Scientists just created a new "super wood" that’s stronger than steel

May 10, 2018 by  
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Spider silk has long held the record for being the strongest biomaterial on Earth — but that just changed. Scientists at KTH Royal Institute of Technology used wood nanofibers to create a new biomaterial that is even stronger than spider silk. Researchers “densified” wood to turn an already sturdy material into a “super wood” that is as strong as steel. To accomplish this, researchers aligned tiny cellulose nanofibrils (CNF) in the same direction to create tightly-packed little bundles. These bundles form a material that is super strong and could be used in everything from cars and planes to furniture. “This discovery is made possible by understanding and controlling the key fundamental parameters essential for perfect nanostructuring, such as particle size, interactions, alignment, diffusion, network formation and assembly,” said study co-author Daniel Söderberg. Related: Body armor could be made from genetically engineered spider silk “The bio-based nanocellulose fibers fabricated here are eight times stiffer and have strengths higher than natural dragline spider silk fibers, generally considered to be the strongest bio-based material,” Söderberg said. “The specific strength is exceeding that of metals, alloys, ceramics and E-glass fibers.” The study was published this week in the journal ACS NANO . + KTH Royal Institute of Technology Via New Atlas Image via KTH and Deposit Photos

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EPA to consider burning wood a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source

April 25, 2018 by  
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Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new policy which will classify the burning of wood as a ‘carbon neutral’ fuel source. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled this policy shift to an audience of timber industry leaders in Georgia, who have a vested interest in whether they can market wood-based fuel products as ‘green energy.’ Pruitt supported his decision by claiming that forest regrowth will lead to greater absorption of carbon dioxide and somehow counteract the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation and burning wood. Scientists, none of whom were consulted in this policy change, disagree. “Today’s announcement grants America’s foresters much-needed certainty and clarity with respect to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass,” Pruitt said in a  press release . A study published by British think-tank Chatham House concluded that when all emissions and carbon absorption is accounted for, harvesting energy from burning wood produces carbon pollution equivalent to that of coal . Further, using this method of energy to create steam may be 50 percent more carbon intensive than coal. Scientist William Moomaw, who focuses on forests and their role in climate change, told Mashable that the policy was announced with “zero consultation” of agency scientists or the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. “It’s a bad idea because anything that has carbon in it produces carbon dioxide when you burn it,” Moomaw said. “This is horrific.” Related: Iceland is replanting its forests 1,000 years after vikings razed them The EPA’s decision to inaccurately classify burning wood as carbon neutral may have global consequences. “Between this and the Europeans [who constitute the largest market for bioenergy], it means no chance of staying within the 2-degree limit,” Moomaw explained. Even if the forests do grow back to their original state, the damage will already be done. “The carbon dioxide in the air will have warmed the planet. … When the tree regrows, the glacier doesn’t regrow,” Moomaw said. “The climate change effects are irreversible. Carbon neutrality is not climate neutrality.” Via Mashable Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Scientists discover a huge new human organ hiding in plain sight

March 28, 2018 by  
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Just when you thought we knew all there was to know about the human body, researchers revealed that they discovered an entirely new human organ.  Called the interstitium, it consists of a series of fluid-filled, shock-absorbing compartments that shield body tissues. The interstitium was previously thought to be dense layers of connective tissue, but it turns out that it is actually one of the largest organs in the human body  –  and understanding it better may offer clues to understanding how cancer spreads. Dr. David Carr-Locke and Dr. Petros Benias identified it as an organ while scanning a patient’s bile duct for signs of cancer. The doctors collaborated with New York University pathologist Dr. Neil Theise to further explore the structure and function of the newly identified organ. In a study published in the  journal  Scientific Reports , researchers note that previous research had failed to note the presence of the interstitium because traditional methods for the observation of body tissues involved the draining of fluid. “This fixation artifact of collapse has made a fluid-filled tissue type throughout the body appear solid in biopsy slides for decades, and our results correct for this to expand the anatomy of most tissues,” Dr. Theise told the Independent . Related: Changing the price of certain foods could save thousands of lives each year Researchers noted that the interstitium drains its fluids into the lymphatic system, which affects and regulates the body’s immune response. This means that cancer cells could potentially be released by the interstitium as it transports fluid throughout the body. If properly understood, this new organ could prove to be key in preventing the spread of cancer . “This finding has potential to drive dramatic advances in medicine , including the possibility that the direct sampling of interstitial fluid may become a powerful diagnostic tool,” said Dr. Theise. Via the Independent Images via  and  Jill Gregory/Mount Sinai Health System  and Deposit Photos

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Report shows that contamination monitors failed at Hanford Nuclear Site

March 12, 2018 by  
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Last December, as crews were demolishing the Hanford Nuclear Reservation site in Washington, work was halted after monitors alerted individuals that they had inhaled radioactive particles – and we now know that it could have been prevented. According to a new report, mismanagement and carelessness caused the exposure of at least 11 workers to nuclear waste after monitors failed to detect contamination. The Hanover site clean-up has been plagued with problems. Storage tanks have triggered alarms after springing leaks . In May of last year, a tunnel collapsed onto train cars containing nuclear waste. Then in December at the Plutonium Finishing Plant, at least 11 workers were exposed to radioactive materials. On the bright side, the Hanford Site was declared a national park in 2015 , so you can stop by if you want to get a good look at what the technology of war does to the environment. Related: America’s most polluted nuclear site is now a national park Contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company recently completed their evaluation on what happened in December. According to their report, continuous air monitors used to detect radioactive contamination failed – and officials ignored alarms signaled by the monitors that workers wear on their clothing. Then, when contamination was discovered, the report states that the steps taken to contain the radiation didn’t work. For instance, a fixative used to help contain particles was diluted, which reduced its effectiveness. Negative air pressure exhausters put in place to help contain radiation were also rendered less effective as parts of the structures were torn down. Pieces of debris were sprayed with fixative on one side, but not the other, the report also revealed. Radioactive particles were also found in areas where it shouldn’t be – including in areas where the public is allowed to visit. The report is being reviewed by a Department of Energy panel, and CH2M provided 42 steps that it plans to take to prevent something like this from happening in the future. Via The Tri-City Herald Images via Deposit Photos , Wikimedia, The Department of Energy and Flickr

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Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals

March 6, 2018 by  
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The East Kolkata Wetlands in India processes almost 198 million gallons of wastewater and sewage produced by the region’s population everyday, relying on nothing but nature. What was once a mix of lowland salt marshes and silted rivers is now a sprawling complex of man-made wetlands framed by green space. With the help of local farmers and fishers, the wetlands are maintained in good health to organically clean sewage using sunlight, oxygen, and beneficial microbes. This process, known as bio-remediation, cleans wastewater within three weeks, a remarkably quick turnaround that highlights the great power of natural solutions. Wastewater from the city is directed into small inlets, each one controlled by a local fishery cooperative. The cooperative then separates the dense polluted water from clearer surface water, which flows into the large wetland while the wastewater decomposes and becomes fish food through organic processes. This water is then used to raise fish in ponds known as bheries or grow crops on the banks of the wetlands. In addition to its wastewater and agriculture services, the East Kolkata Wetlands also act as a flood control system, absorbing excess water from the nearby city. Related: Dakshineswar Skywalk could greatly improve pedestrian safety in Kolkata Former city sanitation engineer Dhrubajyoti Ghosh has served as the Wetland’s guardian for several decades. After realizing the enormous value of the wetland’s environmental services, he defined the formal limits of the area and successfully protected it from real estate developers. Today, Ghosh recognizes the challenges and opportunities facing the wetlands and others like it. “I am still learning how this delicate ecosystem works, how to further refine it, and why some places are better suited than others,” he told The Better India . “I am happy to give any advice or help absolutely free, this is the best system of its kind in the world and could be helping millions of people. If I have failed in one thing it is this; not enough people know about it or are benefiting from it.” Via The Better India Images via East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority and  The Better India

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California’s "Butt Lady picks up 1,000,000 littered cigarette butts in 3.5 years

February 26, 2018 by  
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Cigarette butts account for an estimated 1.69 billion pounds of trash produced worldwide annually, a good number of which never even find their way into proper trash receptacles. Instead, most of them are ingested by aquatic creatures, wildlife, and pets, or simply left to languish in streets everywhere as litter. Sick and tired of seeing her town of Auburn, California marred by the toxic trash , resident Sally Dawly decided that she would make it her aim to pick up every stray butt she encountered—and keep count while at it. Incredibly, after 3.5 years, Dawly has collected over one million thoughtlessly discarded cigarette butts. “I got tired of going on my walks and seeing cigarette butts everywhere,” Dawly told her local news station. “I’m just overwhelmed and shocked that I had to pick up this many. I keep track on a daily basis of how many I pick up and I just keep going.” Related: This startup is training crows to throw away cigarette butt litter To keep count, Dawly uses a clicker. In her tackle, she also carries a broom, a pair of tongs, and a dustpan, all of which are put to good use daily. “I’ve had days where I’ve picked up 3,000 butts, in one day,” she says, “and it’s like, come on people. Don’t throw your butts, better yet, stop smoking.” The anti-littering activist picked up her first butt in October, 2014, and on  Valentine’s Day , she hit her historic milestone of 1 million cigarette butts. But she has no plans on stopping there and has already set a new goal to collect 2 million cigarette butts. Her story has also inspired countless others to join the effort to keep streets butt-free. In Auburn, cigarette receptacles have been installed outside bars and around the city, and locals consider her a bit of a local hero. As she approached 1 million butts, a number came out to cheer her on. They are also the ones who lovingly bestowed the name “Butt Lady” upon her. Via Oddity Central Lead image via Deposit Photos , others screencaps via CBS news

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Tesla is selling its solar products in Home Depot stores starting in July

February 2, 2018 by  
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Getting your hands on a Tesla Powerwall is a bit more challenging than simply running to the local hardware store – but that’s about to change. Tesla just announced that it will sell its solar products at Home Depot . Solar panels ? Check. Powerwalls ? You bet. Even Solar Roofs? You got it. It’s all happening in 800 stores by July of this year. Home Depot has 2,200 stores across the US, which can help Tesla go a long way towards reaching new customers. In July, 800 of these stores will have Tesla kiosks, staffed by Tesla employees, with interactive demonstrations, information and purchasing capabilities. Related: Tesla’s new Solar Roof is actually cheaper than a normal roof The move is smart for several reasons. First, when Tesla bought SolarCity , it was going door-to-door to move its products. This was expensive. Additionally, Tesla has advertised its products in Tesla showrooms, but that targets a specific customer with relatively few locations. Initial reports say that the kiosks will be limited to selling solar panels and Powerwalls, with the Solar Roof coming as production ramps up. It’s all part of Elon Musk’s plan to make adding solar to a home an easy and seamless process. + Tesla Via Clean Technica Images via Deposit Photos and Tesla

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Scientists just found a chunk of North America attached to Australia

January 24, 2018 by  
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Billions of years ago, getting from North America to Australia would have taken no time at all. That’s because researchers just confirmed that the two distant continents were once attached to one another. Scientists at Curtin University found sandstone rocks in Queensland that aren’t native to Australia, but are found all over eastern Canada, confirming the long-ago link. According to the new information, a chunk of what is now Queensland broke away from eastern Canada 1.7 billion years ago, eventually connecting with northern Australia 100 million years later. The result was a supercontinent known as Columbia/Nuna. 300 million years after Nuna formed, it broke apart, but the piece of Canada stuck with Australia as it moved away. Scientists have suspected that Australia was near North America or Siberia when Nuna was around, but this is the first time they’ve been able to confirm it. Related: Ancient ocean crust in the Mediterranean Sea may predate supercontinent Pangea “This was a critical part of global continental reorganization when almost all continents on Earth assembled to form the supercontinent called Nuna,” said Adam Nordsvan, part of the research team. The scientists published their findings in Geology last week . Via Slashdot and Live Science images via Deposit Photos Flickr , and Geology

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New Zealand aims for grid completely powered by renewables by 2035

November 8, 2017 by  
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New Zealand’s new prime minister has ambitious goals to seriously slash carbon emissions . Jacinda Ardern, who became prime minister in late October, wants to transition the grid to 100 percent renewables in less than 20 years. Her ultimate goal for New Zealand is zero carbon emissions by 2050. New Zealand’s 4.7 million people already obtain over 80 percent of electricity via sustainable sources, according to Bloomberg . But Ardern – now the world’s youngest female leader – seems to think they can do even better. She wants the country to move over to obtaining electricity completely from renewable energy by 2035. Related: New Zealand river world’s first to obtain legal status as a person The move won’t be without its challenges. New Zealand generates around 60 percent of their power from hydropower , according to 2016 figures. But when dry conditions cause lake levels to drop, gas and coal have helped out. Without those fossil fuels , electricity consumers could experience price hikes. But the country still has made a lot of progress towards the ambitious goal; in the winter of 2016, renewable energy generation actually peaked at 93 percent, according to Bloomberg. Ardern hasn’t put out full details of her plan to get New Zealand to a carbon-free status. She has suggested an independent commission to help meet the 2050 goal. New Zealand’s independent advisory body Productivity Commission has an inquiry into transitioning to a low carbon economy. Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson told Bloomberg Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar .” Contact Energy chief executive officer Dennis Barnes also pointed to solar – and batteries and electric vehicles – as technology that could help New Zealand move towards a greener future. Via Bloomberg and Futurism Images via Depositphotos and Good Free Photos

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Costa Rica aims to become the first country to ban all single-use plastics

August 7, 2017 by  
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Costa Rica is taking a stand against the plastic waste flooding our oceans and clogging up our landfills: the country is poised to become the first in the world to eliminate all single-use plastics . This isn’t just a ban on plastic bags or water bottles. Using a multi-prong approach, Costa Rica will eliminate plastic forks, lids and even coffee stirrers. And as if that wasn’t a lofty enough goal, they plan to do this by 2021. Plastic is one of the most dramatic problems that the environment is facing. There is so much plastic trash in the ocean that it is difficult to even comprehend, and we are constantly discovering more . By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish. In Costa Rica, 4,000 tons of solid waste is produced every day, and 20 percent of that never makes it to a recycle center or landfill, ending up in the Costa Rican rivers, beaches and forests. Related: Costa Rica ran almost entirely on renewables in 2016 Costa Rica has taken environmental protection seriously. The country plans to be carbon neutral by 2021, in part by ditching fossil fuels . They are also dedicated to restoring their forests and protecting wildlife .  In order to move away from single-use plastic, the country will utilize both public and private sectors to accomplish five actions. The country will offer incentives and issue requirements for suppliers, in addition to investing in research and development and other initiatives that will move it closer to its goals. It will also replace single-use products with innovations like cellulose acetate-based materials. Via Costa Rica News Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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