Nano-enabled Recovery of Scarce Metals: From benchtop to startup

In these days of social distancing, everyday electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops are more crucial than ever. But many of these devices, ubiquitous as they are, contain materials that are difficult to come by, called scarce rare earth and specialty elements (RESEs). For example, audio equipment such as speakers, headphones and microphones, …

Recycling: A Strategy for Sustainable Nanotechnology?

These days we are all familiar with the concept of recycling, which for most of us involves the weekly ritual of placing waste materials such as bottles, cans, and cardboard into oversized, colored recycling bins and placing them outside the house. After pick up, these recyclables are transported to collection centers where they are sorted, …

Game Day Green: Sustainability in College Football

Camp Randall

If you’re anything like me, the holiday season is a time for relaxation, family, food, and of course football! If you turned on the television during the New Year’s Day weekend, I’m sure you found yourself with a choice of many different college football games to watch. Personally, I tuned in to watch the University …

Ep 10. Why Were Plastic Mirobeads Banned? Marine Debris and Sustainable Plastics

Sustainable Nano Podcast cover image

Plastic debris in our water is a huge pollution problem, and just one source of that pollution is the tiny microbeads that have been widely used in personal care products. In this episode of the podcast, we interview Dr. Richard Thompson, a Professor of Marine Biology at Plymouth University and an expert on the effects of plastic debris in the marine environment. We discuss the recent federal ban on microbeads and what consumers can do to be more sustainable in our day-to-day use of plastics.

The Chemical Story Behind Non-Petroleum-Based Plastics

Every year, millions of tons of plastic are discarded into landfills, where they will take hundreds of years to break down.  New biodegradable plastics offer a potential solution to this problem. Let’s back up and talk about “traditional” plastics first. In addition to being landfilled, some plastic is disposed of improperly, leading to plastic pollution …

Turning Plastic Bags into Carbon Nanotubes

I was surprised to learn recently that plastic bags can be turned into a new material called carbon nanotubes. Prior to this, all I had heard about plastic bags was about the environmental threat that they potentially pose, either by accumulating in wildlife or clogging landfills with slow-to-break-down waste. Many recycling techniques have been developed …

Paper or Plastic? Sustainability is a Multi-Dimensional Problem

Part 1 in the "How is That Sustainable?" Series “Paper or plastic?” This was the question you always used to get once you’d made it through the checkout line to the grocery store register (at least when I was growing up). Ever since about 2005, however, it seemed like it was becoming increasingly rare to …