Wireless Heater Made From a Leaf Skeleton Is Fully Biodegradable

Good News Notes:

We’ve gotten very, very good at making things that are cheap and durable. Unfortunately, there are some deleterious side effects. Among them: Our society generates massive amounts of waste that is going to remain in landfills for a long time. What’s more, the process of making these goods is also bad for the environment, considering raw materials, refining, supply chain, packaging, and so on. It’s horrendous, if you think about it, which is why most of us tend not to think about it. Realistically, making everything eco-friendly isn’t practical, but making some things eco-friendly is—even for a very strict definition of eco-friendly that takes the availability of raw materials, reusability, and eventual disposal into account.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Accenture Labs are putting this idea to the test with the design of a wireless heater that can warm up whatever’s placed inside of it when the heater is placed on a standard wireless charging pad. This recyclable heater, made from paper, bits of shellfish, silver nanowires, and leaf skeletons, can warm a batch of cookies to 70 °C, but will degrade into compost in just a few months.

We believe that there exists a space of “semi-permanent” technological design that biological, decomposable materials are well-suited for… If we prioritize the decomposability of materials in our design, can we design interfaces that are durable and have enhanced functionality without sacrificing the convenience of responsible disposability? —Katherine W. Song et al.

A quick word about things that are “biodegradable”: The words “biodegradable,” “compostable,” and ecological buzzwords don’t actually have meanings that are all that consistent (or useful) when applied to commercial products. The issue is that while some things might technically have the capacity to degrade under natural conditions, that process may require very specific conditions or might take so much time that it’s not practical for most end users. For the Berkeley-Accenture project, the researchers use the terms “decomposable” and “backyard-degradable” to emphasize that this thing really will turn into dirt in a matter of months if you bury it in your yard….”

View the whole story here: https://spectrum.ieee.org/wireless-heater-made-from-a-leaf-skeleton-is-fully-decomposable

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