Through a realization, plastic bags are nothing than processed crude oil, Ito wondered what it would take to convert plastic bags into their original form. The process is remarkably efficient - just one kilogram of plastic can produce approximately one liter of oil.
Remarkable Natural Material Surfaces and Their Engineering Potential | SpringerLink
The conversion process requires approximately 1 kWh of electricity, which is worth approximately 20 cents depending on location. In a world with exponentially rising petrol rates, recycling plastic into oil may be a viable and profitable approach to creating an alternative fuel. Although the solution is not without its downfalls - the trade-off is transforming one pollutant into another. However, it can be argued oil will continue to be used for many years to come, and that oil may as well come from a product which would otherwise remain in the environment for many decades yet. There are other companies also leading innovative initiatives to repurpose and reuse the plastic which already exists around the world, like Redetec, a company who has developed a 3D-printer which uses recycled plastic to create its prints.
ReDeTec has developed the world's first and the only system which can recycle plastic waste into a new filament, then use it to print entirely new objects. Recycle your 3D printer waste, and make it back into filament. While it is important to reuse the plastic already available, new technologies are creating new alternative markets to replace plastics entirely.
Many companies are leading research initiatives to find viable alternatives to plastic products - and massive headway is being made. It certainly is not always practical to replace plastic with a biodegradable plastic - inevitably, biodegradables have short useable lifespans and typically fair poorly against liquid. However, for plastic products which are used for only minutes anyhow, biodegradable plastics offer a uniquely viable and environmentally friendly alternative.
To those who fret at the sight of a plastic bottle, biodegradable water bottles made from algae may provide a feasible alternative. The bottle safely houses water for short durations of up to a few days, which, if delivered to the consumer in time, would typically far exceed the needed lifespan a disposable water bottle requires to begin with.
Long-term storage is still safe, however, the water may absorb some of the flavors from the algae material, which may be displeasing to many. Nevertheless, having a biodegradable bottle with some added flavor still far outweighs the negatives a traditional plastic bottle imposes on the environment. There are many companies reducing the amount of plastic in packaging and products, as well as others who are employing more sustainable packages, although, a majority of consumer packing still includes plastic.
Changing the notion of how plastics are used and implemented is a team from Georgia Institute of Technology who want to add to the expanding list of sustainable alternatives with a new type of flexible plastic packaging made from crab shells and trees. The material offers a more sustainable and significantly easier to recycle alternative to traditional plastic packaging. And, according to the team, the new packaging may be more effective and safe at containing liquid and food.
As with most plastic alternatives, this material also suffers drawbacks from the production of cost, as well as the difficulty in harvesting chitin a fibrous substance which forms part of an anthropoid's exoskeleton from crabs. More research is still needed to investigate more economical and ethical production methods to create a more efficient plastic packaging alternative - and that solution may be found in fungus.
The future of packaging may be rotten regardless of a viable plastic alternative is created or not - through the rot of the latter is not necessarily a negative. The visible portion of a fungus, or a mushroom, represents only a small fraction of the entire organism.
Scientists have nearly perfected fungus packaging and are already using it to create structures, like a foot tower constructed from living mushroom bricks. The bricks are easily manufactured by simply filling molds with organic matter infused with spores. In a matter of five days, the mushrooms transform the organic matter into a brick like substance - a cheap and highly effective process.
A team of scientists, nearly half a decade ago, once used the fungus bricks to construct a massive foot living mushroom tower. However, its applications quite literally stem far deeper than just a building material.
Companies are already investigating mycelium as a potential alternative to conventional packing material. The mushroom packaging is naturally fire resistant and it can be easily molded to any shape. With a curing time of only five days, the mushroom manufacturing process is proving to be a viable option for companies to incorporate into their packaging.
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Once it meets its intended purpose, the mushroom packaging can be tossed away where it too naturally decomposes. Unfortunately, since it is still living, scientists are wary of disposing of the material in foreign environments where it may spread as an invasive species. Although, counteracting the possibility is the addition of specific bio-engineering which creates a very specific environment in which the packaging can grow.
Outside of that environment, the fungus can no longer spread. Though, cross-species contamination is still a threat in which must be investigated further.
Evidently, there are many alternatives available right now to reuse and repurpose the plastic which already exists, and other technologies to entirely replace plastic leading on into the future. However, there are heaps of plastic waste already in the environment which still needs to be disposed of. Recycling is nearly out of the question - facilities are already struggling to keep up, and plastic can only be recycled so many times before it becomes too contaminated to the point of uselessness. Though healing mechanisms of living organisms are extremely complex, making it difficult to mimic them, nature is a source of bio-inspiration for researchers who are seeking to create self-healing materials for the future of engineering.
One such source of bio-inspiration includes blood clotting, which has taken the form of encapsulation White et al.
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Vascular systems are another source of bio-inspiration and have led engineers to create circulatory concepts that also enable self-healing Andersson et al. In: van der Zwaag S ed Self healing materials. An alternative approach to 20 centuries of materials science. Springer, Netherlands, pp 19—44, This chapter shows how and why engineers used these natural mechanisms to develop self-healing materials and delves into the ways these self-healing materials can revolutionize the field of engineering and technology with a variety of applications ranging from self-repairing glass, corrosion protection, innovative aerospace composites, and more.
Shark skin has been found to possess remarkable features that have important applications in the medical and engineering arenas. This important organ is of a complex structure, a composite that is collagen fiber reinforced and pliant. Like any other vertebrate skin, it is composed of flesh, then dermis, and finally the outermost layer, which is called the epidermis Naresh et al. Covering the whole shark are pointy placoid scales commonly referred to as dermal denticles Gilbert, Endeavour 8 4 —, Though dermal denticles have a range of purposes, including reducing mechanical abrasion, reducing drag while swimming, and protecting sharks from ectoparasites and predators, a very important one is bacteria prevention.
Sessile bacteria are conditioned to withstand adverse environmental situations and attach to surfaces to form a biofilm—a structured community of bacteria. Biofilms can be detrimental in many environments, particularly in the biomedical arena, as they are known to cause many infections, including osteomyelitis, native valve endocarditis, and more Glinel et al. As an aquatic animal, sharks are perpetually exposed to bacteria, algae, and other forms of contamination from marine organisms Bhushan, Beilstein J Nanotechnol —84, Biomimicry of shark skin has led to the creation of Sharklet AF, the first micropatterned texture designed to prevent bacteria from colonizing and migrating Reddy et al.
They encompass ancient life forms that first appeared on Earth about million years ago at the beginning of the Cambrian Period, including conch shells, abalone, clams, mussels, and oysters, among many more. While the bodies of Mollusca are soft, they are usually covered by hard shells that accomplish many important functions Espinosa et al. Over time, numerous types of shells have developed—foliated and cross lamellar, prismatic, and columnar and sheet nacreous structures Espinosa et al. Many studies have confirmed the outstanding mechanical properties of the material, and this chapter highlights these properties while exploring the structural reasons for such excellence.
Nacreous shells consist of a hierarchical structure that features an armor system on one level and brick-and-mortar architecture on another. Tablet waviness is another important mechanism found in nacreous shells that distributes inelastic deformations so as to prevent failure Espinosa et al. Finally, interlocking mechanisms between tablets encourage deformation and progressive failure, increasing toughness and reducing the chance of catastrophic failure Katti and Katti, Mat Sci Eng C 26 8 —, Engineers have been inspired to create novel nano-composites that mimic the structure and mechanisms of nacreous shells in order to achieve superior mechanical properties Luz and Mano, Philos Trans Math Phys Eng Sci —, For example, Tang et al.
In addition, Zhu and Barthelat created a prototype of a nacre-like material composed of poly-methyl-methacrylate PMMA tablets Zhu and Barthelat, A novel biomimetic material duplicating the structure and mechanics of natural nacre. In: Proulx T ed Mechanics of biological systems and materials, vol 2. Springer, New York, Engineering applications also include using nacre itself as bone implants due to its biocompatibility Denkena et al. Based on the sheer amount of useful applications and innovations that nacre has bioinspired, it truly stands out as an engineering gem. Among every single one of its many species, diatoms exhibit exquisite architecture of their shells, and their applications in engineering are growing ever more known in the scientific community.
Diatoms are one of the most common microaquatic single celled algae. They are eukaryotic and photosynthetic and have an estimated , species and living genera Gordon et al. Diatoms exist in any body of water that has enough nutrients—oceans, lakes, rivers, ponds, and even in household aquariums.
They exist in various forms: planktonic or free-floating, colonial or solitary, or attached to objects such as sea ice, rocks, or other algae Leventer, Diatoms. In: Gornitz V ed Encyclopedia of paleoclimatology and ancient environments. To the naked eye, diatoms take on the appearance of scum at the top of the ocean, lake, or even the back of a whale. The slimy brown patches present on rocks in rivers are actually layers of diatoms.
In addition to the astonishing beauty of diatom shells that has captivated artists, scientists, and researchers, diatoms have a wide variety of current uses including DNA purification, liquid absorbents, and matting agents. Researchers are also looking at using diatoms in the development of nano-scale biosensors Marshall et al. The lotus flower is famous around the world across many cultures and religions. For example, it is considered to be a sacred flower by Buddhists, symbolizing cosmic harmony and spiritual illumination.
What many people do not know, however, is that its counterpart—the wide, flat leaf of the lotus plant—albeit not as bright and delicate as the flower, is a hidden beauty all its own.
Remarkable Natural Material Surfaces and Their Engineering Potential
The wettability of the lotus leaf surface is one mechanism that contributes to this intriguing characteristic. The wonders of the Lotus Effect have been taken advantage of in a wide variety of markets, ranging from self-cleaning windows to stain-resistant clothing.
We demonstrate that lubricant-infused coatings exhibit very low preferential mussel attachment and ultralow adhesive strengths under both controlled laboratory conditions and in marine field studies. Detailed investigations across multiple length scales—from the molecular-scale characterization of deposited adhesive proteins to nanoscale contact mechanics to macroscale live observations—suggest that lubricant infusion considerably reduces fouling by deceiving the mechanosensing ability of mussels, deterring secretion of adhesive threads, and decreasing the molecular work of adhesion.
Our study demonstrates that lubricant infusion represents an effective strategy to mitigate marine biofouling and provides insights into the physical mechanisms underlying adhesion prevention. This behaviour was hypothesized to arise from a thin lubricant overlayer film sandwiched between the droplet and solid substrate, but this has not been observed experimentally. Here, using thin-film interference, we are able to visualize the intercalated film under both static and dynamic conditions. We further demonstrate that for a moving droplet, the film thickness follows the Landau—Levich—Derjaguin law.
The droplet is therefore oleoplaning—akin to tyres hydroplaning on a wet road—with minimal dissipative force and no contact line pinning. The techniques and insights presented in this study will inform future work on the fundamentals of wetting for lubricated surfaces and enable their rational design. We discuss the state of the art and innovative micro- and nanoscale technologies that are finding niches and opening up new opportunities in medicine, particularly in diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
We take the design of point-of-care applications and the capture of circulating tumor cells as illustrative examples of the integration of micro- and nanotechnologies into solutions of diagnostic challenges. We describe several novel nanotechnologies that enable imaging cellular structures and molecular events. In addition, we discuss relevant challenges that micro- and nanotechnologies face in achieving cost-effective and widespread clinical implementation as well as forecasted applications of micro- and nanotechnologies in medicine.
Developments in the field of microfluidics have triggered technological revolutions in many disciplines, including chemical synthesis, electronics, diagnostics, single-cell analysis, micro- and nanofabrication, and pharmaceutics. In many of these areas, rapid growth is driven by the increasing synergy between fundamental materials development and new microfluidic capabilities.
In this Review, we critically evaluate both how recent advances in materials fabrication have expanded the frontiers of microfluidic platforms and how the improved microfluidic capabilities are, in turn, furthering materials design. We discuss how various inorganic and organic materials enable the fabrication of systems with advanced mechanical, optical, chemical, electrical and biointerfacial properties — in particular, when these materials are combined into new hybrids and modular configurations.
The increasing sophistication of microfluidic techniques has also expanded the range of resources available for the fabrication of new materials, including particles and fibres with specific functionalities, 3D bio printed composites and organoids. Together, these advances lead to complex, multifunctional systems, which have many interesting potential applications, especially in the biomedical and bioengineering domains.
Future exploration of the interactions between materials science and microfluidics will continue to enrich the diversity of applications across engineering as well as the physical and biomedical sciences. Various life forms in nature display a high level of adaptability to their environments through the use of sophisticated material interfaces. This is exemplifi ed by numerous biological systems, such as the self-cleaning of lotus leaves, the water-walking abilities of water striders and spiders, the ultra-slipperiness of pitcher plants, the directional liquid adhesion of butterfl y wings, and the water collection capabilities of beetles, spider webs, and cacti.
Many of these biological designs and principles have inspired new classes of functional interfacial materials, which have remarkable potential to solve some of the engineering challenges for industrial and biomedical applications. In this article, we provide a snapshot of the state of the art of biologically inspired materials with special wettability, and discuss some promising future directions for the field. Bacterial interactions with surfaces are at the heart of many infection-related problems in healthcare.
In this work, the interactions of clinically relevant bacteria with immobilized liquid IL layers on oil-infused polymers are investigated. Although oil-infused polymers reduce bacterial adhesion in all cases, complex interactions of the bacteria and liquid layer under orbital flow conditions are uncovered. The number of adherent Escherichia coli cells over multiple removal cycles increases in flow compared to static growth conditions, likely due to a disruption of the liquid layer continuity. Surprisingly, however, biofilm formation appears to remain low regardless of growth conditions.
No incorporation of the bacteria into the layer is observed. Bacterial type is also found to affect the number of adherent cells, with more E. Tests with mutant E. The results presented here shed new light on the interaction of bacteria with IL layers, highlighting the fundamental differences between oil-infused and traditional solid interfaces, as well as providing important information for their eventual translation into materials that reduce bacterial adhesion in medical applications.
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