A new approach that makes paper from straw, which cuts production costs and is kinder to the planet, is one step closer to reality thanks to an investment award of £90,500 from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) – the organisation that nurtures UK creativity and innovation.
The innovation is the brainchild of a Surrey-based environmental company, BioRegional MiniMills Ltd. The driving force behind this company is a former nurse, Sue Riddlestone who became very active in the environmental field after starting a family. Following a stint of voluntary work for the eco-lobby group Greenpeace, she co-founded BioRegional as an environmental charity. It works in partnership with industry to develop sustainable production and lifestyles through practical projects. The MiniMills offshoot was established in 1997 to develop new, cleaner technology to make paper on a small scale. Sue is joined by a range of experts from the paper processing industry.
There are reported to be nearly 9,000 paper and board mills worldwide, and the demand for paper is growing at a rate of 3% per annum. Current mills are huge operations run by multi-national companies. However, MiniMills’ new process would allow more independent paper makers to compete with these large-scale processes. Their method would facilitate the use of a much greater variety of raw materials, including straw - four million tonnes of straw goes unused in the UK annually - and wood from sustainably-managed, smaller woodlands for use in papermaking. This would provide income generation for both farmers and foresters.
Joseph Meaney | alfa
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The operational speed of semiconductors in various electronic and optoelectronic devices is limited to several gigahertz (a billion oscillations per second). This constrains the upper limit of the operational speed of computing. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have explained how these processes can be sped up through the use of light waves and defected solid materials.
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Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.
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Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.
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After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.
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