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Study: Surfactants do not harm the environment

October 3, 2014 11:03 am | by Janne Hansen, Aarhus Univ. | News | Comments

You can brush your teeth, and wash yourself and your clothes with a clear conscience. The most common soaps, shampoos and detergents actually pose a minimal risk to the environment. This is the conclusion of a comprehensive survey that covers more than 250 scientific studies over several decades.

Making oxygen before life

October 3, 2014 9:17 am | News | Comments

Over the past 40 years, researchers have thought that there must have been a small amount of oxygen in the atmosphere of early Earth to help give rise to plant life. But oxygen reacts aggressively with other compounds and disappears without a continuous source, so where did this abiotic, or “non-life”, oxygen come from? Chemists in California have now shown how ultraviolet light can split carbon dioxide to form oxygen in one step.

New map uncovers thousands of unseen seamounts on ocean floor

October 3, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

Scientists have created a new map of the world's seafloor, offering a more vivid picture of the structures that make up the deepest, least-explored parts of the ocean. The feat was accomplished by accessing two untapped streams of satellite data, which has allowed thousands of previously uncharted mountains rising from the seafloor, called seamounts, to be revealed on the map, along with new clues about the formation of the continents.

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Rating the planet’s oceans

October 2, 2014 8:30 am | News | Comments

The most comprehensive assessment conducted by the Ocean Health Index rates the Earth’s oceans at 67 out of 100 in overall health. In addition, for the first time, the report assessed the Antarctic and the 15 ocean regions beyond national jurisdiction (high-seas areas). Together with the 220 exclusive economic zones (EEZs) measured in 2012 and 2013, the index now measures all of the oceans on planet Earth.

Study: Nanoparticles accumulate quickly in wetland sediment

October 2, 2014 8:14 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

A Duke Univ. team has found that nanoparticles called single-walled carbon nanotubes accumulate quickly in the bottom sediments of an experimental wetland setting, an action they say could indirectly damage the aquatic food chain. According to the research, the risk to humans ingesting the particles through drinking water is slight, but aquatic food chains might be harmed by molecules "piggybacking" on the carbon nanoparticles.

Swimming sea-monkeys reveal how zooplankton may help drive ocean circulation

October 1, 2014 9:17 am | by Marcus Woo, Caltech | Videos | Comments

Brine shrimp, which are sold as pets known as sea-monkeys, are tiny—only about half an inch long each. With about 10 small leaf-like fins that flap about, they look as if they could hardly make waves. But get billions of similarly tiny organisms together and they can move oceans.

Join the best of the best in innovation

October 1, 2014 8:57 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

The 52nd annual R&D 100 Awards event will present a series of panel discussions featuring today’s top technological minds revealing their secrets for innovation. Draw inspiration from these leading experts as they discuss technology-driven strategies for transforming your ideas into excellence.

Adding natural uncertainty improves mathematical models

September 30, 2014 1:11 pm | News | Comments

Mathematicians from Brown Univ. have introduced a new element of uncertainty into an equation used to describe the behavior of fluid flows. Ironically, allowing uncertainty into a mathematical equation that models fluid flows makes the equation much more capable of correctly reflecting the natural world, including the formation, strength, and position of air masses and fronts in the atmosphere.

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California drought linked to climate change

September 30, 2014 9:42 am | by Ker Than, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought currently afflicting California are "very likely" linked to human-caused climate change, according to Stanford Univ. scientists. The team used a combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure hovering over the Pacific Ocean was likely to form from modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

Glaciers in the Grand Canyon of Mars?

September 30, 2014 8:56 am | News | Comments

For decades, planetary geologists have speculated that glaciers might once have crept through Valles Marineris, the 2000-mile-long chasm that constitutes the Grand Canyon of Mars. A research team has now identified what could be the first mineralogical evidence of past glaciers within the Valles Marineris: a layer of mixed sulfate minerals halfway up three-mile-high cliffs in the canyon system.

Wildlife populations plummet for 3,000 species

September 30, 2014 8:19 am | by John Heilprin, Associated Press | News | Comments

About 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have seen their numbers plummet far worse than previously thought, according to a new study by one of the world's biggest environmental groups. The Switzerland-based WWF says improved methods of measuring populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles explain the huge difference from the 28% decline between 1970 and 2008 that the group reported in 2012.

NASA finds clear skies and water vapor on exoplanet

September 26, 2014 8:42 am | News | Comments

Astronomers using data from NASA's space telescopes Hubble, Spitzer, and Kepler have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.

Technology tracks tiniest pollutants in real time

September 26, 2014 8:23 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers may soon have a better idea of how tiny particles of pollution are formed in the atmosphere. These particles, called aerosols, are hazardous to human health and contribute to climate change, but researchers know little about how their properties are shaped by chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Unraveling this chemistry could someday lead to more effective policies to protect human health and the Earth’s climate.

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The water in your bottle might be older than the sun

September 26, 2014 8:13 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, Univ. of Michigan astronomers theorize. The researchers' work helps to settle a debate about just how far back in galactic history our planet and our solar system's water formed. Were the molecules in comet ices and terrestrial oceans born with the system itself—in the planet-forming disk of dust and gas that circled the young sun 4.6 billion years ago?

Building the framework for the future of biofuels

September 25, 2014 9:47 am | by Joe Kullman, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

For more than five years, Amy Landis, an engineering professor at Arizona State Univ.,  has led research that is revealing the potential rewards of developing large-scale biofuels production, as well as the potential drawbacks we would face in the effort. According to Landis, lands damaged by industrial waste or other pollutants could be restored sufficiently to support agriculture for growing bioenergy crops.

Biochar alters water flow to improve sand, clay

September 25, 2014 8:00 am | by David Ruth, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

As more gardeners and farmers add ground charcoal, or biochar, to soil to both boost crop yields and counter global climate change, a new study by researchers at Rice Univ. and Colorado College could help settle the debate about one of biochar’s biggest benefits: the seemingly contradictory ability to make clay soils drain faster and sandy soils drain slower.

Study: Solar energy-driven process quickly reclaims tailings ponds

September 24, 2014 8:52 am | News | Comments

Cleaning up oil sands tailings has just gotten a lot greener thanks to a novel technique developed by Univ. of Alberta civil engineering professors that uses solar energy to accelerate tailings pond reclamation efforts by industry. Instead of using ultraviolet lamps as a light source to treat the water affected by oil sands processes, sunlight alone treats just as efficiently but at a much lower cost.

Plant-based building materials may boost energy savings

September 23, 2014 2:04 pm | by Leslie Minton, Univ. of North Texas | News | Comments

Over a three-year period, Univ. of North Texas researchers developed and tested structured insulated panel building materials made from kenaf, a plant in the hibiscus family that is similar to bamboo. Kenaf fibers are an attractive prospect because they offer the same strength to weight ratio as glass fibers. The researchers found that the kenaf materials, including composite panels, provide up to 20% energy savings.

NASA's Maven spacecraft enters Mars orbit

September 22, 2014 10:26 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

The robotic explorer Maven successfully slipped into orbit around Mars late Sunday night. Now the real work begins for the $671 million mission, the first dedicated to studying the Martian upper atmosphere and the latest step in NASA's bid to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s. Researchers hope to learn where all the red planet's water went, along with the carbon dioxide that once comprised an atmosphere thick enough to hold moist clouds.

China, U.S., India push world carbon emissions up

September 22, 2014 9:42 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Spurred chiefly by China, the United States and India, the world spewed far more carbon pollution into the air last year than ever before. The world pumped an estimated 39.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air last year by burning coal, oil and gas. That is 778 million tons or 2.3% more than the previous year. World leaders gather this week to discuss how to reduce heat-trapping gases. 

Engineers call for national approach to flooding

September 22, 2014 9:07 am | by Geoff Mulvihill, Associated Press | News | Comments

The American Society of Civil Engineers are urging Congress and the Obama Administration to develop a national strategy for mitigating flood risks, saying the U.S. has not fully heeded lessons from Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. A sustainable way to pay for infrastructure maintenance and updates to help manage floods is needed, they say, and they will release their full recommendations Monday in Philadelphia.

Artificial “beaks” collect water from fog: A drought solution?

September 18, 2014 1:20 pm | News | Comments

By opening and closing their beaks, shorebirds drive food-containing liquid drops into their throats. Researchers have mimicked this phenomenon by building simple, fog-collecting, rectangular “beaks” out of glass plates connected by a hinge on one side. Providing a large surface area where beads of fog condense, the “beak” improved collection rates over alternatives by up to 900 times.

Advanced molecular “sieves” could be used for carbon capture

September 18, 2014 12:33 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed advanced molecular synthetic membranes, or “sieves”, which could be used to filter carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The sieves were made by heating microporous polymers using low levels of oxygen which, produces a tougher and far more selective membrane that is still relatively flexible.

Boosting global corn yields depends on improving nutrient balance

September 18, 2014 7:40 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Ensuring that corn absorbs the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is crucial to increasing global yields, a Purdue and Kansas State Univ. study finds. A review of data from more than 150 studies from the U.S. and other regions showed that high yields were linked to production systems in which corn plants took up key nutrients at specific ratios.

Sampling Methods for Microanalysis

September 17, 2014 11:48 am | by Mary L. Stellmack, McCrone Associates Inc. | McCrone Associates, Inc. | Articles | Comments

In order to identify contaminants in industrial products, it’s sometimes necessary to send samples of the contaminated material to a laboratory for analysis. The choice of sampling method and the selection of a shipping container are critical to ensure that a representative sample is obtained, and no additional foreign material (FM) is added to the sample during transport to the laboratory.

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