Scientists in Hamilton have found a way to dissolve the rubber used in car tires, which they say could eventually help keep what is typically a single-use item out of landfills.
In a study released Monday, researchers at McMaster University say their method could reduce the environmental and safety hazards related to stockpiled tires.
They say the properties that make tires durable on the road also make them difficult to break down and repurpose, so most end up in landfills and storage facilities, eventually leaching contaminants into the environment.
Michael Brook, the study’s lead author and a professor in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at McMaster, pointed to a massive fire that burned for weeks in a pile of 14 million scrap tires near Hagersville, Ont., roughly three decades ago as an example of the potential dangers.
“Why do people collect tires in that size? It’s because there’s no really good way to deal with them,” he said, adding a small proportion of tires are ground up to use in playgrounds or asphalt.
“The idea that you make three billion tires last year and put them in a landfill after a single use, to me, it just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
“A tire is incredibly well made…at the end we want to turn that tire back into something else, either make a new tire or make a new material, even if it’s not quite as high quality, but not just go from my car to a landfill, which is mostly what’s happening now.”
The team was working with chemicals to make new silicones when they had the idea to try it on the rubber used in tires, and found it successfully broke down the sulphur-to-sulphur bonds in the material, Brook said.
He compared the rubber’s structure to a fishnet or fabric, and the chemical catalyst as a type of “molecular scissors” that cuts through the threads in one direction so that the net becomes a series of ropes, which can then be processed.
What’s left is a processable oil and a number of other materials, such as steel and polyester, that go into tires — all of which could be reused, he said.
“We can take a piece of rubber that really is just above being garbage, break it into some constituent parts and now make a new rubber with some of them,” he said.
“The question is, what’s the best product to come out of this? And that’s what we’re looking at now.”
The process is not yet ready for commercial use, however, and researchers say it’s too early to tell when it might be.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2020
The agency is working on buildings made of fungi. Yes, you read that correctly… Fungi!
Called themyco-architecture project and run by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, this new initiative is seeking to “grow” habitats on the Moon, Mars, and even potentially Earth.
Like a turtle
“Right now, traditional habitat designs for Mars are like a turtle — carrying our homes with us on our backs – a reliable plan, but with huge energy costs,” said in a statement Lynn Rothschild, the principal investigator on the project. “Instead, we can harness mycelia to grow these habitats ourselves when we get there.”
What they envision is straight out of a science fiction film. Space explorers would carry with them compact habitat built out of lightweight material with dormant fungi.
Once in their final destination, the explorers would simply add water and the fungi would grow across that framework creating a living habitat. Of course, we are a long way off from this happening.
Still, early-stage research is seeking to prove that such structures could be viable options. How would these structures look like?
NASA describes them as three-layered domes:
“The outer-most layer is made up of frozen water ice, perhapstapped from the resourceson the Moon or Mars. That water serves as a protection from radiation and trickles down to the second layer – the cyanobacteria. This layer can take that water and photosynthesize using the outside light that shines through the icy layer to produce oxygen for astronauts and nutrients for the final layer of mycelia.
That last layer of mycelia is what organically grows into a sturdy home, first activated to grow in a contained environment and then baked to kill the life-forms – providing structural integrity and ensuring no life contaminates Mars and any microbial life that’s already there.”
NASA also believes that their project has applications right here on Earth. It could provide a more eco-friendly and sustainable method of living.
What do you think? Would you be interested in living in a fungi home?
NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect SpaceX’s new launch time.
SpaceX will fly a major test flight of its Crew Dragon space taxi today (Jan. 19) to prove the spacecraft’s launch escape system can carry astronauts to safety in the event of a rocket emergency. The launch, set for 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) is unlike anything SpaceX has done before.
Called an in-flight abort, the SpaceX test will demonstrate Crew Dragon’s SuperDraco launch abort system designed to rip the spacecraft free of its Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a launch failure. It’s the last major test for Crew Dragon before SpaceX can start flying astronauts for NASA under a Commercial Crew Program contract.
Scroll down for a look at how the major SpaceX test flight will work in 10 steps.
Like every SpaceX mission, Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort test begins with a Falcon 9 launch.
Liftoff is set for no earlier than 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) from the historic Launch Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. In the hours leading to launch, SpaceX and NASA will practice everything needed for an actual crew launch.
SpaceX has a 6-hour window in which to launch Crew Dragon and wants optimal weather conditions for the launch itself, as well as for the spacecraft’s offshore recovery in the Atlantic Ocean. Visibility is a key concern for the launch.
SpaceX will not recover this veteran booster. It should break apart, or maybe even explode, after Crew Dragon separates from the rocket’s second stage. The first and second stages are fully fueled, but the second stage carries a mass simulator in place of an engine since one is not needed for this flight.
3. SuperDraco abort engines fire
Precisely 84 seconds after liftoff, as the Falcon 9 rocket is flying Mach 2.3, Crew Dragon will fire its eight SuperDraco engines and rip itself free of the rocket’s second stage.
SpaceX is triggering the abort test while Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 are about 14 miles (19 kilometers) high and 2.5 miles (4 km) down range.
“Dragon will leave the Falcon very quickly,” Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management, said during a news conference Friday (Jan. 17).
The open maw of Falcon 9’s second stage, still attached to the first stage booster, should act as an air scoop, slowing the booster and ultimately leading it to break apart. The booster could explode and be visible from the ground, Reed said.
“There will probably be some ignition,” Reed said. “We’ll see something.”
4. Abort system shutdown
Crew Dragon’s SuperDracos will fire for 10 seconds, pulling the capsule free of the Falcon 9 and carrying upward on a suborbital trajectory.
The eight SuperDraco on Crew Dragon are arranged in four pairs of two around the capsule’s side walls, with each capable of generating 16,000 lbs. of thrust. They are more advanced and more powerful than Dragon’s Draco attitude thrusters. SpaceX makes them through direct metal laser sintering, essentially 3D printing.
5. Crew Dragon trunk jettison
About 2.5 minutes after liftoff, Crew Dragon will jettison its “trunk” service module. The cylindrical, finned module contains the solar arrays and other gear required to sustain Crew Dragon’s taxi flights to the International Space Station for NASA.
During reentry, Crew Dragon jettisons its trunk just like SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon vehicles. This clears the spacecraft’s heat shield for entry and prepares the spacecraft for a splashdown landing in the ocean.
6. Prepare for entry
Just after the 3-minute mark, Crew Dragon will fire its regular Draco thrusters to orient the space capsule for entry and splashdown.
Crew Dragon will not reach space on this launch. The highest the capsule should fly is about 24.8 miles (40 km), according to Reed.
7. Drogue chutes deploy
About 5.5 minutes after liftoff, Crew Dragon will begin releasing parachutes to slow itself for splashdown.
The first still will be the release of two drogue chutes to stabilize the capsule and prepare it for the release of its four main parachutes.
8. Main parachutes deploy
Shortly after the drogue chutes deploy, Crew Dragon will release its four main parachutes to slow the spacecraft’s descent ahead of splashdown.
The parachutes on this Crew Dragon are SpaceX’s newest version, the Mark 3 parachute design. SpaceX has been testing parachutes to make sure they will safely return a Crew Dragon to Earth. To date, the company has flown 80 tests, including 10 successful tests of the four-parachute arrangement.
This flight will mark a major practical test of the parachute design, which has passed a series of drop tests in recent months, but not yet been used in an actual flight.
About 10 minutes after launch, Crew Dragon will splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. According to Reed, the drop zone is between 18 and 21 miles offshore (30-35 km).
SpaceX’s recovery ship, the GO Searcher, will be looking for Crew Dragon ahead of its splashdown, setting the stage for the final step of the mission: Recovery.
10. Crew Dragon recovery
Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort test will give SpaceX a unique chance to test its recovery procedures for astronauts returning from space.
The company has staged its recovery ship, the GO Searcher, near the splashdown zone and expects its retrieval team to reach the capsule shortly after it lands.
“When Dragon splashes down, we’ll be approaching the vehicle within minutes,” Reed said.
In addition to its regular recovery team, SpaceX has enlisted the aid of the Air Force Detachment-3, an emergency team of divers and officials on call to aid astronaut recovery in the event of an emergency.
After Crew Dragon is safely on board GO Searcher, the ship will return to Cape Canaveral so it can be studied to see how it fared during the test.
SpaceX hopes to begin flying astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA later this year. The first crewed flight, carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behknen and Doug Hurley on the Demo-2 flight, could launch as early as March if the abort system test goes well, according to Spaceflight Now.
SpaceX is one of two companies with multi-billion-dollar contracts to fly astronauts for NASA. The other company, Boeing, will fly astronauts on its Starliner spacecraft, which launches on a crew-rated Atlas V rocket. Boeing also plans to begin crewed flights this year.
WASHINGTON – An exquisite fossil of a fierce little Chinese dinosaur dubbed the “dancing dragon” that lived 120 million years ago — an older cousin of the Velociraptor — is showing scientists that feathers grew differently on dinosaurs than on birds.
The two-legged Cretaceous Period dinosaur, called Wulong bohaiensis, was a bantamweight meat-eater — a bit bigger than a crow — residing in a lakeside environment, researchers said. It possessed a scaly face, a mouth full of pointy teeth and one particularly dangerous toe claw, and probably hunted small mammals, lizards, birds and fish.
Wulong’s fossil, unearthed in Liaoning Province in northeastern China, includes a complete skeleton as well as soft tissues like feathers rarely preserved in such detail. Its long arms and legs each had sets of feathers that looked similar to those on bird wings, while most of the rest of its body was covered by fluffy filaments.
At the end of its long, bony tail — fused into a stiff rod — were two very long feathers.
“The specimen of Wulong is a gorgeous fossil. With the feathers and claws, I think it would have been beautiful and just a little bit scary. I’d love to see one alive,” said San Diego Natural History Museum paleontologist Ashley Poust, who led the research, published in the Anatomical Record journal.
“I don’t think we know yet how it used its feathers,” Poust said. “It seems likely that they helped with temperature regulation and signaling to other animals, but what this would have looked like and how much these functions mattered remains unclear.”
Birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs roughly 150 million years ago. But there were many feathered dinosaurs that did not fly, like Wulong. Scientists are eager to understand the plumage differences between birds and these feathered dinosaurs.
A close examination of bones showed this Wulong individual was about a year old, a juvenile still growing.
“Living birds shoot up to adult size very quickly, mainly as a way of getting strong enough to fly as soon as they can. But they may delay getting their adult feathers for a long time. Gulls, for example, don’t look like adults for three or four years even though they learn to fly in only three months,” Poust said.
The young Wulong appeared to have an adult’s plumage.
“Here is an animal that has all kinds of signals of being a juvenile, outside its bones, inside its bones, in its joints,” Poust said. “And it has long, isolated plumes extending from its already-very-long tail. This is quite different from living birds and tells us that these decorative feathers preceded adulthood in dinosaurs. Of course, perhaps they’re using these feathers in a very different way from living birds, too.”
Wulong means “dancing dragon,” so named because of its fossilized skeleton’s active-looking pose. It belongs to a group of meat-eaters called dromaeosaurs, which also includes Velociraptor. That dinosaur lived 75 million years ago in Mongolia and appears in the “Jurassic Park” films.
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