Category Archives: Plants & Technology

0213001849

Why Are Canadian Municipalities Spraying Beet Juice On Icy Roads?

What do you get when you mix beet juice and salt? A nicely de-iced highway! This unusual combination of ingredients is becoming more common as cities and municipalities realize how effective it is at keeping roads clear and reducing the amount of salt needed. (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

Using Sound To “See” Inside Tree Trunks

Living trees can rot from the inside out, leaving only a hollowed trunk. Wood rot in living trees can cause overestimates of global carbon pools, timber loss in forestry, and poor tree health. Understanding wood decay in forests is of special concern in the tropics because tropical forests are estimated to harbor 96% of the world’s tree diversity and about 25% of terrestrial carbon, compared to the roughly 10% of carbon held in temperate forests. But how do foresters and researchers see into a living tree to measure wood decay? They use sound. (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

From Military Training Bullets To Ecological Regeneration: Bullets With Seeds

As the DoD phrases it, in a new call-for-proposals, although “current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade,” they are simply “left on the ground surface or several feet underground at the proving ground or tactical range” after use. Worse, “some of these rounds might have the potential [to] corrode and pollute the soil and nearby water.” The solution? From bullets to seeds. Turn those spent munitions into gardens-to-come (click on title for full story).

0213001849

New Understanding Of Plant Polymers May Make Wooden Skyscrapers A Reality

Molecules 10,000 times narrower than the width of a human hair could hold the key to making possible wooden skyscrapers and more energy-efficient paper production, according to research published today (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

Leaf’s Photosynthesis Inspires Solar Drug Manufacture

Dutch scientists have developed an artificial leaf that can act as a mini-factory for producing drugs, an advance that could allow medicines to be produced anywhere there is sunlight. The work taps into the ability of plants to use sunlight to feed themselves through photosynthesis, something industrial chemists have struggled to replicate because sunshine usually generates too little energy to fuel chemical reactions. (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

Will The Next New Fabric Come From Wasted Pine Needles?

Pine trees are an important source of timber—600 million are chopped down each year in the EU alone. But while the trees are harvested for their wood, billions of pine needles go to waste. Or, they could be used to make Forest Wool, a new material (click on title for full story).

0213001849

Trying To Design The Most Efficient Solar Cells, Scientists Stumble Upon Photosynthesis

When Gabor’s team applied these simple models to the measured solar spectrum on Earth’s surface, they discovered that the absorption of green light, the most radiant portion of the solar power spectrum per unit wavelength, provides no regulatory benefit and should therefore be avoided. They systematically optimized the photocell parameters to reduce solar energy fluctuations, and found that the absorption spectrum looks nearly identical to the absorption spectrum observed in photosynthetic green plants. (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

Autumn leaves, The Untapped Industrial Resource?

Very little use has been made of fallen leaves so far. They are either left on the ground, composted or burned resulting in full landfills and a growing carbon dioxide load. Autumn leaves derive their colour from orange and yellow carotenoids and red anthocyanins. In addition to pigments, autumn leaves contain many beneficial compounds, such as phenols, lignin, carbohydrates and protein. There is a fast-growing need for natural pigments in various industries around the world – for example, these natural pigments can even have health-promoting effects and use as nutraceuticals. (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

Turning Plants Into Machines: Spinach Becomes Explosives Sensor

Spinach is no longer just a superfood: By embedding leaves with carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have transformed spinach plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone. This is one of the first demonstrations of engineering electronic systems into plants, an approach that the researchers call “plant nanobionics.” (Click on title for full story.)

0213001849

Coffee Can Remove Lead And Mercury From Water

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the U.S., which makes for a perky population — but it also creates a lot of used grounds. Scientists now report an innovative way to reduce this waste and help address another environmental problem. They have incorporated spent coffee grounds in a foam filter that can remove harmful lead and mercury from water. (Click on title for full story.)