Archive for the ‘W is for Waste’ Category

Alison Knowles: Clear Skies All Week

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Photo of artist courtesy of James Fuentes LLC

James Fuentes LLC, a New York City gallery, is featuring a solo exhibition with Alison Knowles, best known as a founding member and notably the first woman to participate in Fluxus. (Fluxus, an international art movement of artists, composers and designers in the 1960s, blended different media, disciplines and happenings, often described as ‘intermedia.’ Notable pioneers include John Cage and George Maciunas.)

Comprised of sculptural works made from paper and found materials, the exhibition represents over forty years of Alison Knowlesʼ life in New York City. The works entice an extreme interest in paper. Made of raw flax, cotton and abaca fiber, the paper becomes a sculptural element to house an assortment of found objects and the base material for wall panels.

In Knowles own words:

I collect shoe heels ….
I am not hunting usually, just rushing to get somewhere like everybody else, but suddenly,
Unexpectedly, akin to a found item, a found time opens up….
The heel I pick up. …quickly, offhandedly …gets stashed in my pocket.
There is a chemistry peculiar to the mysterious terrain I find myself in at that time….
I love to surf the street….
At home it gets cleaned, studied, it is drawn in silhouette, perhaps screen-printed with the name of an animal….
You know the worn shoe heels cannot be bought. Not for sale anywhere.
Isn’t it special to have recognized the energy expended in a shoe heel.

(Originally quoted in Julia Robinson, “The Sculpture of Indeterminacy: Alison Knowlesʼs Bean and Variations,” College Art Association Journal, 2004.)

The exhibition “Clear Skies All Week” is open February 23 – April 3, 2011
There will be a reception with the artist Alison Knowles on Wednesday, March 9, 6 – 8 PM.
James Fuentes LLC, 55 Delancey Street, New York, NY

Whiskey Fuels Cars

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Photo via flickr by

Filling up at the pump in the near future may offer another biofuel alternative—whiskey. Scottish scientists recently announced a biofuel made with by-products from the distillation process of Scottish whiskey.

The Scottish £4bn whiskey industry seemed a ripe resource for developing biobutanol – the next generation of biofuel which gives 30% more output power than ethanol—to the team at Edinburgh Napier University, who have a patent on the product. Martin Tangney, who is leading the research, said that five or 10 percent of the biofuel could be blended with petrol or diesel, and could be used to fuel ordinary cars without any type of special adaptations.

The ‘whiskey’ biofuel uses the two main by-products of the whisky production process – ‘pot ale’, the liquid from the copper stills, and ‘draff’, the spent grains, as the basis for producing the butanol that can then be used as fuel.

With 1,600 million litres of pot ale and 187,000 tonnes of draff produced by the malt whiskey industry annually, there is real potential for biofuel to be available at local stations alongside traditional fuels, one step closer to the EU goal of making biofuels account for 10% of total fuel sales by 2020.

The technology for developing bio-fuel from whisky was inspired from a 100 year old process, created by Chaim Weizmann, a Jewish refugee chemist in Manchester who studied the butanol fermentation initially as part of a programme to produce rubber synthetically.

via redOrbit

Exhaust Makes Electricity

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Photo via flickr by AlbinoFlea

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation are funding research that may result in a military turbine aircraft that for the first time ever will produce its own electricity from exhaust heat generated from thermo electricity.

Dr. Daryoosh Vashaee and a team of co-researchers at Oklahoma State University’s Helmerich Advanced Technology Research Center in Tulsa are using thermo electric nanotechnology to investigate the conversion of waste heat into electricity.

Up to this point, thermo electricity has not been used extensively beyond space and cooling applications because it could not be produced efficiently. However, the scientists’ efforts in Oklahoma may soon change that and thermo electric technology may be heralded by the Air Force in a way that no other eco-friendly energy source has, because it has non-toxic emissions.

Vashaee and his co-researchers are examining thermo electric versus infrared technology, which is what the Air Force is currently using. The latter requires liquid nitrogen to cool down the infrared cells. Thermo electricity,  on the other hand, would not make that necessary and it would also be inexpensive.

“The new thermo electric sensors also provide a means to make high performance infrared detectors that are structurally simple and small, suitable for being used in military missions,” said Vashaee.

Vashaee noted that the next step is to develop thermo electric modules that can be used for power generation for Air Force aircraft, solar, thermal cells and waste heat recovery systems used in industry.


Bananas for Plastics

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Photo via flickr by puropei

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast are pioneering a new technique for the use of banana plants in the production of plastic products.The Polymer Processing Research Centre at Queen’s is taking part in a €1 million study known as the Badana project. The project will develop new procedures  to incorporate by-products from banana plantations in the Canary Islands into the production of rotationally moulded plastics. In addition to the environmental benefits, the project will increase the profitability of the plantation owners and help job security for those working in the area.

Once the fruit has been harvested, the rest of the banana plant goes to waste. An estimated 25,000 tonnes of this natural fibre is dumped in ravines around the Canaries every year.

According to Mark Kearns, Rotational Moulding Manager at the Polymer Processing Research Centre in Queen’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the natural fibres contained within the plants may be used in the production of rotationally moulded plastics, which are used to make everyday items such as, oil tanks, wheelie bins, water tanks, traffic cones, plastic dolls and many types of boats. The banana plant fibres will be processed, treated and added to a mix of plastic material and sandwiched between two thin layers of pure plastic providing excellent structural properties. The project gives a whole new meaning to ‘banana sandwich.’

via Science Daily

W is for Waste

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Zero-waste is not the future. It’s minus zero. Now that waste is a business proposition rather than just a hopeful “Let’s recycle” campaign, the future of waste management has just begun. And although the current goal is to create processes that collect waste to generate energy, whether trapping sunlight with LED filtering or using rice husks for fuel, moving forward it will be essential that strategies not only serve to clean up the environment using inventive methods such as sucking carbon dioxide out of the air to manufacture plastics, but actually begin to make our environments better. For example, leading designers today use the metaphor “design like a tree” which not only takes CO2 out of the air, but replaces it, thankfully, with oxygen so that we may breathe. Or, just look at our bodies from an evolutionary perspective and you’ll find that our skeleton is really the waste product of stockpiled calcium from the marine environment of early cells. As we begin to understand the techniques used by nature in which nothing is wasted or lost, the challenge remains as to whether our solutions cannot only surpass its genius, but serve our evolution and the creation of a better life for all.