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Waste

A couple of social trash box robots, on display in Tokyo at IREX 2013

Wouldn't it be great if we had robotic garbage cans that could move around on their own and pick up litter? Well, engineers from the Interaction and Communications Design Lab at Japan's Toyohashi University of Technology are part-way there. Their bots, however, ask people to pick up the trash for them.  Read More

An unlikely tool for sewage treatment (Photo: Stuart Pilbrow)

A team of Taiwanese researchers is to demonstrate a method of treating sewage using old optical disks such as CDs. The disks are used as a platform to grow minuscule nanorods of zinc oxide, a known photocatalyst capable of breaking down organic matter. By spinning the disks, sewage water spreads into a thin layer through which light can pass, exciting the nanorods into action.  Read More

The WaterBean portable water filter

It's a given that recycling waste products is a good thing. It's certainly better than sending our trash to landfill where it will sit rotting (or not, in the case of non-biodegradable waste) for decades to come. However, even better than recycling is to not create the waste in the first place. Bottled water is now big business, and more popular than ever before, but bottled water guzzles energy and creates waste that really doesn't need to be created. WaterBean offers one possible solution to the problem.  Read More

Rice University graduate student Oara Neumann, left, and scientist Naomi Halas with their ...

Last year, researchers at Rice University revealed a new way to convert solar energy directly into steam using light-absorbing nanoparticles. At that time, the technology had already been used to create a solar steam-powered autoclave for sterilizing medical and dental equipment and the project had been awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to turn the technology to the task of sanitizing human waste. The researchers have now put both applications to the test.  Read More

Soylent: the future of food?

There's a romance to food. It's one of life's great sensory and social pleasures. But a lot of us don't eat healthily, and a lot of us don't enjoy the process of preparing food, especially when we're eating alone. Furthermore, the way we eat today is incredibly wasteful throughout the entire production and consumption process, to the point where it actively damages our bodies and our planet. Enter Soylent: a food engineered to efficiently deliver 100 percent of the healthy body's needs with minimal waste, junk food-beating convenience and a very low cost, or, as the inventors put it, "creating an efficient form of fuel for humanity for the first time in history." Food has always been sexy, and this sounds about as exciting as artificial insemination. But when you check out the details, this ambitious plan actually makes a lot of sense.  Read More

The Glad Company recently experimented with a combination tent and garbage bag, known as t...

Outdoor music festivals are notorious for a lot of things, one of the biggest being the amount of garbage left behind by the concert-goers. In an effort to get music fans to clean up after themselves, while also providing them with half-decent temporary shelter, the Glad Company recently experimented with a combination tent/big garbage bag, known as the Glad Tent.  Read More

Dead seaweed on a beach in the Spanish city of Alicante

When it’s alive and in the ocean, seaweed serves as a habitat, spawning ground and food source for marine life. Once it gets washed ashore, however, it pretty much just rots. Typically, along beaches in tourist areas, that dead seaweed is simply gathered and taken to a landfill. Now, however, researchers from Spain’s University of Alicante have conceived of a new seaweed-removal system that has less environmental impact, and that allows the seaweed to be used as an energy source.  Read More

Sunflower seed husks seem to be a viable aggregate for certain uses (Photo: Phil Hawkswort...

Ordinarily seen as a waste product, the husks of sunflower seeds could be used to make concrete, according to research out of Turkey. Not only are the husks a sustainable source of aggregate, it's claimed that the resulting concrete is more resistant to cracking during post-freeze thaws.  Read More

A petri dish of the sulfur-based polymer next to a (very small) stockpile of sulfur powder...

Whether sulfur is a by-product or a waste product of oil refinement and coal combustion depends on how you slice it. Certainly, some of that sulfur can be put to use producing sulfuric acid, fertilizer and other chemicals, but much of it is accumulating into stockpiles that are expensive to maintain (due to the need to neutralize acidic run-off). Researchers at the University of Arizona think more of that sulfur could be put to use thanks to a new chemical process that uses sulfur to make plastics that may one day be used to make a new generation of lighter, more efficient lithium-sulfur batteries.  Read More

Some of Fraunhofer's printed thermoelectric generators, wrapped around a sample component

Thermoelectric materials, putting it simply, are able to generate electricity via differences in temperature. If thermoelectric felt were used to make a jacket, for instance, it could generate a current using the temperature gradient between the warm interior and cold exterior of the garment. Like many such promising technologies, however, the cost of thermoelectrics is something of an issue ... although thanks to a new process developed at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology, that might not be the case for much longer.  Read More

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