Laser-driven fusion energy leaves no radioactive waste – and it’s within reach

December 14, 2017 by  
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Dramatic advances in lasers could get us closer to fusion energy . An international team of 11 scientists is pursuing what was once thought to be impossible, according to the University of New South Wales (UNSW): fusion power with hydrogen-boron reactions. The researchers describe this in their recently published study as the ideal clean fusion process: the technique needs no radioactive fuel elements and doesn’t leave toxic radioactive waste. Could we be closer to better fusion energy? The world for decades has pursued igniting the heavy hydrogen isotopes deuterium (D) and tritium (T). But generated neutrons from DT fusion produce radioactive waste. The researchers in their paper suggest an alternative: fusing hydrogen with the boron isotope 11. And lasers could help make this hydrogen-boron fusion possible. Related: ‘We were blown away’ – researchers eliminate obstacle to fusion energy Instead of heating fuel to the Sun’s temperature with “massive, high-strength magnets to control superhot plasmas inside a doughnut-shaped toroidal chamber,” according to UNSW, scientists can reach hydrogen-boron fusion with rapid bursts from two powerful lasers. This process requires temperatures and densities 200 times hotter than the Sun’s core – but advances in laser technology may have reached the point where the two-laser approach actually could be viable. Study lead author Heinrich Hora of UNSW, who in the 1970s predicted it might be possible to fuse hydrogen and boron without needing thermal equilibrium, said in a statement, “I think this puts our approach ahead of all other fusion energy technologies.” HB11 Energy , a spin-off company in Australia, holds the patents. Managing director Warren McKenzie said in a statement, “From an engineering perspective, our approach will be a much simpler project because the fuels and waste are safe, the reactor won’t need a heat exchanger and steam turbine generator, and the lasers we need can be bought off the shelf…If the next few years of research don’t uncover any major engineering hurdles, we could have a prototype reactor within a decade.” The journal Laser and Particle Beams published the research online this week. Scientists at institutions in Israel, Spain, Germany, the United States, China, and Greece contributed. + HB11 Energy Via the University of New South Wales Images via Pixabay and HB11 Energy

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Laser-driven fusion energy leaves no radioactive waste – and it’s within reach

18-year-old invents cheaper CO2 capture tech to fight climate change

December 8, 2017 by  
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Even with quick-paced developments in renewable energy , the world still produces the vast majority of its power via fossil fuels : over 80 percent . 18-year-old Ethan Novek is working on technology that could allow us to burn fossil fuels without climate change-inducing emissions , giving us time to install more renewable energy. His carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technology stands out from the rest because it could capture CO2 at about $10 per metric ton – around 85 percent less than the industry standard. Novek made the discovery that would lead to his potentially game-changing technology in his high school chemistry laboratory. CO2 capture technology has traditionally drawn on a substance such as amine that selectively reacts with just CO2 as other gases escape. The substance is then heated to break the chemical bond for a release of the greenhouse gas that can be converted into products. But the amines used are expensive, and it takes a lot of heat to break that bond. Novek’s discovery could overcome these issues. Related: World’s first commercial carbon-sucking plant goes live in Zurich In his high school laboratory, Novek was hoping to utilize a technique known as salting out to cheaply produce urea, a nitrogen-based fertilizer. He realized he could actually use the process to separate out and capture CO2 after fossil fuels are burned. Here’s how it could work: at a fossil fuel plant, exhaust gases could be piped into a mix of water and ammonia. Inert gases like oxygen would escape as ammonia reacted with CO2, forming a salt. A solvent could break the salt back into CO2 and ammonia. Distillation could separate the ammonia and solvent mix so each component could be recycled. And the CO2 could be transformed into chemicals like acetic acid or synthetic gas. The CO2 capture process needs 75 percent less energy than others. Novek attracted the attention of Yale University professor Menachem Elimelech, and with other Yale researchers they wrote a study published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters . Novek started a company, Innovator Energy , and is working on a pilot plant that could use waste gas from a chemical factory or power plant to capture 1,000 kilograms of carbon emissions per day. + Innovator Energy Via Quartz Images via Carbon XPRIZE and Depositphotos

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18-year-old invents cheaper CO2 capture tech to fight climate change

Venezuela’s last remaining glacier is melting away

December 6, 2017 by  
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Venezuela’s last remaining glacier will be completely gone within the next 10 to 20 years. Until as recently as 1991, five glaciers were found in the Sierra Nevada de Mérida mountain range in Venezuela . As climate change has accelerated, so too has the meltdown. Named for the nearby Pico Humboldt, Venezuela’s second highest peak at over 16,000 feet, the Humboldt Glacier is one-tenth of the size it was three decades ago. Scientists hope to study the glacial disappearing act so as to learn more about what other communities might expect in a warming world. “This is a tragedy that should be highlighted as one more consequence of irresponsible behavior in energy-intense economies,” said Walter Vergara, a forest and climate specialist at Global Restoration Initiative in Latin America , according to GlacierHub . Unfortunately, Venezuela’s current political and economic crises make an international scientific study very difficult. The Humboldt glacier was last studied by an international team in 2015. Even then, the data was limited; a research team from Westfield State University in Massachusetts was only able to conduct a GPS survey and gather basic observations. While some data, such as measurements of ice coverage and reflection of solar radiation, can be studied using satellites, they would be more accurate if more researchers were able to spend time at Humboldt. Related: Venezuelans are getting Fridays off to battle an energy crisis It is often difficult for Venezuelan scientists to find success at home due to the economic and political crises that has gripped their country in recent years. Despite the challenges, Venezuela is not without its environmental heroes.  “Venezuela’s Minister for Environment, Ramón Velásquez-Araguayán, is a smart and capable climate scientist who is very sensitive to climate change issues and environmental conservation ,” Ángel G. Muñoz, a postdoctoral research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, and Princeton University, told GlaicerHub. Still, it is likely that Venezuela will soon become the first country to lose all of its glaciers . Sadly, it is not likely to be the last. Via GlacierHub Images via Wikimedia and Serge Saint/Flickr

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Venezuela’s last remaining glacier is melting away

Spectacular wildflower roof grows atop a dreamy Texan cabana

December 6, 2017 by  
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You might not think a cabana could outshine a glistening blue pool—especially in the Texan heat—but this Pool House in Texas’ City of West Lake Hills is a scene-stealer. Murray Legge Architecture designed this dwelling topped with a flourishing wildflower green roof in a project that’s so beautiful we can’t help but wonder what the main residence looks like. The pool house project was also designed to minimize impervious surfaces and aid in management of stormwater runoff. A modernist beauty, the City of West Lake Hills Pool House and the surrounding area emphasize clean lines, steel framing, and glass. Light-colored stone stairs leading down to the pool are raised off the slope to allow water to pass through, while grasses grow in the space between treads. An innovative suspended and permeable stone terrace system surrounds the L-shaped pool. Stone also makes up much of the Pool House and are stacked in large blocks to give the exterior a beautifully textured appearance. Glazing wraps around the front of the building and opens up to create an indoor-outdoor dining area complemented by an outdoor wood stove and high-end residential kitchen. Timber is featured prominently in the Pool House, where it lines the interiors and is used for furnishing. The vaulted roof arches upwards, echoing the surrounding canyon hills, and gives the structure a more airy feel. Related: 42mm Architecture’s sculptural Pool House in India is wrapped in a curved concrete shell “Impervious cover and storm water run-off regulations within the city are very restrictive,” wrote the architects. “The City of West Lake Hills granted a variance to allow the construction of a garden roof and accepted it as permeable cover through a variance process. This variance was a first for the City of West Lake Hills and points to the city’s progressive environmental policies.” The architects also added that they stacked much of the project’s equipment and programs beneath the green roof to minimize impervious surfaces. + Murray Legge Architecture Images by Ryann Ford, Murray Legge, Whit Preston

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Meteorologist warns collapse of two Antarctic glaciers could flood every coastal city on Earth

November 24, 2017 by  
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Two of Antarctica’s glaciers are holding our civilization hostage, meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote in a piece for Grist . Pine Island and Thwaites are among the continent’s biggest and fastest-melting glaciers , together holding back ice that could unleash 11 feet of sea level rise . If they collapse, every coastal city on our planet could flood. Thwaites and Pine Island sprawl across a plain over 150-miles-long, and inland widen to a reserve of ice two-miles-thick that’s about the size of Texas, according to Holthaus, who says there’s no doubt the ice will melt. The question is not if, but how soon. Should the two glaciers collapse, every shoreline and coastal city could be inundated with water, leaving hundreds of millions of climate refugees homeless. And those events could happen in 20 to 50 years – too fast for humans to adapt. Related: Antarctica’s newest iceberg may destabilize the entire ice shelf Two climatologists, in a study published in Nature last year, said an increase of six feet in ocean levels by 2100 was more likely than three feet – but if carbon emissions continue increasing in a worst case scenario, all 11 feet of ice held back in Antarctica could be freed. But if these glaciers are miles thick, wouldn’t it take an incredibly long time for them to collapse? That may not be the case in our warming world. Holthaus pointed to new evidence saying once we reach a certain temperature threshold, glacier ice shelves extending into the sea – like those of Thwaites and Pine Island – could melt from below and above, quickening their demise. Holthaus noted not every scientist thinks there’s cause for panic. National Snow and Ice Data Center lead scientist Ted Scambos said the two glaciers may not collapse all at once – and rapid collapse would still produce several icebergs that could slow the rate of retreat and act as a temporary ice shelf. But the scientific community is starting to think we need more research into the risk of rapid sea level rise, according to Holthaus. University of Michigan leading ice sheet scientist Jeremy Bassis said, “Every revision to our understanding has said that ice sheets can change faster than we thought. We didn’t predict that Pine Island was going to retreat, we didn’t predict that Larsen B was going to disintegrate. We tend to look at these things after they’ve happened.” Via Grist Images via Wikimedia Commons and NASA

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Meteorologist warns collapse of two Antarctic glaciers could flood every coastal city on Earth

NASA video shows dramatic shift in Earth’s seasons as a result of climate change

November 22, 2017 by  
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It can be hard to visualize just how much climate change has impacted Earth’s seasons. To help, NASA released a new illustration that drives home the dramatic shift that has taken place over a few short decades. So, when you are sitting around the table with your climate change -denying relatives this week, just show them this. Touted as the most complete view of biology on Earth to date, the visualization takes data from satellites since 1997 to create a comprehensive view of the changing planet. Most obvious is the way the seasons have shifted: spring arrives earlier as time progresses, and fall stays later. You can also see algal blooms grow and shrink, and the snow and glaciers gradually recede with each year. Related: NASA map shows how climate change has set the world on fire “These are incredibly evocative visualizations of our living planet,” said Gene Carl Feldman, an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center . “That’s the Earth, that is it breathing every single day, changing with the seasons, responding to the Sun, to the changing winds, ocean currents and temperatures.” Via The Guardian

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This solar-powered floating farm combines agriculture and dining under one roof

November 17, 2017 by  
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As urban farming becomes increasingly popular, people are finding new, unexpected ways of incorporating agriculture into cities. From rooftops and community gardens, urban farming has descended to waterways and lakes – as in this solar-powered floating farm that doubles as a restaurant. Lotus is designed to grow fresh produce with a vertical hydroponic garden and then serve it in indoor and outdoor dining areas where visitors can enjoy waterside views and learn more about the production of the food. Lotus is a future-oriented farming system that aims to solve problems relating to the production, sale and distribution of crops and produce in urban areas. Its design also addresses the issue of global warming exacerbated by increased emissions of methane and carbon dioxide. Related: Could solar-powered floating farms provide enough food for the entire world? Designers Taeung Kim, Sunae Shin, Sungho An, Seungjun Lee & Mirae Park conceived the structure for client HYDROKOREA, and they were recognized by this year’s K-Design Award – an international design contest held by DESIGNSORI . Via Yanko Design

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This solar-powered floating farm combines agriculture and dining under one roof

Tesla surprises the crowd with a new $250k Roadster

November 17, 2017 by  
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Tesla surprised the crowd last night at the debut of the Tesla Semi by unveiling a new Roadster, which is expected to arrive by 2020. Although lately Tesla has been focused on more mass market electric cars, it hasn’t forgotten where it started. While the Tesla Model 3 focuses on the entry-level electric segment, the new Roadster will focus on the high end of the segment with a $250,000 price tag. What does that get you? For starters, the Tesla Roadster will feature a 200 kWh battery pack that will give it a driving range of 620 miles. Three electric motors, one in the front and two in the rear, power the new Roadster. Even more exciting, Tesla says the new Roadster will be the “fastest production car ever made” with a 0-60 mph time of 1.9 seconds. It will also reach the quarter mile in only 8.9 seconds. Related: Revolutionary Tesla Semi Truck arrives with a whopping 500 mile driving range The Tesla Roadster isn’t a convertible like the original, but features a removable targa top. There’s also room for up to four passengers. Tesla hopes to have the new Roadster ready by 2020, but you can already place your reservation for only $50,000. + Tesla All images ©Tesla

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Tesla surprises the crowd with a new $250k Roadster

Worlds first solar panel mural unveiled in San Antonio

November 17, 2017 by  
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In a world where solar farms are shaped like giant pandas, there’s certainly room for some solar butterflies. Determined to beautify our cities by converting solar panels into creative works of public art , the Seattle-based Land Art Generator Initiative just unveiled the world’s first solar mural installation, called La Monarca, by San Antonio artist Cruz Ortiz. La Mariposa solar mural – recently unveiled at the San Antonio Arts Festival, Luminaria – was created through advanced PV Film technology that lets light easily pass through the printed film that adheres to the panels. The beautiful mural is just the first step in the Land Art Generator’s plan to combine sustainable energy infrastructures with public art. Working with local artists, architects, landscape architects, engineers and scientists, the organization hopes to provide more collaborative platforms that enable cities to put a new artsy spin on their clean energy generation . Related: World’s cutest solar farm in China is shaped like a panda According to the artist, La Monarca was inspired by San Antonio’s status as the National Wildlife Federation’s first Monarch Butterfly Champion City . A fitting symbol to be put on a clean energy installation , the monarch butterfly represents the threat that wildlife faces due to global warming and climate change. After the festival, the solar art mural will be moved to its permanent home inside a pollinator garden on the EPICenter campus in San Antonio where it will be used to generate solar energy directly into the building. + Land Art Generator Initiative Images by Land Art Generator Initiative

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Durable canvas cloth with embedded solar cells generates 120 watts per square meter

November 17, 2017 by  
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Tents , sun shades, and canopies could generate renewable energy with Norway-based company Tarpon Solar’s solar canvas . They created flexible tarpaulins, integrated with bendy solar cells from Swedish company Midsummer . Instead of simply finding shade from the sun, with Tarpon Solar’s product people could obtain clean power from the sunlight striking a canopy or tent. Tarpon Solar laminated solar cells onto a flexible canvas to create a product with numerous potential applications – shade for a restaurant patio, a swimming pool covering, or canopies in refugee camps are just a few of the possibilities. The company says the canvas can also be included in a passive home design. The product could even open up the possibility of solar power generation in places where traditional solar panels couldn’t easily be deployed, according to Tarpon Solar’s website. Related: New solar canopy provides both shade and clean energy Tarpon Solar utilized Midsummer’s solar cells in a product that recently won first place in the MTI Technology Award competition. The CIGS cells, or copper-indium-gallium-selenium, are made without cadmium, a toxic material Midsummer says is often used in CIGS or thin film solar cells. They listed the benefits of CIGS cells as having high efficiency, low weight, durability, and flexibility. The solar cells generate around 120 watts per square meter. Tarpon Solar technical manager Marius Borg-Heggedal said in a statement each canvas is custom made, so the type of fiber and amount of fabric varies among products. The company’s website says the laminated cloth is that utilized in the sailing industry. Borg-Heggedal said solar cells are integrated during production and “become part of the material.” Midsummer described the canvases as very light, saying in a statement with the solar cells integrated “the weight becomes almost the same as with conventional PVC material and the canvas is also stronger and more durable.” + Tarpon Solar + Midsummer Images courtesy of Tarpon Solar and Midsummer

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