Chemical Companies Must Adjust to Oil’s New Reality

For its age, sugar was a wonder resource, the feedstock from the West Indies of valuable products like molasses and medicine, and responsible for as much as a third of the European economy. Its importance was so great that Napoleon opened a school dedicated to studying an alternative source to beat the English blockade. Continue reading

Think Piece: Starbucks Gets the Sweet Side of Sustainability With Its New Cascara Latte

Early this year, coffee-chain giant Starbucks unveiled its Cascara Latte as the first new drink of 2017. Cascara, which means “husk” in Spanish, refers to the outer skin and pulp of a coffee cherry. Typically, growers discard the outer coffee cherry after extracting the beans, which are the dark seeds used for espresso and coffee. In some places like Yemen, Ethiopia, and Bolivia, local farmers dry the husks to make tea, but Starbucks takes its own spin on reusing the coffee waste to incorporate the unique flavors into a specialty drink (see figure below).

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Our Top Picks for Must-Attend Wearable Electronics Conferences in 2017

2017 is set to be the biggest year yet for wearable electronics conferences; currently, there are 70 scheduled wearables conferences globally. Many conferences look at the broader innovation happening in wearables, with 41% (28 total) focusing on overall wearable development; this can be in hardware, software, or niche use cases. Conferences focusing solely on software and app development follow closely behind with 33% of the total. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been receiving more attention recently in wearable electronics and similarly in digital health & wellness (client registration required).

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Digitizing Material Data Is Essential for Building Material Manufacturers in the Long Term

NBS International published its BIM Report 2016 based on a survey conducted with construction industry professionals from the U.K., Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Japan. According to this report, 90% of the respondents are using building information modeling (BIM) to produce 3D visualizations, more than 70% of BIM users use it for clash detection, and around 50% use BIM for performance analysis. Clearly, there is a new level of awareness towards BIM and the majority of industry professionals think that it will be an integral part of design processes in one way or another. As the construction industry transitions towards digitization, the BIM landscape is loaded with various software solutions satisfying specific designers’ needs. We recently published a report detailing these BIM solutions ([see the report “Beyond Material Innovations: How Construction Technologies for Digitization and Automation Will Compete and Influence the Industry”] client registration required). It is essential for building material manufacturers to understand this landscape and how these solutions might influence them in the short as well as long term. This insight points out the benefits of BIM for material manufacturers going forward. Continue reading

Kurita Leverages Synergies Between Its New Chemicals and Smart Water Investments to Grow in North America

Water chemicals specialist Kurita marked the beginning of 2017 with two big deals to accelerate its business in North America.

  • Smart water company APANA (client registration required) announced last week that Kurita led its $3.5 million Series A round. With about 140 installations in North America, the majority of which are with wholesale giant Costco, APANA has found quite some traction since its inception in 2012. APANA offers its customers hardware, such as high resolution flow sensors and meters, as well as automatic meter reading (AMR) from third-party vendors, and bolts on its wireless gateway and telemetry equipment. Its innovation is in software algorithms, where it takes baseline water usage data for a large store or facility and optimizes operations to locate water leaks/bursts, identify waste signatures, and equipment malfunctions. APANA leverages both cellular communications and LoRa (Low Power Wide Area Networks) to collect and analyze data in real time. Customers using APANA see above 20% water savings and reduction in associated maintenance costs, with an expected payback within 24 months. While long payback periods can be a hurdle for adoption, the company has been delivering operational benefits to customers. Its recent traction has seen the technology implemented at large university campuses, car washes, cooling towers in industrial facilities, and wineries, to provide both energy and water savings annually.

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What a Trump Administration Means for Digital Health: A Recap of the First 15 Days, and What to Expect Moving Forward

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. president on January 20, 2017, new policies around immigration, trade, energy, and the federal government have been put in place. Although a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, took center stage in Trump’s campaigning, no policies directly impacting health have been implemented by his administration, and the fate of health care under Trump is still unknown. To provide a recap of what we do know, we outline what has taken place on the health front in his first two weeks. In addition, based on campaign rhetoric, we outline what a Trump administration will likely mean for digital health moving forward. Continue reading

Synthetic Biology Firm Ginkgo Bioworks Acquires DNA Synthesis Provider Gen9

Recently, Ginkgo Bioworks (client registration required) announced the acquisition of DNA synthesis provider Gen9 (client registration required) for an undisclosed amount of cash and stock. Ginkgo will integrate into its existing Bioworks facilities Gen9’s BioFab platform, which includes its chip-based oligo synthesis process, Agilent Technologies’ Oligonucleotide Library Synthesis (OLS) pool, and proprietary software/informatic tools for DNA design and error correction. Along with all related equipment and intellectual property (IP) of up to 125 patents pending, the acquisition also includes Gen9’s full-time staff on production and R&D, but not the management, sales, and customer service teams. Continue reading

CNT-Modified CFRPs Offer the Possibility of Sensing Structures to the Aerospace Industry

Researchers at the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), the University of Bristol’s Advanced Composite Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS), and aerospace company Bombardier teamed up to develop a carbon nanotube-based material that is to replace the polymer sizing in carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) for aerospace applications. This research team grew carbon nanotubes (CNTs) on carbon fiber by using low temperature photo-thermal chemical vapor deposition (PT-CVD) and using a metallic interlayer between CNTs and carbon fiber to minimize substrate degradation. According to the research team, using CNTs to replace polymer sizing improved the mechanical integrity of the carbon fiber fabric, as well as enhanced electrical and thermal conductivity of CFRPs. Moreover, the use of CNT enables CFRPs to integrate electronic gadgets (such as sensors, energy harvesting lighting, and communication antennae) in the structure, while still maintaining structural integrity. The research team is now working to scale their technology for production using roll-to-roll systems. Continue reading

A Discussion With Avantium’s CFO Regarding Its Acquisition of Liquid Light

Bio-based chemicals developer Avantium (client registration required) recently announced that it acquired the IP portfolio and equipment, and recruited two to three full-time research employees, of Liquid Light (client registration required), a company that had previously focused on the electrochemical conversion of CO2 to monoethylene glycol (MEG) and other chemicals. Avantium’s primary technology converts glucose and fructose to furan-2,5-dicarboxylic acid (FDCA). Avantium then combines FDCA with MEG to produce polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a polyester with improved barrier and mechanical properties over polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Given the significance of this announcement, we reached out to Avantium’s CFO Frank Roerink to learn more about the acquisition and its implications on Avantium. Continue reading

Protix Biosytems Enters Joint Venture With Process Engineering Giant Buhler, Signaling Hope for Scalable Insect Production

Through a joint venture, Buhler, the well-known Swiss food and feed process engineering company, and Protix Biosystems (client registration required), a start-up focused on insect production, have founded Buhler Insect Technology Solutions with the goal of developing scalable insect rearing and processing solutions for the food and feed markets. Within this joint venture, Protix Biosystems brings nearly a decade of insect-rearing expertise, while Buhler brings the expertise of building processing plants on a global scale. Continue reading