade, they release methane gas that can be captured and burned for energy recovery or re-used to make more biocomposites.

"It dawned on us that there are microbes that can make PHB from methane," Criddle said. "So now we’re combining two natural processes: We’re using microbes that break down PHB plastics and release methane gas, and different organisms that consume methane and produce PHB as a byproduct."

It’s the ultimate in recycling, he said: "In our lab, we create conditions where only those organisms that accumulate the most plastic can reproduce. We call the process ‘survival of the fattest,’ and we have a patent application for it."

Capturing methane has the added benefit of combating climate change, Criddle said, noting that methane gas from landfills and other sources is a powerful global warming agent, 22 times more potent than carbon dioxide gas.

One reason that biodegradable plastics aren’t widely used is cost. "We’re competing with polypropylene and polyethylene, two really cheap petrochemical products," Criddle said. "Most bioplastics are made using sugar from corn and other relatively expensive materials. But our process uses methane in the biogas from landfills and wastewater treatment plants, which is essentially free."

The potential of producing low-cost, recyclable biocomposites has caught the attention of the private sector. In the next few months, the researchers expect to form a new startup company with venture capital funding.

Biodegradable bottles

Interest in the hemp-PHB biocomposites has moved beyond artificial wood products. In 2008, the research team was awarded a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the California Environmental Protection Agency to develop biodegradable plastics to replace the petrochemical plastics that are used to make disposable water and soda bottles. According to Cal/EPA, plastic bottles accumulate in landfills, the open ocean and in coastal areas, causing major problems for birds, mammals and other marine life. "The goal of the state is to protect the environment and promote the development of a new industry that can produce low-cost bioplastics," Criddle said. "We have quite a team of students working on it. We’re also collaborating with Curtis Frank, a professor of chemical engineering and a polymer plastics expert."

In 2008, Billington and Frank were awarded a grant from Stanford’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center to develop biodegradable foam for structural insulated panels. They also received new funding from the Woods Institute to explore the feasibility of using Criddle’s polymers to manufacture "green glues" that make air quality in buildings less toxic. Lynn Hildemann, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, is collaborating on that project.

"We started with biocomposites, and now we're doing bioplastics and thinking about things that affect global warming," Criddle says. "This would never have happened without the EVP grant. There's just no way. All the right people came together, and many unexpected things came out of it."


building materials said...

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