Baltimore’s floating trash-eaters have intercepted 1 million tons of debris

February 21, 2017 by  
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Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel sound like characters on a children’s program, but they are actually solar- and hydro-powered trash interceptors cleaning up Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. As cute as they are effective, Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel have wide googly eyes, a snail-like shape, and the ability to suck up plastic bags , Styrofoam containers, cigarette butts, and other debris. The initial trash wheel prototype was created by local sailor and engineer John Kellett, who approached the city about trying to find a water pollution solution after watching debris floating in the Inner Harbor on a regular basis. After a little trial and error and a promising but inadequate first trash wheel, Kellett gained the support of the Water Partnership of Baltimore , a non-profit that supports environmental legislation and aims to make the area a green, safe, and friendly destination for both humans and animals. Mr. Trash Wheel, who has his own Twitter account, is the result of their union: he uses solar panels and the river’s current to turn a waterwheel, which then activates a conveyor belt. The  trash , which gets pulled in by floating containment booms, gets tangled and lifted by rotating forks before going up the conveyor belt and being deposited into the dumpster. Once the dumpster is full, it gets towed to a transit station, and Mr. Trash Wheel continues on his trash munching ways. But Mr. Trash Wheel doesn’t have to clean up the Inner Harbor’s water all by himself. Image © John Kellet, Clearwater Mills and Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore  Related: Baltimore’s solar-powered water wheel devours up to 50,000 pounds of harbor trash each day After Mr. Trash Wheel’s success, Kellett and the Water Partnership raised funds for a female garbage gobbling counterpart: Professor Trash Wheel. Professor does her work in another part of the Inner Harbor, but both trash wheels are in high demand, especially after rain or thunderstorms. Most of the debris they pick up actually comes from illegal dumping, trash chucked from cars, and cigarette butts stubbed out on the ground as opposed to from people directly littering into the river itself, but the flow of the area’s watershed eventually brings the trash into Professor and Mr. Trash Wheel’s territory. Mr. Trash Wheel has picked up more than a million pounds of trash from the Jones Fall River since it was rolled out in 2014, with the trash wheels filling an average of 70-100 dumpsters worth every year. 300,000 plastic bags , six thousand glass bottles, and nine million cigarette butts as well as more exotic offenders including a live ball python make up the waste that is removed from the waterway. The trash gets burned to generate electricity with plans to increase recycling capabilities in the future. In order to continue their progress and to stay in line with the Water Partnership’s goal of making the harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020, the city is hoping to add an additional trash wheel or two in the future and to serve as a model for other cities and areas with water pollution issues. Kellett is also looking into other potential trash wheel sites, including Rio de Janeiro, Honolulu, and Denver. While the ultimate goal is for trash wheels (even charming, googly-eyed ones with Twitter accounts) to become obsolete due to better environmental regulations and practices, expect to see more of these effective and playful floating trash devices in harbors and waterways near you. Via National Geographic Lead image © The Waterfront Partnership

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Baltimore’s floating trash-eaters have intercepted 1 million tons of debris

World’s largest CO2 sink stores 27,000 grams of carbon per square meter

January 16, 2017 by  
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Natural areas that capture and store carbon on Earth are becoming an increasingly precious resource, and researchers may have found the mother of all of these in an unlikely place – a small bay in Denmark they claim holds a world-record amount of carbon . According to Phys.org , seagrass and underwater meadows have the capacity to store large amounts of carbon dioxide that has garnered the attention of scientists looking to find ways to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. While meadows of this kind of seagrass are found throughout the world, scientists have pinpointed one meadow in Denmark, which they say is the most efficient. The meadow is located in a bay called Thurøbund on the island of Thurø in the South Funen Archipelago of Denmark , a place where Professor Mariann Holmer of the University of Southern Denmark says has special conditions that add to its carbon capturing capabilities. Related: Breakthrough technology turns coal plant CO2 into baking powder Many seagrass meadows around the world have been investigated. Recently, I was part of a study investigating and measuring carbon storing capabilities of 10 seagrass meadows in the Baltic Sea. No place comes even close to Thurøbund,” says Professor Holmer . “It is a very protected bay—and also very productive. So the seagrass thrives and when the plants die, they remain in the meadow. They are buried in the sediment, and in this process, their carbon content gets stored with them. In Finland, the seagrass grows in open coast areas, which means that the dead plants are much more often washed out to sea, taking the carbon with them. Once the carbon has been taken out to the sea, it is unclear what happens to it.” To put it into perspective with some numbers, Thurøbund stores 27,000 grams of carbon per square meter, and the highest numbers found in other locations around the world have never been more than 10,000 to 11,000 grams per meter squared. Via Phys.org Images via Arnaud Abadie and James St. John , Flickr Creative Commons

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World’s largest CO2 sink stores 27,000 grams of carbon per square meter

Critics outraged by UK plan to build 1.8 mile tunnel under Stonehenge

January 16, 2017 by  
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One of Britain’s most well-known archaeological landmarks could soon have a tunnel carved below it. The government unveiled plans for a 1.8 mile tunnel running under Stonehenge as part of a $2.4 billion infrastructure investment, hoping to slash traffic plaguing the area. But not everyone is happy with the government’s plan; some experts believe a tunnel could destroy undiscovered artifacts. The British government is planning a $2.4 billion investment for the country’s A303 road, hoping to upgrade it into a “high quality, high performing route” that will improve trips for millions of people, according to the Department for Transport’s statement on the project. Part of the upgrades include a tunnel passing beneath the famous site. Officials say the tunnel would slash congestion and bolster the local economy. Related: Archaeologists reveal fresh details about 4,500-year-old “New Stonehenge” English Heritage , the charity managing more than 400 historic sites, backs the tunnel. UNESCO , which in 1986 designated Stonehenge as a World Heritage Site, say they could get behind the idea, but have not yet viewed final plans. Historian Tom Holland fears a tunnel could destroy the key historical site. He told CNN, “Recent finds show this place is the birthplace of Britain, and its origins go back to the resettlement of this island after the Ice Age. It staggers belief that we can inject enormous quantities of concrete to build a tunnel that will last at best 100 years and therefore decimate a landscape that has lasted for millennia.” Local chamber of commerce president and Amesbury Museum chairman Andy Rhind-Tutt is also against the tunnel, saying it won’t even really improve traffic and will “put a time bomb of irreversible destruction on one of the world’s greatest untouched landscapes.” The public can comment on the tunnel plan until March 5, and the government plans to announce the preferred route later in 2017. Construction could start in 2020, according to a Highways England spokesperson, and could be completed in four years. Via CNN Images via Good Free Photos and Pixabay

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Critics outraged by UK plan to build 1.8 mile tunnel under Stonehenge

New man-made diamonds turn nuclear waste into long-lasting batteries

November 29, 2016 by  
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Researchers have found a way to use diamonds to convert nuclear waste into long-lasting batteries . A team of physicists and chemists at the University of Bristol discovered the new technology, which transforms thousands of tons of troublesome nuclear waste into lab-grown diamond batteries capable of generating a small amount of electricity. The diamond batteries, like the precious gems they are based on, could last essentially forever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6ME88nMnYE Ushering in what researchers are calling the “Diamond Age” of battery power, the technology developed by the University of Bristol team uses man-made diamonds formed from nuclear waste, plus a small amount of radioactive energy, to create a low-current battery durable enough to outlast human civilization. The team unveiled their discovery on Friday at a sold-out lecture at the Cabot Institute. While traditional batteries require wires and coils to operate, the diamond-based battery needs only to be placed near a radioactive source in order to begin generating small electrical currents. The lack of moving parts makes the battery far more durable than its conventional counterparts. Related: Recycled diamonds provide an ethical choice for glittering milestone gifts Additionally, the diamond batteries could help dispose of nuclear waste in a safe, permanent way, while resulting in usable energy that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions or require supplemental fuel. “There are no moving parts involved, no emissions generated and no maintenance required, just direct electricity generation,” said Tom Scott, Professor in Materials in the University of Bristol’s Interface Analysis Center. “By encapsulating radioactive material inside diamonds, we turn a long-term problem of nuclear waste into a nuclear-powered battery and a long-term supply of clean energy .” Early prototypes of the battery rely on nickel-63 as the radiation source, which is encased within the man-made diamond, but the team is testing other options to boost efficiency and output. Next on the list is the addition of carbon-14, a radioactive version of carbon which can be easily harvested from graphite blocks. The United Kingdom currently stores around 95,000 metric tons of graphite blocks, so the utilization of carbon-14 in diamond batteries would greatly reduce the cost and risk of storing that particular form of nuclear waste . Via New Atlas Images via Michelle Tribe/Flickr and University of Bristol

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New man-made diamonds turn nuclear waste into long-lasting batteries

Modern meets rustic in the Hemmingford House built from natural materials

November 29, 2016 by  
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A new home has sprung from the ruins of an old farmhouse in the countryside south of Montreal. SIMARD architecture blends old with new in the recently constructed Hemmingford House, a contemporary cottage built along old fieldstone foundation walls of the previous farm building. The boxy facade handsomely pairs locally sourced slate with untreated cedar planks for a rugged appearance that pays homage to the landscape. The 3,500-square-foot Hemmingford House is distinctly modern dwelling with rustic touches woven throughout. The untreated cedar siding recalls old timber barns and will develop a patina similar to a weathered fence. Locally quarried slate cut into blocks and stacked in brick-like strata complement the wooden facade. The old fieldstone foundation walls were preserved as paving stone edging that lead visitors to the main entrance. “All these contextual cues influenced the site layout and architecture of this private residence designed for a couple who left their home in the city for a life on the country,” write the architects. “The house unfolds to the surrounding landscape.” Related: Historic Belgian farmhouse renovated into a modern solar-powered home Large windows open up the interior to natural light and views of the countryside. Slate and timber are used in the interior for continuity with the facade. The communal areas are located on the ground floor, while the bedrooms are placed on the upper level. An elegant glass-bottomed bridge in the airy double-height entryway connects the two bedrooms. + SIMARD architecture Via v2com Photography by Stephane Brugger

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Modern meets rustic in the Hemmingford House built from natural materials

Seattle teens build mobile tiny homes for local homeless community

November 29, 2016 by  
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We love stories about youth channelling their ideals into life-changing projects, especially when there are tiny homes involved. Last year, with guidance from the non-profit organization Sawhorse Revolution and various architecture, construction, and engineering professionals, a group of teens designed seven tiny homes for the Nickelsville homeless community network in Seattle. With construction, made possible by a successful crowdfunding campaign, nearing completion, the team is back with plans to build four more moveable eco-friendly structures, including a tiny house duplex that’s ideal for families. https://vimeo.com/191997252 Nickelsville comprises a network of self-governed homeless encampments on city-sanctioned land throughout Seattle. They are transitional communities, and their inhabitants move every three to 18 months. As a result, the homes and other structures that Sawhorse teens build have to be mobile. Following their successful crowdfunding campaign last year, Sawhorse Revolution has launched Impossible City 2: youth-built homes for homeless . They hoping to raise around $21,000 to build additional tiny homes, a security booth, and a duplex. Sawhorse Revolution program director Sarah Smith told Inhabitat, “Our second Indiegogo campaign has been inspired by the impact these houses make – on so many levels. First is the experience our students have learning about homelessness. Design requires empathy; when they design a tiny house for someone experiencing homelessness, our youth must research, interview, and put themselves in the shoes of our clients.” Related: Oregon man donates tiny homes to Standing Rock protestors The Parabay Homes duplex design acknowledges that families can’t always squeeze into 120 square feet. So last summer, students conceived a design that expands the space with two separate structures, yet facilitates connection between family members in their respective sections. Another design will make it more comfortable for the camp residents who staff a 24-hour security booth that also acts as an entrance and hub in each village. Lastly, the team plans to design “Tiny Home #9” that will “prototype murphy bed construction and other moving canopy parts that can expand living area without violating city codes.” According to Sawhorse Revolution, Seattle has approved six camps to provide transitional housing for area homeless. The camps work with the Low Income Housing Institute to provide temporary refuge until affordable housing opens up for people unable to sustain rising rent prices. “There’s a sense of motivation and purpose when we work together on these tiny homes – the teens, builders, volunteers, and designers that make up a project team for the Sawhorse Revolution tiny homes are transformed by sharing a common purpose,” Sarah said. “Learning in this setting is not abstract – it’s got a real motivation, and this allows our youth to learn crucial skills as they provide shelter and dignity for those who need it most.” + Sawhorse Revolution + Impossible City 2 on Indiegogo

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Seattle teens build mobile tiny homes for local homeless community

Innovative new light therapy could treat bees poisoned by pesticides

November 16, 2016 by  
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Bees treated with light therapy bounce back from pesticide poisoning at surprising rates, a new study found. Pesticides threaten the world’s already unstable global bee population , but this new treatment, which involves installing infrared lights directly into hives, could significantly improve survival rates. Researchers at the University College London saw a need to improve bee’s odds against neonicotinoid pesticides , which reduce their mobility and render them unable to feed themselves. “Neonicotinoid pesticides are a persistent threat to global bee populations, which play a critical role in agriculture,” said lead study author and Professor Glen Jeffery of UCL’s Institute of Opthamology . By interfering with mitochondrial function and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, this specific kind of pesticide can do a great deal of damage. Related: Neonicotinoid insecticides kill honeybee sperm The researchers , who published their findings in PLoS One , exposed two samples of bees to the neonicotinoid Imidacloprid for 10 days. One group was given twice daily treatments of near infrared light therapy , which was found to greatly improve ATP production, mobility, and rate of survival in comparison to the control group. Even more impressive, bees that had not been poisoned also showed an increase in survival rate after receiving the groundbreaking therapy. The treatment is especially promising because the near infrared light is not detectable by the bees, and therefore does not interfere with their daily activity. “It’s beneficial even for bees that aren’t affected by pesticides, so light therapy can be an effective means of preventing loss of life in case a colony becomes exposed to neonicotinoids,” said Professor Jeffery. “Essentially, it recharges the cell’s batteries.” Via Phys.org Images via Wikimedia , Pixabay

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Innovative new light therapy could treat bees poisoned by pesticides

Scientists discover an enormous, hidden reef behind the Great Barrier Reef

August 29, 2016 by  
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New laser data from the Royal Australian Navy has revealed a massive reef behind the rapidly dying Great Barrier Reef. Giant fields of circular, donut-shaped mounds, between 200 and 300 meters in diameter, are created by a type of green algae. Unfortunately, this reef is likely facing the same threats as the neighboring Great Barrier Reef . A collaboration between James Cook University , the University of Sydney , and Queensland University of Technology led to the discovery of just how large these fields are. Dr. Robin Beaman of JCU said in his co-authored paper , “We’ve known about these geological structures in the northern Great Barrier Reef since the 1970s and 80s, but never before has the true nature of their shape, size and vast scale been revealed.” Related: Startling video shows coral bleaching in action The mounds are bioherms, or organic reef-like mounds, made by the growth of Halimeda green algae . Upon death, they form small limestone flakes similar to the shape of cornflakes and mounds begin to form over time. These Halimeda bioherms are between 200-300 meters wide and 10 meters deep. Thanks to the new glimpse into the area, over 6,000 square kilometers have now been mapped. The closer look has raised questions of environmental preservation and historical documentation. Associate Professor Jody Webster of the University of Sydney said, “As a calcifying organism, Halimeda may be susceptible to ocean acidification and warming,” and wonders about the extent of possible damage so far. Dr. Beaman is interested in what researchers can learn from bioherm sediment samples about changes in the reef systems over the last 10,000 years. Further impending research will help scientists better understand the structures, their impact, and their future. Via Daily Mail Images via Wikipedia , Wikimedia

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Scientists discover an enormous, hidden reef behind the Great Barrier Reef

Using Metals as Carbon Free Fuel Alternatives

January 22, 2016 by  
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Researchers are exploring the novel idea of using metals as fuels. This is not some new, exotic science-fiction material, but rather plentiful, ordinary metals such as iron that could be used in a novel way for storing and transporting renewable energy. According to a McGill University article, the research being led by Professor Jeffrey Bergthorson is proposing “a novel concept for using tiny metal particles – similar in size to fine flour or icing sugar – to power external-combustion engines.” Instead of using the chemical bonds with carbon, which are currently the basis of most fuels we presently use, metal powders could be used in a similar fashion and make use of energetic reactions to release energy when and where it is needed. The article describes the process: “Unlike the internal-combustion engines used in gasoline-powered cars, external-combustion engines use heat from an outside source to drive an engine. External-combustion engines, modern versions of the coal-fired steam locomotives that drove the industrial era, are widely used to generate power from nuclear, coal or biomass fuels in power stations.” We already speak of the “embodied energy” in a material as par of its overall sustainability profile. Materials that are energy intensive to produce, such as concrete and steel, are less preferable from a lifecycle perspective compared to a material like wood, which needs much less energy to gather and prepare. So the idea of using iron powder (or some other metal) as a fuel is not as impractical as it might seem at first. While we think of metal as non-combustible, fine metal can be burned (as anyone who has ever lit a piece of steel wool on fire can tell you). But transporting a load of iron dust is much less hazardous than loads of oil or liquified natural gas. Using metals as a fuel would require capturing the spent fuel in order to re-process it. Having clouds of rust floating in the air sounds like a dystopian future. But, in theory, processing the oxidized metal back into its pure state could be carried out repeatedly, re-using the same metal over and over. While the researchers are looking at all levels of energy use with this technology, from automotive uses on up, the idea of storing grid-scale energy or even transporting it from one location to another (refining metal near locations producing lots of energy, much the way aluminum processing presently takes place close to cheap electricity sources), and then transporting the metal to power plants for it to be burned to produce electricity. One potential drawback that probably requires further investigation is that metal is a much heavier substrate than carbon-based fuels are. If metal dust is to be used for transportation, how heavy is the fuel that needs to be carried for ordinary travel? But if existing combustion power plants could be adapted to use metal powder instead of coal or other fossil fuels, then much of the existing power generating infrastructure could be used, and power generation could continue to be in the same places it is now, using the same grid as is currently supplying electricity. Large scale power plants are also likely much easier to set up with the equipment necessary to do the capture of exhaust. via: Quirks and Quarks

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Using Metals as Carbon Free Fuel Alternatives

Another round, barkeep! Professor serves up a pill that prevents hangovers

March 10, 2015 by  
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Finish that beer and crack open another one! A professor from  Imperial College London  claims he can create a drug to save us from the unfortunate side effects of alcohol:  the dreaded hangover . This reported ‘God amongst men’ is Professor David Nutt, who has been working on two wonder drugs. The first is “alcosynth,” which is a drink that mimics alcohol, but reportedly “removes the risks of hangovers, liver toxicity, aggression and loss of control.” The second invention is the Holy Grail for drinkers; it’s a pill that, when swallowed, could help people quickly sober up thus reducing drink-driving accidents and, naturally, hangovers. Read the rest of Another round, barkeep! Professor serves up a pill that prevents hangovers Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: alcohol side effects , beer , benzodiazepine derivative , david nutt , hangover , hangover free beer , hangover pill , Professor david nutt

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Another round, barkeep! Professor serves up a pill that prevents hangovers

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