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Unique semiconductor-catalyst generates hydrogen fuel from sunlight

August 29, 2013 3:54 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Berkeley Lab | News | Comments

Bionic leaves that could produce fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, with no byproducts other than oxygen, represent an ideal alternative to fossil fuels but also pose numerous scientific challenges. In a major advance, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a method by which molecular hydrogen-producing catalysts can be interfaced with a semiconductor that absorbs visible light.

Wildfires projected to worsen with climate change

August 29, 2013 11:55 am | News | Comments

Research by Harvard Univ. environmental scientists brings bad news to the western U.S., where firefighters are currently battling dozens of fires in at least 11 states. A new model predicts wildfire seasons by 2050 will be three weeks longer, up to twice as smoky and will burn a wider area in the western U.S.

Ice that burns helps make potable water from oil and gas production

August 29, 2013 9:13 am | News | Comments

In the midst of an intensifying global water crisis, scientists are reporting development of a more economical way to use one form of the “ice that burns” to turn very salty wastewater from fracking and other oil and gas production methods into water for drinking and irrigation. The method removes more than 90% of the salt.

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Cleaner Drinking Water

August 28, 2013 11:08 am | Award Winners

The availability of fresh, clean water remains a significant challenge as the world’s population grows. Osmosis is an effective, proven way to accomplish this, but concentrated solutions have presented difficulty. Idaho National Laboratory’s Switchable Polarity Solvents Forward Osmosis (SPS FO) leverages the switching qualities of specialized thermolytic salts to purify water from extremely concentrated solutions.

Arctic sea ice: Unlikely to break records, but downward trend continues

August 27, 2013 3:14 pm | by Maria-José Viñas, NASA's Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

The melting of sea ice in the Arctic is well on its way toward its annual "minimum," that time when the floating ice cap covers less of the Arctic Ocean than at any other period during the year. While the ice will continue to shrink until around mid-September, it is unlikely that this year’s summer low will break a new record. Still, this year’s melt rates are in line with the sustained decline of the Arctic ice cover.

Study: Changes in river chemistry affect water supplies

August 26, 2013 11:58 am | News | Comments

Human activities are changing the basic chemistry of many rivers in the Eastern U.S., with potentially major consequences for urban water supplies and aquatic ecosystems, a Univ. of Maryland-led study has found. Over time spans of 25 to 60 years, two-thirds of the 97 streams and rivers reviewed in the study had become significantly more alkaline and none had become more acidic.

Scientists analyze the extent of ocean acidification

August 26, 2013 8:11 am | News | Comments

In a new study, biologists have compiled and analyzed all available data on the reaction of marine animals to ocean acidification. From this collection of 167 studies with data from more than 150 different species, they found that while the majority of animal species investigated are affected by ocean acidification, the respective impacts are specific and can vary widely from species to species.

International collaborations to design crops of the future

August 23, 2013 12:19 pm | News | Comments

Four teams of researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom recently were awarded more than $12 million to begin a program of novel research to revolutionize current farming methods by giving crops the ability to thrive without using costly, polluting artificial fertilizers.

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Both sides of fracking debate turn out for Obama

August 23, 2013 10:57 am | by MICHAEL GORMLEY - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Supporters and opponents of fracking in the political hotbed where New York's natural gas deposit lies lined the route being taken Friday by visiting President Barack Obama, shouting messages for him while trying to pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he weighs whether to allow the practice in New York.

Study: Toxic nanoparticles might be entering human food supply

August 23, 2013 9:13 am | by Diamond Dixon, Univ. of Missouri | News | Comments

Over the last few years, the use of nanomaterials for water treatment, food packaging, pesticides, cosmetics and other industries has increased. A growing concern is that these particles could pose a potential health risk has prompted a large number of studies, including recent work at the Univ. of Missouri that showed the retention of silver nanoparticles in pear skin, even after repeated washing.

Morphing manganese

August 23, 2013 8:23 am | News | Comments

An often-overlooked form of manganese is far more prevalent in ocean environments than previously known, according to a study led by Univ. of Delaware researchers. The discovery alters understanding of the chemistry that moves manganese and other elements, like oxygen and carbon, through the natural world. Manganese is an essential nutrient for most organisms and helps plants produce oxygen during photosynthesis.

The “whole” problem with recycling

August 22, 2013 1:27 pm | News | Comments

Findings from a Univ. of Alberta researcher shed new light on what may be stopping people from recycling more. Jennifer Argo, a marketing prof. in the U of A’s Alberta School of Business, says that people are psychologically hard-wired to believe that products that are damaged or that aren’t whole are useless, and this leads users to trash them rather than recycle them.

Physicists develop new method of fabrication

August 22, 2013 1:24 pm | News | Comments

In the future, carbon nanomembranes are expected to be able to filter out very fine material or even gases. Right now, basic research is concentrating on methods for the production of these nanomembranes. Using a new process a research team in Germany has produced 12 different carbon nanomembranes from a variety of starting materials.

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Old concrete can protect aquatic ecosystems

August 22, 2013 10:27 am | News | Comments

Lakes and streams are often receiving so much phosphorous that it can pose a threat to the local aquatic environment. Now, research in Denmark shows that an easy and inexpensive solution is available to prevent phosphorus from being discharged to aquatic environments: crushed concrete from demolition sites.

Study determines rate of release for old permafrost carbon

August 21, 2013 1:10 pm | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Using indicator molecules, a team of researchers working in Eurasia has for the first time assessed contributions of old carbon from permafrost soils to riverine carbon headed. They were also able to demonstrate that permafrost soils where the frozen areas are interspersed with gaps release more old carbon than those where the permafrost is uninterrupted.

Plasma-treated nano filters could help purify world water supply

August 21, 2013 12:56 pm | News | Comments

An international team of researchers have recently showed that water purification membranes enhanced by plasma-treated carbon nanotubes are ideal for removing contaminants and brine from water. The study may lead to the next generation of portable water purification devices, which could be rechargeable and the size of a teapot.

Viewing Fukushima in the cold light of Chernobyl

August 21, 2013 11:02 am | News | Comments

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster spread significant radioactive contamination over more than 3,500 square miles of the Japanese mainland in the spring of 2011. Now several recently published studies of Chernobyl are bringing a new focus on just how extensive the long-term effects on Japanese wildlife might be.

A new approach to making climate treaties work

August 21, 2013 7:58 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford University | News | Comments

Why can’t global leaders agree on a broad, effective climate change pact? More than 20 years after they began, international negotiations based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have resulted in only one legally binding treaty. That agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, has not been ratified by the U.S., historically the world’s largest carbon emitter. 

Heat waves to become more frequent, severe

August 20, 2013 10:31 am | News | Comments

Climate change is set to trigger more frequent and severe heat waves in the next 30 years regardless of the amount of carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere, a new study has shown. Extreme heat waves such as those that hit the U.S. in 2012 and Australia in 2009—dubbed three-sigma events by the researchers—are projected to cover double the amount of global land by 2020 and quadruple by 2040.

Magma can survive in upper crust for hundreds of millennia

August 20, 2013 12:33 am | by Vince Stricherz, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Reservoirs of silica-rich magma can persist in Earth’s upper crust for hundreds of thousands of years without triggering an eruption, according to new modeling research. That means an area known to have experienced a massive volcanic eruption in the past, such as Yellowstone National Park, could have a large pool of magma festering beneath it and still not be close to going off as it did 600,000 years ago.

S.F. Bay Area building demolition fuels quake study

August 19, 2013 11:11 am | by Mihir Zaveri, Associated Press | News | Comments

With a series of quick blasts and a cloud of dust a 13-story building on the Cal State-East Bay campus crashed to the ground Saturday morning as scientists monitored the impact on the nearby Hayward Fault. U.S. Geological Survey scientists had placed more than 600 seismographs in concentric circles within a mile of the building to pick up the vibrations and verify whether their predictions were correct.

Sensor-equipped construction helmet can detect carbon monoxide

August 19, 2013 10:38 am | News | Comments

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant problem for construction workers because it can build up quickly in enclosed spaces from use of gasoline-powered tools. New research calls for the use of a wearable computing system installed in a helmet to protect construction workers from this type of poisoning.

Antarctic ice core sheds new light on how the last ice age ended

August 15, 2013 3:18 pm | News | Comments

Analysis of ice samples taken by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide drilling project reveals that warming in Antarctica began about 22,000 years ago, a few thousand years earlier than suggested by previous records. This timing shows that West Antarctica did not "wait for a cue" from the Northern Hemisphere to start warming, as scientists had previously supposed.

Around the world in four days: Tracking Chelyabinsk meteor plume

August 15, 2013 12:50 pm | by Kathryn Hansen, NASA's Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

A meteor weighing 10,000 metric tons exploded 14 miles above Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013. Unlike similar past events, this time scientists had the sensitive instruments on the Suomi NPP satellite to deliver unprecedented data and help them track and study the meteor plume for months.

Plasma-treated nanofilters help purify world water supply

August 14, 2013 9:09 am | News | Comments

Access to safe drinking water is a step closer to being a reality for those in developing countries, thanks to newly published research. An international team of researchers showed that water purification membranes enhanced by plasma-treated carbon nanotubes are ideal for removing contaminants and brine from water.

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