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Center creates new polymers from safe, renewable resources

July 25, 2013 7:23 pm | by Marlene Cimons, National Science Foundation, Center for Sustainable Polymers | News | Comments

Scientists are working to reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels by developing environmentally friendly and cost effective plastics from natural, sustainable and renewable materials, such as vegetable oils, starches, sugars—even recycled grass clippings. The Univ. of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Polymers has recruited more than 25 companies to help develop new materials and those already on the market, like polylactide.

Off-grid sterilization

July 23, 2013 7:40 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. nanotechnology researchers have unveiled a solar-powered sterilization system that could be a boon for more than 2.5 billion people who lack adequate sanitation. The “solar steam” sterilization system uses nanomaterials to convert as much as 80% of the energy in sunlight into germ-killing heat.

Iron replaces heavy metals, making hydrogenation greener

June 28, 2013 2:10 pm | News | Comments

Hydrogenation is a chemical process used in a wide range of industrial applications, from food products to petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. The process typically involves the use of heavy metals, such as palladium or platinum, which, though efficient, are expensive and can be toxic. However, researchers have discovered way to use iron as a catalyst for hydrogenation.

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Removing carbon from emissions

June 25, 2013 7:20 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Many researchers are seeking ways to “scrub” carbon dioxide from the emissions of fossil-fuel power plants as a way of curbing the gas that is considered most responsible for global climate change. Now, researchers have developed a scrubbing system that requires no steam connection, can operate at lower temperatures and would essentially be a “plug-and-play” solution that could be added relatively easily to any existing power plant.

A cheaper drive to cool fuels

June 21, 2013 10:22 am | News | Comments

Univ. of Delaware chemist Joel Rosenthal is driven to succeed in the renewable energy arena. Rosenthal and his team have developed an inexpensive catalyst that uses the electricity generated from solar energy to convert carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, into synthetic fuels for powering cars, homes and businesses.

A battery made of wood?

June 20, 2013 7:49 am | News | Comments

A sliver of wood coated with tin could make a tiny, long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly battery. But don’t try it at home yet—the components in the battery tested by scientists at the Univ. of Maryland are a thousand times thinner than a piece of paper. Using sodium instead of lithium makes the battery environmentally benign, but it doesn't store energy as efficiently, so you won’t see this battery in your cell phone.

Ultraresponsive magnetic nanoscavengers could usher next-generation water purification

May 15, 2013 3:43 pm | by Andrew Myers, Stanford University | News | Comments

Among its many talents, silver is an antibiotic. Titanium dioxide is known to glom on to certain heavy metals and pollutants. Other materials do the same for salt. In recent years, environmental engineers have sought to disinfect, depollute, and desalinate contaminated water using nanoscale particles of these active materials. Engineers call them nanoscavengers.

Experts propose research priorities for making concrete “greener”

April 8, 2013 4:20 am | News | Comments

The challenge of making concrete greener—reducing its sizable carbon footprint without compromising performance—is just like the world's most ubiquitous manufactured material—hard! But, according to a new report from NIST, the potential engineering performance, energy-efficiency, and environmental benefits make it a challenge worth tackling.

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Ash from refuse could become hydrogen gas

March 26, 2013 12:31 pm | News | Comments

Every year, millions of tons of environmentally harmful ash is produced worldwide, and is mostly dumped in landfill sites or, in some countries, used as construction material. The ash is what is left when rubbish has been burnt in thermal power stations. A researcher from Lund University in Sweden has now developed a technique to use the ash to produce useful hydrogen gas.

Atomic layer etch analysis accelerates green chemistries

March 26, 2013 8:28 am | News | Comments

Researchers sponsored by Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) have developed a modeling process designed to simulate atomic-level etching with chemicals that are effective alternatives to widely used perfluorocarbon (PFC) gases. The novel approach will identify and evaluate green plasma chemistries for processing emerging memory/logic devices and through-silicon-via (TSV)-enabled technologies for the semiconductor industry.

Carbon dioxide could help produce valuable chemical cheaply

March 21, 2013 5:09 pm | News | Comments

Chemical companies each year churn out billions of tons of acrylate, a valuable commodity chemical involved in the manufacture of everything from polyester cloth to disposable diapers. It is usually made by heating propylene, a compound derived from crude oil. Researchers at Brown and Yale universities have demonstrated a new “enabling technology” that could instead use excess carbon dioxide to produce acrylate.

Can seaweed be used as a building material?

March 8, 2013 10:22 am | News | Comments

For many coastal dwellers, seaweed washed up on the shore is nothing but a nuisance. But this raw material has proven itself capable of keeping buildings well insulated. Washed up on shore, it is generally regarded as a waste product and ends up as landfill. Together with industry partners, researchers in Germany have succeeded in turning it into insulation.

Fat worms inch scientists toward better biofuel production

February 26, 2013 9:31 am | News | Comments

Fat worms confirm that researchers from Michigan State University have successfully engineered a plant with oily leaves—a feat that could enhance biofuel production as well as lead to improved animal feeds. The results show that researchers could use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves—an uncommon occurrence for most plants.

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Rethinking wind power

February 25, 2013 11:32 am | News | Comments

The latest Harvard University research in mesoscale atmospheric modeling suggest that the generating capacity of large-scale wind farms has been overestimated. The research shows that the generating capacity of very large wind power installations (larger than 100 square kilometers) may peak at between 0.5 and 1 Watts per square meter. Previous estimates, which ignored the turbines' slowing effect on the wind, had put that figure at between 2 and 7 Watts per square meter.

New effort to create green electronics, workforce

January 15, 2013 10:18 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue University | News | Comments

The world's love affair with gadgets—many of which contain hazardous materials—is generating millions of tons of electronic waste annually. Now, Purdue and Tuskegee universities are leading an international effort to replace conventional electronics with more sustainable technologies and train a workforce of specialists to make the transition possible.

Paper waste used to make bricks

December 20, 2012 11:06 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain have mixed waste from the paper industry with ceramic material used in the construction industry. The result is a brick that has low thermal conductivity. Despite is good insulating properties, however, its mechanical resistance still requires improvement.

Sustainability push unites Sandia facilities and research

December 19, 2012 9:28 am | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories has launched a Sustainability Innovation Foundry that combines laboratories-wide resource conservation with efforts to turn research in fields related to sustainability into business opportunities. Sandia is on track to meet an ambitious goal of cutting energy intensity in buildings 30% by 2015, using a 2005 baseline, and it hopes that what it has learned as part of this effort will carry over into general industry practices.

Energy experts say drilling can be made cleaner

December 11, 2012 8:46 am | by Kevin Begos and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

In the Colorado mountains, a spike in air pollution has been linked to a boom in oil and gas drilling. About 800 miles away on the plains of north Texas, there's a drilling boom, too, but some air pollution levels have declined. Opponents of drilling point to Colorado and say it's dangerous. Companies point to Texas and say drilling is safe.

Biorefinery finds treasure in spent coffee grounds and stale bakery goods

August 20, 2012 10:18 am | News | Comments

In a report presented this week at the American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia, researchers based in Hong Kong, in cooperation with Starbucks restaurant chain, described their work on development and successful laboratory testing of a new biorefinery designed to change food waste into a key ingredient for making plastics, laundry detergents and scores of other everyday products.

X-rays pave way for low cost, large scale carbon capture

August 1, 2012 4:17 am | News | Comments

Current techniques for post-combustion carbon capture filter out carbon dioxide from a power plant’s flue gases as they travel up a chimney. These methods can prevent 80 to 90% of a power plant’s carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, but researchers in the U.K. are trying to improve on that, using their nation’s synchrotron to determine the mechanism for the use of calcium oxide-based material as carbon dioxide sorbents.

A green future for California high-speed rail?

July 27, 2012 7:30 am | by Sarah Yang | News | Comments

Researchers recently published a report that compared the future sustainability of California high-speed rail with that of competing modes of transportation, namely automobile and air travel. They determined that, in terms of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, a mature high-speed rail system wins out when using greener electricity. This was true even after accounting for the emergence of more fuel-efficient airplanes and automobiles.

Eating garbage: Bacteria for bioremediation

June 26, 2012 6:36 am | News | Comments

City officials in Medellín, Colombia, recently faced the difficult task of relocating an entire neighborhood off of a contaminated landfill they were using to grow food and collect water. Unable to pay for removal, officials may have found another way: Researchers at the University of Illinois have put together an experiment to see if biological agents could be used to neutralize the hydrocarbon contaminants at the site.

Study: Environmental benefit of biofuels is overestimated

June 10, 2012 12:20 pm | News | Comments

A recent study by two scientists reveals that calculations of greenhouse gas emissions from bioenergy production are neglecting crucial information about carbon dioxide and nitrogen emissions that has led to the overestimation of the benefits of biofuels compared to fossil fuels. They claim the life cycle analysis models of bioenergy production are flawed as a result.

IBM to help oil and gas companies monitor, reduce environmental impact

February 2, 2012 10:08 am | News | Comments

IBM has been selected for a global research project to develop the world's first integrated environmental monitoring system aimed at helping oil and gas companies minimize the environmental impact of their operations.

Nanoscale ion exchange particles show mega potential

January 30, 2012 11:07 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory have successfully shown that they can replace useful little particles of monosodium titanate (MST) with even tinier nano-sized particles, making them even more useful for a variety of applications.

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