A Home That is Heated and Cooled Organically

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A team of students at Waseda University in Japan have constructed a prototype for a house that can be heated by composting straw. They dubbed the dwelling the “Recipe for Life” house. Using the heat generating composting process for the purpose of heating a dwelling is not a new idea, but it is definitely one that should be explored further, and perhaps brought closer to the public. The Recipe for Life prototype house is certainly an interesting proposition in that regard.
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A New Type of Washing Machine Cuts Water Use by 70%

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One of the biggest drains on freshwater resources is the household washing machine. As reported by the EPA, a washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load on average, while a typical US family uses the washing machine once per day. The UK-based company Xeros has come up with a washing technology that uses 70% less water per washing cycle. This technology also uses a special “bead cleaning” method that is environmentally friendly and apparently cleans dirty clothes even better than regular soap.
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Shipping Container Cabin Powered by a DIY Solar Panel

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Larry used recycled shipping containers to build for himself a self-sustainable, off-the-grid cabin, which he named Taj MaLodge. He wanted the cabin to be more than just a vacation home, though, so he equipped it with all the comforts needed for a longer stay of a year or more. The finished cabin measures 640 square feet, and was built by welding together two 40 foot by 16 foot used shipping containers. The energy needed to power his finished home comes from sunlight, and Larry build an innovative solar panel using cans for the purpose.
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Supercapacitors Made of Trees

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Supercapacitors are high-power energy storage devices with far-reaching industrial applications, such as electronics, automobiles and aviation. However one of the main reasons why they have not been adopted more widely is the high cost and the difficulty of producing high-quality carbon electrodes needed to build them. But a team of scientists at Oregon State University has made a discovery that could change all that. They found a process by which cellulose heated in a furnace in the presence of ammonia can be turned into fundamental building blocks for supercapacitors. Cellulose is Earth’s most abundant organic polymer and one of the key components of trees. In other words, trees could one day be instrumental in creating high-tech energy storage devices.

The approach discovered by the scientists is capable of producing nitrogen-doped, nanoporous carbon membranes, which form the electrodes of a supercapacitor, in a cost-effective and rapid way. Furthermore, the only byproduct of this process is methane, which can be used immediately as fuel, making the method very environmentally friendly.

The carbon membranes produced with this method are extraordinarily thin at the nano-scale, meaning that one gram of them can have a surface area of nearly 2,000 square meters. This is what makes them so useful in supercapacitors. The process used to create them is basically a one step reaction, which is very fast and cheap to perform.

The scientists themselves were quite surprised at their discovery. As Xiulei (David) Ji, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science and a team member, put it: “For the first time we’ve proven that you can react cellulose with ammonia and create these N-doped nanoporous carbon membranes. It’s surprising that such a basic reaction was not reported before. Not only are there industrial applications, but this opens a whole new scientific area, studying reducing gas agents for carbon activation.”

Supercapacitors are needed primarily for devices where rapid power storage and short, but powerful energy release is required. These include computers and consumer electronics, but can also be used to power cranes, forklifts, and even defibrillators. They can also be used to open emergency slides on an aircraft and for improving the efficiency of hybrid electric cars. Supercapacitors are also capable of capturing energy that might otherwise be wasted, while their energy storage capabilities may also be used to assist the power flow from alternative energy systems, like, for example, wind energy.

Finding a cheap and environmentally benign way of producing these devices is, needless to say, a great breakthrough in the field.

A Unique Tiny Home Built From SIP Panels

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More and more people are choosing to live frugally, which is why the tiny house movement has grown considerably in recent years. Tiny homes are affordable to build and maintain, highly sustainable, can often be designed and constructed by the owners themselves and, if mounted on a trailer, can literally be moved anywhere across the country. Something like that went through Art’s mind as he designed and built his tiny SIP (structurally insulated panels) Tumbleweed Walden Tiny House.
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Upcycle House Built From Used Shipping Containers

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The Danish architecture firm Lendager Arkitekter recently completed the experimental Upcycle House in Nyborg, Denmark. The goal with Upcycle House was seeing if carbon emissions of a home can be reduced through the use of recycled and upcycled building materials during the construction process. The end result was the reduction of CO2 emissions by 86% compared to a benchmark house. Upcycling is a sort of a next step in the recycling process, namely using recycled products and turning them into new materials or products of higher quality and greater value. In the case of Upcycle House, this reduced the need for new production and therefore reduced the CO2 emissions.
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