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Turning our mountains of food waste into graphene

February 16, 2015

Turning our mountains of food waste into graphene

Rich McEachran
Monday 16 February 2015 10.02 GMT

Blended cocoa beans, rice, fruit skins, leeks and asparagus sounds like it should be a recipe for a disastrous smoothie. But these are just some of the wasted foodstuffs that are being treated and converted into materials, with environmental benefits.

Scientists at the City University of Hong Kong have found that they can turn coffee grounds and stale bakery goods – collected from a local Starbucks – into a sugary solution that can be used to manufacture plastic. The food waste was mixed with bacteria and fermented to produce succinic acid, a substance usually made from petrochemicals, that can be found in a range of fibres, fabrics and plastics.

Meanwhile, engineers at the Colorado School of Mines have discovered a way to turn banana peels, eggshells and rice husks into glass. By blending, drying and pounding it into a fine powder, and with a little help from the magic of science, they found the mixture could provide some of the metal oxides required in the composition of glass. Ivan Cornejo, a professor at the university, told the Denver Post at the time that such an innovation could reduce the need to mine for silica, one of glass’s primary components.

Read more at The Guardian.

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