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News & Events ■ News ■ 2014 News

News 2014

An easier way to turn plant scraps to plastics

bioplastics-300pxSave those food scraps – they could be your next grocery bag. A new way of turning vegetable waste directly into bioplastics could make such materials even more environmentally friendly.

Current bioplastics are created by processing plant material to create short molecules called monomers, which link up to create long polymer molecules that make up plastics. Although the resulting material is usually biodegradable, making it a greener alternative to regular plastic, the way it is produced has come under criticism. Making bioplastics takes multiple steps, requiring more energy, and often uses crops that could otherwise be used for food, like corn or potatoes, says Ilker Bayer at the Italian Institute of Technology in Genova, Italy.

There may now be a better way. Bayer and his colleagues were looking at the process for creating cellophane, which involves passing cellulose, the material that makes up plant cell walls, through multiple acid and alkali baths. They discovered that dissolving cellulose from cotton and hemp in trifluoroacetic acid, a common chemical, converted it directly from its naturally crystalline form to an amorphous form suitable for moulding into plastic without the need for any further processing.

Parsley plastic

Next they tried the process on vegetable waste products, including rice hulls, cocoa pod husks (see image, above right) and spinach and parsley stems from an Italian company that powders vegetables for use in vegetable drinks and coloured pasta.

"These are the parts we don't want to eat," says Bayer. They could all be easily converted into useful bioplastics, with different properties based on the starting material: rubbery for spinach, but firmer for rice hulls.

The new materials have a different combination of stiffness and stretchiness compared to both existing bioplastics and traditional plastics. They can also inherit the properties of the original plant, meaning parsley plastic could have antioxidant properties, or cinnamon plastic could be antibacterial.

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 15:50

The winner of "Mettici la faccia" contest: Alessio Vierti, 19 years old and a passion for drawing and computer science.

The drawing contest "Mettici la faccia" launched by IIT in January 2014 has a winner: Alessio Vierti, 19 years old, a student at "Enrico Fermi" High School in Genoa. Alessio made the drawing of the face of the humanoid robot Coman. The face is round and coloured in blue and orange in order to "transmit humans a sense of confidence”. The drawing convinced the international group of scientists who are developing the robot. The prize for the student were 250 euros and a training course either in drawing or in English language after the summer.

Alessio Vierti has a passion for drawing and computer science, therefore in drawing the robot’s face he was able to combine the two. In the explanatory memorandum of his proposal Alessio wrote: "the humanoid robot CoMan is designed to be a useful resource for people in emergency situations, so I thought to give his face a look as much familiar and reassuring as possible", thus demonstrating a lot of attention to the interaction between humans and machines, which is a very important aspect in advanced robotics research. The proposed face has an ovoid shape and is blue in color, with a kind of semitransparent orange visor. The drawing will serve as a reference for scientists in the realization of the robot’s head.

 Alessio met some researchers working on the robot Coman: Darwin Caldwell, director of IIT Department of Advanced Robotics, Nikolaos Tsagarakis, IIT researcher responsible for the Coman project, Alessio Rocchi, PhD student at IIT (photo by A. Abrusci - IIT). Vierti, along with his brother and parents, had the opportunity to see the robot live, to touch it and watch it move, as well as discuss with researchers about his future university choices – has just taken his high school diploma.

"Mettici la faccia " is the competition organized by IIT with the aim of raising young people’s awareness of science and technology through an interdisciplinary approach by stimulating their skills, artistic feeling and analytical spirit when it comes to look at a real scientific object. The contest was open to high school students of the Province of Genoa. The contest web page: metticilafaccia.iit.it

Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 17:02

SMARTCup Liguria 2014

Anche quest’anno si terrà la competizione tra idee imprenditoriali SMARTCup Liguria 2014. L’iniziativa sarà presentata in diversi incontri dal 21 al 29 luglio su tutto il territorio regionale, a Genova, La Spezia, Savona e Imperia.

SMARTCup Liguria 2014 è il concorso di idee imprenditoriali per stimolare la nascita di imprese innovative, organizzato da FI.L.S.E. su incarico della Regione ed in collaborazione con l’Università di Genova, il CNR, l’IIT, i Centri di Ricerca e tutti gli attori che concorrono allo sviluppo di impresa del territorio.

Le presentazioni saranno un momento utile per acquisire informazioni sullo svolgimento della competizione, mirata ad individuare e supportare nuove idee nate dalla ricerca, con la collaborazione di esperti d'impresa, investitori e professionisti partner dell'iniziativa. 

Per maggiori informazioni: www.smartcupliguria.it

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:43