Tech vs. Trees: Scientists boost cellulose fiber to stronger than steel, Mexican newspaper uses towel dispenser for news feed, reading on your tablet could make you hungry

LOS ANGELES , June 6, 2014 () – A roundup of recent trends pitting technology against the printed word:

Trees: Scientists develop method that makes cellulose fibers stronger than steel 

Cellulose fibers may be associated with paper, but scientists have developed a method to make them stronger than both aluminum and steel, while keeping their biodegradability, according to a June 2 press release from German research center DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron). The method involves spinning ultra-strong cellulose fibers extracted from fresh wood at DESY’s PETRA III—described on its website as “the most powerful light source of its kind.” One of the end-uses for such a material is wind turbine blades made of bio-based materials but that require extreme stiffness. In principle, recycled paper should also be able to provide nano fibrils to produce the material, but that possibility has to be investigated further, according to a researcher on the project.

Trees: Mexican newspaper aims to reach audiences with towel dispenser news feed

While many newspapers turn to social media and the like for drawing new audiences, a Mexican paper is aiming to reach potential readers via the bathrooms of office buildings, malls and cinemas, PSFK reported May 27. Free newspaper Mas Por Mas has teamed up with ad agency FCB Mexico on a paper towel dispenser that acts like an old-fashioned news feed. When patrons reach for a paper towel, the Wifi-connected printer inside the dispenser will print out breaking news and promotional content on the paper towel itself, with a special ink that doesn’t stain hands. The promotion seems to be working as unique visitors to the newspaper’s website has grown by 37% in the first two weeks.

Trees: Study shows mobile device usage at night leads to increased hunger

It may not be the picture of food on your tablet that’s making you hungry, but the blue light emitted from the screen, according to a Northwestern University study, The Daily Mail reported June 3. Emitted from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, blue-enriched light exposure before and during dinner could increase hunger and alter metabolism. To stave off the temptation to reach for another slice of cake or make a fast-food run, perhaps reading a print book or magazine would do the trick right before bed.

Tech: US ambassador becomes first to take oath on Kindle

What public officials place their hands on to take their oath of office could indicate yet another shift to tech from trees, as U.S. ambassador Suzi LeVine became the first ambassador to be sworn in on an electronic device—namely a Kindle, The Washington Post reported June 2. Earlier this year, other officials around the country took their oaths in a similar fashion, such as New Jersey firefighters and New York’s Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. In both instances, the officials swore in on an iPad when a print version of the Bible could not be found.

Trees: Designer creates durable shelves made of laminated paper

Speaking of strong paper (see first item in Tech v. Trees), a student designer has built a bookshelf using nothing but laminated paper that could hold up to 10 pounds without collapsing, Fast Company reported June 5. Designer Willy Chong calls the shelf “Paper,” which is designed without structural help from materials, such as wood, metal or plastic. Five layers of paper are laminated for the side panel and shelves to provide stability, while the shelves are secured to the unit with tabs and side loops, Detail Daily reported June 5. And the bookcase itself is easy to build and deconstruct, Fast Company reported. 

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