World’s biggest river island could be India’s first carbon-neutral sector

March 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Pollution has plagued India recently; a 2017 report showed people are more likely to die from air pollution not in China, as might be your first guess, but in India. But one area of the country could receive a breath of fresh air. Majuli, which is the largest river island in the world, could become the country’s first carbon-neutral district. Majuli, which is found in India’s Assam state, is home to plentiful biodiversity and the neo-Vaishnavite culture, which according to The Guardian is a monotheistic branch of Hinduism. But the river island is in trouble: monsoons and the river absorb homes as land is disappearing rapidly. In the middle of the 19th century, the river island was around 463 square miles, but in 2015 it was just around 154 square miles, and some research says Majuli could be gone in two decades. Related: New Delhi has the worst air pollution of any city on earth “Majuli is facing an existential crisis and therefore initiatives like designating [it] a carbon neutral district and biodiversity heritage site are [the] needs of the hour to preserve its rich heritage and legacy,” said Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The government aims to make the river island the country’s first carbon-neutral sector by 2020 . Sonowal aims to raise awareness among locals as the area works to become free of pollution. He suggested parents could give a sapling to their children for their birthdays, and plant trees around their homes. He also started an electronic registry to scrutinize the climate impact of any projects proposed for Majuli. A project called the Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development, started late last year, will ensure the river island’s infrastructure is low carbon . According to Sonowal’s office as quoted by The Times of India, “Further declaration of Majuli as a Biodiversity Heritage Site, the first in the state, enforces the rich biological biodiversity in the wild, cultivated areas of the island and cultural heritage of Majuli.” Via India Times , The Times of India , and The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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World’s biggest river island could be India’s first carbon-neutral sector

Solar-powered skin could help prosthetics imbue sense of touch

March 23, 2017 by  
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Engineers from the University of Glasgow have developed a synthetic skin that could help amputees regain their sense of touch. Clad in graphene, a form of graphite just one atom thick yet tougher than steel, the “electronic skin” even uses photovoltaic cells to harvest power from the sun. “This could allow the creation of an entirely energy-autonomous prosthetic limb,” said Ravinder Dahiya , head of the School of Engineering’s Bendable Electronics and Sensing Technologies group and the author of a paper on the subject in the current issue of Advanced Functional Materials . Graphene and solar cells are ideal bedfellows because of the former’s unique physical properties, Dahiya said. The material’s optical transparency, for instance, allows 98 percent of the light that hits its surface to pass through. Graphene is also electrically conductive, which means it can channel power to sensors that measure attributes like temperature, pressure, and texture. “Those measurements mean the prosthetic hand is capable of performing challenging tasks like properly gripping soft materials, which other prosthetics can struggle with,” Dahiya said. Related: Thought-controlled robotic arm returns the sense of touch to amputees Because the new skin requires only 20 nanowatts of power per square centimeter, even the lowest-rated photovoltaic cell on the market will suffice. The energy generated by the skin’s cells cannot be stored at present, but the researchers are exploring ways of diverting any unused energy into batteries that can be drawn from at a later time. Beyond prosthetics, the breakthrough could fuel further advances in robotics—a boon for an increasingly automated world. “Skin capable of touch sensitivity also opens the possibility of creating robots capable of making better decisions about human safety,” Dahiya said. “A robot working on a construction line, for example, is much less likely to accidentally injure a human if it can feel that a person has unexpectedly entered their area of movement and stop before an injury can occur.” + University of Glasgow

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Flexible new solar panel is almost 80% lighter than traditional panels

March 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Solar panels just got a lot slimmer. Zhengrong Shi, a.k.a. the Sun King, is now marketing eArche, a super flexible, ultrathin solar panel that could stretch along building facades, atop buses, or on top of carports to charge electric cars. According to Shi, the groundbreaking panel has unlimited potential, and 40 kilowatts (kW) of the new technology has already been installed in three locations throughout Australia . eArche draws on a composite material like that utilized in airplane windows that is almost 80 percent lighter than conventional photovoltaic panels, according to RenewEconomy. Shi is distributing his new products through Australian company Energus and Hong Kong company SunMan , and believes eArche is the biggest innovation in over 10 years in the solar industry . He told RenewEconomy, “Most of the cost reductions we have seen come from manufacturing, growing efficiency, and supply chain. There has been very little innovation on products and applications, so we have decided to focus on the panel itself, which has been very rigid and heavy.” Related: SolarWindow unveils new energy-generating glass that bends Some companies haven’t been able to install solar because panels are too heavy for their buildings’ roofs, but Shi’s technology could remove that issue. Rooftop solar systems typically weigh around eight metric tons for a 100 kW array, according to The Daily Advertiser, but eArche weighs just around two metric tons for 100 kW. Shi said eArche can be custom-shaped for building roofs or walls. He told RenewEconomy, “We think governments should require all new buildings to have solar panels integrated into their structure. With this panel, it is easy to do.” SunMan also envisions the technology on RVs, yachts, vending machines, and more. Time will tell if eArche is as revolutionary as Shi thinks. The technology stands in contrast to Tesla’s proposed solar tiles , which Shi said is “the wrong way of doing it” largely due to expense and weight. Via RenewEconomy and The Daily Advertiser Images via Sunman Energy Facebook

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Flexible new solar panel is almost 80% lighter than traditional panels

Wright Electric unveils revolutionary plan for 150-seat electric passenger plane

March 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Green

The electric car market just keeps growing, but electric planes aren’t yet a common sight. Wright Electric plans to change that with a 150-seat commercial passenger airplane powered by batteries . They presented their idea in Silicon Valley at renowned startup accelerator Y Combinator’s Demo Day yesterday – can they usher in a new era of cleaner flight? After quietly running in stealth mode, Wright Electric unveiled their business idea to a group of investors in Mountain View, California. Their plan? To disrupt the 737 market with an environmentally friendly alternative. Even though the company is just a year old, they’re well on their way to success: they hired a team NASA funded in the past to explore electric planes, and have partnered with EasyJet , a low-cost British airline, to help propel their vision. It appears Wright Electric captured the attention of the Y Combinator team; CEO Michael Seibel said, “This is one of the best hard tech teams I’ve seen.” Related: Meet Maxwell, NASA’s zero-emission 14-motor electric airplane Wright Electric’s battery-powered planes are targeted for short-haul trips, or flights with a duration of less than 300 miles: New York to Boston or London to Paris. 30 percent of existing flights are currently short-haul. How the planes are precisely powered will depend on how far battery technology advances; Wright Electric’s planes could either be all-electric or run on a hybrid system much like a Chevy Volt . There’s already interest for such airplanes: earlier in March in a blog post the company said a “high-net-worth individual wants our electric 150-seater as his fifth private jet.” Last year Airbus and Boeing sold 737-style 967 planes for around $90 million apiece, so Wright Electric has the potential to be profitable once their planes are ready. That date could still be several years away, but the company has still set an ambitious goal: make every short-haul flight electric in just two decades. Via TechCrunch Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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Wright Electric unveils revolutionary plan for 150-seat electric passenger plane

Swedish researchers develop low-cost wood filter to purify water in refugee camps

March 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

At least 780 million people in the world lack access to clean water , a dire problem exacerbated by the increasing number of people living in poorly-equipped refugee camps . Researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden may have come up with a low-cost, low-tech solution: a portable wood filter that doesn’t require a power source to produce clean water. KTH scientists developed a material from wood cellulose that can trap bacteria , and are testing the material for use as a water filter. PhD student Anna Ottenhall said, “Our aim is that we can provide the filter for a portable system that doesn’t need electricity – just gravity – to run raw water through it…The bacteria-trapping material does not leach any toxic chemicals into the water, as many other on-site purification methods do.” Related: Researchers design cheap mercury-free LED foil to purify water https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NaJ2zRPleQ The wood cellulose fibers utilized are antibacterial, and are dipped in a positively-charged polymer solution to create the material, which works since bacteria and viruses are negatively charged, according to Phys.org. The harmful viruses and bacteria stick to the material, unable to get free or reproduce, and eventually die. Another benefit of this method of purification is that bacteria won’t be able to build up a resistance to it. The Swedish research team envisions their material used as a water filter in places that lack wells or infrastructure, like refugee camps or in emergencies. After use, the material can simply be burned. Bandages, packaging, and plasters could potentially draw on the material as well to dispose of bacteria in ways that don’t put toxins into the environment . KTH researchers are developing several other wood-based materials along with this wood water filter, such as see-through wood, a wood polystyrene alternative, and squishy wood batteries. Via Phys.org Images via KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Wikimedia Commons

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Swedish researchers develop low-cost wood filter to purify water in refugee camps

Trump plans to strip NASAs earth science division, promote mission to Mars

March 22, 2017 by  
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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed into law a new plan for NASA’s future . The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 calls for a $19.5 billion annual budget for the agency – not a major change from the agency’s $19.3 billion budget in 2016 – but the document seems to leave out the agency’s earth science division entirely. Trump claims this is simply a way of reaffirming the agency’s “core mission” of human space exploration, space science, and technology, but given how aggressively the new administration has gone after any agencies involved in atmospheric research, climate change denial is likely the underlying motive for the shift. Under the new act, Congressional Republicans have outlined a new roadmap for the agency’s future. The law calls on NASA to create a plan for humans to reach the surface of Mars by the 2030s, and to continue developing its Orion space capsule and its Space Launch System. The administration has also expressed a desire for NASA to return to the moon in the 2020s. Related: NASA releases startling new images showing 30 years of change on Earth What’s unclear is exactly how the new law will affect NASA’s earth science research. Trump’s proposed budget , however, may offer some clues. He hopes to cut the earth science budget by $102 million, potentially terminating a number of programs, including the   Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem  (PACE),  Orbital Carbon Observatory-3  (OCO-3),  Deep Space Climate Observatory  (DISCOVR), and  CLARREO Pathfinder missions. These four satellites help scientists monitor the Earth’s climate, weather, and oceans. While Trump may claim climate change is outside of the scope of NASA’s original research mission, that’s simply untrue. When NASA was formed in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Act explicitly called on the new agency to contribute to the “expansion of human knowledge of phenomena in the atmosphere.” The loss of these resources would be devastating to the larger scientific world, which often relies on NASA data for research. Related: Gov. Jerry Brown pledges to launch California’s “own damn satellite” if Trump blocks climate research It’s still far too early to know what might happen: the funding requested would be for the 2018 fiscal year, so any cuts wouldn’t be felt immediately. The proposed budget also has to be reviewed and approved by Congress before anything is set in stone. Hopefully, lawmakers will see the value in maintaining some of these programs, even if Trump doesn’t. Via Business Insider Images via   NASA

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Trump plans to strip NASAs earth science division, promote mission to Mars

Diapers, sanitary products could provide alternative fuel source

March 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Green, Recycle

A waste-management company has developed a new, patented process that turns sanitary products, baby diapers, incontinence pads, and other so-called “absorbent hygiene products” into power. PHS Group , which serves 90,000 households, schools, offices, and retirement homes across the United Kingdom and Ireland, says that it handles about 45,000 tons of the stuff a year. A plant in the Midlands is currently converting 15 percent of that waste into compressed bales that can be burned to provide fuel for power stations. Refuse-derived fuel is neither an untested concept in Europe, where the practice is par for the course, nor in the U.K., where it’s gaining ground. But diapers, tampons, and their ilk have proved trickier because their dampness makes incineration most costly. But neither is dumping them in the landfill, where they’ll take decades to degrade, a sustainable solution. “Hygiene products are an essential part of many of our everyday lives but disposing of them has always been an issue,” Justin Tydeman, CEO of the PHS Group, told Guardian . PHS Group’s system, which is being evaluated by the University of Birmingham for its effectiveness, not to mention its impact on the environment, sounds simple in principle. Related: How Sweden diverts 99 percent of its waste from the landfill The company begins by shredding and squeezing the material, then disposing of any waste liquid as sewage. The remaining dry material is packed into bales, ripe for tossing into the fire. “Whether or not it turns out to be a major source of energy in itself, the key thing is we find a good way to handle what is a complex and growing waste stream,” Tydeman said. “We don’t want this stuff just going into the ground.” An aging population makes PHS Group’s tack even more vital than ever, Tydeman added. “The great thing about life today is people are living longer, but what comes with that is often incontinence issues,” he said. We want this to be a growing issue, because we want people to live longer.” Via the Guardian Photos by Unsplash , Pixabay

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Diapers, sanitary products could provide alternative fuel source

Hundreds of radioactive wild boars run amok in Fukushima, Japan

March 18, 2017 by  
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Packs of radioactive wild boars are running loose in northern Japan, where the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011 forced entire towns and villages to abandon ship. Six years later, the beasts pose more than a minor nuisance to displaced residents, a number of whom are eager to return to their homes as the Japanese government begins to lift evacuation orders in certain areas. Besides their obvious toxicity—tests by officials show that some animals possess levels of cesium-137 300 times higher than what is considered safe—the boars are also known to attack humans. Swaths of farmland, now gone to seed, have become prime real estate for foraging varmints. According to Yomiuri , a local newspaper, boars have caused more than $854,000 in agricultural damage in Fukushima prefecture. Local authorities in the affected towns have hired teams of hunters to shoot the boars with air rifles, or trap them in cages using rice flour as bait. Related: Fukushima radiation levels at highest since 2011 disaster “After people left, they began coming down from the mountains and now they are not going back,” Shoichiro Sakamoto, who leads a group of 13 hunters in the town of Tomioka, told Reuters . “They found a place that was comfortable. There was plenty of food and no one to come after them.” A recent government survey found than half the 21,500 former residents of the town of Namie, one of the towns included in the proposed evacuation-order lift, have decided against returning, citing fears over the safety of the nuclear plant, which will take decades to dismantle. Several have also raised concerns about the bands of marauding boars. “I’m sure officials at all levels are giving some thought to this,” said Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant in Namie. “Something must be done.” Via Reuters Image via Wikipedia

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Hundreds of radioactive wild boars run amok in Fukushima, Japan

Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification

March 17, 2017 by  
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The Sahara Desert we know, with its rolling sand dunes and hot temperatures, used to be a verdant grassland with lakes. Scientists have traditionally attributed the dramatic change to a wobble in Earth’s orbital axis , but now archaeologist David K. Wright of Seoul National University is suggesting actually, humans may have been to blame. A 10,000-year or so wet period called the African Humid Period brought moisture to northern and eastern Africa. But around 8,000 years ago the moisture balance began to change. Today below the sand-dominated landscape can be found signs of rivers and plants, remnants of a greener history. In an article published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science , Wright explained humans used to be thought of as passive agents in the end of the African Humid Period. But he thinks humans might actually have been active agents in the change. Related: The Mediterranean will become a desert unless global warming is limited to 1.5°C Wright said, “In East Asia there are long established theories of how Neolithic populations changed the landscape so profoundly that monsoons sopped penetrating so far inland.” He thinks a similar phenomenon could have happened in the Sahara. People growing crops and raising livestock could have changed the environment , exposing soil, and sunlight bouncing from the soil could have warmed the air, influencing atmospheric conditions enough so there wasn’t as much rainfall, which only added to the desertification of the Sahara. As yet, Wright needs more evidence for other scientists to fully get on board with his ideas. He said, “There were lakes everywhere in the Sahara at this time, and they will have the records of the changing vegetation. We need to drill down into these former lake beds to get the vegetation records, look at the archaeology , and see what people were doing there.” If Wright turns out to be right, his research could yield insights into how we can adapt to large scale climate change . Via Phys.org and ScienceAlert Images via Charly W. Karl on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Archaeologist suggests ancient humans helped catalyze the Sahara’s desertification

Trump team claims funding climate change is "a waste of your money"

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Predictions that the environment wouldn’t fare well under Donald Trump are already coming true. His budget proposal aims to slash Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funding by 31 percent, tossing out climate change programs because as White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said, those are “a waste of your money.” Perhaps Trump’s America First budget proposal shouldn’t come as a surprise: it’s highly militaristic and hard on the arts, the sick, the poor, foreign aid, and of course climate change. Under the Trump budget, pollution cleanup efforts and energy efficiency measures would be shoved to the side. Related: Trump to purge climate change from federal government Over 50 EPA programs could be lost under the Trump budget, including large-scale cleanup efforts for the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes and assistance for Alaskan villages hurting because of climate change. States would be left to pick up the pieces. And so much for Trump’s blustering about jobs – around one in five EPA workers would lose theirs under the so-called America First budget. Mulvaney hearkened back to campaign trail language when he said, “This comes back to the president’s business person view of government , which is if you took over this as a CEO, and you look at this on a spreadsheet and go, ‘Why do we have all of these facilities, why do we have seven when we can do the same job with three, won’t that save money,’ and the answer is yes…You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it. So, I guess the first place that comes to mind will be the Environmental Protection Agency.” He also doubled down on Trump’s view of climate change. “We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mulvaney said. “We consider that to be a waste of your money.” Ultimately Trump’s budget is simply a recommendation; Congress will write and pass a budget. It remains to be seen if they’ll gut the EPA as much as Trump wishes. Via The Guardian Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Eric Vance/USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency on Flickr

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Trump team claims funding climate change is "a waste of your money"

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