Courtesy Rhino Machines

Arising from a commitment to achieve zero waste for their sand reclamation plant, the India-based manufacturing company Rhino Machines has developed a waste-reducing "silica plastic block," a brick composed of 80% foundry dust and sand waste and 20% mixed plastic waste. Developed in partnership with R+D labs, the research and development wing of the Gurgaon, India–based firm R+D Studio, the silica plastic blocks use plastic as a bonding agent, eliminating the curing process required by traditional bricks, and are 2.5 times stronger than red clay bricks. With potential applications ranging from walls, paving, and toilets to health clinic construction, Rhino Machines is working to develop a system for foundries across India to produce and distribute the eco-friendly blocks. [Core77, Rhino Machines]

Researchers from the Ohio State University have found that access to green spaces such as public parks, trails, and even trees lining a sidewalk, is strongly related to an individual's race and income. Examining census-block-group demographic, socioeconomic data, and satellite imagery from Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio, researchers found that "less wealthy, racial-minority suburban and exurban communities outside the cities" often have limited access to green spaces or public parks. On the other hand, more affluent, white communities, typically concentrated in suburbs near cities, often have a variety of green spaces to choose from. “Having close and convenient access to green spaces and vegetation within one’s neighborhood can bring many ecological and health benefits,” said Yujin Park, the study's lead author. “These green resources should be available to anyone, and to any community, and we wanted to see whether this availability was affected by socioeconomic status, income, ethnicity, or race.” [Ohio State University]

Courtesy Washington University in St. Louis

Engineers from the Washington University in St. Louis have developed a high-power direct borohydride fuel cell that operates at double the voltage of hydrogen-powered fuel cells, a discovery that could invigorate electric transportation. These liquid-powered fuel cells sidestep the need for the transportation and storage of hydrogen fuel, an advantage in the development of electric marine vehicles or electric airplanes. The researchers' "reactor-transport approach" allowed them to pursue a streamlined fuel cell design. "The reactant-transport engineering approach provides an elegant and facile way to significantly boost the performance of these fuel cells while still using existing components,” said lead researcher and WUSTL professor Vijay Ramani. “By following our guidelines, even current, commercially deployed liquid fuel cells can see gains in performance.” [WUSTL]

Courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design

The Harvard Graduate School of Design has curated an anti-racist reading list for members of the design community. The selection of five books begin tackling the question "how can design contribute to the fight against racism?" and include The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin (1963); The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein (Liveright, 2018); How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood, by Peter Moskowitz (Bold Type Books, 2017); Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, by Carolyn Finney (The University of North Carolina Press, 2014); and Killing Rage: Ending Racism, by Bell Hooks (Macmillan Publishers, 1996). These titles were culled from a larger, ever-growing list of more than 45 books that the GSD community first created in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. celebration of Black History Month. According to a quote in the GSD's post, the larger list and its five-book companion serve to “'showcase and initiate conversation about the work of Black designers throughout the world and to critically re-examine the legacy of racial discourses in modern and contemporary design thinking and practice.'” [GSD]

Courtesy the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., has released a study examining people quarantining indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic to determine how different levels of light exposure affected their sleep and mood. Researchers found "that daily indoor light exposure and time spent outside had a major impact on all survey outcomes, including sleep disturbances, sleep-related impairment, anxiety, stress, depression, and mood," according to a press release from the LRC. [ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING]

The International Energy Agency has published a recovery plan for global economies and energy infrastructure, detailing steps that governments can take in the next three years with a global investment of $3 trillion "to boost economic growth, create millions of new jobs, and put global greenhouse gas emissions into structural decline." Created with the International Monetary Fund, the "Special Report on Sustainable Recovery," published as part of the IEA's World Energy Outlook series, examines how world leaders can improve existing economic infrastructure following the economic crisis triggered in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting new policies that would aim to create millions of jobs while supercharging the world's dependence on green technologies. “Governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot their economies and bring a wave of new employment opportunities while accelerating the shift to a more resilient and cleaner energy future,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol in a press release. "The plan is not intended to tell governments what they must do. It seeks to show them what they can do.” [International Energy Agency]