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VH Essay

Dear Engineer

Did you ever wonder if bananas are actually radioactive? At von Holzhausen, we are lucky to have a brilliant innovation team who, along with working all hours in the lab to create materials that replace plastic and animal leather, can easily answer questions like this.

But who are these mysterious inventors, and what do they really think? We asked our community (you!) to send us your questions, which we passed along to a few of our scientists…   

Dayong, our D
irector of Innovation, PhD, brilliant mind, bio-polymer specialist and super nice guy.

Jessie, Material Scientist, low carbon advocate and eternal optimist.

Craig, Senior Polymer Chemist, disciplined scientist and lover of electronic music. 

What’s the most inspiring thing you’re working on right now? 

Jessie: I’m excited about a project involving recycling waste into fresh material. I’m particularly inspired by this because it reframes the idea of what we see as waste and the potential of recycling, both of which are crucial for creating the next generation of sustainable materials. 

Tell us about the materials you’re creating to replace leather? 

Dayong: Animal hide and petroleum-based vegan leathers are intrinsically unsustainable. They are energy intensive and cause pollution, so we are creating sustainable leather alternatives from plant-based inputs with significantly lower carbon footprints. 

What’s your day-to-day in the lab? 

Jessie: One of my favorite things about working in the lab is that it’s rarely the same routine. I’m the type of person who loves to work with my hands, so I’m always trying to find an excuse to run an experiment. 

You worked on our new material, Replant. What makes it so special? 

Craig: In the world of sustainable polymer science, we have a saying: “green birth and green death.” It means to start with sustainable inputs and end with full degradation. Replant is unique in that it uses plant matter that is trash to the agricultural industry, and repurposes it. This agricultural waste comes from plants, and is also coated with plants, so it will eventually degrade and return to the earth. 

Are you optimistic about the future? 

Dayong: We are very optimistic about the future! Governments, NGOs and more importantly, consumers are becoming aware of the unsustainable nature of the materials industry. The library of raw plant based materials is becoming larger and larger each day, giving us even bigger latitude for creating durable and sustainable alternatives to meet these demands. 

Einstein’s Energy-Mass Equivalence or Newton’s Second Law? 

Jessie: I’m a bit of a romantic so there’s something intrinsically beautiful about Einstein’s theory to me. Special relativity gets me thinking about how big and strange our universe can be and a healthy dose of that existentialism just makes me really really happy to be here! 

Are bananas actually radioactive? 

Craig: Some of the potassium in bananas is radioactive, yes. But the amount of radiation we’re exposed to on a daily basis just from existing on earth is 100 times more than you would get from eating a banana. So long as you’re not eating thousands of bananas a day, you have nothing to fear. 

Follow von Holzhausen on Threads for more insider chat from the lab.