Scientists reveal new technique to make biofuel from mushroom waste

April 10, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the National University of Singapore have discovered a revolutionary way to transform mushroom waste into biofuel. Despite claims to the contrary, biofuel — typically derived from food crops — is often more environmentally-destructive than it is helpful. This new technique could change that by harvesting energy from waste produced in the process of mushroom cultivation. In a study published in Science Advances , researchers explain how Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum (TG57), a common bacterial byproduct of mushroom cultivation, can be isolated and used to convert plant-based cellulose into biobutanol. Biobutanol is a biofuel that can be used by vehicles designed to run on gasoline. First identified in 2015, the TG57 bacterium strain has been cultivated in various forms to analyze its ability to produce biofuel in a more sustainable manner. “The production of biofuels using non-food feedstocks can improve sustainability and reduce costs greatly,” researcher He Jianzhong told Silicon Republic . “In our study, we demonstrated a novel method of directly converting cellulose to biobutanol using the novel TG57 strain. This is a major breakthrough in metabolic engineering and exhibits a foundational milestone in sustainable and cost-effective production of renewable biofuels and chemicals.” Related: Paris has a new underground – a massive farm for mushrooms and veggies Creating biofuel from waste products is a potential boon for the industry and the environment. Biobutanol holds the most promise because of its energy density, and it can be used directly, without modification, in vehicles designed to run on gasoline. Prior to the study, the high environmental and financial costs of producing biobutanol blocked it from mainstream use. However, the researchers have revealed a widely applicable, straightforward technique that does not require any significant genetic alterations of the bacterium. Someday soon, you may munch on mushrooms with the satisfaction of contributing to greener transportation and a healthier planet. Via Silicon Republic Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Top 5 Green Gadgets That Will Save You Energy and Money

March 26, 2018 by  
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One of the biggest myths of sustainable design is that you have to spend lots of green in order to go green. Fortunately, there’s a plethora of great gadgets out there that stand to cut down your bills while reducing the amount of electricity you consume. From active solar solutions and energy monitoring systems to ultra-efficient appliances, read on for our top 5 green gadgets that save energy and money. LED Lighting Over the past year energy efficient lighting has proven to be one of the most exciting fields in green consumer tech, and we’ve seen some remarkable advancements in LED technology that stand to save significant amounts of energy while cutting down on your electricity bill. LED lights also last much longer than incandescents and even compact fluorescents – new bulbs by Pharox and Panasonic have life-spans rated for 19-25 years . Although these next-generation bulbs tend to cost a bit more, you can count on technological advances and economies of scale making them cheaper and more plentiful in the years to come. Household Energy Monitors Studies show that if households are able to measure and track energy use, then residents tend to automatically take steps to cut down on electricity use and increase energy bill savings. Of course, our favorite energy monitor for the always-connected web 2.0 set is the Tweet-A-Watt , a household power meter that automatically tweets your home’s energy use. The system is sure to spark a bit of friendly competition among neighboring households, and there’s nothing like a little public accountability to jump-start home energy savings. Portable Solar Chargers Gadget geeks on the go know that keeping charged can be a challenge with today’s energy-draining smart phones and mp3 players. Fortunately we’ve seen a slew of great portable solar chargers that enable you to skip the grid altogether and charge anywhere the sun is shining. The K3 Wind and Solar Charger , the Suntrica Solar-Powered Badge , and the Solio Charger are three of our favorites, and for the fashion-forward set there are even several solar-powered satchels and backpacks out there – our top marks go to Voltaic and Noon Solar . Fuel-Saving Car Systems Anyone who’s ever driven a Prius knows how fun and addictive it can be to save fuel by easing off the gas and watching your milage go up. For those who don’t have a heads-up display handy, Kiwi makes a great fuel-saving system that plugs right into your car’s on-board diagnostic port to gather driving data, analyze it, and offer steps to increase your mileage. The device is compatible with all vehicles made after 1996 and can increase your fuel economy by up to 20%. Energy-Star Rated Appliances TVs, refrigerators, microwaves, and other household appliances make up for a huge amount of your monthly electricity bill, so by selecting more efficient electronics you’ll be saving both energy and money. An easy way to do this is to keep an eye out for the Energy Star label when purchasing new appliances – the certification mandates strict energy efficiency standards and covers practically every area of household technology. Last year alone Energy Star appliances avoided 29 million cars worth of greenhouse gas emissions while saving Americans $19 billion on their utility bills.

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Top 5 Green Gadgets That Will Save You Energy and Money

Scientists develop the first solar fuels reactor that works at night

February 21, 2018 by  
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Researchers have developed the world’s first solar fuels reactor that is able to function at night. Called CONTISOL, the solar fuels reactor is capable of producing fuel such as hydrogen without the intensive greenhouse gas emissions caused by creating the fuel from burning natural gas. CONTISOL is able to run at all hours of the day because it relies on concentrated solar power (CSP), which allows for thermal energy storage. Notably, the reactor uses air, which is abundant, accessible, and non-corrosive, in order to store and transfer heat within the device. “It can pull air in just out of the atmosphere and then runs it through the heat exchanger to store the heat,” explained study lead author Justin Lapp , “and then it can vent that air out once it is cool.” In a traditional solar fuels reactor, the process depends upon the solar thermal heat provided by the sun. When the sun disappears at night, so too does its energy. Scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) developed their all-hours solar fuels reactor by combining two previously developed systems. “So the main idea of CONTISOL was to build two reactors together,” said Lapp. “One where sunlight is directly doing chemical processing; the other side for storing energy. In the chemical channels, the high temperatures of the material drives the chemical reaction and you get a change from reactants to products within those channels.” This balancing act provides CONTISOL with stable temperatures and an efficient heat source for powering reactions that create fuels like hydrogen . Related: China is building a giant solar plant at Chernobyl So far, the team has only developed a small-scale prototype that is capable of operating at 850 degrees Celsius with an energy output of 5kW. “This scale is a scientific prototype simply for us to understand how to control it. It wouldn’t be commercialized at 5 kW,” said Lapp. “Commercially, 1-5 MW would be about the smallest for industrial-scale reactors, and they could scale to 100 MW or even larger.” Though still in its early stages, a full-scale CONTISOL system would allow for low-impact access to clean hydrogen fuel when fully developed and deployed. Via EurkAlert Images via SolarPACES

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New nanomaterial pulls hydrogen from seawater to power fuel cells

October 4, 2017 by  
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Hydrogen can be obtained from seawater to power fuel cells , but the process is typically costly because of the electricity required. Researchers created a nanomaterial that can do the job more efficiently. According to the University of Central Florida (UCF), the advance “could someday lead to a new source of the clean-burning fuel .” UCF assistant professor Yang Yang has been working on solar hydrogen splitting for almost a decade. In the process, a photocatalyst sets off a chemical reaction with energy from light . But the photocatalysts don’t work as well in seawater – they don’t stand up well to salt and seawater’s biomass. Yang’s research team came up with a new catalyst that’s not only good for splitting purified water in a laboratory, but can better endure seawater and even harvest light from a broader spectrum. Related: Scientists develop new way to generate electricity via seawater Yang said, “We can absorb much more solar energy from the light than the conventional material. Eventually, if it is commercialized, it would be good for Florida’s economy. We have a lot of seawater around Florida and a lot of really good sunshine.” He said in many cases it’s better to use the sun’s energy to create a chemical fuel than to generate electricity with solar panels . Hydrogen gas can be transported and stored easily. UCF said it’s relatively cheap and easy to make the catalyst, which is comprised of a hybrid material. The journal Energy & Environmental Science published the research the end of September. Scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington and Tsinghua University in China collaborated on the study. Yang and his team plan to continue researching how to scale up the catalyst fabrication, and to work on splitting hydrogen from wastewater with the catalyst. Via the University of Central Florida Images via the University of Central Florida

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Fukushima robot finds lava-like deposits thought to be melted nuclear fuel

July 24, 2017 by  
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Six years after the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, there’s still a lot of cleanup to be done. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) deployed an underwater robot to assess damage inside the Unit 3 reactor in Japan last week, and the robot obtained images of debris that might be melted nuclear fuel. In some areas, the debris was around three-feet-thick. The robot captured eerie footage of the damaged reactor at Fukushima, spotting what could be melted fuel. It found what the Associated Press described as solidified lava -like lumps and rocks inside the pedestal that rests beneath the core in the Primary Containment Vessel. In some places the fuel was mixed with broken reactor pieces, hinting at a difficult cleanup to come. The multiple-day exploration started last Wednesday and finished over the weekend. Related: Fukushima radiation levels at highest since 2011 disaster TEPCO spokesperson Takahiro Kimoto told the Associated Press they now have to analyze the debris seen in the robot-captured images before they can figure out how to remove it. According to The Guardian, the reactor can’t be decommissioned until all the nuclear fuel has been found and removed – a process that could still span decades. It hasn’t been easy to search for melted fuel at Fukushima due to high radiation levels and damage. TEPCO said the expedition would help them gain a clearer picture of conditions at the damaged reactors that will aid them in cleanup efforts. The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning developed the robot, which was inserted into the Primary Containment Vessel through what TEPCO described as a pipe designed to guard against radioactive gas escaping. Thrusters on the robot enabled it to move around through the cooling water that’s accumulated inside the structure since 2011. The robot also had front and rear cameras. Via The Guardian and TEPCO Images via International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning/TEPCO

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Hyundai’s new emissions-free bus travels 180 miles on just one hour of charging

June 2, 2017 by  
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It isn’t just passenger vehicles  going green  these days – mass transit is jumping on the zero-emissions bandwagon. Hyundai just unveiled its first mass-produced electric bus called the Elec City . After one hour of charging, the bus can travel 180 miles thanks to a 256kWh battery pack. Best of all, the company’s first emissions-free vehicle will be available for order in 2018. According to a report from Yonhap news agency , the company has embraced green innovation “to diversify its lineup with environmentally friendly vehicles and enhance its brand image in global markets where clean modes of transportation have emerged a key point in auto manufacturing.” Hyundai launched the bus at the Truck & Bus Mega Fair, a local commercial vehicle exhibition. Tak Yeong-duck, senior vice president of Hyundai’s Commercial Vehicle R&D Division, admits that the Elec Bus has its flaws, but says it will undoubtedly become more efficient as  electric vehicle technology is improved upon. He said, “There still remain things to be improved in terms of the charging infrastructure for pure electric vehicles. But we have decided to launch the Elec City next year as the government plans to increase the number of charging stations in the coming years.” Related: The world’s fastest charging electric bus powers up in 10 seconds flat The sleek electric bus is estimated to cost more than 200 million won ($179,000 USD), and that price does not factor in the central government’s subsidy worth 100 million won. It has not been confirmed, either, if the company will sell the Elec City (which took eight years to develop) in the United States. If Hyundai does make the emission-free bus available in the U.S., it will face some fierce competition. Chinese manufacturer BYD has sold electric buses in California , as has the Canadian company GreenPower . Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also considered developing an electric bus and knowing his ambition, it might just happen. Now that Hyundai has unveiled its first emissions-free vehicle, it has a new goal of improving the fuel efficiency of its commercial vehicles up to 30 percent by 2020. Additionally, the company aims to sell 105,000 commercial vehicles in global markets, up from 102,000 units sold in 2016. According to recent reports, Hyundai may even release a long-range electric vehicle in 2018 – keep an eye out for that. + Elec City Via Yonhap News Agency Images via Elec City

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Hyundai’s new emissions-free bus travels 180 miles on just one hour of charging

China claims major energy breakthrough with ‘flammable ice’

May 19, 2017 by  
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China has claimed a major energy breakthrough, but its eco credentials are dubious at best. Researchers say they managed to extract gas from flammable ice in the South China Sea. A frozen mix of natural gas and water known as methane hydrates, the ‘breakthrough’ is expected to revolutionize the future of energy . We’re not sure that’s a good idea. Flammable ice could be our planet’s final great source of carbon-based fuel , according to the BBC. Vast deposits can be found under essentially every ocean. But it’s incredibly difficult to extract gas from flammable ice – in part because it catches fire so easily – a lighter held up next to the ice will do the trick. Related: Japan Successfully Taps ‘Flammable Ice’ as an Energy Source for the First Time Japan so far has led the way in working to mine the potential energy source, but China’s latest efforts could mark a milestone on the path to extracting gas from methane hydrates. Chinese media said the country had succeeded in extracting an average of 16,000 cubic meters of gas per day in the South China Sea. Scientist Praveen Linga of the National University of Singapore told the BBC, “Compared with the results we have seen from Japanese research, the Chinese scientists have managed to extract much more gas in their efforts. So in that sense it is indeed a major step towards making gas extraction from methane hydrates viable.” But Linga warns extraction must be done carefully. Methane could escape from the methane hydrates during extraction, which could harm the planet as methane holds greater potential to affect climate change than carbon dioxide, according to the BBC. It’s hard to tell if flammable ice extraction will fall into the pitfalls of the oil and gas industry, with greed taking precedence over our planet. The BBC also described flammable ice as a very energy intensive source of fuel. Linga says there’s still a long way to go, and he said realistic commercial options might be ready in 2025 at the earliest. Via the BBC Images via William Winters, USGS and U.S. Geological Survey on Flickr

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Scientists may have found evidence for a parallel universe

May 19, 2017 by  
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A parallel universe may not just be a quirk of science fiction anymore; scientists think they may have found evidence for the idea of a universe other than our own. It all has to do with a strange Cold Spot, which researchers haven’t had an easy time explaining; some even suggest it could actually be an optical illusion. But new research reveals something far more bizarre may be going on. NASA first discovered the baffling Cold Spot in 2004. The Cold Spot is 1.8 billion light years across and, as you may have guessed, colder than what surrounds it in the universe. Scientists thought perhaps it was colder because it had 10,000 less galaxies than other regions of similar size. They even thought perhaps the Cold Spot was just a trick of the light. Related: ‘Largest-ever’ new map of universe shows 1.2 million galaxies But now an international team of researchers think perhaps the Cold Spot could actually offer evidence for the concept of a multiverse. The Guardian explains an infinite number of universes make up a multiverse; each having its own reality different from ours. These scientists say they’ve ruled out the last-ditch optical illusion idea. Instead, they think our universe may have collided with another in what News.com.au described as something like a car crash; the impact could have pushed energy away from an area of space to result in the Cold Spot. Physicist Tom Shanks of the University of Durham said in a statement , “We can’t entirely rule out that the Spot is caused by an unlikely fluctuation explained by the standard model. But if that isn’t the answer, then there are more exotic explanations. Perhaps the most exciting of these is that the Cold Spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe.” If more research backs up this new idea, “…then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse – and billions of other universes may exist like our own.” Eight scientists from institutions in the United Kingdom, Chile, Spain, and the United States collaborated on a study recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . Via The Independent , News.com.au , and The Guardian Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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Portland plans to replace diesel using waste methane from sewage

May 2, 2017 by  
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Portland is searching for alternative sources of energy in unlikely places – including the city’s sewage treatment plants. New infrastructure at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant will allow the city to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) for use in trucks, instead of diesel . The plan could allow Portland to slash their greenhouse gas emissions by 21,000 tons every year. Bacteria decomposing solid waste at the sewage plant produce methane , a greenhouse gas that can also be turned into a hydrocarbon fuel . The Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant has been capturing that waste methane since 2008, but, until now, have only been able to collect around 77 percent of it, which is used to generate electricity or sold. The other 23 percent is flared off, emitting climate change -inducing greenhouse gases. Now the city aims to recover 100 percent of the methane. Related: Portland commits to 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2050 The captured waste methane will be converted into RNG, replacing 1.34 million gallons of diesel fuel, according to the city. 154 garbage trucks a year are expected to run on that amount of energy. The whole project will cost around $12 million. City commissioner Nick Fish said in a statement, “We are creating a triple win for the public in terms of revenue, climate action , and cleaner air. The renewable natural gas we will produce is truly local and homegrown, a by-product of the waste from every Portland household that we can now repurpose.” The fueling station should be complete by the end of this year, and the fuel will be used in city trucks. Then in 2018 the city will start selling the fuel for distribution through utility company NW Natural . By reusing a waste product and cutting pollution , Portland expects to earn $3 million each year. Via The City of Portland and Autoblog Images via The City of Portland and Wikimedia Commons

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Alabama governor declares state of emergency after deadly gas pipeline explosion

November 2, 2016 by  
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Earlier this week near Helena, Alabama there was a fire and explosion at a gasoline pipeline operated by Colonial Pipeline Co . One worker perished in the blast, which injured around five other workers. Yesterday Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley announced a state of emergency  as a result of the explosion. The Colonial Pipeline at 5,500 miles long is the biggest pipeline system carrying refined products like jet fuel, gasoline , and diesel in America, according to Reuters. The pipeline can carry three million gallons of these products between the New York Harbor and the Gulf Coast. The explosion happened when workers hit a line with a track hoe, a type of excavator, and occurred in a wildlife area that is unincorporated. Related: 700 barrels of crude oil spill in California as pipeline breaks This isn’t the first incident Colonial Pipeline has faced; as recently as September a pipeline leak spilled an estimated 252,000 to 336,000 gallons of gasoline. The spill was the largest in almost 20 years, and interrupted pipeline operations for 12 days. In his statement on the October explosion, Governor Bentley said the operation the workers were performing at the time of the explosion “was necessary to install a permanent repair required by the previous pipeline rupture.” The governor announced a state of emergency spanning from November 1 to December 1 ” unless sooner terminated ” in a statement. The declaration will enable the state to receive a U.S. Department of Transportation waiver lifting the government’s “limitation on the hours a driver can transport gasoline.” Fuel companies and shippers are concerned they won’t receive the fuel they need. In the Southeast, millions of Americans may not receive as much gasoline, and the explosion could even affect the Northeast as well. Colonial Pipeline said they might open the pipeline again as soon as Saturday. They may also attempt to send the refined products via other parts of the pipeline. On their website Colonial Pipeline advertises their ” system integrity ” and says “Safety, environmental stewardship, and first-class customer service drive our operating philosophy.” Via Reuters ( 1 , 2 ) Images via screenshot

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