Top consumer goods manufacturers now recognize that success requires more than just making market-leading products. Having the right distribution network is just as critical. Nikon Inc. is the world’s leader in precision optics, 35mm and digital imaging technology. So it’s no surprise that when the company saw the next big trend in photographic technology —digital cameras— they were ready to deliver with some of the most advanced product designs in the marketplace. But to ensure that retailers could meet the demand of tech-hungry consumers and professional photographers, Nikon, re-engineered its distribution network to keep them well supplied. Continue reading “Nikon Makes New Product Distribution a Snap”
You probably don’t think much of fungi, and especially those that turn bread moldy, but researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on March 17, 2016 have evidence that might just change your mind. Their findings suggest that a red bread mold could be the key to producing more sustainable electrochemical materials for use in rechargeable batteries.
The researchers show for the first time that the fungus Neurospora crassa can transform manganese into a mineral composite with favorable electrochemical properties.
They have made electrochemically active materials using a fungal manganese biomineralization process. The electrochemical properties of the carbonized fungal biomass-mineral composite were tested in a supercapacitor and a lithium-ion battery, and it [the composite] was found to have excellent electrochemical properties. This system therefore suggests a novel biotechnological method for the preparation of sustainable electrochemical materials.
An artistic rendering of a carbonized fungal biomass-manganese oxide mineral composite (MycMnOx/C) can be applied as a novel electrochemical material in energy storage devices. Credit: Qianwei Li and Geoffrey Michael Gadd
The research team have long studied the ability of fungi to transform metals and minerals in useful and surprising ways. In earlier studies, the researchers showed that fungi could stabilize toxic lead and uranium, for example. That led the researchers to wonder whether fungi could offer a useful alternative strategy for the preparation of novel electrochemical materials too.
They had the idea that the decomposition of such biomineralized carbonates into oxides might provide a novel source of metal oxides that have significant electrochemical properties.
In fact, there have been many efforts to improve lithium-ion battery or supercapacitor performance using alternative electrode materials such as carbon nanotubes and other manganese oxides. But few had considered a role for fungi in the manufacturing process.
In the new study, Gadd and his colleagues incubated N. crassa in media amended with urea and manganese chloride (MnCl2) and watched what happened. The researchers found that the long branching fungal filaments (or hyphae) became biomineralized and/or enveloped by minerals in various formations. After heat treatment, they were left with a mixture of carbonized biomass and manganese oxides. Further study of those structures show that they have ideal electrochemical properties for use in supercapacitors or lithium-ion batteries.
It surprised team that the prepared biomass-Mn oxide composite performed so well. In comparison to other reported manganese oxides in lithium-ion batteries, the carbonized fungal biomass-mineral composite showed an excellent cycling stability and more than 90% capacity was retained after 200 cycles.
The new study is the first to demonstrate the synthesis of active electrode materials using a fungal biomineralization process, illustrating the great potential of these fungal processes as a source of useful biomaterials.
Researchers will continue to explore the use of fungi in producing various potentially useful metal carbonates. They’re also interested in investigating such processes for the biorecovery of valuable or scarce metal elements in other chemical forms.
- Qianwei Li, Daoqing Liu, Zheng Jia, Laszlo Csetenyi, Geoffrey Michael Gadd. Fungal Biomineralization of Manganese as a Novel Source of Electrochemical Materials. Current Biology, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.01.068
With the world’s population exploding to well over 7 billion, feeding the human race is getting even more challenging. Increasing the yield from crops such as wheat, maize, rice and barley, is paramount to growing enough food.
In addition, crop production is now affected by stressors such as drought, climate change and the salinization of fields — presenting obstacles to our future food supply.
Researchers with Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, University of Arizona, University of North Texas and with the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, have discovered a way to enhance a plant’s tolerance to stress, which in turn improves how it uses water and nutrients from the soil. These improvements increase plant biomass and yield. Continue reading “Researcher effort to enhance plant’s tolerance to stress”
A Kansas State University biochemistry professor has reached a milestone in building a better biofuel: producing high levels of lipids with modified properties in oil seeds.
Timothy Durrett, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, and collaborators at Michigan State University and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln have modified Camelina sativa — a nonfood oilseed crop — and produced the highest levels of modified seed lipids to date. By modifying the oilseed biochemistry in Camelina sativa, the researchers have achieved very high levels of an oil with reduced viscosity and improved cold temperature characteristics.
The goal of the research is to alter oilseeds to produce large amounts of modified oil that can be used as improved biofuels or even industrial and food-related applications. Continue reading “Oilseed plants for biofuel: An industrial development”
Oil from genetically modified (GM) oil seed crops could replace fish oil as a primary source of the beneficial Omega-3 fatty acid EPA — according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).
Researchers studied the effect in mice of consuming feed enriched with oil from glasshouse-grown genetically engineered Camelina sativa, developed at the agricultural science centre Rothamsted Research.
The goal of the research was to discover whether mammals (using mice as a model) can absorb and accumulate EPA from this novel source of omega-3s. Continue reading “Fish oil replacement from fatty acids of GM oilseed crops”
The majority of genetically modified (GM) crops are now cultivated in the developing world. In 2014, around 53% of the 182m hectares (nearly two million square kilometres) of GM crops were grown in these countries.
In reality, though, the “developing world” is a catch-all for many different countries. Brazil and Argentina are way out in front, planting nearly 70m hectares of GM soy, maize and cotton. India has 11.6m hectares of GM cotton alone. China has a broader spread but much smaller quantities, while in sub-Saharan Africa, there are 2.7m hectares of GM soy, maize and cotton in South Africa, and 0.5m hectares of cotton in Burkina Faso. Bangladesh is the latest addition to the so-called GM nations.
By far the most common GM crops are those that can tolerate herbicides. They suit the large “mono-cropped” farming systems found in the US, Argentina and Brazil. Among smallholdings, notably in India, China and South Africa, the biggest GM crop is Bt cotton, which incorporates a toxin that kills pests. It has been at the centre of the debate about the extent to which GM can help the poor. Continue reading “GM Crops, the Developing Country and New Alliance”
Sustainability is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. However, this definition is difficult to be understood or applied by organizations that have specific responsibilities to the society, beyond their economic and legal obligations. Responsibility means that people, planet and profit should be considered as a whole system, needing balance. By balancing the social and environmental elements of sustainability, long-term profitability could be achieved.
A food system is defined as the sum of all the diverse elements (environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructures, institutions, etc) and activities related to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, and their socio-economic and environmental outcomes. Sustainability could be illustrated through the product stewardship concept, which is defined by the shared responsibilities that all participants in a product’s life cycle have for minimizing its environmental and health impacts. A product’s responsibilities in a supply chain do not end when the product is delivered to consumers. This means that product manufacturers, retailers, users and disposers are responsible for the health, safety and environmental impacts of their products across their life cycle (e.g. from raw material extraction to use and disposal). Thus, there is a need for balancing food products responsibilities (e.g. economic, social and environmental) throughout the supply chain. Continue reading “Food Waste Recovery Improves Sustainability of Food Systems”