MIT engineers have developed self-cooling fabrics from polyethylene, commonly used in plastic bags. They estimate that the new fabric may be more sustainable than cotton and other common textiles. (Courtesy: Svetlana Boriskina)
Topics: Ecology, Environment, Green Tech, Materials Science
Polyethylene is one of the most common plastics in the world, but it is seldom found in clothing because it cannot absorb or carry away water. (Imagine wearing a plastic bag – you would feel very uncomfortable very quickly.) Now, however, researchers in the US have developed a new material spun from polyethylene that not only “breathes” better than cotton, nylon, or polyester, but also has a smaller ecological footprint due to the ease with which it can be manufactured, dyed, cleaned and used.
The textile industry produces about 62 million tons of fabric each year. In the process, it consumes huge quantities of water, generates millions of tons of waste, and accounts for 5–10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the world’s most polluting industries. Later stages of the textile use cycle also contribute to the industry’s environmental impact. Textiles made from natural fibers such as wool, cotton, silk, or linen require considerable amounts of energy and water to recycle, while textiles that are colored or made of composite materials are hard to recycle at all.
Hydrophilic and wicking
Researchers led by Svetlana Boriskina of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) set out to produce an alternative. They began by melting powdered low-density polyethylene and then extruding it into thin fibers roughly 18.5 μm in diameter (as measured using scanning electron microscopy and micro-computed tomography imaging techniques). This process slightly oxidizes the material’s surface so that it becomes hydrophilic – that is, it attracts water molecules – without the need for a separate chemical treatment.
Topics: African Americans, Diversity, Diversity in Science, Ecology, Environment, Nanotechnology
The production and use of Engineered Nanoparticles (ENPs) or materials containing ENPs has increased astonishingly, leading to increased exposure to workers and consumers. The invention and applications of new materials either create new opportunities or pose new risks and uncertainties. The uncertainties concerning application of ENPs are posing disturbances to the ecosystem and human health. This review first addresses in vitro and in vivo studies conducted on the toxicity of ENPs to animals and humans. Ethical justifications are provided specially with reference to Intergenerational Justice (IRG-J) and Ecological Justice (EC-J). The social benefits and burdens of ENPs are identified for present and future generations. Some mitigation approaches for combating the potential risks posed by ENPs are proposed. Finally, suggestions for the safe handling of ENPs in future are proposed in the review.
The term nanotechnology refers to the science of investigating and manipulating materials at atomic, molecular and macromolecular scale. (Sudarenko, 2013). Nanoparticles (NPs) are known to occur naturally (e.g., volcanic ash and forest fires), accidentally (i.e., unintended human activities) and anthropogenic (e.g., cosmetics and other consumer products). Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) or engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) are man made materials produced deliberately for different industrial applications and most commonly having dimension from 1 to 100 nm (Auffan et al., 2009). It is widely acknowledged in the scientific community that ENPs have enormous potential to transform industrial processes in the future thereby shaping how the society and the global economy will function. They have several industrial and domestic applications in consumer products, cosmetics, agriculture, soil and groundwater remediation, electronics, energy storage, biomedical and transportation (Besha et al., 2018; Boldrin et al., 2014).
Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) or engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) are man made materials produced deliberately for different industrial applications and most commonly having dimension from 1 to 100 nm (Auffan et al., 2009). It is widely acknowledged in the scientific community that ENPs have enormous potential to transform industrial processes in the future thereby shaping how the society and the global economy will function. They have several industrial and domestic applications in consumer products, cosmetics, agriculture, soil and groundwater remediation, electronics, energy storage, biomedical and transportation (Besha et al., 2018; Boldrin et al., 2014).
“Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east.” Marvin Gaye wasn’t an environmental scientist, but his 1971 single “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” provides a stark and useful environmental analysis, complete with warnings of overcrowding and climate change. The song doesn’t explicitly mention race, but its place in Gaye’s What’s Going On album portrays a black Vietnam veteran, coming back to his segregated community and envisioning the hell that people endure.
Gaye’s prophecies relied on the qualitative data of storytelling—of long-circulated anecdotes and warnings within black communities of bad air and water, poison, and cancer. But those warnings have been buttressed by study after study indicating that people of color face disproportionate risks from pollution, and that polluting industries are often located in the middle of their communities.
Late last week, even as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Trump administration continued a plan to dismantle many of the institutions built to address those disproportionate risks, researchers embedded in the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment released a study indicating that people of color are much more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air. Specifically, the study finds that people in poverty are exposed to more fine particulate matter than people living above poverty. According to the study’s authors, “results at national, state, and county scales all indicate that non-Whites tend to be burdened disproportionately to Whites.”
Trump's EPA Concludes Environmental Racism Is Real A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency finds that people of color are much more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air—even as the agency seeks to roll back regulations on pollution. Vann R. Newkirk, The Atlantic