Black (nano)gold to combat climate change

Black (nano)gold to combat climate change

Global warming is a serious threat to the planet and living beings. One of the main causes of global warming is the increase in the atmospheric CO2 level. The main source of this CO2 is from the burning of fossil fuels in our daily lives (electricity, vehicles, industry and many more).

Researchers at TIFR have developed the solution phase synthesis of dendritic plasmonic colloidosomes (DPCs) with varying interparticle distances between the gold nanoparticles (NPs) using a cycle-by-cycle growth approach by optimizing the nucleation-growth step. These DPCs absorbed the entire visible and near-infrared region of solar light, due to interparticle plasmonic coupling as well as the heterogeneity in the Au NP sizes, which transformed gold material to black gold.

Black (nano)gold was able to catalyze CO2 to methane (fuel) at atmospheric pressure and temperature, using solar energy. Researchers also observed the significant effect of the plasmonic hotspots on the performance of these DPCs for the purification of seawater to drinkable water via steam generation, temperature jump assisted protein unfolding, oxidation of cinnamyl alcohol using pure oxygen as the oxidant, and hydrosilylation of aldehydes.

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Is this the ‘FinalStraw’ to our sipping challe…



By Anthony Caggiano

The UK is preparing for a ban on plastic straws from 2020 in a bid to protect rivers and seas from waste.

Consumers and suppliers are looking for more environmentally friendly ‘straw-ternatives’, as reported by Materials World in July (click here). Paper straws have gained support from companies including McDonald’s, and wheat straws have also drawn praise.

Metal options are also an option, including this one, named FinalStraw.

The straw is made from four pieces of stainless steel, which are connected by one continuous piece of food grade silicone. When FinalStraw is pulled out of the case, it automatically self deploys.

A specially designed brush has also been made for cleaning the inside. While soap and water are recommended for general cleaning, the product can be sanitised by boiling it for five minutes, and odours can be removed with vinegar and baking soda.


The product is claimed to have a life cycle of 12,000 uses – about two uses a day for 16 years.

Once the product has reached the end of its life, the company says it will take back all old and used products to recycle the materials and/or make sure it is disposed of properly.

On top of that, the case is made from recycled HDPE.


FinalStraw was founded by Emma Cohen, who has a master’s degree from Harvard in Environmental Management and Sustainability.

She spent four years working in waste minimisation at Los Alamos National Laboratories in the Pollution Prevention department before becoming a ‘straw-trepreneur’.

While attending the University of Santa Barbara, Emma and her friends started a non-profit called Save the Mermaids, an environmental education program to educate children on the harmful effects of single-use plastics.

In 2015, Emma did a TEDx Talk on the effects of plastic straws on oceans and environment. Then in 2017, Emma started working on FinalStraw in hopes of creating a convenient, durable alternative to single-use plastic straws.

In April 2018, FinalStraw was launched on Kickstarter, raising US$1.89 million and has gone on to sell more than 250,000 units.

*All images courtesy FinalStraw.

Insects inspire greener, cheaper membranes f…

Insects inspire greener, cheaper membranes for desalination

A new membrane made from water-wet materials has specially designed gas-entrapping pores that allow it to simultaneously separate hot, salty from cool, pure water while facilitating the transfer of pure vapor from one side to the other. This principle, designed by KAUST researchers, could lead to greener, cheaper desalination membranes.

Currently, super-water-repellent perfluorocarbon membranes are popularly used for a desalination process known as membrane distillation (MD). But perfluorocarbons are expensive, nonbiodegradable and vulnerable to fouling and damage at higher temperatures, explains KAUST postdoctoral fellow Ratul Das.

With the aim of developing perfluorocarbon-free alternatives, Himanshu Mishra and his team of researchers at KAUST’s Water Desalination and Reuse Center drew inspiration from two insects: springtails that live in wet soils and seaskaters that live in open oceans. Both have mushroom-shaped microtextures covering their cuticles and hairs that can spontaneously entrap life-sustaining air if the insects become submerged in water. “We mimicked those features onto water-wet (nonwater resistant) materials. The resulting surfaces robustly entrap air upon immersion in liquids. The idea of gas-entrapping membranes was born,” says Mishra.

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Mimicking the ultrastructure of wood with 3D-printing for green products

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have succeeded in 3D printing with a wood-based ink in a way that mimics the unique ‘ultrastructure’ of wood. Their research could revolutionise the manufacturing of green products. Through emulating the natural cellular architecture of wood, they now present the ability to create green products derived from trees, with unique properties – everything from clothes, packaging, and furniture to healthcare and personal care products.

The way in which wood grows is controlled by its genetic code, which gives it unique properties in terms of porosity, toughness and torsional strength. But wood has limitations when it comes to processing. Unlike metals and plastics, it cannot be melted and easily reshaped, and instead must be sawn, planed or curved. Processes which do involve conversion, to make products such as paper, card and textiles, destroy the underlying ultrastructure, or architecture of the wood cells. But the new technology now presented allows wood to be, in effect, grown into exactly the shape desired for the final product, through the medium of 3D printing.

By previously converting wood pulp into a nanocellulose gel, researchers at Chalmers had already succeeded in creating a type of ink that could be 3D printed. Now, they present a major progression -successfully interpreting wood’s genetic code, and digitising it so that it can instruct a 3D printer.

It means that now, the arrangement of the cellulose nanofibrils can be precisely controlled during the printing process, to actually replicate the desirable ultrastructure of wood. Being able to manage the orientation and shape means that they can capture those useful properties of natural wood.

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Soft drink by-products could reduce global w…

Soft drink by-products could reduce global warming

Professor of Chemistry Craig Teague and his students have discovered that the by-products of soft drinks could help reduce global warming.

A Cornell College team of researchers worked with other experts at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on the idea starting in 2016, and their final conclusions were published in the journal article “Microporous and hollow carbon spheres derived from soft drinks: Promising CO2separation materials” in April of 2019. Their new research shows that the by-products of some soft drinks actually remove carbon dioxide, a gas known to warm the planet, from gas streams.

“In this research, we are looking at turning one waste material into something of value,” Teague said. “We looked at waste soft drinks–asking could we possibly find a way to make that waste useful by doing a simple process in the lab and taking the carbon out? That carbon, by the way we synthesized it, has tiny pores, which are able to capture carbon dioxide.”

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Sustainable wearables for Wimbledon


All images: Adidas 

By Idha Valeur 

The all-white clothes range for Wimbledon, designed by Stella McCartney, is also going green by using recycled materials. 

In this new range of tennis-wear Adidas and McCartney are taking steps towards sustainability by creating the clothes out of recycled polyester, a synthetic fibre created using waste materials like plastic bottles and previously used clothing items that have been cleaned and processed again to turn them into new fibres ready for a new purpose. 

As well as using recycled polyester, the collection is also made by using parley ocean plastic, which is a material developed from upcycled plastic waste which was picked up and hindered from entering the oceans at beaches and coastal areas before being turned into yarn, according to a press release. 

Not only is the clothes made from recycled materials, with a better environmental footprint, but the technology used to create the range – dope dye technology – is also greening the line. The method wastes less water by incorporating colour directly into the material mix at the beginning stage in the production process. 

‘Therefore, when the fibre is formed, it is already the desired colour and as a result, reduces wastewater by at least 10 litres per garment,’ the release stated. 

The range, sold by Adidas, is available to purchase online now and the range can be seen on Wimbledon players such as Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki and Alexander Zverev. 

Blue pigment from engineered fungi could hel…

Blue pigment from engineered fungi could help turn the textile industry green

Often, the findings of fundamental scientific research are many steps away from a product that can be immediately brought to the public. But every once in a while, opportunity makes an early appearance.

Such was the case for a team from the Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), whose outside-the-box thinking when investigating microbe-based biomanufacturing led straight to an eco-friendly production platform for a blue pigment called indigoidine. With a similar vividly saturated hue as synthetic indigo, a dye used around the world to color denim and many other items, the team’s fungi-produced indigoidine could provide an alternative to a largely environmentally unfriendly process.

“Originally extracted from plants, most indigo used today is synthesized,” said lead researcher Aindrila Mukhopadhyay, who directs the Host Engineering team at JBEI. “These processes are efficient and inexpensive, but they often require toxic chemicals and generate a lot of dangerous waste. With our work we now have a way to efficiently produce a blue pigment that uses inexpensive, sustainable carbon sources instead of harsh precursors. And so far, the platform checks many of the boxes in its promise to be scaled-up for commercial markets.”

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Greenpeace and BP oil rig standoff continues


Caption: Greenpeace boat alongside BP chartered rig in North Sea.           Credit: Greenpeace (all photos)

By Shardell Joseph

Greenpeace activists attempted to board a BP drilling rig being towed in the North Sea, overtaking the 27,000 tonne rig on their ship yesterday afternoon.

According to Greenpeace, the rig was approximately 20 miles short of the drilling site when it made a U-turn, heading back to where it came from in Cromatry, Scotland.

The activists attempted to re-board the BP rig for the fourth time in the early hours, but the vessel towing the rig sped away from them. The activists continued the pursuit – overtaking the rig at approximately 1pm. BP accused the group of putting people at risk through its ‘reckless’ actions.

There have been 14 arrests, including three photographers, since the activists first boarded the Transocean rig in the Cromatry Firth a week ago. With two police operations carried out to remove protestors, the structure managed to continue its way to BP’s Vorlich field, east of Aberdeen, on Friday night. Greenpeace vowed to continue its efforts to halt progress. BP served Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship with an injunction order on Friday.

Tweet By Greenpeace: Our climbers were arrested but the #BPShutdown continues. The @gp_sunrise is on its way to try to thwart BP’s plans at sea, and volunteers are protesting at petrol stations across the UK.
This is not over, @BP_plc.

The standoff between the climate change activists and BP continued onto its eith day yesterday, as activists continue to stop BP’s plans to drill a new well in the Vorlich oil field, which would give BP access to 30 million barrels of crude.

Greenpeace’s latest activities come after Pope Francis warned oil bosses gathered in Rome on Friday that when “faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.”

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “BP’s oil rig has done a U-turn and we urge chief executive Bob Dudley to do the same. BP must stop drilling for new oil and switch to renewables.

‘Pope Francis is absolutely right about the climate emergency. We must take action to save future generations from a “brutal injustice”. And we are.

‘BP told the Pope on Friday that they want to find the answer to the climate problem. Wherever that answer may lie it’s certainly not in drilling new wells to access 30 million barrels of oil at the bottom of the North Sea.

‘This is why BP will face opposition wherever they plan to drill for more oil, from the North Sea to the Arctic and from the mouth of the Amazon to the Gulf of Mexico. We have tried letters, meetings, petitions – none of that worked. Now we’re going to stand in BP’s way to prevent further harm to people at the sharp end of the climate crisis.

‘In the long run, this is a confrontation BP can’t win. They are in it for their profits – we’re in it for our planet’s future. BP must start ditching the climate-wrecking side of its business and switch to renewables.’

BP claimed to share the group’s concerns regarding climate change, but condemned its actions.

‘Reckless attempts by Greenpeace protestors to interfere with the rig while under transport risk the safety not only of those individuals but anyone responding,’ said a BP spokesperson.

‘There is also a clear and blatant breach of criminal law and the court orders in place against both Greenpeace and their vessel. Greenpeace is choosing to wilfully break the law.’

New polymer tackles PFAS pollution

New polymer tackles PFAS pollution

The problem of cleaning up toxic polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) pollution—commonly used in non-stick and protective coatings, lubricants and aviation fire-fighting foams—has been solved through the discovery of a new low-cost, safe and environmentally friendly method that removes PFAS from water.

In The US, contamination by PFAS and other so-called “forever chemicals” has been detected in foods including grocery store meats and seafoods by FDA tests, prompting calls for regulations to be applied to manmade compounds. Consistent associations between very high levels of the industrial compounds in peoples’ blood and health risks have been reported but insufficient evidence has been presented to prove the compounds as the cause.

In Australia, PFAS pollution—which does not break down readily in the environment—has been a hot news item due to the extensive historical use of fire-fighting foams containing PFAS at airports and defence sites, resulting in contaminated ground water and surface water being reported in these areas.

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