A Very Special Clay

by Hannah Brown

Children grow up making little animals, cities and civilizations out of clay and play-dough. They mold the flexible material into new worlds with ease and joy. What if materials of that same plasticity could be used in other ways? To power the lights that these children use to make their creations by? Or your smart phone, your computer, your home? While in its first stages of development, researchers at Drexel University are one step closer to making a malleable, and conductive, power source. Called MXene, this material consists of electrodes made up of two-dimensional titanium carbide particles, made from etching aluminum from titanium aluminum carbide. This material is made using lithium fluoride and hydrochloric acid. When introduced to water, it becomes flexible like clay. This means that the material can be shaped and rolled out, as thin as tens of microns thick, to create any shape necessary for the product at hand. Once it dries, after being molded, it is highly conductive. (nature.com) Continue reading

Inspired by Nature: The Bionic Leaf

by Hannah Brown

Biomimetics is the principle of using processes found in the biological world and adapting them for specific, technological human needs. An example of this is nanotechnology. Inspired by the ways viruses operate, researchers have developed miniscule drugs that can target and treat specifically cancerous cells. We also use nature inspired products every day. Velcro, for example, was developed after a Swiss engineer studied the construction of tiny plant barbs that so easily stick to clothing. (science.com) Continue reading

Iceland’s Turning Greenhouse Gases Into Stone

by Hannah Brown

Positioned near the Hellisheidi Power Plant in Iceland, researchers at CarbFix, a $10 million project funded by Reykjavic Energy, the United States Department of Energy, and the EU, among others, combines water and carbon dioxide, compressed to the point that is in its liquid form, and injects the mixture thousands of feet down into balsatic rock, a reactive volcanic rock that makes up almost the entirety of Iceland’s foundation, as well as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in general. The combination of carbon dioxide and water interacts with the rock as it releases calcium and magnesium and turns into the original mixture into limestone. Initially the model predicted that the process would take 5 years but CarbFix has found that it happens much faster than expected, essentially completing the transformation of carbon dioxide into limestone within one year. (or.is) Continue reading

Nest: Smart Tech That Pays for Itself

by Hannah Brown

Google gets into the saving the environment game with their learning thermostat, Nest. For $249, this thermostat begins to make homes into the futuristic abodes like those found in the Disney Channel original movie, Smart House, where a teenage computer savant wins a computerized house for his family (imdb.com). But instead of making perfect smoothies and cleaning your room, Nest creates personalized schedules for the temperature of your house, turns down it’s power when it senses that no one is at home, shows you your energy efficiency, and can be controlled remotely from your phone (nest.com). Using Nest, people can now prepare a warmed home when they’re returning after a cold outing or ensure that they are not unnecessarily chilling an empty building. Continue reading

Crowdfunding Goes Where No Government Has Gone Before: Caring about the Environment

by Hannah Brown

Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Governments and organizations across the globe have made efforts to ameliorate, or at least, modify, the consequences of climate change but not always at the pace that scientists urge. Reports such as those conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show us that the earth is in a dire state, that climate change has been definitively caused through human action, and that intervention is of the utmost importance. However, while this might be a red flag for most, places like Australia where the Climate Commission was abolished and only resurrected through community fundraising, are examples of a misdirection of attention. But, as Australia’s Climate Commission shows, where large organizing bodies are failing, individuals and innovators are rising. Continue reading