3D Printed Algae Is The New Bioplastic

Powering motorcycles and stringing together running shoes, algae is the eco-material of the year. So far, it seems capable of almost anything. Taking the next step, Dutch designers are 3D printing the stuff in the hopes of replacing synthetic plastics.

“Our idea is that in the future there will be a shop on every street corner where you can ‘bake’ organic raw materials, just like fresh bread,” said [designer Eric] Klarenbeek.

If the concoction goes commercial, it can replace oils, which are vital in the production of bottles and containers. A complete cherry on top, algae is also highly absorbent of carbon dioxide, which makes production sustainable.

“In this relatively brief period, a vast amount of carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere, with damaging consequences. It is therefore important that we clean the CO2 from the atmosphere as quickly as possible and this can be done by binding the carbon to biomass.”

Along with partner Maartje Dros, Klarenbeek has been on a steady mission to create less wasteful industries. Why spend time on DIY furniture when you can simply grow them?

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Carbon Yarn Creates Energy When Pulled

The future of smart fabric is here. Researchers recently created a fitness tracker woven into athletic wear. While it can track physical performance, it’s facing competition from a new contender. This carbon yarn made from nanotubes can create energy when pulled.

The new material works by essentially generating electricity out of mechanical energy… The carbon nanotube yarns are coated with an electrolyte material (like table salt and water) which charges the yarn up when its twisted or stretched. That voltage, then stored in the yarn, harvests electricity.

Not only is the yarn — dubbed twistron yarn — more futuristic than The Defenders; it can produce a lot of power. Stretch it 30 times and create 250 watts, or get four old-school bulbs working at once. The yarn can also be used in tandem with IoT (Internet of Things) components (smart devices).

“You don’t have to plug them into the wall and you don’t have to change the batteries all the time.”

As of now, the yarn costs far more than an arm and a leg, but developers hope to lessen the cost of production. In doing so, the yarn can be used to generate electricity from ocean waves. Talk about a futuristic product!

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Plastic-Eating Worms Could Solve Pollution

While Lego’s mission to incorporate bioplastics into its products is commendable, it’s not going to eliminate the billions of pieces that already exist. Plastic disposal is an issue that has long puzzled the sanitation industry. Now, there may be a solution. Plastic-eating worms could potentially inspire waste-degrading tools.

Researchers in Spain and England recently found that the larvae of the greater wax moth can efficiently degrade polyethylene, which accounts for 40 percent of plastics.

To test their efficiency, researchers left 100 wax worms to munch on a plastic bag for 12 hours. The worms consumed 92 milligrams-worth (or 3%) of the bag. Off to a slow but promising start. When applied as a paste, enzymes from the worms’ stomachs act identically.

“Wax is a complex mixture of molecules, but the basic bond in polyethylene, the carbon-carbon bond, is there as well. The wax worm evolved a mechanism to break this bond.”

This could be the breakthrough every industrial process needs. Of course, biologists have yet to come up with a proper formula. After all, tossing a truckful of worms into a landfill may not be the most realistic option.

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