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These Sustainable, Fireproof, Weather-Proof Geoship Domes Could Solve Today’s Housing Crisis

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These Sustainable, Fireproof, Weather-Proof Geoship Domes Could Solve Today’s Housing Crisis
Photo Credit: Geoship

As the years go by, natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes are becoming more frequent. Meanwhile, architects have been battling with this situation by coming up with new design ideas that are resilient and stronger, capable of withstanding the growing forces of nature. One such design solution – the bioceramic geodesic dome – comes from an eco-friendly architectural firm in Seattle called Geoship run by two brothers.

The “home of the future” is not made from conventional building materials such as wood or concrete. It is made from bioceramic, a material which can withstand disasters, and has the potential to dramatically lower construction costs. One of the owners of the firm a young engineer called Morgan Bierschenk, told FastCompany that the idea to use this material first arose when he asked himself: “Why we’re still pounding nails in wood, like people were doing 100 years ago?”

Geoship home. Credit: Geoship

When Bierschenk began researching better ways to design, he came across the architectural revolution of the geodesic dome, promoted in the 1970s by Buckminster Fuller. That was when the lightning bolt struck. While Fuller envisioned the design solution to be something that could help the housing crisis after WWII, he was a little ahead of his time because the materials and methods were not advanced yet to make his idea revolutionary. He realized the idea itself was brilliant, and it’s relevant to today’s crisis too, maybe even more so… and now we do have advanced enough materials and methods to mass make these geodesic homes affordably to house all the people in need of shelter! From this moment, Bierschenk and his brother founded the Geoship startup.

Credit: Geoship
Advantages Of The Bioceramic Geodesic Dome
  • The overall shape is inherently strong and efficient. The structure should be able to withstand extreme forces from wind and weather.
  • The main material is ceramic composite (CC) which was originally developed at Argonne National Labs for use in shielding nuclear waste – it is a highly resilient substance made from minerals and it is reliable.
  • The CC can be made into any shape one wishes. They had the material made into modular triangular panels for their geodesic domes.
  • The CC is lightweight.
  • The CC is fireproof up to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit; in a fire, the house won’t burn.
  • The CC reflects more than 80% of the heat from the sun, helping keep the inside cool in heatwaves, a plus with the onset of climate change.
  • The CC resists insects and mold. It absorbs little water so it is also ideal in case of flooding.
  • The panels are chemically bonded together so there are fewer connections and therefore fewer chances for failure.
  • The homes are modular and can be disassembled and rebuilt elsewhere.
  • Any repairs are easily done by simply using the same material again to patch up a panel. The bioceramic acts like glue and bonds to itself.
  • The homes estimated to have a 500-year lifespan.
  • Overall costs are said to be 40% less than traditional construction. The geometry shrinks the amount of material needed.
  • The primary material in CC is phosphate, which can be recycled from wastewater.
  • The panels would be mass made in a factory, then delivered in a shipping container and assembled on-site. It would only take a few days saving heaps in labour costs. “Essentially, it’s like Legos going together,” said Bierschenk.
  • The homes are chemical-free and chemically inert. The materials don’t create any indoor air pollution.
  • The homes are self-venting and full of natural light. Vents at the top and the bottom of the dome help cool the house naturally. Insulation is made by making hollow panels – the same ceramic material is used but filled with air. This makes the home “passive” so it can be heated and cooled without external energy, therefore saving on energy use and costs.
  • The homes sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Geoship Villages

The company has plans that could make it possible for people with little money to afford a home through community land trusts. They aim to help groups start land trusts to create dome “villages” and even offer co-op part-ownership of the company to the buyers. “We think to really solve the affordable housing crisis you have to have some way to kind of transcend the single-family home with land ownership and take land speculation out of the picture,” Bierschenk said.

Credit: Geoship

Geoship is even building a platform that groups of people can use to collaborate on the design of a village of the homes. They will then walk groups through the process of setting up the community land trust and provide them with a cooperative ownership model in which customers will ultimately own between 30% and 70% of the company. “This fundamentally reshapes the home building industry, and capitalism itself,” Geoship writes on their website. “Our success becomes your success.”

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Innovation

Two Guys In Mexico Created Vegan Leather From Cactus

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Photo Credit: Collective Evolution

Although there are some heart-warming stories that are coming out of Australia right now, it’s truly devastating what’s happening there, especially for the animals. Approximately 1 billion of them have lost their lives due to the fires. In the midst of all of this, however, let’s not forget about the fact that hundreds of millions of animals are killed every single day for human consumption, as well as products that we buy, like clothing, for example.

Compassion is the main reason that the vegan market is thriving, and continues to grow, from food, all the way to to the manufacturing of multiple products. There are hundreds of examples to choose from, and one of the latest comes from Adrian Lopez Velarde and Marte Cazarez.

After finishing university, they found themselves growing more and more concerned about the environment and the treatment of animals, and as a result decided to come together, after years of friendship, to create a cruelty-free alternative to animal leather. They recently debuted “Desserto,” which is organic leather made entirely from cactus. It’s the first of its kind.

The product is a great replacement for both animal and synthetic leather. It’s breathable and durable, the touch and feel is very similar to leather, and again, it’s a completely sustainable material. It’s also less water intensive, free from phthalates, free from toxic chemicals as well as PVC-free.

According to Vegan First,

“The duo showcased the product last month at the International Leather Fair Lineappelle in Milan, Italy.

Plant-based leather alternatives are a growing market, with innovators turning to pineapple, olives and coconuts to produce eco-friendly materials. Earlier this year, high-street retailer H&M unveiled a vegan jacket made from pineapple leather, while German footwear brand thies launched a line of leather shoes made from olive leaves. Closer to home, Kerala-based brand Malai fashions leather and accessories from coconuts!”

It took the inventors two years to come up with the material. ‘Nopal leather’ is made through a series of processes that produce a powder which is then mixed and layered over cotton canvas. The recently presented the material at an international exhibition in Milan.

Things are changing quite rapidly on our planet, with a shift in consciousness in so many different areas; we change the world as a human collective. One of many great examples comes from the fact that America’s largest milk producer has filed for bankruptcy.

The world is changing, and it’s changing fast, we are currently in the process of a great transformation, and have been for quite some time. Exciting times!

This article (Two Guys In Mexico Created Vegan Leather From Cactus) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Alternative News

Scientists Have Built The First-Ever Robots Constructed Entirely Out Of Living Cells

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Scientists Have Built The First-Ever Robots Constructed Entirely Out of Living Cells
Photo Credit: Science Alert

Michelle Stark, Science Alert

In another lifetime, if they had been allowed to follow their natural development, the stem cells taken from embryonic frogs would have turned into skin and heart tissue within living, breathing animals.

Instead, in configurations designed by algorithms and constructed by humans, those cells have been assembled into something new: the first-ever robots constructed entirely out of living cells.

The creators have called them xenobots; tiny, submillimeter-sized blobs containing between 500 and 1,000 cells that have been able to scoot across a petri dish, self-organise, and even transport minute payloads. These xenobots are unlike any living organism or organ we’ve encountered or created to date.

The possibilities for custom living machines designed for a variety of purposes, from targeted drug delivery to environmental remediation, are pretty mind-blowing.

These are novel living machines,” said computer scientist and roboticist Joshua Bongard of the University of Vermont.

“They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

Designing the xenobots required the use of a supercomputer, and an algorithm that could virtually put together a few hundred frog heart and skin cells in different configurations (somewhat like LEGO bricks), and simulate the results.

The scientists would assign a desired outcome – such as locomotion – and the algorithm would create candidate designs aimed to produce that outcome. Thousands of configurations of cells were designed by the algorithm, with varying levels of success.

The least successful configurations of cells were tossed out, and the most successful were kept and refined, until they were about as good as they were going to get.

Then, the team selected the most promising designs to physically build out of cells harvested from embryonic African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis). This was painstaking work, using microscopic forceps and an electrode.

When they were finally put together, the configurations were actually able to move around, as per the simulations. The skin cells act as a sort of scaffolding to hold everything together, while the contractions of the heart cell muscles are put to work to propel the xenobots.

These machines moved about an aqueous environment for up to a week without the need for additional nutrients, powered by their own ‘pre-loaded’ energy stores in the form of lipids and proteins.

One design had a hole through the middle in an attempt to reduce drag. This hole could be exapted into a pouch for transporting objects, the team found; as they evolved the design, they incorporated the pouch and transported an object in a simulation.

(Kriegman et al., PNAS, 2019)
(Kriegman et al., PNAS, 2019)

The xenobots moved objects around in the real world, too. When their environment was scattered with particulates, the xenobots spontaneously worked together, moving in a circular motion to push the particulates into one spot.

It’s fascinating work. According to the researchers, their efforts can provide invaluable insight into how cells communicate and work together.

You look at the cells we’ve been building our xenobots with, and, genomically, they’re frogs. It’s 100% frog DNA – but these are not frogs. Then you ask, well, what else are these cells capable of building?” said biologist Michael Levin of Tufts University.

“As we’ve shown, these frog cells can be coaxed to make interesting living forms that are completely different from what their default anatomy would be.”

Although the team calls them ‘living’, which may well depend on how you define living creatures. These xenobots are not able to evolve on their own, there are no reproductive organs, and they are unable to multiply.

When the cells run out of nutrients, the xenobots simply become a small clump of dead cells. (This also means they are biodegradable, which gives them another advantage over metal and plastic robots.)

Although the current state of the xenobots is relatively harmless, there is the potential for future work to incorporate nervous system cells, or develop them into bioweapons. As this field of research grows, regulation and ethics guidelines will need to be written, applied and adhered to.

But there is plenty of potential good, too.

We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can’t do,” Levin said, “like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering micro-plastic in the oceans, travelling in arteries to scrape out plaque.”

The research has been published in PNAS, and the team has made their source code freely available on Github.

This article (Scientists Have Built The First-Ever Robots Constructed Entirely Out Of Living Cells) was originally created for Science Alert and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Innovation

CityTree: A Mossy Wall That Has The Same Air-Purifying Effect As 250 Trees

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CityTree: A Mossy Wall That Has The Same Air-Purifying Effect As 250 Trees
Photo Credit: CityTree

Germany is installing “mossy walls” called CityTree – the world’s first bio-tech filter to quantifiably improve air quality – around their cities, mainly Berlin. A variety of mosses are capable of binding environmental toxins such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides while producing oxygen at the same time. These CityTree’s contain nearly 2,000 pots of moss so imagine how much environmental toxins it binds!

The organic particles polluting the air get eaten (digested) by bacteria on the moss, according to the German makers of the wall. The purifying work of the 2,000 pots of moss along with their particle eating bacteria is equal to about 250 trees! A trial wall went up off Piccadilly Circus in London and it indicated that a single CityTree could remove the particulate pollution of 42 diesel cars every month.

Integrated into a wall is:

  • Solar panels to power fans for a controllable ventilation technology that allows airflow to be intensified (meaning that the filter effect can be increased as required.)
  • A rainwater catchment system to supply a fully automated irrigation system for watering the moss.
  • IoT technology which delivers comprehensive information on performance and status as well as environmental data on the CityTree’s surroundings.
An earlier version of the CityTree installed in Oslo, Norway. Credit: Monica Thorud Olsen
An earlier version of the CityTree installed in Oslo, Norway. Credit: Monica Thorud Olsen

These 4-meter tall slabs can improve human health by consuming ultra-fine airborne particles that can travel deep into the lungs and pass into the bloodstream, posing a serious risk to health. Research suggests that particulate pollution is linked to higher death rates from respiratory illnesses and there are numerous studies that link dirty air to higher risk of mental disorders such as dementia, bipolar disorder, severe depression, and schizophrenia. One study even found that breathing polluted city air is the same as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day!

A dozen CityTrees are going up in Berlin for this reason. However, Ian Colbeck, of the University of Essex argues that “the ability of moss to collect air pollutants, especially heavy metals, had been known for some time but that given the scale of the problem it would be better not to emit pollutants.”

It’s clear that it would be better if no pollution was emitted in the first place. But because the complete elimination of everything in the world that emits pollution is not going to happen any time in the near future, it’s good to see solutions popping up that can help clean the air for people in the meantime.

An earlier version of the CityTree installed in Oslo, Norway. Credit: Monica Thorud Olsen
An earlier version of the CityTree installed in Oslo, Norway. Credit: Monica Thorud Olsen

Regardless, the mossy walls create a very pleasant ambiance and they also provide a pleasant cooling effect. Mosses store large quantities of moisture. That, combined with the considerably increased evaporation surface of the wall creates an immense cooling effect for the people around it.

The European Commission are funding Green City Solutions to install 12 CityTrees in Berlin with €1.5 million from the EU’s Horizon 2020 science fund. The initial 12 CityWalls in Berlin will serve as a pilot project to prove their effectiveness and could later be expanded throughout Germany and other EU nations.

Note: The featured image at the top is of a CityTree installed by Glasgow City Council, Scotland, mainly to help lower Nitrogen Dioxide and particulate pollution levels. It uses Siberian Stonecrop and moss.

This article (CityTree: A Mossy Wall That Has The Same Air-Purifying Effect As 250 Trees) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Innovation

Tiny ‘Artificial Sunflowers’ Bend Towards Light To Harvest Solar Energy

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Tiny ‘Artificial Sunflowers’ Bend Towards Light To Harvest Solar Energy

Depending on where you are in the world, the sun rises on one side, moves up, over your head, then sunsets down on the opposite side. Therefore, the light is always moving, and if you depend on it to generate power, then you might experience oblique-incidence energy-density loss.

To remedy this issue, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles and Arizona State University, have designed solar panels made from rows of tiny artificial sunflowers. The sunflowers automatically bend towards the light, allowing it to harvest a significant amount of solar power. This behavior is much like in nature, real sunflowers tilt their flowers to face the sun, heating their reproductive bits to attract pollinators.

This system could potentially be a solution for almost any system that experiences efficiency loss due to a moving energy source. For example, with rays from an overhead illumination source, the light coming in at an angle of around 75 degrees carries up to 75% less energy.

The researchers, Ximin He, and her colleagues say their system is a sunflower-like biomimetic omnidirectional tracker, dubbed ‘SunBOT.’ Each artificial sunflower has a stem made up of a material that reacts to light. An energy harvesting flower, made from a light-absorbing material used in solar cells, sits at the top of the stem. Each SunBOT is measured less than 1 millimetre wide.

When a part of the SunBOT’s stem gets exposed to light, it heats up and shrinks, causing it to bend and lean towards the light. Once the SunBOT is aligned with the light, the bending stops because the flower creates a shadow that gives the material time to cool down and stop shrinking.

The team tested the artificial sunflower to detect its harvesting capabilities by building a panel of SunBOTs, some of which possessed the bendy material and some that didn’t. The researchers found that the SunBOTs with the bendy-stems harvested up to 400% more solar energy than the non-bendy stemmed ones.

SunBOTs’ creators explain:

“This work may be useful for enhanced solar harvesters, adaptive signal receivers, smart windows, self-contained robotics, solar sails for spaceships, guided surgery, self-regulating optical devices, and intelligent energy generation, as well as energetic emission detection and tracking with telescopes, radars, and hydrophones.”

It seems the possibilities are endless with this new kind of technology! The researchers describe their study in Nature Nanotechnology.

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!

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