One of the cornerstones to moving towards a better method of construction comes all the way down to the actual material being used in the building process. When designers, and architects begin considering how they are going to approach the project they have been commissioned for, they have a lot to consider, everything from positioning their design, to how to take advantage of certain government incentives. One big thing that a good firm does is evaluate the materials that are being used in the construction itself. In today's world it is an exciting time, as there are plenty of new materials, and resources that have been created to make buildings and homes both greener and more sustainable. With Sustainable Materials we hope to introduce you to some of the resources that are available for not only new projects, but also for retrofitting existing homes, and buildings.
By developing existing ceramic roof tiles with integrated solar cells, Dutch company ZEP has presented the world's first sun roof tile, making each roof suitable for generating solar energy.
Although the first black solar roof tiles have been presented last year, another official launch of the patented invention takes place on Friday October 7th, when chairman drs. Maxime Verhagen of the Dutch Builders Association BN will reveal the world's first black solar roof that's installed on iconic townscape protected farm the Priesnitzhoeve build in 1870 in the Dutch town Rheden. In addition to the existing black tile, the world's first natural red solar tile with natural red solar cell's will be presented.
The solar cells in these roof tiles are invisible, leaving the aesthetic character of any building intact. Often owners of monuments or iconic buildings are not allowed to install solar panels on their roofs, as it is prohibited by architecture supervision committees. Today, several committees in The Netherlands have approved the solar roof tile and ZEP expects the tile will be approved everywhere in the world.
In addition, solar roof tiles offer a space-efficient solution when chimneys, dormers and skylights leave little room for solar panels. As a result the total covered surface can often produce more electricity than solar panels. ZEP will start exporting their solar tiles all over the world. "We have the patent and are the only company who may supply these tiles," De Graaf says. The company is already involved in several projects in the UK, Germany and Scandinavia. In Denmark for instance, a lot of houses have a red roofs (officially named natural red), where solar panels are prohibited. With the development of the red sun roof tile ZEP believes they can now deliver a suitable and beneficial alternative in solar roof energy.
"A lot of people have been waiting for this," De Graaf thinks. "For instance people who think solar panels on their rooftops are ugly. This solar tile combines the shape of a roof tile with the benefits of solar panels. This is the solar energy of the future."
Plastic Lumber Invented from Recyclables
Imagine a material lighter than steel, longer-lasting than lumber and strong enough to support 120-ton locomotives.
Now imagine that material is made from milk containers, coffee cups and other plastics that we recycle.
It's called structural plastic lumber, and the ingenious, nontoxic material was invented by Thomas Nosker, an assistant research professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and principal investigator in the Center for Advanced Materials via Immiscible Composite Materials at Rutgers University. The late Richard W. Renfree, Nosker's graduate student who later became a Rutgers professor, helped invent the revolutionary material.
"People complain about plastics because they don't degrade," Nosker said. "We found a way to turn that to our advantage with a product."
That product is increasingly used to build bridges on U.S. Army bases and elsewhere -- docks, picnic tables, park benches, parking lot stops and other structures across America and overseas. It's been used to make about 1.5 million railway ties in the U.S. alone. Since each tie weighs about 200 pounds, that means roughly 300 million pounds of plastics have not ended up in landfills, won't choke marine life and won't soil beaches.
Photo: Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University
Thomas Nosker and graduate student Arya Tewatia on a New Jersey Pinelands bridge made of recycled plastic lumber.
Nosker, a prolific inventor, and his colleagues have been on the leading edge of plastics research for decades. They developed several types of structural recycled plastic lumber, a standard way to test plastic lumber, fire retardants for plastic lumber and machines to make plastic lumber. All told, Nosker co-holds 28 patents or patents pending in the United States, in addition to overseas patents, reaping millions of dollars in revenues for Rutgers.
Finding the key: The right mix of plastic
Thirty years ago, Nosker, now 59, was a doctoral student at Rutgers trying to deal with growing mountains of discarded containers. Plastics were rapidly replacing glass for packaging milk and soda -- two high-volume grocery products -- and ending up in landfills.
Nosker and others devised ways to sort, clean and process soda bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). They sold the material for a profit to make rugs and insulated jackets, stuff mattresses -- even produce new soda bottles. Far more problematic was another type of plastic waste -- known as high-density polyethylene (HDPE) -- that was used to make milk containers.
"Prices for HDPE were so low that you couldn't even afford to wash used milk bottles in preparation for recycling," Nosker said. "But we couldn't just turn around and throw it away. Plastics experts said it was potentially recyclable, and we wanted to work on that."
Initially, Nosker and his colleagues tried making bottles into a substitute for chemically treated wood used in park benches and decks. But recycled HDPE planks sagged over time, when people repeatedly sat or walked on them. Some researchers tried combining HDPE with other plastics used to package foods and household goods, but had little success.
Then Nosker found a workable formula.
"We combined HDPE with polystyrene from old Big Mac containers," Nosker said. At a specific proportion, the blended plastics gained strength because of the way tiny plastic particles interlocked.
Making the leap from creating strong recycled plastics to using them to build objects traditionally made of wood required an innovative show-don't-tell strategy. For centuries, wood lumber from trees has been the go-to durable, flexible and affordable raw material for construction. But wood has its drawbacks; because it needs protection from insects, other animals and the elements, it is often treated with toxic preservatives that can leach into the soil, water and groundwater, posing risks to people, animals and plants. Structural recycled plastic lumber, which is mostly polyethylene reinforced with stiffer plastics or recycled composites like car bumpers, does not pose such risks.
So 18 years ago, Nosker and Richard G. Lampo, a materials engineer at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Champaign, Illinois, built the first structural recycled plastic lumber bridge for vehicles at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
"The industry was making a lot of picnic tables and park benches and those are good applications, but we were trying to push the envelope with our applications and do it cost effectively," said Lampo, who recently visited the Fort Leonard Wood bridge. "It is holding up fine."
Constructing bridges for the U.S. Army -- and more
Today, Nosker's invention is gaining popularity in environmentally sensitive areas where railroads cross streams, and where plastic tie durability is a plus. The Chicago Transit Authority, for example, found the plastic ties an economical choice for track rehabilitation on its elevated lines.
Nosker helped build New Jersey's first structural recycled plastic bridge in 2002 -- in the environmentally fragile Pine Barrens. The bridge, with its revolutionary I-beam design, has weathered the elements well and continues to carry cars.
More recently, two active, rural Army bases wanted bridges for hefty loads. In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where the Army has tank training grounds, bridges must carry heavy vehicles across numerous streams throughout the 160,000-acre base. The Army successfully demonstrated the first structural recycled plastic bridge to support a 73-ton M1 Abrams tank there in 2009, and has ordered 1,000 more plastic bridges for Fort Bragg and other sites.
Structural plastic lumber bridges also have been built at Fort Eustis in Virginia, as well as in civilian areas of California, Maine, Ohio, Scotland and other locales.
Rutgers has licensed its award-winning plastic technology to two companies: AXION International Inc. of Zanesville, Ohio, which makes railroad ties and building products from recycled materials; and London-based Sicut Enterprises Limited, which makes similar products.
Nosker is proud of his role in trail-blazing plastics research. "I'm grateful that I've been able to have such a fun career," he added.
And the best may be yet to come.
His team is developing light but super-strong graphene-plastic materials that could be used in next-generation tanks, personnel carriers, Humvees and civilian vehicles and products such as bicycles. Graphene comes from the graphite commonly used in pencils.
"I think the graphene stuff is going to eclipse the work in recycling," Nosker said. "I might not be around to see people recognize that universally, but I think it's a big discovery."
SunPower claims new World Record, as it Launches Its Most Powerful Solar Panel
ReNewable Now came across this media release and wanted to share it with our audience. Any time you hear "new world record," it piques your interest. We will be researching this a bit and inviting SunPower on RNN Radio to discuss further. But in the interim if any of our readers can shed any (excuse the pun) light on the claim, please email us, we would like here about it.
A new solar power system is installed in the United States every 1.6 minutes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). With the number of residential solar installations expected to increase this year by 35 percent according to GTM Research, more consumers will have an opportunity to choose the best solar solution for their home, saving on electricity bills while generating clean energy. Offering a record-setting, proven solar power solution, SunPower reminds homeowners that better solar technology exists and is accessible today.
“Solar technology differs widely from brand to brand, so it’s important for consumers to consider that not all panels deliver the same amount of energy, look elegant on a roof, or are guaranteed to last as long as promised,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “SunPower® panels are the most efficient that homeowners can buy, and we stand behind them for a quarter century. We’re proud to hold the world-record title for efficiency.”
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a federal laboratory that rigorously evaluates renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, recently tested and verified that a SunPower® X-Series solar panel reached 22.8 percent efficiency – a new world record. SunPower’s newest X-Series solar panel, the X22, offers efficiencies of more than 22 percent. The high efficiency solar panels generate more energy in the same amount of space as conventional solar panels, which can reduce the number of panels needed to meet consumers’ energy needs. Compared to conventional solar panels with efficiencies that range from 15 to 18 percent, a SunPower X-Series solar panel produces over 70 percent more energy in the same space over the first 25 years.
Built from the Same Innovative Solar Technology Trusted by Homeowners and Record-breaking Solar Pioneers
With more than three decades of experience, SunPower solar has been the choice of 500,000 homeowners worldwide to help save on electricity costs and meet energy needs. The high efficiency solar panels providing electricity to these homes feature the same SunPower solar cells that have enabled solar pioneers to push the boundaries of solar energy. With SunPower’s record-setting technology these visionaries are setting records of their own, innovating to take solar higher, farther, and faster.
For example, Tûranor PlanetSolar is the world’s largest solar boat and is powered exclusively by SunPower solar cells. During a circumnavigation of the globe completed in 2012, it made the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by a solar boat and completed the longest distance ever covered by a solar electric vehicle. Solar Impulse 2, an experimental airplane with 17,000 SunPower solar cells covering its wings, made the longest piloted and solar-only flight traveling 5,000 miles from Japan to Hawaii just last year. It will take off again from Hawaii this spring to resume its around-the-world tour.
“At SunPower, we innovate relentlessly to deliver the most powerful and durable solar energy solutions chosen by residential, commercial and power plant customers demanding the best when investing in their clean energy futures,” Wenger continued. “SunPower’s greatest minds have raised the bar for the industry, and will continue to push the boundaries of quality solar for our customers.”
In just over five years, SunPower has led the industry by setting four panel efficiency world records:
19.5 percent efficiency in May 2010 with E19 solar panel
20 percent efficiency in July 2011 with E20 solar panel
21 percent efficiency in April 2013 with X21 solar panel
22 percent efficiency in November 2015 with X22 solar panel
SunPower’s high efficiency E-Series and X-Series solar panels are currently available to consumers in the U.S. The E-Series and X21 solar panels are also available to consumers in Europe, Japan and Australia.
LEGO Wants Sustainable Building Blocks
The LEGO Group establishes LEGO Sustainable Materials Centre and expects to recruit more than 100 employees in a significant step up on the 2030 ambition of finding and implementing sustainable alternatives to current materials.
Earlier this year, the LEGO Group announces a significant investment of DKK 1 billion dedicated to research, development and implementation of new, sustainable, raw materials to manufacture LEGO® elements as well as packaging materials.
Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO and President of the LEGO Group, says:
“This is a major step for the LEGO Group on our way towards achieving our 2030 ambition on sustainable materials. We have already taken important steps to reduce our carbon footprint and leave a positive impact on the planet by reducing the packaging size, by introducing FSC certified packaging and through our investment in an offshore wind farm. Now we are accelerating our focus on materials.”
The investment will result in the establishment of the LEGO Sustainable Materials Centre. The centre will be based at the LEGO Group’s headquarters in Billund, Denmark, and include all current functions and employees working to find alternative materials. In addition, the LEGO Group expects to recruit more than 100 specialists within the materials field during the coming years to work on this challenging ambition.
The LEGO Sustainable Materials Centre organisation will be established during 2015 and 2016, and it is expected that it will include satellite functions located in relevant locations around the globe. In addition, the centre will collaborate and develop partnerships with relevant external stakeholders and experts.
LEGO Group owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen comments on the announcement:
“Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. We believe that our main contribution to this is through the creative play experiences we provide to children. The investment announced is a testament to our continued ambition to leave a positive impact on the planet, which future generations will inherit. It is certainly in line with the mission of the LEGO Group and in line with the motto of my grandfather and founder of the LEGO Group, Ole Kirk Kristiansen: Only the best is good enough”.
An Improved Method of Creating Perovskite Solar Cells Gets $4 Million Dollar Grant
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — A team led by Brown University researchers has been awarded $4 million by the National Science Foundationto study a promising new type of solar cell. The research, to be performed in partnership with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and Rhode Island College (RIC), will focus on solar cells made from perovskites, a class of crystalline materials.
“Perovskites have great promise for use in a variety of highly efficient, low-cost solar cells,” said Nitin Padture, professor in the School of Engineering and director of Brown’s Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation. “We want to understand better the basic science behind these solar cells, look for ways to develop new technologies based on that understanding, and investigate scalable production methods that could one day bring perovskite solar cells to market.”
Since they were first developed in 2009, perovskite solar cells have sent quite a jolt through the solar energy world. In just a few years, the efficiency with which lab-scale perovskite cells convert sunlight into electricity has soared. They’re now nearly as efficient as traditional silicon cells, but have the potential to be produced at a fraction of the cost. And perovskites can be easily made into thin films with vivid colors, which raises their potential for use in building-integrated solar cells like shingles, siding, or even windows that can generate electricity.
“It’s an exciting technology, but there’s still much more work that needs to be done before perovskite solar cells are widely available,” said Padture, who serves as the principal investigator on this new grant.
For example, scientists lack a complete understanding of exactly how perovskite cells work at the molecular level. Such understanding could help in improving efficiency of perovskite films and optimizing them for different applications.Padture says, to improve efficiency by combining perovskites with other materials and technologies. To explore all those possibilities, Padture’s lab will partner with several faculty researchers, including Kristie Koski of the Department of Chemistry at Brown; Angus Kingon, Domenico Pacifici, and Rashid Zia of the School of Engineering at Brown; Medini Padmanabhan of RIC; and Jinsong Huang, Xia Hong, and Xiao Zeng of UNL.
Another focus of the project will be looking for ways to scale up the production of perovskite films.
“The cells that people are making now are quite small,” Padture said. “Small cells are great for testing efficiency in the lab, but the process needs to be scaled up to bring products to market. Better understanding of the underlying materials science is key to addressing this challenge.”
Padture and his colleague have already made some progress on that front, and they hope to continue with this new grant. Earlier this year, Padture’s lab demonstrated a method for making high-quality perovskite films over relatively large areas at room temperature. Traditional methods for making films involve heat treatment, which can disrupt the film coverage when trying to make large films. The room-temperature method helps eliminate those defects and is more amenable to an assembly-line process.
“We hope to cultivate industrial partnerships to refine these kinds of techniques and help take this technology to the next level,” Padture said.
Another issue the researchers will look to address is the fact that the best performing perovskite solar cells contain some lead. The team will look for lead-free perovskite compositions that work equally well.
The grant also includes a substantial outreach and education effort, which will be led by Karen Haberstroh of Brown’s School of Professional Studies. Students and researchers involved in the project will go to middle and high schools to talk about energy efficiency and green technologies. The project also includes the development of an online college course on solar technologies aimed at people who are interested in entering the green workforce. The grant also provides funding for graduate students and for undergraduate research opportunities.
Is Your Home Floor Made of Sustainable Materials?
There was a time when the term eco-friendly evoked images of bland, boring and blah materials. Thankfully, that is not the case today. As more and more designers are seeking out eco-friendly materials for their environmentally savvy clients manufacturers have stepped up and given the design world many beautiful options to pick from. Here is a guide of the most popular eco-flooring solutions, some are new, some are old and a few will make you think.
Cork is relatively new to the flooring world. It is usually seen on walls or in your favorite bottle of wine, but it is great material for floors. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree commonly found in the forests of the Mediterranean. The trees are not cut down to harvest the bark, which will grow back every three years, making it an ideal renewable source. It has anti-microbial properties that reduce allergens in the home, is fire retardant, easy to maintain and acts as a natural insect repellent too. Cork, like wood can be finished in a variety of paints and stains to suit any color scheme or design style. Its durability allows for uses in any part of the house. Cork floors, depending on the quality, can last between 10-30 years.
Bamboo flooring is another wood like option that is gaining in popularity. It is actually a grass that shares similar characteristics as hardwood. It is durable, easy to maintain and is easy to install. Bamboo is sustainable and made from natural vegetation that grows to maturity in three to five years, far less than the twenty years trees can take. Bamboo, while usually very light, is available in many hues that will work in any setting or decor. Its varied grains and wide array of colors give it an edge over traditional flooring by allowing for customization not often found elsewhere.
When one thinks of linoleum flooring, vinyl tends to come to mind and yet the two are nowhere close to each other. Vinyl is a synthetic made of chlorinated petrochemicals that are harmful. Linoleum is created from a concoction of linseed oil, cork dust, tree resins, wood flour, pigments and ground limestone. Like cork, it is fire retardant and water resistant. Linoleum is not new to the market; it fell out of favor with the introduction of vinyl in the 1940’s. As architects and designers began asking for it again, it reemerged with a vast array of bright vibrant colors and a new sealer to protect it from stains. It has a long shelf life and will hold up to a lot of wear and tear.
4. Glass Tiles
Ever wonder what happens to the wine bottles and beer bottles that are shipped to the recycler? They are converted into beautiful glass tiles. This renewable source is fast becoming a wonderful option for floors as well as bathroom and kitchen walls. Glass has similar benefits of other eco-friendly materials. It is non-absorptive and won’t mildew or mold in damp environments. It is easy to maintain and won’t stain. Glass comes in a limitless array of colors, patterns and finishes suitable for most design schemes. Unlike ceramic tiles, glass will reflect light rather than absorb it, adding that additional layer of light some rooms need.
Polished concrete is an unlikely sustainable material that is gaining in popularity. Concrete is typically slab on grade and used as a sub flooring in some residential settings. If it is polished and tinted to the homeowners taste and style there is no need for traditional flooring to be put over it. From creating a tiled effect with different colors to inlaying other materials such as glass the design possibilities are endless. Concrete is extremely durable, easy to clean and never needs to be replaced.
The world’s first Kromatix coloured solar panels have been installed on a building façade at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Installed by Emirates Insolaire LLC, each coloured solar panel can generate more than 150 watts electricity per square meter on roofs, or 110 watts plus per square meter on façades. The panels are fixed with an invisible mounting system.
The coloured glass is created using a couple of different treatments. Deposition by a vacuum plasma process of a coloured nano-scaled multi-layered treatment is applied to the inner side of the glass and modifications are made to the outer glass surface’s glazing.
SwissINSO financed and developed patented the nano-deposition technology and says there is little compromise in panel performance and efficiency with Kromatix coloured glass compared to standard tempered solar glass. The panels can be produced in a wide range of colours.
As interesting as the concept is, the coloured solar panels and associated installation appear to be very pricey – as is BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaics) generally when considering bang for buck. Emirates Insolaire LLC says the installation cost around AUD $300,000 and generates enough power to serve the needs of the equivalent of two four-person households.
Still, seeing these alternatives being developed offers inspiration and as technology evolves, costs tend to come down. BIPV also provides opportunities for power generation where none other may exist. The amount of sun exposed building façade around the world is a huge potential resource for clean electricity generation.
“With the KromatixTM technology, the company has ushered in a paradigm shift in solar applications because of its aesthetic appeal to any building façade and efficiency due to its power generating attributes,” said Rafic Hanbali, Managing Partner of Emirates Insolaire. “The company sees significant growth opportunities going forward not only in the Europe but across the globe.”
Most of us would be familiar with how hot pavement can get on a summer’s day – and how long it can store heat. It seems concrete may be key to cheap large scale energy storage in the near future.
Norwegian company NEST AS has developed a special concrete called Heatcrete to be used for solid-state thermal energy storage (TES). Heatcrete demonstrates superior thermal performance over normal concretes and was developed in partnership with HeidelbergCement. NEST says Heatcrete has been heated up to 550°C without any evidence of degradation. Heatcrete is expected to be able to withstand millions of cycles, with normal usage considered low cycle fatigue.
The company says its system will cost significantly less than molten salt energy storage; both in terms of initial outlay and operating expenditure. It’s also able to operate at lower temperatures and the materials used are easy to source, unlike molten salts that are only available from a few sources.
NEST is a fully modular and scalable system, from 100’s of kWht to 1000’s of MWht.
The incremental cost to install a relatively small TES solution to capture surplus energy from a CSP plant that otherwise would be dumped is relatively small as existing infrastructure can be utilised and no additional investment in equipment such as steam turbine capacity is required.
NEST is currently testing a 1-megawatt concentrated solar power (CSP) system at the Masdar Institute’s Beam Down facility.
The company expects to have completed testing its technology in October; with it commercially available in the fourth quarter of this year.
Inventor of the NEST system is Professor Pål G. Bergan; who has a Master of Science from NTNU (NTH) in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a doctoral degree in Computational Mechanics from University of California, Berkeley.
Gold Plated Solar Panels
The streets of San Luis, Bogota, Colombia are now a little safer thanks to low cost solar powered street lighting.
Costing just USD $70 to construct, the street lights use a 3 watt LED lamp, controller and battery pack powered by a couple of small solar panels. The protective casing used for the lamp is just a plastic soda bottle – pretty much unbreakable under most conditions.
14 locations in Colombia have already been illuminated with these solar street lights and there are plans to install another 2,000 across the country in this year.
Quartz reports the super-cheap solar streetlights are a project of Liter Of Light; an organisation that rose to prominence with its promotion of Moser* lamps. A Moser lamp is a plastic bottle filled with water inserted into a roof to refract sunlight into the room below; with a with a brightness equivalent to a 55w electric bulb.
Tens of thousands of households in the Philippines capital Manila alone have so far benefited from Liter Of Light’s Moser lamp inspired revolution, which has now also spread across the world.
2015 is International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015). IYL 2015 isn’t just about increasing access to light, but the right sort of light. Lighting represents almost 20% of global electricity consumption (International Energy Agency). While this has a significant impact on the environment in relation to coal fired power generation, worse still is lighting fueled by kerosene.
“In developing and third-world countries without access to electricity, 1.3 billion people depend on kerosene for light. The burning of kerosene lamps leads to the death of 1.5 million people every year. Inhaling kerosene smoke is the equivalent of smoking 4 packs of cigarettes a day, and commonly induces respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and cancer in tens of millions of people,” states the IYL 2015 web site. http://www.light2015.org/Home/LightForDevelopment/Study-after-Sunset.html
It’s also very expensive, with some families spend up to half of their income on kerosene.
An important aim of the International Year of Light will be to promote the use of portable solar-powered LED lanterns in regions where there is little or no reliable source of light. Solar lighting is literally changing lives – enabling extended productivity, enhanced security and without the negative health impacts.
Gold Plated Solar Panels
All that’s gold does not glitter, thanks to new work by UC Irvine scientists that could reduce glare from solar panels and electronic displays and dull dangerous glints on military weapons.
“We found that a very simple process and a tiny bit of gold can turn a transparent film black,” said UC Irvine chemistry professor Robert Corn, whose group has created a patterned polymer material based on the findings, documented in recent papers. The postdoctoral associates and students were initially worried when they noticed what appeared to be soot on a flexible film they were designing to coat various products.
Via painstaking tests, though, the researchers realized that they’d accidentally discovered a way to fabricate a surface capable of eliminating glare, as reported in Nano Letters. They also learned that the material can keep grime in raindrops and other moisture from sticking, as reported in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
To do it, the group etched a repeating pattern of cones modeled on moth eyeballs at the nanoscale on Teflon and other nonstick surfaces. They then applied a thin layer of gold over the cones and, voila, the shine from the gold and any light reflecting onto it was all but obliterated. The material is also highly hydrophobic, meaning it repels liquids.
Angry residents of Newport Beach, Calif., certain cities in England and Australia, and elsewhere have complained vociferously about neighbors installing highly reflective solar panels that unintentionally beam blinding sunlight onto their properties. In addition, troops risk enemy detection when sunshine bounces off weaponry. And cellphone displays can be unreadable in bright light. The new coating could solve these issues.
UC Irvine’s Office of Technology Alliances has filed a patent application for the work. “We’re excited about where this technology might lead and who could be interested in exploring the commercial opportunities that this new advancement presents,” said senior licensing officer Doug Crawford.
Corn, Mana Toma and Gabriel Loget are co-inventors on the patent and co-authors of the studies.
Green Building Materials to Reach $254 Billion Market Value by 2020
The use of green building materials has remained relatively consistent during the global recession, and new research indicates that demand is only going up.
The worldwide market for green building materials is projected to grow from $116 billion in 2013 to greater than $254 billion in 2020, according to a new report from market research and consulting firm Navigant Research.
The report, “Materials in Green Buildings,” reviews key market and regulatory trends that contribute to the growing green building market and segments forecasts by material through 2020.
Driving forces behind projected market growth include changes in policies and regulations, the expansion of certification programs for green buildings, cost reductions for planet-friendly materials and a rise in consumer demand, the firm concluded in the report.
Here in the states, we’re already seeing an uptick in sustainable construction. By 2015, an estimated 40 to 48 percent of new nonresidential construction by value will be green, equating to a $120-145 billion opportunity, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
Sample of organic insulation - water, flour, minerals, and mushroom spores - developed by Rensselaer students Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre. (Credit: Rensselaer/Eben Bayer)
Sky-rocketing oil prices, rising demand for reliance on renewable resources, and an increase in environmental consciousness have placed a newfound focus on “green” solutions to global energy issues. Following his May 19 graduation from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, student inventor Eben Bayer hopes to alleviate some of those growing issues – by growing.
A dual major in mechanical engineering and product design and innovation, Bayer has developed an environmentally friendly organic insulation. The patented combination of water, flour, minerals, and mushroom spores could replace conventional foam insulations, which are expensive to produce and harmful to the environment.
Households use nearly one-fifth the total energy consumed in the United States every year – and of that energy, 50 to 70 percent is spent on heating and cooling, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. To reduce this massive energy expenditure, new and existing homes must be fitted with more insulation. Conventional polystyrene and polyurethane foam blends are typically used because of their excellent capacity to insulate, but they require petroleum for production and are not biodegradable.
The son of a successful farmer in South Royalton, Vt., Bayer’s knowledge of the Earth and fungal growth lead him to develop a novel method of bonding insulating minerals using the mycelium growth stage of pleurotus ostreatus mushroom cells.
“The insulation is created by pouring a mixture of insulating particles, hydrogen peroxide, starch, and water into a panel mold,” Bayer says. “Mushroom cells are then injected into the mold, where they digest the starch producing a tightly meshed network of insulating particles and mycelium. The end result is an organic composite board that has a competitive R-Value – a measurement of resistance to heat flow – and can serve as a firewall.”
The organic idea was born during a class Bayer took called Inventor’s Studio, where students were challenged to create sustainable housing. Bayer was tasked with improving the insulation of a conventional home.
“I applaud Eben for his vision and passion to use technology to create significant value for all,” said Burt Swersey, a lecturer in Rensselaer’s department of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, and Bayer’s teacher in Inventor’s Studio. “He had the creative skill to transfer information, and to ‘see’ something in mushroom cultivation that was the inspiration for a wild, crazy, and wonderful new idea. Organic insulation holds the promise of creating a win-win-win situation: better insulation that saves energy, at a lower cost, and in harmony with the environment.”
Bayer’s process resulted in a new energy-saving, cost-effective, environmentally friendly class of insulation that could replace traditional synthetic insulators such as foam and fiberglass. This spring he began working with fellow classmate Gavin McIntyre – who will also be graduating from Rensselaer May 19 with a dual degree in mechanical engineering and product design and innovation – to produce larger samples using different substrates, insulating particles, and growth conditions.
Beyond insulation applications, the duo envision modifying the growing mixture slightly to include reinforcing materials that could be used to create strong, sustainable “growable” homes. Examples of this application include inexpensive structural panels that could be grown and assembled on-site in developing nations where usable housing is scarce and generally hard to obtain, or in disaster areas where temporary housing is essential.
Together Bayer and McIntyre will be forming a company called Greensulate to commercialize the technology.
The invention’s potential to revolutionize the green building industry already has been recognized in a variety of outlets.
In fall 2006, it was a winning entry in Rensselaer’s “Change the World Challenge” idea competition, which supports entrepreneurship education and inspires ideas to improve the human condition by providing a $1,000 cash award for ideas that will make the world a better place.
In winter 2007, Bayer was announced as a finalist for the $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize competition, which is awarded to a Rensselaer senior or graduate student who has created or improved a product or process, applied a technology in a new way, redesigned a system, or in other ways demonstrated remarkable inventiveness.
Today Eben Bayer is the cofounder and CEO of Ecovative Design, a bio-materials company located in Green Island, NY. Eben co-invented MycoBond, a patent pending technology that uses a growing organism to transform agricultural waste products into strong composite materials.
We congratulate Eben on his Ingenuity, and entrepreneurial spirit, that is proving a cleaner economy, while producing new jobs.