Ever Heard of Graphene ?

Graphene Transistors on Flexible Plastic

Graphene Transistors on Flexible Plastic

I had not heard of it either, until a NY Times article posted online April 13, 2014 – “Bend It, Charge It, Dunk It: Graphene, the Material of Tomorrow” – got my own attention. Interest in Graphene goes back at least a decade now. The author, Nick Bilton, says “Graphene is the strongest, thinnest material known to exist. A form of carbon, it can conduct electricity and heat better than anything else. And get ready for this: It is not only the hardest material in the world, but also one of the most pliable.”

Yemm & Hart also has the quality of flexibility in all of our recycled materials, when chosen at the right thickness and used in the proper applications. Flexibility can be a desirable quality. So, Origins at 1/8″ thk can be rolled and curved around forms. Tire Veneer, Flexisurf and Wine Cork in laminate form can also bend to match the shape of a form they are adhered to. The photo below shows a fixture for the Whole Foods Market (St Louis Galleria location) using Tire Veneer at the base for durability against shopping cart collisions and wine cork laminate to convey a message about the purpose of the fixture in the wine department of that store.

Whole Foods Market Cork Collection Fixture

Whole Foods Market
Cork Collection Fixture

While Graphene really is of no financial interest to Yemm & Hart Ltd; my environmentalist’s heart wants to know – is it safe for our environment, to be pursuing this development of the latest and greatest, that science can offer our planet ? It is challenging to show you what this one-atom thick “wonder” material looks like because one needs a powerful electron microscope to see it. The breakthrough is that by adding potassium hydroxide to graphene, these sponge-like porous sheets have increased surface area. Just a gram of the activated graphene, say the researchers, could stretch from a football field’s end zone to its 50-yard line. For a supercapacitor, this increased surface area allows the electrode material to hold more energy.

Graphene viewed through Electron Microscope

Graphene viewed through Electron Microscope

And the ability to store more energy is just what supercapacitors need. While they are great for quick energy fixes and frequent re-charges, they hold just a fraction of the energy batteries can. Batteries release their charge slow and steady over the long haul. But a supercapacitor able to store as much as a battery, take in and release its charge swiftly, and endure being re-charged thousands of times over ? This would be very useful. Electric vehicles could benefit, as well as grids needing to regulate varying power influxes from solar and wind farms. My environmentalist heart becomes interested and attentive.

UofTX Engineers with 3-D Graphene model

UofTX Engineers with 3-D Graphene model

Chinese scientists have created a graphene aerogel, an ultralight material derived from a gel, that is one-seventh the weight of air and one cubic inch of this could be balanced on a single blade of grass. Graphene is said by the American Chemical Society to be 200 times stronger than steel. Potential applications include electronic clothing and computers that can interface with the cells in your body. It is extremely rare to find transparency, conductivity and flexibility in one material. So, this could be big.

Think thinner, faster and cheaper electronics than is currently possible with silicon. Think batteries that can actually be submerged in water without oxidizing. Imagine a cell phone that can stay charged for a week and recharged in just 15 mins. Imagine your cell phone as thin as a piece of paper, that can be folded up and put into your pocket. Graphene can be stretched 20% without losing it’s ability to conduct electrcity. What about a graphene-based condom that is thin, light and impenetrable ? – that has the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Think whole airplanes made out of graphene.

Still, I am concerned about the potential consequences of human-made nano-particles entering the various tiny and unintended crevasses of the environment and human body. I am aware of the concerns and issues related to polyethylene micro-beads in many cosmetics and their impact on waters such as the Great Lakes in the United States. If you are interested in learning more, you can easily google – “microbeads” – and find an abundance of information.

Polyethylene Microbeads

Polyethylene Microbeads

There is no doubt that the nano world is going to have huge impacts on the macro world we move about in. Graphene is a promising material for many things, from timely delivery of medicine to oil extraction. The ultra-thin, heat-transferring material has interested many as a possible substitute for silicon within electronics, as I have just discussed above. And honestly, the disposal issues related to our growing dependence on electronics are huge. So, we ask – if graphene eventually displaces silicon within our gadgets, how eco-friendly will this substance be ?

The production of Graphene raises concerns, as one researcher at Rice University has expressed – “… using potassium chlorate or sodium nitrates … release toxic gases – one of which, chlorine dioxide, is explosive. Manufacturers are always reluctant to go to a large scale with any process that generates explosive intermediates. Many companies have started to make graphene and graphene oxide, and I think they’re going to be very hard pressed to come up with a cheaper procedure that’s this efficient and as safe and environmentally friendly”. Realistically we know that cost and profit are drivers in commercial environments.

The disposal of Graphene is more encouraging – “… research finds the almost ubiquitous Shewanella bacteria capable of breaking down GO into graphene. Stacks of graphene, which are single-atom carbon layers, become graphite, which is considered ecologically benign. According to the researchers, the bacteria from the Shewanella family can also convert iron, chromium, uranium and arsenic compounds into less harmful substances and will be important to future bio-remediation efforts.”

In the old movie, The Graduate, the “word” was said to be plastics. Today, it would appear, that the hottest new word may be “Graphene”. Stay tuned; and watch the future unfold, right before your eyes !!!

Information Resources –

“Wine Cork Tile Slideshow” at YemmHart.com – http://yemmhart.com/materials/winecorktile/slideshow_wct/wct_slideshow.html

“Bend It, Charge It, Dunk It: Graphene, the Material of Tomorrow” by Nick Bilton posted April 13, 2014 in the NY Times Online – http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/13/bend-it-charge-it-dunk-it-graphene-the-material-of-tomorrow/

“Graphene supes up supercapacitors” by Melissa Mahony posted 05/12/2011 on SmartPlanet.com

“Beat The Micro Bead” campaign at 5Gyres.org – http://5gyres.org/how_to_get_involved/campaigns/

“Graphene goes green” by Melissa Mahony posted 07/26/2010 on SmartPlanet.com – http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/graphene-goes-green/


Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer


Eco-Friendly Easter Tips

Happy Easter !!!

Happy Easter !!!

Two different friends who don’t know each other and live miles apart, described coloring Easter Eggs with food items – one method is to peel and dye the hard boiled egg itself (not sure if my yoga teacher used that same method or not). Foods used include red cabbage, beets, yellow onions, red onions and blueberries. I’ll admit to using a commercial dye kit but organic, DHA eggs – we do both white and brown as the differences yield color differences in the finished results. My boys also use food coloring directly like paint to do more interesting and intricate designs.

More Eco-Friendly Egg ideas (including Vegan) can be found at this website link – “20 Eco-Friendly Easter Egg Ideas“.

Kid's Love To Be Creative

Kid’s Love To Be Creative

We don’t do “plastic” Easter grass in our baskets. Sometimes, often around Christmas, gifts arrive with the prettiest, brightly colored crinkled paper strips for packing. I’ve saved this. We use wicker baskets, these have lasted over a decade now – so, while they may be initially more expensive, they are well worth the investment. I put the green paper grass in the more natural colored basket and the brighter “grasses” (yes, even bright blue, red, orange and yellow !!) in the painted baskets.

We have an Easter Egg Hunt every year and just use the cartons we store them in and don’t leave them out of doors very long. With the 2 dozen eggs, while they last, we have simple hard boiled egg, egg salad, egg sandwich, and tonight for Easter dinner – we’ll have a few deviled eggs. They won’t last long and a great way to jump-start renewed dieting attempts with summer approaching.

Mt Rainier at Sunrise

Mt Rainier at Sunrise

How about connecting with nature, for Easter, even if you aren’t religious ? Earth Day (April 22nd) is just a couple of days away, after all. One possibility is attending a non-denominational Sunrise Service at some inspiring location. One of the more unique ones I heard about this year is Crystal Mountain Resort (located in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington state). Crystal Mountain and the U.S. Forest Service are partners in recreation there. They had an Easter Summit Sunrise Service today, to watch the sun rise over the snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range. The Mt. Rainier Gondola left at 5:30am to take participants to the event. I just can’t imagine snow at Easter – as it is 86 degrees F here in Missouri today, gloriously beautiful with lush green grass in the fields; and Redbud and Dogwood trees showing blooms. The resort even has a Skiing Easter Bunny (with pockets full of candy) and an Easter Egg Hunt at their Alpine Inn, just after noon for children 10 and under.

Chick emerging from Egg

Chick emerging from Egg

If you have the space, you might consider raising some baby chicks. But don’t get your little loved one a baby bunny. Most end up – at best – abandoned at a shelter after Easter. We have a bunny that lives in a large (5′ long x 2′ wide x 2′ h) cage in our kitchen. Bunnies are a challenging pet and must be managed. Ours is a Dutch “Havana” Chocolate Brown that we got at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia one year. Fortunately, my husband and business partner had previous experience with raising bunnies. Our bunny has to be inside due to both climate and predators, here in the “wilds” of Missouri where we are located.

EarthDay.org  2014 Green Cities

2014 Green Cities

So, here’s wishing you the most inspiring and environmentally friendly holiday weekend and don’t forget to do something, symbolically or actually, good for the earth next Tuesday. Learn about EarthDay 2014 Green Cities initiative. We are celebrating !!!, that Spring seems to have finally arrived, after the 10th most severe winter on record, here in our neck of the woods.

Information Resources –

20 Eco-Friendly Easter Egg Ideas – posted April 2, 2014 at EcoWatch.com – http://ecowatch.com/2014/04/02/20-eco-friendly-easter-egg-ideas/

Green Cities, EarthDay.org 2014 initiative – http://www.earthday.org/greencities/about/


Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer


So What’s New About Cardboard ?

Cat Box

Cat Box

The least expensive most creative toy for children ever created. A domestic cat’s destination for discovery and exploration. In our household, a burrow for the kitchen bunny in his large enclosure. Cardboard is infinitely useful and recyclable. Our business thinks so much of cardboard that we created a unique, natural brown cardboard binder for our company’s material specifications literature.

carDboard by Thierry Dumain 2013 Michelin Challenge Design

carDboard by Thierry Dumain
2013 Michelin Challenge Design

Having fun with the 2013 Michelin Challenge Design, utilizing cardboard, was Thierry Dumaine of France and the “carDboard”. Dumaine practices design and graphics as a hobby and teaches art to children for his livelihood. He describes his creation as – “a minimalist car – no door, no built-in dashboard, no hard roof, only one color, cheap materials for a minimalist price and weight. Full hybrid car with gasoline, compressed air and electrical energy – wheels can recover energy from the wind.” It’s features include – recycled cardboard for the body, recycled plastic for the chassis, no hard roof and no door for you to be close to the environment, no built-in dashboard, but you use your iPad to manage car-D-board, narrow airless tires, bubble rim (air is trapped in lot of bubbles), an engine limited to 400 cm3 accepts gas and air, maximum speed of 120 kms/h and weighing less than 300 kg.

It has a lot going for it. You may be interested in its energy perspective – it counts on wind as an important energy source and Dumaine is hoping by his design to encourage future gas stations built around wind turbines. He notes that the same engine can also use gasoline in case you haven’t enough compressed air or your battery is low and it has an independent propeller inside each wheel to create an additional source of electrical generation.

Michelin North America, Inc. (“Michelin”) created the annual Michelin Challenge Design™ to celebrate, promote, publicize and give visibility to original creative thinking and innovation in vehicle design. Michelin hopes by embracing and supporting design, they can establish a closer relationship with the design community, combining technical innovation with transportation design to create vehicles that consumers want to buy and will enjoy driving.

Cardboard Sculpture by Chris Gilmour

Cardboard Sculpture
by Chris Gilmour

Regarding the artworks of Chris Gilmour, he says in an interview shared on his website – “There has been a progression in the choice of objects portrayed, which go from smaller domestic items (like the moka or the typewriter) to objects which are larger and belong to a broader cultural context (the Fiat 500, the Lambretta). However, the reason for the choice of objects has always been pretty much the same- they call up memories and emotions connected to our experience of these (everyday) things. Since this is both a visual and conceptual work I choose objects for their visual appeal and cultural resonance, but I also usually choose objects which imply an action or interaction of some sort. The interaction of the viewer with the works seems to function as a kind of short circuit between an implied action and the impossibility of performing it: you want to open the car door, or turn the wheel on the bike, but of course you can’t. I think this immediacy is important to enter the work, to grab the viewer.”

In describing his use of cardboard, Gilmour says – “Earlier works were made with very clean cardboard because I was aiming at a hyper-realistic effect which showed the material ‘at its best’, or rather seemed to do something impossible with it, making a perfect representation- indeed, many people assumed that the works were real objects that had been painted or covered in paper. The works I am producing now are made from cardboard boxes which are still found on the street, but which show all the printing, tape, labels etc . . . I like the idea of concentrating on the material in its ‘natural state’ and playing with the idea of these beautiful objects represented with a material from the waste basket. I guess it’s about trying to be as honest as possible with the material- I don’t want it to get too clean, so you can’t see what it really is. I think it gives another dimension to the work to use scrap cardboard packaging which has been thrown away after the coveted objects it contained have been removed.”

Working Cardboard Radio by Suck UK

Working Cardboard Radio
by Suck UK

The Cardboard Radio is indeed as new as can be. Not only does it play FM radio channels, it also has an MP3 input so that you can play tunes from your iPod while on the go. The radio is made out of recycled cardboard and is powered by 4 AA batteries. If you’d rather use it at home, you can connect it with a DC adapter. Made by product design company Suck UK, the Cardboard Radio is not surprisingly, extremely lightweight at just 0.92 lbs. At 225-by-14-by-52mm, this little radio resembles the look of a hardcover book. It is said that you can simply recycle it after removing the electronic parts from the inside which are housed in a “simple card structure.”

What else can YOU do with Cardboard ? The Huffington Post Green lists 10 Unique Uses For Cardboard – Floor Protection For Events, a Knife Sheath (I actually did this with a big knife we took along on a canoe float trip for our Watermelon), as a layering material for your compost pile to balance out the composition or contain it, for separating your recyclables, for raised bed gardens or to grow potatoes in straw, as plant guards – tape a cardboard tube around vulnerable young plants, filing and organizing all that stuff you’re not ready to let go of, use it for weed control by putting a few layers down over your problematic areas, start your seedlings in your old egg cartons made of cardboard, or start your fire with it (just make sure it hasn’t been painted or waxed !!).

Because we love and appreciate trees, we definitely want materials made from the fibers of trees to have the longest possible life. We hope you have enjoyed this surprising look at a material that you may have hardly noticed, though often present in your environment. We hope that you ALWAYS reuse or recycle ALL of your cardboard.

Please Recycle or Reuse ALL of your cardboard.

Please Recycle or Reuse
ALL of your cardboard.

Information resources –

2013, carDboard by Thierry Dumaine, France – http://www.michelinchallengedesign.com/the-challenge-archives/2013-half-lightweight-with-passion/2013-showcase/cardboard-by-thierry-dumaine/

Chris Gilmour, artistry in cardboard – http://www.chrisgilmour.com/

“Cardboard Radio can be recycled when you’re done with it” – http://www.geek.com/geek-cetera/cardboard-radio-mp3-speaker-can-be-recycled-when-youre-done-with-it-1424531/

“10 Unique Uses For Cardboard” – by Networx’s Katie Marks posted 10/15/13 at HuffingtonPost Green – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/uses-for-cardboard_n_4098863.html?utm_hp_ref=green-living


Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer


Better Plastics & Other Options

Pacific Ocean Plastic Island

Pacific Ocean Plastic Island

A lot of people hate plastics, especially environmentalists. We don’t hate plastics and we are environmentalists. That’s because we take recycled #2, #4 and #5 plastics and recycle them into panels used for construction applications like countertops and restroom partitions as well as some consumer products such as furniture, lamps, cutting boards and clipboards. However, realistically, plastics are winning and that isn’t an entirely good thing and that is where the hate, on the extreme, and the dislike on the more average end of the spectrum comes from. There were a lot fewer plastics in my life as a child growing up in the 60s. And the pioneers that settled our part of Missouri, depended upon glass and metal, and because they had no recycling options but the reuse or melting down they may have done for their own requirements, we continue to find their debris here and there in our forests – for they thought nothing of haphazardly burying their wastes.

Facing realities about plastics – they require fossil fuel production in their manufacture, they mostly are not biodegradable, though some resins can be recycled – some can’t – and the mass of humanity doesn’t (it is estimated that only 1/4 of 1% of the 7 billion lbs of PVC plastic alone is recycled each year in the US – our Flexisurf material DOES recycle some of this waste). That is just one; and it seems that PVC is one of the world’s more common and most toxic plastics.

So, for today’s blog, I went exploring around and found some interesting information about plastic alternatives and research into making more “environmentally friendly” plastics. Some of the alternatives my own family employs because we know that even our own recycling and re-composition-ing of plastics is minor, compared to the total amount of plastic waste that is out there. The best advice for living a sustainable lifestyle is still – reduce, re-use and recycle.

Plastics: Environmental Preference Spectrum  ~ developed by Tom Lent

Plastics: Environmental Preference Spectrum
~ developed by Tom Lent


[1] PDCs (prodegradant concentrates). Adding compounds that may promote oxidation processes to break down plastic into fragments that microorganisms happily gobble up, sounds like a good thing and it reportedly is. So what’s not to like ? They are useful in single-use plastic applications and reportedly result in no harmful residues once the process is completed. However, it is not easy to identify which plastics have these additives and which do not. The consequences for the recycler in today’s processes can be catastrophic, causing a failure in contaminated resins, reducing their lifespan. An example would be irrigation pumps fabricated from recycled polyethylene, when contaminated by PDCs.

[2] Milk Protein. Casein-based plastic is actually an OLD idea, around since a French chemist treated casein with formaldehyde in the 1880s to make a substitute for ivory and tortoiseshell. However, this proved too brittle for applications beyond jewelry. Modern scientists have learned that adding silicate clay that has been frozen into a spongelike material creates a polystyrene-like material that degrades completely at the landfill and is made even less toxic by substituting a glycerine based chemical for formaldehyde.

[3] Chicken Feathers. The disposal of chicken feathers is a BIG waste problem (more than 3 billion lbs per year in the US alone). Chicken feathers are predominantly keratin, which is tough and durable (think hooves and horns). When chicken feathers are processed with a liquid found in nail polish, a plastic is created that is stronger and more resistant to tearing than plastics created from soy or starch. Chicken feathers are definitely a constantly renewing resource. It is also believed that chicken feather plastics will prove biodegradable.

[4] Liquid Wood. A biopolymer that looks, feels and performs much like plastic but is biodegradable. The resource for this plastic is pulp-based lignins, considered a renewable resource. These lignins are a byproduct of paper mills. When mixed with water and exposed to high heat and pressure, they create a modable composite material that is strong and non-toxic. It is believed that this plastic could be recycled with other wood products.

[5] Polycaprolactone (PCL). Synthetic polyesters, while not sourced from renewable resources, are finding a welcome role in biomedical devices and sutures because of their slow but certain degradation. Adding cornstarch to the manufacture of this material reduces it’s cost and it may have future applications in food-contact products.

[6] Molasses (PHA Polyesters). Feed sugar to certain types of bacteria and you are producing plastics. These biodegradable plastics closely resemble man-made polypropylenes. They are currently finding applications in packaging, films and injection-molded bottles. Though a high cost of production has slowed the development of these, corn-steeped liquor, molasses and “activated” sludge may one day supply the sugar that these bacteria require to product plastics that are compostable utilizing the same anaerobic workhorse of many biological treatment facilities.

[7] Corn (PLA Polyesters). These plastics are made from lactic acid, produced by fermenting the starches created during the wet milling of corn. Other similarly processed plants are wheat and sugarcane. PLA has enough rigidity to replace polystyrene and PET with the benefit that it decomposes and does not emit toxic fumes when burned. The manufacture of this plastic uses up to 50% less fossil fuels. Blending in starch reduces the cost and increases the biodegradability further. Applications include bottles, bags and film. If scientists can make it stronger and more heat-resistant there may be additional applications in the automotive industry.

Alternatives to Plastic

[1] Glass. We love glass. For Christmas, our family replaced plastic straws with glass straws. We love the fact that glass doesn’t leach into our food products. Glass is easily recycled and made from sand. It is a renewable resource in every way. But it isn’t easy for us to recycle glass (we have to haul it 50 miles away); and it is bulky and very heavy and can break. Glass can be dangerous and cause bleeding. Stepping on broken glass in waterways is NOT fun and is often banned by officials protecting such recreational resources.

[2] Stainless Steel. It has been around for a long time. We depend upon it for utensils, kitchen sinks, medical uses, teeth, food storage and water bottles. Though corrosion-resistant, the grade matters, including regarding the leaching of metals. It is a mixture of a variety of elements, not always but sometimes used – iron, chromium, carbon, nickle, molybdenum and titanium. Stainless steel is non-magnetic. Keep in mind that stainless steel is one of the most environmentally efficient raw materials available, as well as being recyclable.

[3] Reusable Shopping Bags. We employ cloth and insulated bags on our grocery shopping trips. We also recycle any of the thin plastic bags we do bring home from various retail establishments. Many stores have collection facilities for these. Nothing is uglier than a plastic bag let loose into the environment by its holder. Enough said !!

[4] Choose cardboard and glass for packaging. Look for products that fulfill your needs that do not use plastic in their packaging. This makes the waste materials more eco-friendly by being easier to find recycling options for that waste.

[5] Be a thoughtful consumer. Buy products with careful consideration to their composition and packaging. Online, you can visit “Life Without Plastic“, a website that promotes alternative choices for a wide diversity of products. Alternatives include glass, wood, stainless steel, bamboo, hemp, cotton, wool, khadi, cellulose and recycled paper.

[6] Re-use or recycle. EVERYTHING YOU CAN. Respect and appreciate every resource the planet and the people who inhabit it provide for all of us. Don’t simply be a mindless consumer – give back and respect.

Of course, we wouldn’t wish to dissuade anyone from recycling their plastics – our business depends upon that. However, there is such an abundance of plastics in our modern lives that we can confidently suggest that you broaden your perspectives about plastics beyond simply hating them and consider developments and alternatives as part of your eco-friendly lifestyle mix.

~ Information Resources

“Top 10 Eco-friendly Substitutes for Plastic” by Maria Trimarchi and Vicki M Giuggio posted at How Stuff Works.com – http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/sustainable/5-plastic-substitutes.htm

“What are some alternatives to traditional plastics ?” posted at Curiosity.com hosted by Discovery – http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/some-alternatives-to-traditional-plastics

“Life without Plastic” – A one-stop shop for safe, high quality, ethically-sourced, Earth-friendly alternatives to plastic products for everyday life – http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/our_products#.U0GE7rdOXL8

There are many reasonable articles at “ReUseIt.com” – this one caught our attention – “Plastic Island – Nasty, Gargantuan & Growing” posted back in August 2008 – http://reusablebags.typepad.com/newsroom/2008/08/plastic-island.html.


Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer