from the world's big
Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.
- Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
- Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
- The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
Ever smell a durian fruit? Don't. Think of it as nature's stinky battery.
- New research finds that jackfruit and durian, often called the world's smelliest fruit, make outstanding supercapacitors.
- Supercapacitors are useful because they can be used as infinitely rechargeable batteries.
- The study, published in the Journal of Energy Storage, also demonstrates the development of carbon aerogels for the bodies of the fruit batteries.
We need a better battery<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg2MTg0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzA3MDMxM30.4K7F5A_Yo1Snm_EBYRSogm7iFhR-rF5TtBaE61q8Zik/img.jpg?width=980" id="a23c1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="048195b51dcd498c33fcfe0867d50b04" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="box of batteries" />
Image source: PandaMath/Shutterstock<p>Researchers have been trying to move away from existing lithium-ion batteries that contain chemicals whose interactions produce electricity. When those chemicals are depleted, what's left is a little bundle of toxic waste.</p><p>A capacitor, on the other hand, stores energy by building up a static electricity charge on the surfaces of two metal plates. (You might think of how static electricity builds up on your hair when you rub a balloon against your head, for a sense of how this works.) However, capacitors can't hold a lot of energy, nor can they hold it for long. Still, they are infinitely rechargeable, unlike lithium-ion solutions.</p><p>Supercapacitors begin to address some of these problems. They typically contain metal plates which have more surface-area and are coated with a second layer of activated charcoal or a similar material. This makes them better at soaking up and holding a charge. Still, supercapacitors are expensive to produce and have their own stability issues.</p><p>So now imagine one made of durian fruit or jackfruit. Gomes' paper describes the potential:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"The structural precision of natural biomass with their hierarchical pores, developed over millions of years of biological evolution, affords an outstanding resource as a template for the synthesis of carbon-based materials. Their integrated properties of high surface area, in-plane conductivity and interfacial active sites can facilitate electrochemical reactions, ionic diffusion and high charge carrier density."</em></p>
Jacking into durian fruit<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg2MTkyOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDA1MjY1Mn0.XxkYjKWgCHdI6Kgc1ph7Gjz_XY0-3ueUcAk18tovhlc/img.jpg?width=980" id="6ea6d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b0ea222a429932e9d97cdab63487d436" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Jackfruit and durian" />
The authors' conclusions<p>The paper concludes that "both electrodes are attractive candidates for the next generation, high performance, yet low-cost supercapacitors for energy storage devices derived from biowastes." In both the DCA and JCA variants, "the electrodes…displayed long-term cycling stability, and rapid charge–discharge processes. " It turns out that the durian fruit battery has a bit more power-storage capacity than its jackfruit cousin. The paper makes no mention of the final olfactory personality of the batteries.</p><p>In addition to offering proof of the potential for using durian fruit and jackfruit for energy storage, the authors point out that for the first time, they've demonstrated the development of carbon aerogels "via a facile, chemical-free, green synthesis procedure."</p>
Graphene is insanely useful, but very difficult to produce — until now.
- Graphene is a lattice of carbon atoms arranged in a chicken-wire formation, a structure that makes it very useful for a wide range of applications.
- However, it's been very difficult and expensive to make.
- This new technique cuts down on the cost and difficulty by flash heating any carbon-based material, such as used coffee grounds or plastic waste.
What is graphene?<p>Graphene's value is mainly due to its incredible strength and the wide variety of industrial applications it possesses. This material consists of a single layer of carbon atoms connected to one another by six chemical bonds, creating a lattice that resembles chicken wire. </p><p>Not only is graphene extremely useful in scientific experiments due to its high reactivity and strength, it can also be added to all sorts of other materials to improve their strength or to make them more lightweight, such as concrete or metals. It is the most conductive material, making it invaluable for use as a heat sink in, for instance, LEDs or smartphones. It could also be used in battery technology, in paints, in sensors, and many more — there are quite literally too many applications for this material to cover in this article alone.</p>
What is 'flash graphene'?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1bdd2f2519b4534119724f0b210531d3"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hzm5AMPFMqs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Despite its high utility, graphene isn't a part of our everyday lives yet. Part of the reason why is because of its prohibitive cost. Graphene is difficult to produce in bulk, with "the present commercial price of graphene being $67,000 to $200,000 per ton," said Tour. Common techniques include exfoliation, in which sheets of graphene are stripped away from graphite, or chemical vapor deposition, in which methane (CH4) is vaporized in the presence of a copper substrate that grabs the methane's carbon atoms, arranging them as graphene.</p><p>The new technique, called <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-1938-0" target="_blank">flash Joule heating</a>, is far simpler, cheaper, and doesn't rely on any hazardous solvents or chemical additives. Simply put, a carbon-based material is exposed to a 2,760°C (5,000°F) heat for just 10 milliseconds. This breaks every chemical bond in the input material. All atoms aside from carbon turn into gas, which escape in this proof-of-concept device but could be captured in industrial applications. The carbon, however, reassembles itself as flakes of graphene.</p><p>What's more, this technique produces so-called turbostatic graphene. Other processes produce what's known as A-B stacked graphene, in which half of the atoms in one sheet of graphene lie over the atoms of another sheet of graphene. This results in a tighter bond between the two sheets, making them harder to separate. Turbostatic graphene has no such order between sheets, so they're easier to remove from one another.</p><p>The most obvious use case for what the researchers have termed "flash graphene" is to use these graphene flakes as a component in concrete. "By strengthening concrete with graphene," said Tour, "we could use less concrete for building, and it would cost less to manufacture and less to transport. Essentially, we're trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that waste food would have emitted in landfills. We are converting those carbons into graphene and adding that graphene to concrete, thereby lowering the amount of carbon dioxide generated in concrete manufacture. It's a win-win environmental scenario using graphene."</p><p>Concrete is a major application for this material, one that would both be economically and environmentally sound, but many others exist too. As this method and others for producing graphene in bulk mature, we can hope to see a future with increasingly stronger, more lightweight, more advanced, and less environmentally destructive materials and technologies.</p>
You've likely heard of solar energy, but what is osmotic energy?
- Osmotic power plants harvest energy from the difference in pressure or salinity between salt and freshwater using a semi-permeable membrane.
- One of the major challenges for this kind of renewable energy, however, has been developing effective and durable membranes.
- Now, new research demonstrates a durable and effective membrane that could significantly improve osmotic energy collection.
What exactly is osmotic energy?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjI1MDU0NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Nzg1NTY0Nn0.haCsWHBjZYMF56WC2KLZ81eMzBVB7znv5M-qkdzatrs/img.jpg?width=980" id="36a21" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ca6296f8cec0b65bab3c7fd449d43f78" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Tofte Osmotic Power Plant" />
An image taken inside of the world's first osmotic power plant at Tofte, Norway, 2009. The project has since been shelved due to its high operating costs, highlighting the need for better, more efficient technology.
POPPE, CORNELIUS/AFP via Getty Images<p>Osmotic energy takes advantage of the differences in pressure and salinity between fresh and seawater to generate electricity. Its only waste product is brackish water, which is simply water that is saltier than freshwater but less so than seawater. While it doesn't generate large amounts of energy compared to other renewable energy sources, it is remarkably consistent. The energy derived from wind turbines and solar panels fluctuates tremendously with the weather, time, and local climate, but osmotic energy works more or less the same year-round wherever fresh and saltwater meet.</p><p>Osmosis, in general, is the process by which liquid moves from a dilute to a concentrated solution through a semi-permeable membrane. It occurs in your body all the time, as its critical for fundamental biological processes. </p><p>Osmotic power plants typically use one of <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/01/130107-osmotic-energy-norway/" target="_blank">two major techniques</a>. In pressure-retarded osmosis (PRO), freshwater is gathered in one tank while saltwater is kept in another. In between, a membrane separates the two. This membrane has special properties that only permit freshwater to pass through, but not saltwater. As a result, the freshwater is drawn through the membrane, diluting the saltwater in the corresponding tank but also raising the pressure. From this pressure, we can derive energy. </p><p>The other technique, reverse electrodialysis osmosis (RED), takes advantage of the fact that saltwater contains more positive and negative ions than fresh water. Normally, these ions would travel into the freshwater, balancing out the solution. But when harvesting osmotic energy, a membrane can selectively allow only the positive or negative ions to pass through, turning tanks of salt and fresh water into a kind of battery that passively generates electricity.</p>
Inspired by bone and cartilage<p>But the reason why we don't see more of either of these plants is because of the membrane. Osmotic membranes are delicate and must retain specific characteristics in order to remain semi-permeable. Exposed to the elements, they tend to degrade over time.</p><p>Recent research described in the journal <em><a href="https://www.cell.com/joule/fulltext/S2542-4351(19)30577-X?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS254243511930577X%3Fshowall%3Dtrue" target="_blank">Joule</a></em> presents a new, durable membrane inspired by bone and cartilage that lasts. This membrane would be used in RED applications.</p><p>Bone is a very strong material, but it doesn't permit the transportation of ions, while flimsier material like cartilage permits ions to pass through easily. A membrane for osmotic energy would require both strength and the ability to transport ions. </p><p>Using this as inspiration, the researchers developed a membrane consisting of layers of boron nitride and aramid nanofibers. Boron nitride had shown promise in previous membranes but tended to develop cracks over time. To address this, the researchers investigated the use of a class of synthetic fibers frequently used in Kevlar: Aramid nanofibers. By layering boron nitride and the aramid nanofibers, the researchers had developed a material that was sturdy enough to last while remaining flexible and efficient in transporting ions.</p><p>The researchers found that not only does this generate power to a similar degree as commercial RED osmotic power plants, but it also performs for a remarkably long time. They cycled the membrane 20 times, observing its efficiency over the course of 200 hours, and found no drop in performance whatsoever. </p><p>Moreover, the membrane can function well in a wide range of pH and temperatures. Other membranes only perform well under specific conditions and need to be regularly replaced, increasing the amount of energy they require to be maintained. Implementing a more durable, longer-lasting membrane in a power plant would mean in effect that the plant could generate more power, as it would require less energy to maintain. </p><p>While the study only served as a proof of concept, it does show that we're getting better and better at addressing the problems with renewable energy. Not only that, but it highlights how much energy available to us is out there — so long as we're willing to think creatively and look in the right places. With any luck, we might start to see more osmotic energy plants operating at the mouths of the world's rivers.</p>
Fashion Week, 2050
- The clothing of the future will look nothing like what we wear today. Or maybe it will.
- A hunger for sustainability is leading researchers to new organic materials from which to design clothing.
- Other visionaries are working to make our future outfits as smart as we want to look.
Nature knows best<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTA3ODcwOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDA5ODk1NH0.dYFYGU2aNbn8NSYY__AONBlNLNQ0-LOa06gHGDHjZgc/img.jpg?width=980" id="487d3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="75a32433c594f6a9222e30128f0f90f9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Spiderweb" />
Image source: freestocks.org/Unsplash<p>About 60 percent of the clothing we wear contains plastic <a href="https://www.oceancleanwash.org/the-issue/" target="_blank">microfibers</a>. The best-known are polyester, nylon, and acrylic. Unfortunately, these fibers don't stay in our clothing. While some of them leach out as we go about our business, taking to the air and so on, doing laundry may be a significant contributor to the 8 million tons of microplastics dumped into our oceans annually. (Fun fact: Experts only know where about 1 percent of that plastic goes.) Nonetheless, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025326X16307639" target="_blank">research</a> published in 2016 says that for an average wash load, over 700,000 fibers could be being released into the water supply.</p><p>In addition to ongoing efforts to find new ways of incorporating used materials in new clothing, textile-industry scientists are experimenting with a range of less environmentally damaging, more sustainable materials for us to wear. Much of it is derived from naturally occurring sources.</p><p><strong>Pineapple fabric</strong></p><p>Piñatex is a leather substitute made from pineapple-leaf fiber. These leaves are discarded during harvesting of the fruit, and so they're readily available with no additional farming necessary, according to the <a href="https://www.ananas-anam.com" target="_blank">Piñatex web site</a>. The material, which is produced in sheets, is already being used for making shoes, handbags, and dresses.</p><p><strong>Mushrooms</strong></p><p>There are a few mushroom-thread-based fabrics.</p><p>There's a synthetic leather called <a href="https://boltthreads.com/technology/mylo/" target="_blank">Mylo</a>, from <a href="https://boltthreads.com" target="_blank">Bolt Threads</a>, a vegan, eco-friendly material. The company's partnering with fashion brands Stella McCartney and Patagonia in making actual clothing from Mylo.</p><p>Then there's MycoTEX. The most startling thing about MycoTEX is that this living material can be <em>grown</em> into clothing. As producer <a href="http://www.fungal-futures.com/exhibition" target="_blank">Fungal Futures</a> puts it, "the garment can be built three-dimensionally and shaped whilst being made, fitting the wearer's wishes," using clothing-shaped molds. Since MycoTEX grows into the desired shape without cutting, there's no waste material when a garment's complete.</p><p><strong>Not-silk</strong></p><p>One of the wildest ideas is another technology from Bolt Threads called "<a href="https://boltthreads.com/technology/microsilk/" target="_blank">Microsilk</a>." Based on the way in which spiders produce real silk, Microsilk is derived from yeast-based proteins, extracted, and then spun into fibers. The company released, and immediately sold out of, a Microsilk tie in 2017, and Stella McCartney showed a <a href="https://cms.qz.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/boltxstella_moma.jpeg?quality=75&strip=all&w=1240&h=1274&crop=1" target="_blank" class="hoverZoomLink">gold dress</a> made from the fibers at NYC's MoMA that same year.</p><p><strong>Eucalyptus yarn</strong></p><p>A company called Wool and the Gang (a pun better read than said) is selling a product, "<a href="https://www.woolandthegang.com/en/products/tina-tape-yarn?taxon_id=49" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tina Tape Yarn</a>," made from sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees. They call the material Tencel and claim it's "more absorbent than cotton, softer than silk and cooler than linen." It's also biodegradable, made with renewable energy and — heads up, sheep — totally vegan.</p><p><strong>Agraloop BioFibre</strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.circular-systems.com/agraloop/" target="_blank">company</a> takes plant-based textiles beyond pineapples. We say that because pineapple leaves are just one of the castoff materials sourced to make their line of BioFibres. The others are oil-seed hemp, oil-seed flax, banana tree, cane bagasse, and rice straw. Agraloop notes that these six crops provide 250 million tons of textile fiber per year, 2.5 times the global demand.</p><p><strong>Some of the rest</strong></p><p>Other natural substances being reworked into clothing include chitin fiber from crustacean shells, seaweed, banana fiber, coconut fiber, and corn fiber.</p>
Don’t forget to recharge your underwear<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTA3ODcxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Nzc5NjM2Nn0.6TuudX93Ilw66UefO5z3Y9ULbZ8KczlgCXqqgphWpp4/img.jpg?width=980" id="0511d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d092d2edbe7db674945ecf653bd346e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Smart textiles" />
Popular future brands?
Image source: Boris Bobrov/Unsplash<p>Technology in textiles is not a new thing, but it's a <a href="http://sustainable-nano.com/2018/11/28/nano-textiles/" target="_blank">booming field</a>. Antimicrobial silver nanoparticles that prevent smelly bacteria — and therefore require less washing — have been embedded in fabrics since early in the new millennium. Researchers are working on water-repelling fabrics, and nanoparticles can also make clothing <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169433217335626" target="_blank">less flammable</a>. Just this month, a <a href="https://phys.org/news/2019-09-world-smallest-accelerometer-era-wearables.html" target="_blank">nanoscale accelerometer</a> was announced, perfect for incorporating into future motion-sensitive clothing.</p><p>What can clothes do? What <em>can't</em> they do? Get ready for <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesstylefile/2014/05/07/what-is-the-future-of-fabric-these-smart-textiles-will-blow-your-mind/#72cbe95e599b" target="_blank">smart textiles</a>.</p><p><strong>Google goes beyond Glass</strong></p><p>Having been early into smart wearables with their Glass products, Google has has begun weaving its <a href="https://atap.google.com/jacquard/" target="_blank">Jacquard</a> platform into clothing, in particular a jacket co-developed with Levi's. The jacket is a wearable touch device you can use for controlling your devices.</p><p>Another smart-tech use being explored for fabrics are materials laced with sensors that can <a href="https://www.mpo-mag.com/contents/view_breaking-news/2016-04-26/textile-based-sensors-offer-healthcare-monitoring-functionality" target="_blank">monitor the wearer's health</a>, going far beyond fitness watches to clothes that keep an eye on a wide range of health indicators. </p><p><strong>Clothes that change color</strong></p><p>Scientists from the College of Optics and Photonics at The University of Central Florida have developed <a href="http://www.chromorphous.com" target="_blank">ChroMorphous</a>, a color-changing fabric your can control using your smartphone. They cal it "eFabric." (What, does Apple own "iFabric?")</p><p><strong>Haptic fabric</strong></p><p>Some of the new materials are designed to be helpful. <a href="https://www.wearablex.com" target="_blank">Wearable X</a> specializes in materials that support <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haptic_technology" target="_blank">haptic</a> feedback, electrical signals that mimic a sense of being touched or of interaction with virtual objects. The company currently sells <a href="https://www.wearablex.com/collections/nadi-x-smart-yoga-pants" target="_blank">NADI X</a> yoga garb with embedded haptic feedback that provides training cues. An earlier product put the "fun" in <a href="https://www.wearablex.com/pages/fundawear" target="_blank">Fundawear</a> by allowing touch to be transmitted from a smartphone to a partner anywhere in the world, "created with long-distance couples in mind."</p><p><strong>Optical communicator hat</strong></p><p>We'll let Yoel Fink of MIT pitch this one: "Think about pedestrian safety and self-driving cars. Tremendous investments are going into cars. How about the pedestrians? Do we as pedestrians or bikers get to know if the car has detected us? With fabric optical communications your baseball cap can not only alert a car to your presence but importantly let you know if the car detected you. Fabrics for the self-driving future." Alternately, those cars could just honk?</p>