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New research from Virginia Tech aims to cut down on food waste – and consumer frustration – with a novel approach to creating super slippery industrial packaging.

Almost everyone who eats fast food is familiar with the frustration of trying to squeeze every last drop of ketchup out of the small packets that accompany french fries. What most consumers don't realize, however, is that food left behind in plastic packaging is not simply a nuisance. It also contributes to the millions of pounds of perfectly edible food that Americans throw out every year. These small, incremental amounts of sticky foods like condiments, dairy products, beverages, and some meat products that remain trapped in their packaging can add up to big numbers over time, even for a single household. New research from Virginia Tech aims to cut down on that waste – and consumer... more read more

Credit: Yong Zhu

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new technique to control self-folding three-dimensional (3-D) structures. Specifically, the researchers use templates to constrain deformation in certain selected areas on a two-dimensional structure, which in turn dictates the resulting 3-D structure of the material.

The new technique does not rely on cutting or printing on the material, as most other self-folding origami techniques do. It is also different from continuous shape morphing, which is typically controlled by engineering the in-plane strain at various parts of the material. Instead, the researchers applied paperboard sheets to a polymer substrate, forming specific patterns. “When heat is applied to the polymer, it shrinks,” says Yong Zhu, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the work. “However, the sections of polymer that are attached to the paperboard are restrained from shrinking, causing the overall substrate to bend... more read more

Credit: Liz Do

Many foods produced on an industrial scale include raw ingredients mixed together in enormous stainless steel machines that can be difficult to clean.

With repeated use, equipment surfaces get minute scratches and grooves, providing bacteria and biofilms the perfect place to hide. While surface scratches may appear small to the naked eye, they are like a canyon to bacteria, which are only a few micrometers in size. Surface-trapped food residue and bacteria then increase the risk of contamination from microorganisms such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli. Professor Ben Hatton (MSE), Dr. Dalal Asker and Dr. Tarek Awad research cheaper, safer and more effective ways to prevent bacteria thriving inside these machines. This minimizes the risk of cross contamination, which can lead to foodborne disease. Their team have proposed a simple new... more read more

Credit: University of Notre Dame

Chemical engineers testing methods to improve efficiency of diesel engines while maintaining performance are getting help from a summer staple: Tiki torches.

A team of engineers at the University of Notre Dame is using the backyard torches as part of an effort to mimic the soot oxidation process in a diesel engine — when soot in diesel exhaust collects in the walls of a particulate filter and has to be burned off — according to a study recently published in Catalysts. “This study is part of an effort over many years in which we have discovered and developed low-cost catalysts for soot oxidation that are based on silica glass,” said Paul McGinn, a co-lead author of the study and professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Notre Dame. McGinn and co-principal investigator Changsheng Su at Cummins Inc. developed... more read more

Credit: Purdue University image/Ramses Martinez

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses the speed and precision of roll-to-roll newspaper printing to remove a couple of fabrication barriers in making electronics faster than they are today. Cellphones, laptops, tablets, and many other electronics rely on their internal metallic circuits to process information at high speed. Current metal fabrication techniques tend to make these circuits by getting a thin rain of liquid metal drops to pass through a stencil mask in the shape of a circuit, kind of like spraying graffiti on walls. "Unfortunately, this fabrication technique... more read more

Washington State University researchers have created a sustainable alternative to traditional concrete using coal fly ash, a waste product of coal-based electricity generation.

The advance tackles two major environmental problems at once by making use of coal production waste and by significantly reducing the environmental impact of concrete production. Xianming Shi, associate professor in WSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and graduate student Gang Xu, have developed a strong, durable concrete that uses fly ash as a binder and eliminates the use of environmentally intensive cement. They report on their work in the August issue of the journal, Fuel. Reduces energy demand, greenhouse emissions Production of traditional concrete, which is made by combining cement with sand and gravel, contributes between five and eight percent of greenhouse... more read more

Credit: Waseda University

Opening up a pathway to cost-effective, autonomous IoT application

Objects in our daily lives, such as speakers, refrigerators, and even cars, are becoming “smarter” day by day as they connect to the internet and exchange data, creating the Internet of Things (IoT), a network among the objects themselves. Toward an IoT-based society, a miniaturized thermoelectric generator is anticipated to charge these objects, especially for those that are portable and wearable. Due to advantages such as its relatively low thermal conductance but high electric conductance, silicon nanowires have emerged as a promising thermoelectric material. Silicon-based thermoelectric generators conventionally employed long, silicon nanowires of about 10-100 nanometers, which were... more read more

Folding and cutting thin metal films could enable microchip-based 3-D optical devices.

Nanokirigami has taken off as a field of research in the last few years; the approach is based on the ancient arts of origami (making 3-D shapes by folding paper) and kirigami (which allows cutting as well as folding) but applied to flat materials at the nanoscale, measured in billionths of a meter. Now, researchers at MIT and in China have for the first time applied this approach to the creation of nanodevices to manipulate light, potentially opening up new possibilities for research and, ultimately, the creation of new light-based communications, detection, or computational devices. The findings are described today in the journal Science Advances, in a paper by MIT professor of mechanical... more read more

Credit: MRI/Penn State

For the first time, researchers have created a nanocomposite of ceramics and a two-dimensional material, opening the door for new designs of nanocomposites with such applications as solid-state batteries, thermoelectrics, varistors, catalysts, chemical sensors and much more.

Sintering uses high heat to compact powder materials into a solid form. Widely used in industry, ceramic powders are typically compacted at temperatures of 1472 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Many low-dimensional materials cannot survive at those temperatures. But a sintering process developed by a team of researchers at Penn State, called the cold sintering process (CSP), can sinter ceramics at much lower temperatures, less than 572 degrees F, saving energy and enabling a new form of material with high commercial potential. "We have industry people who are already very interested in this work," said Jing Guo, a post-doctoral scholar working in the group of Clive Randall, professor... more read more

Credit: Courtesy of the Tour Group

Rice lab creates conductive 3D carbon blocks that can be shaped for applications

Rice University scientists have developed a simple way to produce conductive, three-dimensional objects made of graphene foam. The squishy solids look and feel something like a child’s toy but offer new possibilities for energy storage and flexible electronic sensor applications, according to Rice chemist James Tour. The technique detailed in Advanced Materials is an extension of groundbreaking work by the Tour lab that produced the first laser-induced graphene (LIG) in 2014 by heating inexpensive polyimide plastic sheets with a laser. The laser burns halfway through the plastic and turns the top into interconnected flakes of 2D carbon that remain attached to the bottom half. LIG can... more read more

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