New nanomaterial pulls hydrogen from seawater to power fuel cells

October 4, 2017 by  
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Hydrogen can be obtained from seawater to power fuel cells , but the process is typically costly because of the electricity required. Researchers created a nanomaterial that can do the job more efficiently. According to the University of Central Florida (UCF), the advance “could someday lead to a new source of the clean-burning fuel .” UCF assistant professor Yang Yang has been working on solar hydrogen splitting for almost a decade. In the process, a photocatalyst sets off a chemical reaction with energy from light . But the photocatalysts don’t work as well in seawater – they don’t stand up well to salt and seawater’s biomass. Yang’s research team came up with a new catalyst that’s not only good for splitting purified water in a laboratory, but can better endure seawater and even harvest light from a broader spectrum. Related: Scientists develop new way to generate electricity via seawater Yang said, “We can absorb much more solar energy from the light than the conventional material. Eventually, if it is commercialized, it would be good for Florida’s economy. We have a lot of seawater around Florida and a lot of really good sunshine.” He said in many cases it’s better to use the sun’s energy to create a chemical fuel than to generate electricity with solar panels . Hydrogen gas can be transported and stored easily. UCF said it’s relatively cheap and easy to make the catalyst, which is comprised of a hybrid material. The journal Energy & Environmental Science published the research the end of September. Scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington and Tsinghua University in China collaborated on the study. Yang and his team plan to continue researching how to scale up the catalyst fabrication, and to work on splitting hydrogen from wastewater with the catalyst. Via the University of Central Florida Images via the University of Central Florida

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New nanomaterial pulls hydrogen from seawater to power fuel cells

The Puerto Rico nursery still up and running thanks to solar power

October 4, 2017 by  
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Solar power is helping flower grower Hector Santiago get back on his feet in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated much of the United States territory’s electricity grid . Six years ago, he sank $300,000 into 244 solar panels , and said everyone told him he was crazy because of the cost. Today, he has power and is rebuilding his nursery. Santiago’s Cali Nurseries , which sells decorative plants and poinsettias to firms like Cosco and Walmart, suffered tremendous losses during the storm. Hurricane Maria damaged plants and greenhouses , ripping off roofs and flattening trees. Santiago told The Washington Post his losses amounted to an estimated $1.5 million. Related: Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy But he’s been able to begin rebuilding his Barranquitas farm with the help of electricity thanks his investment in solar energy. The storm damaged 25 percent of the photovoltaic panels, but there’s still enough energy to start rebuilding his operation. The power allowed him to keep pumping water from wells, as the business’ 19 employees cleaned up and repotted plants. Santiago was unable to get back to his farm for five days following the hurricane, and when he finally returned he found his employees hard at work, as they had been since the first day. He told The Washington Post, “I just started crying, I choked up, when I saw them working like nothing had happened. They give me the strength to not give up and to do whatever I have to do to continue with my business.” The devastation in Puerto Rico has resulted in an increased interest in renewable energy . Solar installation firm owner Henry Pichardo, who works out of Bayamon, said Hurricane Maria could boost his business by 20 percent per year. He said he’s been flooded with inquiries after the storm. He told Reuters, “People are going to become more conscious of how they are living, and invest more in solar.” Via Reuters and The Washington Post Images via Hector Alejandro Santiago Rodriguez on Facebook and Cali Nurseries on Facebook

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The Puerto Rico nursery still up and running thanks to solar power

Why 2,000-year-old Roman concrete is stronger than our own

July 10, 2017 by  
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The exact formula for Roman concrete has been lost. This is unfortunate, as many 2,000-year-old Roman concrete piers and breakwaters structures are even stronger today than they were when they were built millennia ago, while our modern marine concrete structures break down in decades. An international team of researchers recently discovered that seawater has a role to play in the ancient material’s surprising longevity. Concrete in ancient Rome was comprised of volcanic ash, lime, and seawater, mixed with chunks of volcanic rock. A team led by University of Utah geologist Marie Jackson discovered it’s seawater that could help the building material last – the substance fosters the growth of interlocking minerals that provide cohesion to the concrete. Related: Family accidentally discovers “extraordinarily well-preserved” Roman villa in England Back between 2002 and 2009 Jackson and colleagues found the rare mineral aluminous tobermorite, or Al-tobermorite, in Roman harbor concrete gathered by the ROMACONS project. The mineral is incredibly difficult to make in a laboratory, requiring high temperatures. Going back to those drill cores to scrutinize them with new methods for this research, Jackson found the mineral again along with a related one, phillipsite, in pumice particles and pores. The team knew something had to encourage those minerals to grow in low temperatures after the concrete hardened, and it turns out seawater washing over those piers and breakwaters could be the key. Jackson said in a statement, “We’re looking at a system that thrives in open chemical exchange with seawater…No one has produced tobermorite at 20 degrees Celsius. Oh – except the Romans!” Jackson has never come across the Roman recipe for concrete in an extensive search of old texts. But she’s working with geological engineer Tom Adams on a replacement recipe. The rocks the Romans used aren’t common throughout the world, so they’ll have to make substitutions. And if they’re successful, Roman concrete probably won’t start popping up everywhere, but could be perfect for certain projects like a proposed tidal lagoon for tidal power in the United Kingdom. Jackson is the lead author on a study published on July 3 in American Mineralogist . She was joined by researchers at institutions in China, Italy, Washington, and California. Via The University of Utah Images via J.P. Oleson and Marie Jackson

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13-year-old Ohio girl taps traffic to generate renewable energy

July 10, 2017 by  
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We may be one step closer to tackling our energy crisis if this 8th grader has anything to say about it. 13-year-old Laalitya Acharya from Ohio came up with TraffEnerate, an invention that uses vehicular traffic to generate clean power . She’s a finalist in the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge , and stands to win $25,000. Acharya started researching cheap, easily renewable resources of energy, and came across a device she calls a piezo. She explains when stress is applied to a piezo, it generates electricity . She wanted to make it easy to utilize piezos, so she designed TraffEnerate to obtain power when cars drive over the devices. Her prototype incorporates 11 piezo sensors and a 3D-printed block so stress will be applied to all 11 piezos even if a car just barely passes over the corner of the prototype. Related: 13-year-old Maanasa Mendu invents groundbreaking clean energy device that costs just $5 Acharya also designed a reciprocating motion machine to test the prototype. Her robot consistently applied stress to the invention, seen in an oscilloscope reading. She hopes to implement TraffEnerate in the busiest intersections of her hometown of Mason, Ohio . Acharya said on the challenge website, “I wanted to change the world, that simple. On my family’s yearly trip to India, I saw children who have no power in their homes, huddling near dangerous fires. I wanted to change their position in life, to make it better by creating clean energy and electricity.” The 2017 Young Scientist Challenge is put on by Discovery Education and 3M . There are 10 finalists for this year’s challenge, with innovative projects such as a way to detect lead in water, treating Alzheimer’s with plant components, and cleaning up oil spills with pomegranate husks and orange peels. A winner will be chosen in October. + Young Scientist Lab Via Young Scientist Challenge and Rajesh Acharya Images via screenshot

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13-year-old Ohio girl taps traffic to generate renewable energy

Praying mantises hunt down and eat small birds, including hummingbirds

July 10, 2017 by  
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We know praying mantises are carnivorous – they’ve been documented consuming frogs, lizards, and snakes. But they also kill and consume small birds like hummingbirds , according to new research from zoologists in Switzerland and the United States. We expect birds to eat insects , not the other way around, so the reversal is startling – and humans may have had a role to play in the deaths of these hummingbirds. The zoologists gathered 147 cases of mantids capturing small birds. Praying mantises from 12 species and nine genera engaged in the behavior, which was found on every continent except Antarctica, in 13 countries. The insects weren’t too picky about the birds they ate either – 24 different species and 14 families of birds were among the prey. Related: 9 things you can do to help wild birds this summer But 70 percent of the cases in this research occurred in the United States. There, the insects have been employed as pest control – a practice which had unintended consequences. Several alien species of big praying mantises were released in North America decades ago for pest control, and now threaten small birds. They snare hummingbirds at hummingbird feeders, or in home gardens filled with plants the birds pollinate . These hummingbirds comprise the majority of the birds preyed upon by praying mantises. 78 percent of the birds captured were eaten, according to the researchers. 18 percent were liberated by humans. Only two percent escaped on their own. Scientist Martin Nyffeler of the University of Basel said in a statement, “Our study shows the threat mantises pose to some bird populations. Thus, great caution is advised when releasing mantises for pest control.” Nyffeler was the lead author on a paper recently published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology , joined by zoologists from National University and Louisiana State University . Via TreeHugger and the University of Basel Images via Zoran Ožetski on Unsplash and Beckie on Flickr

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Praying mantises hunt down and eat small birds, including hummingbirds

Uranium from seawater could provide an "endless" supply of nuclear energy

February 21, 2017 by  
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No discussion of a post-carbon future can be complete without raising the specter of nuclear power. Although it’s a contentious subject, any concerns about large-scale adoption have been largely rendered moot by the fact that the world’s uranium deposits are finite—and dwindling. Stanford researchers are convinced, however, that the solution may lie in seawater, which contains trace amounts of the radioactive metal. “Concentrations are tiny, on the order of a single grain of salt dissolved in a liter of water,” said Yi Cui, a materials scientist who co-authored a paper on the subject in the journal Nature Energy . “But the oceans are so vast that if we can extract these trace amounts cost effectively, the supply would be endless.” Wind and solar power are gaining traction, but some experts say that they’re still too intermittent to be truly reliable in the long term. “We need nuclear power as a bridge toward a post-fossil-fuel future,” said Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former U.S. secretary of energy who championed seawater extraction research before he left the Department of Energy for Stanford. A co-author of the paper, he noted that nuclear power currently accounts for 20 percent of U.S. electricity and 13 percent worldwide. A practical way of extracting uranium from seawater, he added, could go a long way to bolstering the energy security of countries that rely on nuclear power but lack uranium reserves of their own. “Seawater extraction gives countries that don’t have land-based uranium the security that comes from knowing they’ll have the raw material to meet their energy needs,” he said. Related: Uranium extracted from the oceans could power cities for thousands of years Although many have attempted to harness the oceans’ uranium before, previous efforts have failed to yield sufficient quantities in a fiscally meaningful way. Till now, anyway. Uranium doesn’t bob freely on the waves, of course. In seawater, the element combines chemically with oxygen to form positively charged ions called uranyl. Building on years of prior research, the Stanford team refined a technique that involves dipping plastic fibers containing a uranyl-attracting compound called amidoxime in seawater. When the strands become saturated with the ions, the plastic is chemically treated to free the uranyl, which can be refined for use in reactors – much like you would do with ore. By tinkering with different variables, the researchers were able to create a fiber that captured nine times as much uranyl as previous attempts without becoming saturated. Sending electrical pulses down the fiber collected even more uranyl ions. “We have a lot of work to do still but these are big steps toward practicality,” Cui said. + Stanford University Via Engadget Top photo by apasciuto

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Uranium from seawater could provide an "endless" supply of nuclear energy

Uranium extracted from the oceans could power cities for thousands of years

July 5, 2016 by  
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Over four billion tons of uranium present in the ocean could help provide energy for ” the next 10,000 years ,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The element could be used to fuel nuclear power plants , except extraction poses significant challenges. The DoE funded a project involving scientists from laboratories and universities across the United States, and over the last five years they have made strides towards successfully extracting ocean uranium using special adsorbent fibers. People have attempted to mine ocean uranium for around 50 years. Japanese scientists in the 1990s came close with the development of adsorbent materials, or materials that can hold molecules on their surface. Building on their ideas, U.S. scientists worked on an adsorbent material that reduces uranium extraction costs ” by three to four times .” Related: Scientists develop new way to generate electricity via seawater The adsorbent material is made of ” braided polyethylene fibers ” that have a coating of the chemical amidoxime. The amidoxime attracts uranium dioxide, which sticks to the fibers. Scientists then use an acidic treatment to obtain the uranium, which is collected as uranyl ions. The uranyl ions must then be processed before they can be turned into fuel for nuclear power plants. Chemists, marine scientists, chemical engineers, computation scientists, and economists all worked on the project, and the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research published several studies in an April special issue . The journal also presented research from Chinese and Japanese scientists. Phillip Britt, Division Director of Chemical Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said, “For nuclear power to remain a sustainable energy source, an economically viable and secure source of nuclear fuel must be available. This special journal issue captures the dramatic successes that have been made by researchers across the world to make the oceans live up to their vast promise for a secure energy future.” What’s next? While the new adsorbent material does reduce costs, the process to gather ocean uranium is still costly. Nor is it efficient yet, but if perfected it could offer an important alternative fuel source. Via Scientific American Images via Krisztina Konczos on Flickr and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

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19th century green-roofed Icelandic church is straight out of a fairy tale

July 5, 2016 by  
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Although sod-topped structures may seem like fairy tale buildings straight out of The Hobbit, the architectural practice of building grass-roofed homes actually goes back for centuries – especially in areas with harsh winter weather. Finding these original structures is near impossible, however, visitors to Southwest Iceland can still visit the fascinating green-roofed Hofskirkja church, built in 1884.

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19th century green-roofed Icelandic church is straight out of a fairy tale

Boeing, Etihad, GE and MIST to build world’s first aquaculture and biofuel plant at Masdar City

January 20, 2015 by  
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Biofuels have a bad reputation for eating up precious land and water resources, as well as pilfering food from the world’s hungry. But a groundbreaking new bioenergy pilot plant at Masdar City , Abu Dhabi’s growing clean energy hub and research institute, is pioneering a new paradigm. This desert plant that will be irrigated with seawater, will make bioenergy and food production harmonious — perhaps for the first time in history. Read the rest of Boeing, Etihad, GE and MIST to build world’s first aquaculture and biofuel plant at Masdar City Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: abu dhabi , aviation fuel , aviation industry , bioenergy , biofuel and food , biofuels , desert , fish , food in the desert , food security , growing food with seawater , halophytes , mangroves , Masdar , masdar institute , Middle East , S.H.R.I.M.P. , salt-tolerant plants , SBRC , seawater , water scarcity

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Boeing, Etihad, GE and MIST to build world’s first aquaculture and biofuel plant at Masdar City

Harry Potter fans succeed in push for fair trade chocolate treats

January 20, 2015 by  
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Some of the world’s biggest Harry Potter fans have gathered together for a sweet reason:  ethically sourced chocolate . The Harry Potter Alliance—an actual group of Hogwarts enthusiasts formed in 2005—has used its muscle to get Warner Brothers to review their standards for chocolate production. Thanks to the fans, Warner Brothers has guaranteed that all of their Harry Potter-themed chocolate treats will be 100 percent Fair Trade certified by 2015. Read the rest of Harry Potter fans succeed in push for fair trade chocolate treats Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: child labor , child labour , eco design , Ethical , ethical chocolate , ethically sourced chocolate , Ethically sourced products , Fair Trade , fair trade certified , Fair Trade certified chocolate , fair trade chocolate , fair trade chocolates , green design , Harry Potter , Harry Potter alliance , harry Potter chocolate , Harry Potter fans , JK Rowling , sustainable design

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Harry Potter fans succeed in push for fair trade chocolate treats

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