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Climate Briefs for September 16, 2023

Going higher

Hempcrete, a major advance on conventional building materials, is made from the inner woody core of the hemp plant – the hurd – and a lime-based binder. Hempcrete is now being used to build the 12-storey Hemp Hotel in Cape Town. Lightweight with excellent thermal insulation properties, its exceptional breathability allows moisture to pass through without causing mould, while providing a healthier living environment. The high content of mineralised cellulose fibres in hemp stalks also allows hempcrete to withstand much higher temperatures. Most important, hemp plants grow rapidly, needing minimal water or pesticides – and carbon dioxide is absorbed during the growth cycle and sequestered in buildings.

Battery life

Australia’s RMIT School of Engineering has developed a recyclable phone battery that does not use the usual, very difficult to recycle, lithium-ion. Cellphone batteries now make up 10 percent of E-waste in landfills, leaching hazardous and toxic chemicals into waterways and atmosphere. The new design uses MXene, not previously used in cell phones because it rusts easily, hampering conductivity. Researchers have found that exposing oxidized MXene film to high-frequency vibrations for just a minute removes the rust and extends a phone battery’s life span by nearly a decade.

Algae solution

Swedish scientists have discovered that adding red sea plume algae to cattle feed cuts methane emissions by almost half. Cattle emit methane through their digestive process and waste. This greenhouse gas traps about 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide – and cattle produce about 37 percent of the world’s methane emissions. Red sea plume algae, commonly found in warm, tropical waters, produces a bioactive compound, bromoform, that stops methane developing, inhibiting a specific enzyme in the animal’s gut during the digestion process.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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