writes "Thomas Thwaites is attempting to build a toaster from raw materials, meaning ore. His page describes the materials he will need, attempts to smelt iron ore, and some comments on the significance of the huge industrial complex that gives us things like toasters. It's an ongoing project, so stay tuned! From his page: "After some research I have determined that I will need the following materials to make a toaster. Copper, to make the pins of the electric plug, the cord, and internal wires. Iron to make the steel grilling apparatus, and the spring to pop up the toast. Nickel to make the heating element. Mica (a mineral a bit like slate) around which the heating element is wound, and of course plastic for the plug and cord insulation, and for the all important sleek looking casing. The first four of these materials are dug out of the ground, and plastic is derived from oil, which is generally sucked up through a hole.
Part of the project consists of finding the places where it's possible to dig up these raw materials. Mining no longer happens in the UK, but the country is dotted with abandoned mines, some having been worked since before the 'UK' existed, but all currently uneconomical.
Finding ways to process the raw materials on a domestic scale is also an issue. For example, my first attempt to extract metal involved a chimney pot, some hair-dryers, a leaf blower, and a methodology from the 15th century — this is about the level of technology we can manage when we're acting alone. I failed to get pure enough iron in this way, though if I'd tried a few more times and refined my technique and knowledge of the process I probably would've managed in the end. Instead I found a 2001 patent about industrial smelting of Iron ores using microwave energy. ""
writes "Wired discusses the dirty topic of handling our waste in an environmentally friendly manner. I had the benefit of seeing one of these systems in action at a rest stop in Vermont. I paid a visit to the rest room and then walked into the greenhouse to see where "things" get processed.
From the article: Everybody likes trees, but (aesthetics aside) sending poop from the bathroom to the lobby may seem sort of icky. In environmental terms, though, it's a solid choice. Just as photovoltaics can help take a building off the power grid, living machines take strain off the pipes and municipal wastewater facilities on the "sewage grid." They also show that being green means thinking more creatively about our brown and yellow."