New Textile Technology Makes Leather Alternative From Discarded Pineapple Leaves

1. Sustainability problem: leather production

The textile industry produces a lot of leather. The production of leather is extremely resource-intensive (water, land, food, fuel) and produces large amounts of waste, including toxic chemicals used in tanning. Faux leather (e.g., made from PVC) is another prevalent material and is not a sustainable material either as its production and disposal release a lot of toxic materials into the environment.

Category: Waste

2. Technology Summary

Source: “63-Year-Old Designer Creates Faux Leather From Pineapple Leaves”, Greenmatters (

  • This article discusses a materials technology innovation called Piñatex, which is a material made from discarded pineapple leaves and serves as an alternative to leather and faux leather
  • As pineapple leaves are a crop by-product, creating the material is not resource intensive, requiring no additional water, land, fertilizer, or fuel to make the material
  • Sourcing pineapple leaves from pineapple farmers also provides these farmers with an additional revenue stream
  • The resulting material can be mass-produced and used for virtually everything that leather could be used for, including apparel, shoes, bags, car seats, and upholstery
  • This material is produced in a closed loop process, starting with sourcing the pineapple leaves directly from farmers, returning any waste products during production to pineapple farms to be used as fertilizer, and composting piñatex materials at the end of a product’s life

Tags: #textiles #materialsresearch #fashion #sustainability #closingtheloop #cradletocradle

3. Stakeholders

Piñatex is currently only distributed in a brand-to-brand (B2B) format. Therefore, the key stakeholders are companies that currently design products with leather or faux leather. Specifically, design teams would need to learn about the material and design with this material in mind.

End customers are another stakeholder as they could drive demand for this material, asking companies to include this material in their collections in the future.

4. Deployment Strategy

  1. Proactively send samples to key companies that design with leather and/or faux leather and have sustainability goals, e.g., Eileen Fisher (fashion), Veja (shoes), Matt and Nat (bags), Tesla (car seats), etc.
  2. Build relationships with fabric retailers in cities with large fashion industries (e.g., New York City, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, etc.)
  3. Explore partnering with pineapple farmers in other parts of the world to increase production and reduce the carbon footprint for customers in other parts of the world (other top pineapple producing nations are Costa Rica and Brazil)

5. Comment on Another Post

I commented on “Sensor-Packed Pedestrian Crossing”

The article also discusses how this sensor-based crossing is envisioned to be integrated into the road. A responsive, sensor-based surface made of steel would be integrated under the regular road surface. On the top of these two layers of the road would be the LED lights, covered in a high-impact plastic to prevent damage from vehicles and weather.



Optimization Medical Staff Location


Sustainability Problem: Cities have an difficult time allocating resources to specific locations during large events.  Inefficiencies and dangers occur when assistance is not provided in a specific location to meet the demand. Moreover, the arrival of resources can be delayed due to traffic, crowd sizes, and routing issues.

About Technology

  • Team at Northwestern developed an algorithm to optimize, in real time, staffing locations and demand for medical medical volunteers and aid workers at Chicago’s marathon.
  • The team created a mobile data visualization dashboard that provides real time analysis.  The mobile dashboard also allow staff to enter real time data.
  • The machine learning algorithm uses historical observations to predict and determine optimal location for medical tents.  In addition, the algorithm predicts likely number of individuals seeking medical attention at specific tents base on historical and real time data.
  • Dashboard provides optimal routing for medical.


  • City Chicago
  • Marathon organizers
  • Marathon participants
  • Medical staff
  • City Chicago Police
  • Marathon onlookers
  • Northwestern University – School Engineering / Medical School

Next steps:

  • Improve the training dataset of the algorithm / algorithm itself
  • Provide service to marathon organizers and/ or any large event organizers
  • Provide algorithm to Chicago Police Department for future events.






Affordable and Mobile ALPOD House #BT2443

1) Sustainability area(s).

Most of the Mega-Cities facing issue affordable and smart buildings due to growing urban citizens. Majority of cities designed for fewer people.

2) Sustainability Technology: Futuristic Aluminum AlPOD Houses by James Law

-A distinctive feature of the AlPOD project is its potential to be stacked into a uniquely designed multi-structures to accommodate ever increasing populations and lack of available land

-Explores modular construction based on creating a flexible and open-plan living space

-Affordable about 65000 USD

-The aluminum house has multi-faceted advantages of being lightweight, durable, corrosion resistant, and impervious to fire and wind as well as its ability to dampen noise and insulate against heat and sound.

– Lightweight also enhances mobility, allowing a home to be moved from one place to another comfortably and conveniently without dismantling or reconstructing facilities.

-Moreover, aluminum can be recycled, making it a green, earth-friendly building material.

Enid Tsui, “Cheap Hong Kong-designed ‘container homes’ the way of the future,” South China Morning Post, 03 February 2016

#Energy, #Water, #Waste, #Civic Engagement, #Land use, #affordablehousing

3) Key Stakeholders and their role in the implementation:

-City stakeholders- Include their plan
-Government agencies-Legislate and helping private sectors to participate
-Civic society- Connect and partnership with the stakeholders
-Citizens of the city-Live in the houses
-Financial Institutions-Finance

4) Steps Deploying Technology:

Public-Private People’s Partnership is the key to successful deployment of the project.
– Within the city, planing decide to finance aspects
– Build a community and infrastructure
– Within Public Private People’s Partnership leverage project within significant cities

Since one out of six people today in the world live in a migrant slum, this number will raise within few decades one out of three. I believe that this ALPOD housing could bring a progressive solution to this issue.

Other sources:

Farm Uses Seawater and Solar Power to Grow Crops

Sustainability Problem: Combating hunger

Typically technology has focussed on improving what we farm: genetically modified seeds, better adaptability to climate change, etc. This approach hopes to change how we do farming.

About the technology:

Every day, seawater is pumped 2 km (1.24 miles) from the Spencer Gulf to the 20-hectare farm.

The water is then run through a desalination system that produces up to 1 million liters of fresh water every day, which is then used to irrigate 18,000 tomato plants inside a greenhouse.

That desalination system is powered by solar energy. 23,000 mirrors focus sunlight onto a receiver tower 115 meters (377 feet) tall to produce up to 39 megawatts of energy per day.

There is no need for pesticides since the plants are grown in coconut husks and seawater sterilizes the air. Herbicides are also unnecessary as the employees weed the plants by hand


  • Farmers
  • Disributors
  • Suppliers


This is a pilot system for now. Scaling it is a concern.

If successful, this can be a useful model to farm in typically unfarmable regions of the world.






Demand Response through Alexa

1. Sustainability Problem: Residential energy consumption constitutes about 40% of total US energy consumption. Grids are programmed and operated based on the demand curves created by residential sector. If there can be a way to moderate the electricity demand depending on availability of load, at the user level, excellent energy savings can be achieved.

Category: Energy

2. Technology to address the problem: 

Image result for iot homes

  • Voice controlled smart speakers have become a common device in most households in the US, with companies like Amazon and Google expecting huge demands in the future.
  • These devices are currently being used for basic entertainment purposes like playing music or listening to updates. However, they are capable of controlling other smart / IoT gadgets like refrigerators. However they can be used to control electrical dimmers.
  • If the utilities can securely connect with the speakers and control variations in energy consumption, depending on grid variations, energy savings can be achieved at residential level.

3. Stakeholders involved: Home Users, Equipment Manufacturers, Utilities

4. Next Steps:

  • Utilities need to partner with manufacturers like Amazon and Google to embed the necessary communication software.
  • Home users need to be educated about the benefits and a program can be designed to incentivize them.
  • Systems at grid level need to be upgraded.

5.  Comment: on LED Street Lights (

LED Street lights are currently being implemented in many developing countries. Large stretches of roads are being illuminated with control system based LED systems.


Solar: Try windows if roof space is not enough

Sustainability Problem: Not enough roof space for large buildings to go solar

Large commercial estates consume a lot of energy. Roof space is never enough for such buildings to go energy neutral. Therefore, actively using buildings’ facades will generate the much needed renewable energy.

About the technology: Solar Windows

  • Solar-power-generating windows have solar cells installed in the edges at a specific angle that allows the incoming solar light to be efficiently transformed into electricity.
  • Such windows can generate 8 to 10 watts of power, which enables the user to charge a phone per every square meter two times a day.
  • The surface of Power Windows is coated with a special material that transforms incoming visible light into near-infrared light, which is then transported toward the solar cells in the edges of the windows. This works similarly to a glow-in-the-dark star, the difference is that the glow star emits the green wavelength, but the coating on such windows emits light in near-infrared wavelength.
  • The cost of the wiring that brings power from the grid to such windows is considerable in large commercial estates, and investing in power-generating windows would, therefore, make commercial sense.


Policy makers (Green Building Codes), Real Estate Contractors, Solar Panel Manufacturers and owners of large commercial and residential buildings.


  • Awareness -Several iconic buildings have gone live with solar windows, especially in Netherlands – experience, cost effectiveness and benefits for such buildings should be widely publicized for educational purpose
  • Solar panel manufacturers will have to collaborate with researchers to refine this technology for a mass production
  • Policy plays a significant role in any city dynamics – effort should begin to include solar windows in any new building codes including retrofit codes


Comment on other post:


Sustainable Problem: Energy Efficiency

By converting heat to focused beams of light, a new solar device could create cheap and continuous power.


  • A solar power device that could theoretically double the efficiency of conventional solar cells
  • The new design could lead to inexpensive solar power that keeps working after the sun sets
  • Availability:10 to 15 years
  • Standard silicon solar cells mainly capture the visual light from violet to red. That and other factors mean that they can never turn more than around 32 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity. The MIT device is still a crude prototype, operating at just 6.8 percent efficiency—but with various enhancements it could be roughly twice as efficient as conventional photovoltaics



  • David Bierman, Marin Soljacic, and Evelyn Wang, MIT
  • Vladimir Shalaev, Purdue University
  • Andrej Lenert, University of Michigan
  • Ivan Celanovic, MIT


  • Develop technology fully and attract investors
  • Make technology most efficient
  • Implement into society at different levels


Comments to Fully Circular Furniture by ETG2132:

Circularity is embedded into the design of each and every Pentatonic piece — product components aid in the construction of each piece, eliminating the need for complicated assembly processes and chemical-laden glues and resins, while also minimizing unnecessary waste. What’s more, post-consumer materials are matched to products based on their unique properties and application possibilities.

UNI: AV2698

Toilet Paper Bicycle Lanes


Problem: wastewater treatment plants consume a lot of energy to filter out toilet paper that has been flushed. In addition, the final incineration process ends up destroying valuable resources in wastewater sludge that can be repurposed, one of which is cellulose.

Solution: filtering out cellulose found in wastewater and reusing it as an aggregate for porous asphalt that can be used for infrastructure such as bicycle lanes.

  • In the Netherlands, roads are paved with a porous asphalt called open-graded asphalt friction course. Cellulose is a key ingredient that is added to hold the wet mix together during paving.
  • Cellulose is a key byproduct of the 180,000 tons of toilet paper found in wastewater annually in the Netherlands.
  • An industrial sieve filters out cellulose from wastewater before it is cleaned, sterilized, and dried. The result is a viable admixture for the porous asphalt.
  • In addition to asphalt for bicycle lanes, the repurposed cellulose could theoretically be recycled into paper, filters, building insulation, and textiles.


  • wastewater treatment plants
  • municipal water authorities

First 3 Steps:

  • identify wastewater treatment plants that are overburdened and are interested in reducing their solid waste
  • find industrial manufacturers willing to partner for a program to repurpose cellulose from wastewater into aggregate mixtures
  • continue to search for new ways to repurpose wastewater cellulose for industrial products


Response to Fully Circular Furniture:

This is a fantastic enterprise innovation, especially in a world where furniture is increasingly priced to be disposable and designed not to be recyclable. However, the article and the manufacturer do not delve into how the product packaging fits into the sustainability ethos. I would like to know if there was any thought put into it, as trash from furniture packaging is a substantial component of the product’s waste potential. I appreciate how the furniture was designed to optimize the recurring use of individual components. Design in the packaging to be minimal and zero-waste would be the next step.

Solar Bike Paths


Solar Cells Being Placed on the Ground


Sustainability Problem: The demand for renewable energy is on the rise as many cities start thinking green. The main issue with generating renewable energy in cities is the lack of space. Limited roof space means limited potential for solar panels and placing wind turbines can be a challenge in a city where there is limited open space. Another problem is congestion and high traffic, these cause high level of pollution and health risks rise.

Solution: The first step in solving this problem is bike paths. Major cities are beginning to adopt these, giving bikes there own dedicated paths. These have encouraged many people to ditch their cars for bikes and thus, minimizing emissions and health risks.

To take this technology a step further, solar cells can be placed on the ground, covered with a protective coat to act as solar bike paths. These have been tested in the Netherlands and far exceeded expectations. Not only do these act as bike paths, but they continuously generate electricity from sun rays as well as heat from friction as thousands of bikes pass through them. The technology solves two sustainable problems, emissions as well as renewable energy sourcing in cities. These can be connected directly to feed into the grid.

Solar Bike Paths in Action in the Netherlands

Stakeholders: Local government, citizens, electricity providers, transport construction companies and bike shops.


Next steps:
Pitch idea to local governments and electric providers as efficient renewable source with minimum service. Provide evidence of their success in the Netherlands and use that to support arguments. Advertise the technology by targeting the growing bike riding community to gain interest and pressure.


By: Ahmad Al Zubair (aa4098)

Resources used:



Comment on: “Reducing GHG Impact Through Smart Bins”

A lot of the problems city face with waste management is transporting these outside of the city. Many have shifted their focus into finding innovative ways to “organize” and minimize the waste before it is being shipped out. Cities have adopted these solar bins or the commonly found BigBelly that efficiently help recycle a lot of city waste. I am interested to know how you plan to sell this idea as a simple Google search tells me that they typically cost around $4000 per unit as opposed to the standard bins that cost a minimal percentage. Is it worth investing hundreds of thousands of these bins or in educational and cultural programs that would encourage consumers to put in a little more effort when it comes to waste management?