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Picks of the week – COOL HUNTING®

Make an alternative to the lithium-ion battery from crab exoskeletons

Products powered by lithium-ion batteries (like electric vehicles) are in high demand, but sourcing and mining the element requires unsustainable amounts of water and energy. Moreover, it is a scarce resource and its acquisition can be dangerous. To find an alternative, engineers at the University of Maryland created a battery using crabs whose exoskeletons are rich in useful chemicals like chitin, a natural polymer used for tissue engineering, and biodegradable plastic. Using the shells of crabs and other crustaceans (of which there are six to eight million tons worldwide), engineers extracted chitosan (a derivative of chitin that works well with water) to create a semi-permeable membrane that keeps oppositely charged electrodes separated. This process bypasses some of the irregularities formed when using zinc-based batteries, allowing them to work much longer. Crab-based batteries also break down much faster (in just five months). Learn more about how these crustaceans could offer a sustainable alternative to lithium at Popular Mechanics.

Image courtesy of Hartsdayle/Pixabay

Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia restructures to fight climate change

For years, ethical clothing maker Patagonia has donated 1% of its profits to environmental initiatives. Today, the organization has restructured ahead of its 50th anniversary so that it can contribute around $100 million each year to the fight against climate change. The company was founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973. He and his family, who worked on this restructuring together for two years, placed ownership of the innovative brand in a trust and formed a non-profit organization named Holdfast. Collective. Learn more about this new model and what they hope to accomplish at Outside.

Image courtesy of Campbell Brewer

NASA successfully makes oxygen on Mars

In a remarkable development for space exploration, NASA’s MOXIE – aka Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – successfully converted Martian air (which is mostly carbon dioxide) into oxygen. For now, it generates enough gas to feed a small dog, but the hope is to provide enough for humans and help create rocket fuel. The machine is located in the Perseverance rover and is shaped like a toaster, breathing in the incredibly thin and stimulating air of Mars and separating its molecules into necessary parts. “We need to be able to live off the land,” says NASA scientist Jennifer Heldmann. “This is the first time we’ve been able to test and demonstrate the technology to do this.” It’s not the only experiment going on either; researchers are investigating making oxygen factories using plasma while others are considering using the planet’s ice deposits. The experiments are a promising leap forward in understanding deep space. Learn more about The Atlantic.

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/The Atlantic

How sheep help the movement of solar energy

Maintenance of solar farms requires regular cutting of grass and weeds so that they do not block sunlight from the panels. Lawn mowers cannot easily maneuver between the vast array of packed panels, which is where sheep come in. Unlike goats, which chew through the equipment, and cows, which are too large, sheep are at the ideal height to pass between the panels. As such, they are currently employed on tens of thousands of acres of solar fields in the United States. This has brought much-needed business to herders whose flocks have generated millions of dollars in annual income from cleaning up the country’s solar fields. Read more about the surprisingly crucial helpers at The Wall Street Journal.

Image courtesy of Jordan Vonderhaar/The Wall Street Journal

The “Hub of Huts” wellness area at Hotel Hubertus looks like an upside-down alpine village

Network of Architecture’s addition to the wellness-focused Hotel Hubertus, an Italian alpine haven with stunning panoramic views, is much like an upside-down village defying gravity. Referencing reflections in the water, nodding to classic Alpine architecture, and supported by leaning tree-like columns, the soothing complex is known as the Hub of Huts. On the upside, the refuge has two swimming pools with a changing room and showers. In the reverse section there is a third outdoor pool with two saunas and a fire pit. Learn more about the architectural marvel – and see several other stunning images – at Dezeen.

Image courtesy of Alex Filz

“Fast engineers” can create better AI art

Midjourney and DALL-E are machine learning tools that generate images from word prompts and as tools like this become “more sophisticated, these prompts have become a craft in their own right”. So much so that platforms have started popping up where these text descriptions can be sold by “quick engineers” who create them to “reliably produce a certain art style or subject on an AI platform. specific”. More than putting together a few clever words, these people work as writers, engineers, artists, and coders to convey “the intended aesthetic” as well as “important elements for a scene, and parentheses where buyers can add their own variables to adapt content.” For more, head over to The Verge, where Adi Robertson interviews PromptBase’s Justin Reckling.

Image courtesy of The Verge

Ethereum “merger” reduces energy consumption by 99.95%

As part of a years-long development, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum (ETH), merged with the Beacon Chain on September 15. This replaced the original proof-of-work mechanism on the mainnet with a proof-of-stake consensus layer that ultimately reduces power consumption by 99.95%. Rather than using miners (whose computers consume a lot of power to record transactions on the blockchain), the value of ETH now comes from the currency being staked in a smart contract. Over 41,000 people watched “Ethereum Mainnet Merge Viewing Party” live on YouTube, and the transition was seamless. This historic upgrade means that Ethereum is now a low-carbon blockchain. Learn more about the nuance of the transition – and how it affects Ethereum holders and the rest of the world – at Ars Technica.

Image courtesy of Paxful

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily in Link and on social media, and rounded up every Saturday morning. Hero image courtesy of Alex Filz