Articles With "nature" Tag

Wooden Skyscraper Wins the eVolo Skyscraper Competition

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This year’s winner of the eVolo Skyscraper Competition is the so-called “Vernacular Versatility” skyscraper, which was designed by the US architect/designer Yong Ju Lee. The “Vernacular Versatility” skyscraper design was inspired by the traditional Korean house called Hanok, the defining characteristic of which is a wooden structure that is completely exposed, along with a tilted roof. The eVolo Skyscraper Completion has been held since 2006 and was established “to recognize outstanding ideas for vertical living through the novel use of technology, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations.”
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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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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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How to Become a Tree After You Die

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The firm Estudimoline Barcelona, Catalonia recently came up with a very innovative product, the so-called Bios Urn. Basically, the special urn they sell will let you grow a tree from the ashes of your loved ones, and even your deceased pets. While this idea could be called a little macabre, it is also quite nice in the sense that after you die there will be one more tree in the world.
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Unique Home Made From Used Car Parts

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Architects Karl Wanaselja and Cate Leger of Leger Wanaselja Architecture studio built for themselves a one-of-a-kind home in Berkeley, California. The McGee House, as they are calling it is constructed mainly from salvaged car parts and the repurposed waste product called poplar bark. The 2-bedroom house measures 1140 square feet and is the home of the architect couple and their teenage daughter. From the outside, the house is only 14 feet wide, which belies its actual size.
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