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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.