Ammonia may unlock secrets to cleaner, greener energy

Read the full story from Johns Hopkins University.

Does the secret to cleaner energy lie in a common household cleaner?

With its unmistakable smell and astringent nature, ammonia is used to combat household grime, from greasy stovetops to soap-scummed bathroom tiles. Now, a Johns Hopkins chemical and materials engineer thinks it may also hold the key to cleaner, more sustainable energy.

Michael Tsapatsis, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of nanomaterials with appointments in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, is leading a team that is investigating how to efficiently manufacture ammonia and its potential uses in creating clean fuel technologies.

The three-year, $4.2 million project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and is part of its $540 million overall initiative aimed at supporting research and developing new technology to reduce carbon emissions and advance clean energy. Ammonia has potential as a liquid storage medium as it does not produce carbon dioxide when burned.

A sea change for plastic pollution: New material biodegrades in ocean water

Read the full story from UC San Diego.

Plastics, now ubiquitous in the modern world, have become a rising threat to human and environmental health. Around the planet, evidence of plastic pollution stretches from grocery bags in the deep sea to microplastics in our food supplies and even in our blood.

Seeking solutions to counteract the rise in plastic trash, scientists at the University of California San Diego have developed new biodegradable materials that are designed to replace conventionally used plastic. After proving their polyurethane foams biodegrade in land-based composts, an interdisciplinary team of scientists including UC San Diego biologist Stephen Mayfield and chemists Michael Burkart and Robert “Skip” Pomeroy have now shown that the material biodegrades in seawater. The results are published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Print, recycle, repeat: Scientists demonstrate a biodegradable printed circuit

Read the full story from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

According to the United Nations, less than a quarter of all U.S. electronic waste gets recycled. In 2021 alone, global e-waste surged at 57.5 million tons, and only 17.4% of that was recycled. 

Some experts predict that our e-waste problem will only get worse over time, because most electronics on the market today are designed for portability, not recyclability. Tablets and readers, for example, are assembled by gluing circuits, chips, and hard drives to thin layers of plastic, which must be melted to extract precious metals like copper and gold. Burning plastic releases toxic gases into the atmosphere, and electronics wasting away in landfill often contain harmful materials like mercury, lead, and beryllium.

But now, a team of researchers from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley have developed a potential solution: a fully recyclable and biodegradable printed circuit. The researchers, who reported the new device in the journal Advanced Materials, say that the advance could divert wearable devices and other flexible electronics from landfill, and mitigate the health and environmental hazards posed by heavy metal waste.  

Silk offers an alternative to some microplastics

Read the full story from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Researchers have developed a biodegradable system based on silk to replace microplastics added to agricultural products, paints, and cosmetics.

Texas A&M receives $3.74M for green, 3D-printed hempcrete buildings research

Read the full story from Texas A&M.

A plan from Texas A&M University researchers to 3D print new resilient buildings using hempcrete has the potential to lower the environmental impact of traditional construction methods and make housing more affordable and available.

The project will be funded by a $3.74 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Harnessing Emissions into Structures Taking Inputs from the Atmosphere (HESTIA) program.

Low-cost gel film can pluck drinking water from desert air

Read the full story from the University of Texas.

More than a third of the world’s population lives in drylands, areas that experience significant water shortages. Scientists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a solution that could help people in these areas access clean drinking water.

The team developed a low-cost gel film made of abundant materials that can pull water from the air in even the driest climates. The materials that facilitate this reaction cost a mere $2 per kilogram, and a single kilogram can produce more than 6 liters of water per day in areas with less than 15% relative humidity and 13 liters in areas with up to 30% relative humidity.

New algae-based cement garners attention from AEC industry, Microsoft

Read the full story at Construction Dive.

Algae is not just some stuff floating around in your fish tank or on pond rocks — it’s also a key component of a new zero-carbon cement mixture, according to a June 6 press release. Boulder, Colorado-based zero-carbon research company Prometheus Materials is using algae to create a greener binding agent, according to the company.

The mixture was developed under a Department of Defense grant by a team of scientists and engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder. Prometheus Materials CEO Loren Burnett said the mixture will be used to construct a data center but declined to disclose the client or location.

Prometheus Materials championed the technology after announcing the close of an $8 million Series A funding round led by Sofinnova Partners, a life sciences venture capital firm based in Paris, London and Milan. Additional participants included the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund and architecture and design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Disposable masks could be used to make more durable concrete

Read the full story from Washington State University.

With the pervasive single-use masks during the pandemic now presenting an environmental problem, researchers have demonstrated the idea of incorporating old masks into a cement mixture to create stronger, more durable concrete. 

In a paper published in the journal, Materials Letters, a Washington State University research team showed that the mixture using mask materials was 47% stronger than commonly used cement after a month of curing. 

The sustainable applications of chitosan

Read the full story at AZO Materials.

A mini-review has been published in the journal Polymers on chitosan’s potential for sustainable applications in multiple industries. Researchers from Spain, India, Iran, and China have contributed to the review.

Could we make cars out of petroleum residue?

Read the full story from MIT.

Researchers have developed a way to make lightweight fibers, for possible use in the bodies of cars, out of an ultracheap feedstock: the waste material from the refining of petroleum.