Thomas Edison Smiles at Bioplastics

Thomas Edison Smiles at BioplasticsKnow those attractive spools of colored plastic filament you can buy and load into a 3D printer to make your creations? What if the plastic filament comes from another source…..like algae? That’s right algae turned into bioplastics.

Researchers and designers in the Netherlands are working on this unusual use of algae, to replace synthetic plastics with bioplastics. And it may not stop with just algae as the researchers expand their ideas. It has a nice cache don’t you think….environmentally friendly materials to use when making things. Thomas Edison was a very big fan of using natural earth elements in his inventions.

Algae and seaweeds could be cultivated in local facilities, and during their growth process absorb carbon dioxide and other substances from both aquatic and atmospheric environments, creating oxygen and biomass (bioplastics). Dried algae bioplastic is powdered, mixed with other components and extruded filament is manufactured. Different compositions including color, texture and specific properties can be accomplished through the close control of various algae forms.

Thomas Edison Smiles at Bioplastics

Although this raw material for plastic filament is probably more costly, it does chalk-up economic credits for cleaning the environment; and using locally grown materials with less wastage and transportation energy savings. Can you see Edison smiling over this one!

Editor’s Deep Dive

Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison Admires his Electric Vehicle Legacy

Electric vehicles of all kinds continue to penetrate the huge American automobile market. Today there are about 600,000 such vehicles on the road, compared to well over 220 million conventional gasoline and natural gas vehicles now on the roads.

This steady trend is prompting electric utilities and energy planning and advocacy groups to begin discussions about the nation’s electric utility industry’s ability to support the re-charging of these vehicles. Of course there could certainly be cases where the local utility lines in a neighborhood might need to be reinforced, or perhaps if enough electric cars are clustered in an area, neighborhood substations might need to be reinforced as well. This would depend on the local conditions of course and not subject to general rules….much like installing solar systems on homes and other buildings. It depends on the local conditions.

Electric vehicle charging stations seem to be popping up everywhere!

Electric vehicle charging stations seem to be popping up everywhere!

The National Renewable Energy Lab broadly projects the American grid can handle 7.5 million electric vehicles; but this is an overall estimate as local electric utility lines and capacities vary widely across the country. For instance, older urban/suburban communities with their heavily congested areas and aging electric infrastructures are very different from long distance electric lines strung in sparsely populated semi-rural areas.

What might happen if an electric charging garage, with many parking spaces, is placed near a commuter train line in a mature suburban community? Or if a new development of apartment houses is part of a large urban renewal project in a city center? All this has to be looked at and planned.

A worldwide happening…charging stations in China

A worldwide happening…charging stations in China

It will take time and money to change the electric utility system to accommodate such a significant change. This is already happening to utilities now as folks are installing photovoltaic systems that can feed electric energy back into the grid, which can radically change the operation of utility lines previously designed for one-way power flow. Add to this the futuristic plans to have already charged electric vehicles act as tiny generating stations to discharge a portion of their stored battery energy back into the grid during high peak periods to help the grid.

You have to admire Thomas Edison and his charging of electric vehicles way back in 1908 in his home garage. The man knew what was coming; and don’t forget…..he also designed and built the first electric utility system in New York City in 1882.

Thomas Edison said, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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Thomas Edison Likes Editing Genetic Materials

At the molecular world of bacteria and viruses, war routinely rages as various forms of life attack and try to overwhelm each other. Can you envision how the DNA of an invading bacteria can press an advantage and try to re-program its victim’s life processes?

But suppose as the attacking bacteria starts its assault, the defending bacteria quickly responds by modifying the attacking bacteria’s DNA and genes, using a special process to change and delete portions of that DNA so it becomes harmless. It would be similar to quickly modifying a malicious piece of software you accidentally picked up at a website, and then changing it lightning quick so it cannot infect your computer and important files!

Wouldn’t you think the ability to remove or “snip” out bad genes might be useful to all life forms; like your own if you had a pre-disposition to a disease? Think how the editing of genetic materials would affect the human population if you could identify and then grab hold of a nasty gene in the human genome sequence and simply delete it.

If genome editing was as simple as using nano-sized scissors to get rid of bad genes!

If genome editing was as simple as using nano-sized scissors to get rid of bad genes!

Imagine how cancers and chronic diseases would begin disappearing if you could manipulate the human genome; and if you start this editing process at the embryo level, all subsequent cells that divide from this formative point on will be free of potentially bad cells, and future diseases.

A new gene editing technique called CRISPR, also called CRISPR/Cas9, is showing immense capability, being easier, cheaper and more efficient than previous strategies for modifying DNA. And it is derived from that example at the beginning of this articIe where one bacteria “out-DNA’s” the other!

Thomas Edison Likes Editing Genetic Materials

What is so cool about Crisper is its ease of use and robust nature. High school students are actually doing experiments today in biology labs to knock out genes. Obviously, new biotech start-ups are willing to bet some big money on this promising technology. Genetic materials are also being added to DNA to create new characteristics.

Editor’s Deep Dive

If we can do this in humans and animals, it can also be done with agriculture. Thomas Edison would have certainly found this useful back in the 1920s when he was selectively breeding plants for their oily sap content as he tried to create a substitute for natural rubber, then in short supply and whose host countries were subject to wartime seizure by belligerent nations.

Edison’s selectively bred 12- foot goldenrod plant as a possible alternative source of natural rubber

Edison’s selectively bred 12- foot goldenrod plant as a possible alternative source of natural rubber

Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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