In some of this planet’s driest regions, where rainfall is rare or even nonexistent, a few specialized plants and insects have devised ingenious strategies to provide themselves with the water necessary for life: They pull it right out of the air, from fog that drifts in from warm oceans nearby. Now researchers are seeking to mimic that trick on a much larger scale, potentially supplying significant quantities of clean, potable water.
Global warming may further lessen the likelihood of the freak atmospheric steering currents that last year shoved Superstorm Sandy due west into New Jersey, a new study says. But the study's authors said the once-in-700-years path was only one factor in the $50 billion storm. They say other variables such as sea level rise and stronger storms will worsen with global warming and outweigh changes in steering currents predicted by models.
Researchers in Canada have found that abundant materials in the Earth's crust can be used to make inexpensive and easily manufactured nanoparticle-based solar cells. The team has designed nanoparticles that absorb light and conduct electricity from two very common elements: phosphorus and zinc. These are much more plentiful than scarce cadmium, and safer than lead.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.