Garbage from Hurricane Irma will now help power Florida

September 18, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Irma left a mess of destruction in its wake. But in Florida , some of that trash will be put to good use – as electricity . Garbage will be burned in waste-to-energy plants that can produce enough power for around 30,000 homes. While Houston can send trash generated as a result of hurricane Harvey to 14 active landfills , Florida doesn’t have as much space for landfills. So they burn a lot of it, using the generated heat to run steam generators. In 2016, 10 waste-to-energy plants in the state burned 4.5 million tons of garbage , producing 3.5 million megawatt-hours of power. That was around two percent of Florida’s overall power. Incineration cuts the solid mass of garbage by as much as 90 percent, and then the ash can be put into landfills, taking up less space. Related: How Hurricane Irma changed the colors of these Caribbean islands Irma created more trash for burning. Before the hurricane struck, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection set up disaster-debris sites with local governments so trash could be collected for the waste-to-energy plants. According to Bloomberg, county authorities are already seeing spikes in the amount of solid waste. Hillsborough County solid waste director Kimberly Byer told Bloomberg, “We’ve seen about a 20 percent increase. That’s just an initial increase, and it’s only been a couple of days.” Florida burned 12 percent of its garbage in 2016. They dumped 44 percent into landfills and recycled 44 percent. Their waste-fueled power plants were constructed largely in the 1980s and 1990s. According to Bloomberg, pollution-control technologies were later retrofitted to get rid of mercury and dioxin – although The New York Times said some environmental activists say waste-to-energy plants, while cleaner than ones of the past, still do emit mercury, dioxins, or lead. Burning trash isn’t the cleanest method of generating power, especially since it generates carbon dioxide , a greenhouse gas that then enters the atmosphere. But according to Bloomberg, it may be better than dumping waste in landfills – eventual methane emissions from the same volume of trash would be worse for the atmosphere. Hillsborough County turns 565,000 tons of garbage into around 45 megawatts of power per year. Byer said their waste-to-energy plant pays for itself. Via Bloomberg Images via U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan and U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wolf

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Garbage from Hurricane Irma will now help power Florida

Australian researchers store light as sound for the first time

September 18, 2017 by  
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Photonic computers could run 20 times quicker than today’s laptops if microchips could process data in speedy photons. Now, they might be able to. For the very first time, researchers from two Australian universities have found a way to store light waves as sound waves in a microchip – a breakthrough that brings us closer to the super-fast computers of the future. Light-based computers could revolutionize computing. They won’t generate heat , or use as much energy as today’s computers. Light-based information sent across cables today is converted into electrons, which are slow, but storing light waves as sound waves allows the information, which computer chips can still read, to travel more quickly. Normally, light would pass through a microchip in two to three nanoseconds, but when it’s stored as sound, it can remain on a chip for an additional 10 nanoseconds, allowing data to be processed. Related: Newly discovered form of spiralized light breaks everything quantum physics says about photons The animation above breaks down the process. Photonic data enters the microchip as a yellow light pulse, and interacts with what’s called a write pulse that’s blue. That generates an acoustic wave where the data is stored. Then, another light pulse, called the read pulse, accesses the data stored in the acoustic wave and transmits it as light. Project supervisor Birgit Stiller of the University of Sydney said in a statement, “The information in our chip in acoustic form travels at a velocity five orders of magnitude slower than in the optical domain. It is like the difference between thunder and lightning.” Their system also works on a broad bandwidth, so Stiller said they can store and retrieve information at different wavelengths at the same time. The journal Nature Communications published the research online today. Two researchers from Australian National University joined three from the University of Sydney for the study. Via ScienceAlert and Phys.org Images via PublicDomainPictures.net and Louise Connor/University of Sydney

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Australian researchers store light as sound for the first time

Hurricane Irma as seen from the International Space Station

September 6, 2017 by  
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NASA captured an astonishing video of Hurricane Irma from space. Soon after the National Hurricane Center upgraded Irma to a Category 5 storm , the International Space Station’s external cameras caught what NASA described as a dramatic view of the hurricane . Irma has already smashed records – meteorologist Philip Klotzbach said on Twitter earlier this morning Irma has broken the Atlantic record previously held by 1980’s Hurricane Allen for Accumulated Cyclone Energy produced during 24 hours. Hurricane Irma is currently moving over Caribbean islands, and looks to be en route to Florida with winds reaching up to 185 miles per hour. As the International Space Station orbited the Earth, the station’s cameras shot the hurricane from multiple angles, showing how truly massive it is. According to weather forecaster Liam Dutton , Hurricane Irma is so large it would cover both Ireland and the United Kingdom. Related: Category 5 Hurricane Irma is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever Most of the people on Antigua and Barbuda lost power, and in Antigua around 1,000 people spent the night in shelters, according to ABS TV and Radio director of news Garfield Burford. He said the winds posed a major threat, and that a few rooftops had already blown away. Around 1,600 people reside on Barbuda, where the eye of Hurricane Irma passed over. Irma – des images de Saint Barth @ParisMatch pic.twitter.com/KhbYgMr6ha — Pauline Lallement (@pau_lallement) September 6, 2017 The hurricane also hit Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy, causing blackouts and flooding . French Overseas Territories Minister Annick Girardin was quoted by AFP as saying Hurricane Irma has resulted in major damage on multiple Caribbean islands. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters of Saint Martin, “We know that the four most solid buildings on the island have been destroyed which means that more rustic structures have probably been completely or partially destroyed.” Image d'un hôtel à #StMartin après le passage #IRMA #ouraganIRMA via @guadeloupe_1ere pic.twitter.com/im6ORYro8m — La1ere.fr (@la1ere) September 6, 2017 According to The Guardian, Tropical Storm Jose, which is the weather system following Hurricane Irma, is forecast to turn into a hurricane by tonight. Via Reuters , The Guardian , and NASA Images via screenshot and screenshot

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Hurricane Irma as seen from the International Space Station

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