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Researchers create an eco-friendly plastic wrap made with shellfish

Future Tech: Featuring a thought-controlled third arm & concrete made from coal ash

This compostable plastic is made from crab shells

Plastic made from crab shells

From Munchies:

In this modern world, we live our daily lives in a sea of plastic, from the bottle that contains our morning face wash all the way to the little container that holds our evening dental floss.

All this plastic is bad news for the environment — of the more than nine billion tons of plastic mankind has produced, only about 9 per cent of it gets recycled, with the rest clogging our landfills and oceans — and it’s also bad for our health, messing with our hormones in ways that scientists are just beginning to understand.

With both consumer and researcher interest in plastic alternatives at an all-time high, less toxic options have proliferated in our cafés and grocery stores, from edible tableware to steel and paper straws. And soon, scientists hope to add another eco-friendly choice to the field of non-plastic packaging: wrap made from crab carcasses.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have been working on a flexible packaging material comprised of alternating layers of chitin, the primary component of crustacean shells, and cellulose, the main fiber found in green plants. …

[T]he product the team is working on is remarkably similar in texture and appearance to the common petroleum-derived plastic used in soda bottles and potato chip bags — and it might even work better at keeping food fresh. … And on top of being compostable, the wrap is eco-friendly in other ways. The shellfish industry already produces some six to eight million tons of chitin-rich waste each year. Every time you buy a peeled shrimp, a crab cake or a shucked oyster, the shells from those creatures have to go somewhere — and it’s usually right back in the ocean. A material utilizing those shells would help lessen the footprint of the shellfish industry.

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Third arm made mobile with your thoughts

Scientists augment existing human capabilities with additional brain-controlled limbs

Scientists augment existing human capabilities with additional brain-controlled limbs.

From The Verge:

For years, scientists have been exploring how we can use signals from the brain to control prosthetic limbs. Usually, this work is focused on restoring motor function to people who have lost an arm or a leg, but new research from Japan shows how the same technology can also be used to augment existing human capabilities.

Engineers from Kyoto’s Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute have demonstrated how people can be taught to control a third robotic arm with their brains, even using the limb to multitask. As described in a paper published in the journal Science Robotics, eight of 15 test subjects were able to successfully balance a ball on a board with their hands, while grabbing a water bottle with a brain-controlled robot arm.

Although this may sound like something out of science fiction, it’s important to stress that the functionality of this third arm is extremely basic. The prosthetic moved along a predetermined path and performed only a single gesture: closing and opening its hand. Similarly, the brain-machine interface used to control the arm is not some magical mind-reading device. It’s a cap fitted with electrodes that measure electrical signals produced by the brain. In this case, participants were asked to imagine opening and closing the robot hand. The scientists recorded this signal and turned it into an instruction for the robot arm.

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Concrete made from coal ash could cut greenhouse gas emissions

Concrete made from coal ash

From Popular Mechanics:

Concrete, the most commonly used building material on the planet, is not an especially green one. Researchers at Washington State University want to change that with an entirely new form of concrete, re-engineered from the molecules up. And what’s more, they’ve done it using another pollutant: coal fly ash, a waste product that stems from coal-based electricity generation. …

Making concrete, which is used for roads, bridges, buildings, runways, sidewalks and a variety of other infrastructure projects means combining cement with sand and gravel. Making cement means emitting greenhouse gases to such a degree that it’s thought to be singlehandedly responsible for around 5 per cent of all global emissions.

There have been attempts turn coal fly ash into concrete before with degrees of success: in 2009, engineer Henry Liu was made able to make coal fly bricks. But this new method of production is radically different.

“Our production method does not require heating or the use of any cement,” says grad student Gang Xu, speaking in a press statement. … Using graphene oxide, a recently discovered nanomaterial, the scientists were able to rearrange atoms and molecules within fly ash. … This chemical bonding process resulted in an inorganic polymer network more durable than hydrated cement.

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The Editors

The Editorial Team develops articles, company profiles and resources for the Business Hub to bring IT, tech and innovation stories to the Manitoba business community.

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