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Separating finely mixed oil and water

July 1, 2014 11:51 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Whenever there is a major spill of oil into water, the two tend to mix into a suspension of tiny droplets, called an emulsion, that is extremely hard to separate and can cause severe damage to ecosystems. A new membrane developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can separate even these highly mixed fine oil-spill residues.

Study: Plastic debris widespread on ocean surface

July 1, 2014 11:03 am | News | Comments

Plastic junk is floating widely on the world's oceans, but there's less of it than expected, a study says. A newly published study drew on results from an around-the-world cruise by a research ship that towed a mesh net at 141 sites, as well as other studies. Researchers estimated the total amount of floating plastic debris in open ocean at 7,000 to 35,000 tons.

Fracking study finds new gas wells leak more

July 1, 2014 7:10 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

In Pennsylvania's gas drilling boom, newer and unconventional wells leak far more often than older and traditional ones, according to a study of state inspection reports for 41,000 wells. The results suggest that leaks of methane could be a problem for drilling across the nation, but the research is being criticized by the energy industry.

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Silver in the washing machine

June 30, 2014 8:35 am | News | Comments

The antibacterial properties of silver-coated textiles are popular in the fields of sport and medicine. A team in Switzerland has now investigated how different silver coatings behave in the washing machine, and they have discovered something important: textiles with nano-coatings release fewer nano-particles into the washing water than those with normal coatings.

New NASA model gives glimpse into invisible world of electric asteroids

June 25, 2014 10:48 pm | News | Comments

Space may appear empty, a soundless vacuum. But it's not an absolute void. It flows with electric activity that is not visible to our eyes. NASA is developing plans to send humans to an asteroid, and wants to know more about the electrical environment explorers will encounter there. A new computer model can now predict and visualize the interaction between the solar wind, solar radiation and the surface of asteroids in unprecedented detail.

A win-win-win solution: Biofuel, climate and biodiversity

June 25, 2014 10:44 pm | News | Comments

Fossil fuel emissions release billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. In Brazil, the demand for alternative energy sources has led to an increase in biofuel crops. New research demonstrates the high carbon costs of converting intact Brazilian savanna compared to the carbon gains obtained from converting underutilized pastureland for biofuel crops.

Fracking flowback could pollute groundwater with heavy metals

June 25, 2014 2:53 pm | by Melissa Osgood, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

The chemical makeup of wastewater generated by “hydrofracking” could cause the release of tiny particles in soils that often strongly bind heavy metals and pollutants, exacerbating the environmental risks during accidental spills, Cornell Univ. researchers have found.

FDA outlines policy for overseeing nanotechnology

June 24, 2014 3:23 pm | by Matthew Perrone - AP Health Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal regulators want to hear from companies using engineered micro-particles in their products, part of an effort to stay abreast of the growing field of nanotechnology. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued final recommendations Tuesday for companies using nanotechnology in products regulated by the government, which can include medical therapies, food and cosmetics.

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Understanding the ocean's role in Greenland glacier melt

June 24, 2014 8:33 am | News | Comments

In the last 40 years, ice loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet increased four-fold contributing to one-quarter of global sea level rise.  Some of the increased melting at the surface of the ice sheet is due to a warmer atmosphere, but the ocean’s role in driving ice loss largely remains a mystery. Research by U.S. scientists sheds new light on the connection between the ocean and Greenland’s outlet glaciers.

Asthma rates drop, but experts not breathing easier

June 19, 2014 12:21 am | by Mike Stobbe - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A new survey suggests asthma in the U.S. may finally be on the decline. But the results are so surprising that health officials are cautious about claiming a downturn. The findings come from a large national health survey conducted last year. The drop could just be an unexplained statistical blip.

Breakthrough provides picture of underground water

June 18, 2014 10:52 am | by Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute for the Evironment | News | Comments

Superman isn't the only one who can see through solid surfaces. In a development that could revolutionize the management of precious groundwater around the world, Stanford Univ. researchers have pioneered the use of satellites to accurately measure levels of water stored hundreds of feet below ground.

Nanoparticles from dietary supplement drinks are likely to reach environment

June 18, 2014 9:11 am | News | Comments

Nanoparticles are becoming ubiquitous in food packaging, personal care products and are even being added to food directly. But the health and environmental effects of these tiny additives have remained largely unknown. A new study now suggests that nanomaterials in food and drinks could interfere with digestive cells and lead to the release of the potentially harmful substances to the environment.

Few, if any, big impact craters remain to be discovered on Earth

June 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

It’s likely that most of the large impact craters on Earth have already been discovered and that others have been erased, according to a new calculation by a pair of Purdue Univ. graduate students. Although it's known that natural processes erase craters fairly quickly from the Earth's surface, this model was the first to quantify how many craters have likely been erased.

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Swarm of earthquakes in Alaska puzzles scientists

June 17, 2014 11:20 am | by Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press | News | Comments

A moderate earthquake shook northwest Alaska on Monday, the fifth temblor of the same magnitude since April in an area with otherwise little activity, seismologists said. The swarm of magnitude-5.7 quakes is connected to more than 300 smaller aftershocks, some with magnitudes in the high 3s, Ruppert said. The series of earthquakes has scientists puzzled about activity that is considered very unusual in the region of Noatak.

EU project applies green tech to decontaminate soil

June 16, 2014 10:32 am | News | Comments

Soil pollution causes severe environmental and economic impacts, as well as risks for the human health and ecosystems. The closure of mining and industrial facilities in many sites across Europe has revealed large amounts of contaminated land with uncertain future uses. Decontaminating and recovering such soil is a long, complex and expensive process, which places a large burden on enterprises or public administrations.

Study: Melting and refreezing of deep Greenland ice speeds flow to sea

June 16, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Beneath the barren whiteness of Greenland, a mysterious world has popped into view. Using ice-penetrating radar, researchers have discovered ragged blocks of ice as tall as city skyscrapers and as wide as the island of Manhattan at the bottom of the ice sheet, apparently formed as water beneath the ice refreezes and warps the surrounding ice upwards. The newly revealed forms may help scientists understand more about how ice sheets behave.

Computers replace humans reading weather reports

June 16, 2014 9:02 am | by Rachel D’Oro, Associated Press | News | Comments

Two outpost offices of the National Weather Service in Alaska are finally ending what has been a bygone practice for most of the nation for almost two decades: using real human voices in radio forecast broadcasts. Local weather forecasts are a big deal to many people in Alaska because, more than in some other parts of the United States, the forecasts can be a matter of life and death.

If global warming is real, why was it so cold and snowy last winter?

June 13, 2014 10:23 am | by Greta Guest, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

More Americans view global warming by what they see outside their windows and not scientific evidence, according to a Univ. of Michigan survey. While a majority of Americans still believe that global warming is occurring, the cold and snowy winter of 2014 created more disbelievers, according to the National Surveys on Energy and Environment.

New evidence for oceans deep in the Earth

June 13, 2014 7:59 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers report evidence for an oceans worth of water deep beneath the U.S. Though not in the familiar liquid form—the ingredients for water are bound up in rock deep in the Earth’s mantle—the discovery may represent the planet’s largest water reservoir. The presence of liquid water on the surface is what makes our “blue planet” habitable, and scientists have tried to figure out just how much water may be cycling between Earth’s surface.

Forging new ground in oil forensics

June 13, 2014 7:30 am | News | Comments

Years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, oil continues to wash ashore as oil-soaked “sand patties,” persists in salt marshes abutting the Gulf of Mexico, and questions remain about how much oil has been deposited on the seafloor. Scientists have developed a unique way to fingerprint oil, even after most of it has degraded, and to assess how it changes over time.

How much fertilizer is too much for Earth's climate?

June 11, 2014 8:53 am | News | Comments

A study published by Michigan State Univ. researchers this week concludes that helping farmers around the globe apply more precise amounts of fertilizer nitrogen can combat climate change. The study uses data from around the world to show that emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in soil following nitrogen addition, rise faster than previously expected when fertilizer rates exceed crop needs.

NIST: The clumping density of many things seems to be a standard

June 11, 2014 7:37 am | News | Comments

Particles of soot floating through the air and comets hurtling through space have at least one thing in common: 0.36. That, reports a research group at NIST, is the measure of how dense they will get under normal conditions, and it’s a value that seems to be constant for similar aggregates across an impressively wide size range from nanometers to tens of meters. NIST hopes the results will aid climate researchers.

PerkinElmer launches new real-time air quality sensor network

June 10, 2014 7:52 am | News | Comments

PerkinElmer, Inc., has announced the launch of Elm, an innovative air monitoring service providing local air quality analysis for individuals, smart cities and sustainable communities. The Elm service enables the visualization and understanding of relevant real-time air quality detail, providing data that can be immediately accessed, both online and on mobile devices.

Scientists explore using trees to clean pollution

June 9, 2014 2:20 am | by Ramit Plushnick-masti - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Before Houston and its suburbs were built, a dense forest naturally purified the coastal air along a stretch of the Texas Gulf Coast that grew thick with pecan, ash, live oak and hackberry trees. It was the kind of pristine woodland that was mostly wiped out by settlers in their rush to clear land and build communities.

All-natural mixture yields promising fire retardant

June 6, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

A dash of clay, a dab of fiber from crab shells, and a dollop of DNA: This strange group of materials are actually the ingredients of promising green fire retardants invented by researchers at NIST. Applied to polyurethane foam, the bio-based coatings greatly reduced the flammability of the common furniture padding after it was exposed to an open flame.

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