The use of renewable resources (biomass) as an alternate source for fuel and the production of valuable chemicals is becoming a topic of great interest and a driving force behind research into biorefinery concepts. In the early parts of the 20th century, most nonfuel industrial products such as medicines, paints, chemicals, dyes, and fibers were made from vegetables, plant and crops. During the 1970s, petroleum based organic chemicals had largely replaced those derived from plant materials, capturing more than 95% of the markets previously held by products from biological sources. By then, petroleum accounted for more than 70% of our fuel. However, recent developments in biobased materials research show prospects that many petrochemical derived products can be replaced with industrial materials processed from renewable resources. Researchers continue to make progress in research and development of new technologies that bring down the cost of processing plant matter into value-added products. Rising environmental concerns are also suggesting the use of agriculture and forestry resources as alternative feedstock. Being able to develop soft nanomaterials and fuel from biomass will have a direct impact on industrial applications and economically viable alternatives. Researchers already have used plant-derived resources to make a variety of soft nanomaterials, which are useful for a wide range of applications.
The ability to generate functional nanoswitches might ultimately allow the integration of nano-components into electronic components. Single molecule switches using scanning tunneling microscope (STM) manipulation have been demonstrated before. Mostly these switches are based on single atoms or small molecules and operate between two distinct states. Researchers now realized the first multi-step switching process by STM manipulation on a single molecule. Instead of small organic molecules they used a large plant molecule which is environmentally friendly and abundant in nature.
Conventionally, the fabrication of thin film nanostructures is primarily done by using selective etching or templating growth on a prepatterned resist and then performing lift-off. The solvents used in developing resist are typically toxic and add to the cost of lithographic processing. Recently, many environmentally friendly lithographic processes have been designed using either a water-based solution or supercritical carbon dioxide to develop the resist. A novel pure water developable spin-coatable lanthanum strontium manganese oxide (LSMO) resist has been developed by scientists in Taiwan. The use of pure water instead of organic or alkaline solvents would undoubtedly be not only environmentally desirable but also could greatly simplify the imaging process.
Encapsulating metal nanoparticles inside carbon shells is of considerable significance but fraught with high manufacturing cost due to high energy consumption and intensive use of hardware. This cost issue limits their practical applications. Researchers in China have developed a novel, simple, efficient, and economical synthesis technique for the fabrication of carbon-encapsulated nanostructures where the carbonization is conducted at a relatively low temperature of 160C in water and no toxic reagents are added. This new technique is facile and versatile, and suitable for the coating of other transition metal with carbon.