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Technology Eggo Bricks? Scientists Create Real Building Materials From Food Leftovers

04:07  15 june  2021
04:07  15 june  2021 Source:   newsweek.com

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University of Tokyo scientists have created building materials from scraps of cabbage, orange peel and onion skins, with four times the strength of concrete. Food waste amounts to billions of pounds per year, they said, and the cost to the environment is immense. It made sense to test these raw products to see if they could make construction materials with compatible or better strength than concrete. Sakai, a concrete engineer specializing in its recycling, believes the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year can become a sustainable resource for many materials .

Share. Tweet. Share. Share. Email. Comments. Those stubborn lumps you struggle to scrape off last night’s dinner plates are inspiring scientists to make new ultra-strong building materials . Researchers in Japan have created a concrete replacement out of food scraps — and the new compound can be both edible and sweet-smelling. Associate professor Yuya Sakai at the Institute for Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo and Kota Machida, whose research was part of his graduate studies at the university, spoke about the inspiration behind using food waste for construction.

Those stubborn lumps you struggle to scrape off last night's dinner plates are inspiring scientists to make new ultra-strong building materials.

University of Tokyo scientists have created building materials from scraps of cabbage, orange peel and onion skins, with four times the strength of concrete. © Kota Machida/Zenger News University of Tokyo scientists have created building materials from scraps of cabbage, orange peel and onion skins, with four times the strength of concrete.

Researchers in Japan have created a concrete replacement out of food scraps — and the new compound can be both edible and sweet-smelling.

Associate professor Yuya Sakai at the Institute for Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo and Kota Machida, whose research was part of his graduate studies at the university, spoke about the inspiration behind using food waste for construction.

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Some materials produced from food scraps show the range of natural colors produced. (Kota Machida:Zenger News). Sakai, a concrete engineer specializing in its recycling, believes the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year can become a sustainable resource for many materials . “In the future, we can develop more strength and materials from vegetables and fruit for real construction and structural materials ,” said Kota. “For buildings , it will be a kind of future application,” said Sakai. “But so far, many companies have contacted us. They are interested in producing furniture, boxes and such small things.

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Food waste amounts to billions of pounds per year, they said, and the cost to the environment is immense. It made sense to test these raw products to see if they could make construction materials with compatible or better strength than concrete.

Sakai, a concrete engineer specializing in its recycling, believes the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year can become a sustainable resource for many materials.

His earlier research resulted in a technique for combining recycled concrete powder and wood waste to form an improved material through heat pressing. That sparked interest in using other waste products.

"A similar approach can be applied to not only wood, but also to vegetables and fruit, and that is what we did," he said.

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At Lego , petroleum-based plastics aren’t the packaging, they’re the product — and the bricks making up these dinosaurs have barely changed in more than 50 years.Credit Carsten Snejbjerg for The New York Times. His son Godtfred began marketing the distinctive little blocks not just as toys, but as a building system that could be expanded and passed on to later generations. Bricks that date back to 1958 are still compatible with current products, according to Lego . Today, the company sells its wares worldwide and has secured partnerships with film franchises like Batman and Star Wars

The professor's research ideas rubbed off on Kota, one of his students.

"When I met professor Sakai, he told me about his research on wood powder and waste concrete powder," Kota said. "It was interesting, and I was thinking what will fit as a new material. I found that a huge amount of food waste is generated in Japan annually, and I thought this is a big issue that we have to solve. That's why I focused on food waste, such as vegetables of fruit.

a man wearing a suit and tie: University of Tokyo professor Yuya Sakai, specializes in concrete recycling. He says 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year, and much of that can have a second life in building construction. Courtesy of Yuya Sakai © Courtesy of Yuya Sakai University of Tokyo professor Yuya Sakai, specializes in concrete recycling. He says 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year, and much of that can have a second life in building construction. Courtesy of Yuya Sakai

"It is said that one-third of food is wasted in the whole world."

Kota adapted the heat pressing method, using lower temperatures (between 50 and 150 degrees Celsius), to produce materials four times stronger than concrete.

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Mr. Furst said Lego is better positioned to spearhead plastics research than most companies because plastic is at the core of its business and Lego is a vertically integrated company. “They make one product, and the one product they make is from one kind of plastic. Mr. Brooks said they won’t rule out any possibilities in their search for alternatives, but Lego prefers that their new plastic be derived from waste materials , such as corn stalk or other agricultural waste “that doesn’t appear to serve any other purpose.”

From these small interlocking bricks , which can be connected to assemble an infinite number of designs, Lego has evolved into a huge worldwide enterprise that makes toys and movies and runs theme parks. But before all that, Lego began as a carpentry business in the village of Billund, Denmark in 1932. In 1947, the LEGO company was the first in Denmark to use a plastic injection molding machine for making toys. This allowed the company to manufacture Automatic Binding Bricks , created in 1949.

"It holds its original smell," said Sakai. "You can smell orange if you make samples from oranges."

The material is nontoxic, and while it's safe to consume, "it's rather crunchy," jokes the professor.

The research has attracted interest from some product manufacturers, but further work is needed before it's recognized for building purposes.

"In the future, we can develop more strength and materials from vegetables and fruit ... for real construction and structural materials," said Kota.

"For buildings, it will be a kind of future application," said Sakai. "But so far, many companies have contacted us. They are interested in producing furniture, boxes and such small things.

"The bonding mechanism of these materials are not clarified completely yet, so we have to study these and prove them. That will be the next step. We also want to investigate a bigger variety of food scraps."

a close up of a piece of paper: The unique food recycling project can produce building materials in a variety of natural colors. Kota Machida/Zenger News/Getty Images © Kota Machida/Zenger News/Getty Images The unique food recycling project can produce building materials in a variety of natural colors. Kota Machida/Zenger News/Getty Images

He said students are interested in the research and that new members will join the laboratory next year.

Another useful element, Kota said, is the color of the materials they can produce.

"It can retain its original color, and when we add other elements to the mix, we can control the color. I think it can meet a wide range of demands."

Mango is their favorite food item for materials so far: "It tastes sweet, and it smells nice," said Kota.

The paper, "Development of Novel Construction Material from Food Waste" was published in May.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.

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Ending the food box program was the right move .
USDA should be applauded for canceling the Farmers-to-Families Food Box program and focusing efforts on meeting the food needs of needy families. Joseph Glauber is a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former Chief Economist, USDA.

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This is interesting!