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Disruptive Food Technology Changes Shipping and Storage

Researchers from MIT are pushing the envelope of food technology with a bold new concept: shape-shifting pasta. These are flat sheets of gelatin and starch that can be programmed to turn into 3D shapes when introduced to water.

Wen Wang, research co-author and member of Tangible Media Group, explains that there’s more to their project than just making pretty pasta shapes. Their “culinary performance art” is looking at ultimately reducing packaging and shipping costs for food products.

“We did some simple calculations, such as for macaroni pasta, and even if you pack it perfectly, you still will end up with 67 percent of the volume as air,” Newsweek quoted Wang, who added: “We thought maybe in the future our shape-changing food could be packed flat and save space.”

Their “culinary performance art” is looking at ultimately reducing packaging and shipping costs for food products.

The inspiration for this food technology innovation was a lowly bacterium that changed shape when it comes in contact with moisture.  Bacillus subtilis, also known as grass or hay bacillus, has been used by the Japanese to ferment soybeans. The product called natto is a pungent but highly-sought after food product. Wang and his team added the bacteria to layers of gelatin and then 3D printed edible cellulose on it.

The team reported that printing the cellulose in various geometric shapes such as flowers and different pasta forms. These also had different responses when exposed to water; the researchers could manipulate how much they could be bent.

But before they could come up with computational models of what shapes could be made as well as create the interface to “program” the designs, the team of researchers initially worked with a chef to design the different culinary shapes.

How To Package New Food Technology

This development triggers more bold innovations in food technology. For one, pasta manufacturers spend millions on machinery that dry pasta at low temperatures.  Italian Food Tech explains that great care is placed on keeping the final moisture levels in the pasta packaging unchanged. But even with the flow pack plastic or the plastic sleeves and windows, pasta shapes still go through mechanical fractures when they are packed for shipping or delivery.

The “shape shifting pasta”, on the other hand, can be packed compact and tightly as flat sheets and then later given instructions on what shape to take once they’re introduced to water.

Shape Changing Pasts is Disruptive food technology.

3D Printing as the Paradigm Shift

Aside from meat that isn’t meat, the food industry considers 3D printing as one of the biggest game changing development in recent years. Countless startups are innovating food design, creation, and preparation like never before.

3D Systems ChefJet  is a special kind of 3D printer that can generate 3D printed candies and cookies. Yes, they are completely edible! ChefJet prints in monochrome and is the smaller of the two models. The pro version can print 10 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches. The 3D printouts have been flavor-tested and approved. The printers are priced at $5,000 and $1,000, respectively.

Methods of growing and creating food can constantly be updated and innovated. There’s a desire to grow more food to feed people; but at the same time there’s also that drive to make food preparation faster and more convenient.

The robot kitchens and 3D printers are disruptive developments that we’ll be seeing more of in the years to come.

CO2 Splitter May Unlock New Fuel Source

Carbon dioxide is considered a major reason for global warming. The element jeopardizes people’s health, threatens national security, and endangers basic human needs. Yet, it also holds great promise as a fuel of the future.

Splitting carbon dioxide is a win-win situation from an environmental point of view.

National Geographic has mentioned that carbon dioxide is considered to be a pollutant when expelled from vehicles and power plants. However, researchers are working on using carbon dioxide to fuel vehicles and power plants. The problem has been the challenge of splitting the carbon dioxide in an economical manner.

Joeri Rogelj, a Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, says “it has become very clear that if you want to stabilize warming at any level, you have to start talking about phasing out CO2”.

Carbon Dioxide Splitting

The noise and fury around carbon dioxide prompted a group of Swiss scientists to take action. The Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) developed a new method, which splits carbon dioxide with an efficiency rate of 13.4%.

EPFL is a research university and institute located in Switzerland. It specializes in engineering and natural sciences. They developed a carbon dioxide splitter, which consists of copper and tin.

The splitter has an atomic layer of tin in order to trap the energy that would be lost if copper is utilized as an electrode. It also has a thin membrane between the cathode and anode to improve the reaction.

The splitter can open windows to solving the problem of storing energy from renewable sources by turning it straight into liquid fuel.

The Process of Splitting Carbon Dioxide

The process of splitting is efficient and carbon-neutral. It is already a well-known method of producing fuel without increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. CO2 is split into oxygen and carbon monoxide.CO2 splitting may become a new fuel source

Carbon monoxide can be incorporated with hydrogen to create synthetic carbon-based fuel. CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere without being put back in, which produces clean fuel.

Splitting carbon dioxide is a win-win situation from an environmental point of view.

Jingshan Luo, a Chemical Engineer at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, says “the work sets a new benchmark for solar-driven CO2 reduction”.

Hydrogen Makes Progress as New Fuel Source

Hydrogen is another element commonly suggested as a fuel source. When hydrogen is burned for fuel, it leaves no dangerous side effects. It is renewable, abundant, non-toxic and more powerful than fossil fuels.

Even with all these attributes, hydrogen is still not efficient. Hydrogen takes a lot of energy to extract in pure form, making it very expensive. In addition, the challenge of building the infrastructure for hydrogen stations is one of the obstacles that hinders innovation and research.

Even though hydrogen energy’s natural effects are minor, in order to make it and use hydrogen as a fuel actually requires energy inputs from fossil fuel companies at this time.

The Quest for CO2 Splitting for New Fuel Source

There are numerous companies and research institutions trying to solve the problem of splitting CO2 bonds efficiently. X Prize Foundation even made an incentive for it. A $20 million prize for groups that by 2020 come up with innovations to turn CO2 into useful products.

  • Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis – It is a DOE Energy Innovation Hub that looks for a cost-effective method to produce fuels using sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. The program has a budget of $112m over five years.
  • University of California, San Diego – The university has recently presented that light absorbed and converted into electricity using a silicon electrode can help drive a reaction that splits carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide.
  • Sandia National Laboratories – It is run and directed by the National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia. Researchers in SNL are working to apply concentrated sunlight to drive high-temperature thermal reactions that yield carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and oxygen; from CO2 and water.
  • Solar Fuels Institute – The researchers of the institute are taking a modular approach to put the existing technologies for splitting water and carbon dioxide together. They are trying to complete a $250,000 prototype by the end of this year.

The method of splitting carbon dioxide is a bold and efficient way to solve global warming. The new system may make a mark on society. The idea of CO2 splitter is a bold innovation that can unlock a new fuel source.


Digital Transformation: How To Succeed In Business

A staggering 80% of business leaders in Asia believe they should transform their organizations into digital businesses to grow. However, only 29% of those have a full digital strategy in place.

In the Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study, researchers looked at the effect the Fourth Industrial Revolution has on people’s lives, and how it changes the way humanity interacts, works, lives and plays.

Only “29% of business leaders have a full digital transformation strategy and less than half (49%) are in progress.

The study looked at the impact technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced data analytics have on business, and how they come together on digital platforms to transform the way we operate. The key objective of the paper was to demonstrate how business leaders can transform their digital operations for future growth.

“This revolution, together with rapid urbanization, emergence of the millennial workforce and a fragile global economic climate, is ushering societal and economic changes at an unprecedented pace,” Microsoft states.

Digital Business is the Key to the Future

The survey included feedback from 1,494 business leaders responsible for digital strategy in the Asia Pacific region within organizations employing a workforce of 250 or more. The countries surveyed included: Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

A plan is necessary for digital business

The study found that although business leaders were aware that they need to become more digitally aware to transform their business, their strategies were still very much in its infancy.

The survey found that only “29% of business leaders have a full digital transformation strategy and less than half (49%) are in progress with specific digital transformation initiatives for selected parts of their business. 22% still have very limited or no strategy in place.”

Meanwhile, Ralph Haupter, President, Microsoft Asia, said “the study has shown that business leaders have started to act on the need for digital transformation to address the challenges and opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution in the region. Lessons from past industrial revolutions have taught us that organizations that do not evolve fast enough will be less competitive or even obsolete as they face disruptions in every industry.

“We urge organizations of all sizes to digitally transform themselves amidst changing demands externally and internally, to stay relevant,” a Microsoft representative said, “we believe this involves transformation in four key pillars – empowering employees, engaging customers, optimizing operations and transform with new products, services or business models, and data and the cloud are key enablers of these.”

Although the Asia Pacific region might include some of the more forward-thinking countries in the world, it would seem bold actions are needed to ensure businesses can embrace the digital revolution and secure their future in a highly competitive market place.

Millennials And Corporate Social Responsibility: A Big Call To Companies

As crises around the world deepen, young professionals believe that the key to change is through corporate action.  Their views define a business’ success by its ability to embrace technological advances and encourage positive social impacts. Without a doubt, it is worth looking further into the connection between millennials and corporate social responsibility.

According to Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey, young worldviews have shifted thanks to more than 12 months of social and political upheaval. The study found that young professionals are now more concerned about job security. Plus they’re worried about uncertainty arising from conflict and are less optimistic about their own prospects. Deloitte based their findings on the views of 8,000 participants from 30 different countries and found that millennials have a very different outlook in life compared to other surveyed years. In conclusion, the survey’s participants believe that large international companies are failing when it comes to addressing global problems, including income inequality, corruption, unemployment, and healthcare, according to CGMA magazine.

a photo with information about millennials and corporate social responsibility

Other Details on Millennials And Corporate Social Responsibility

A huge 76 percent of the survey’s participants regard business as a pivotal force for positive social impact, and “the number of respondents who credited business and business leadership for ethical behavior and social awareness increased in the past two years”. The survey also found that 74 percent felt multinationals have the potential to address social, political, and economic issues of concern, but only 59 percent felt these multinationals fulfilled their true potential.

Researchers found that the way organizations engage their employees and the local community was key to this perception shift. The survey showed that 35 percent would stay with employers for 5 years or longer if they provided charitable opportunities. However, much less would stick around if there was no long-term aim in that direction. What’s more, embracing technological advancements could lead to better job flexibility and the potential of working remotely. Millennials felt that if they had a chance to work from home, they could manage their hours, be more effective at their jobs, and ultimately show more commitment to their employer.

In the end, the mentality of small businesses, franchises and huge scale corporations are what makes the world go round. And as we’ve seen so far in the discussion on the connection between millennials and corporate social responsibility, the key to social change is going to come from businesses growing and improving the lives of everyone.