The History Channel has just announced 25 finalists in The Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge, en route to eventually selecting the Invention of 2006. One of the finalists is the Strawjet — a decade long project by David Ward, with the Ashland School of Environmental Technology (ASET). Basically straw is harvested in the field, and aligned in roughly parallel lanes so it can be fed into a machine which makes a straw cable, bound with polyester twine. Another machine, the Strawcore Binder, then "assembles 4 cables in a square pattern with a papercrete binder and wraps them together with yarn. A final coating of papercrete completes the process. The form of papercrete used in this process is made from recycled paper, clay bearing soil, and a small amount of Portland cement." These can be further bundled into continuous beams, that are able to be cut at any length.
Strawbale construction has taken the owner-builder market by storm in the past 10 years. If the Strawjet is commercialised, it could prove equally fortuitious, as the processing can pretty much occur onsite, at the farm. For as ASET put it, "converting straw to a building material would save resources, provide the farmer with another source of income, and for every ton of straw preserved in this fashion approximately 894 lbs. of carbon would be sequestered for the lifetime of the building." Other fibres such as Jerusalem Artichoke, teasel and bamboo as also being investigated. (Another invention in the running for the History Channel challenge is the 'solar-powered bus stop light', which allows a waiting passenger to signal an approaching bus to stop.) Via ::Biz. Yahoo.Com