Stanford sodium-based battery could be more cost-effective than lithium

October 18, 2017 by  
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The quest for the best battery is of vital importance as the world transitions to renewable energy . Now a Stanford University -led team has designed what they think might offer a cheaper alternative to lithium – a sodium -based battery. While it’s not the world’s first sodium ion battery, the Stanford design costs 80 percent less than a lithium-ion battery , and it is capable of storing the same amount of energy . Lithium-ion batteries may currently reign supreme, but according to Stanford, sodium-ion batteries could compete in terms of cost-per-storage. They said lithium costs around $15,000 per ton to mine and refine, while the “widely available sodium-based electrode material” they utilized in their new battery costs a fraction of that at $150 per ton. It’s a significant difference as materials comprise around one quarter of the price of a battery. Related: Researchers successfully made a battery out of trash Stanford chemical engineer Zhenan Bao said in a statement, “Nothing may ever surpass lithium ion in performance. But lithium is so rare and costly that we need to develop high-performance but low-cost batteries based on abundant elements like sodium.” The sodium-based electrode is made up of a positively charged ion, sodium, and a negatively charged ion, myo-inositol. You may not be familiar with myo-inositol, but Stanford says it’s in baby formula, and derives from rice bran “or from a liquid byproduct of the process used to mill corn.” Like sodium, it too is naturally abundant. While the researchers think they have shown sodium-based batteries can be cost effective compared to lithium ion batteries, they aim to keep working on the design . They’ve optimized the charging cycle and cathode, according to Stanford, but engineer Yi Cui says optimizing the phosphorous anode could improve the battery. The journal Nature Energy recently published the study online . Stanford University engineers collaborated on the project with a researcher from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory . Via Stanford University and New Atlas Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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Stanford sodium-based battery could be more cost-effective than lithium

Mysterious giant hole cracks open in Antarctica

October 11, 2017 by  
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A giant hole the size of Maine or Lake Superior has suddenly appeared on the surface of Antarctica and scientists are not quite sure how it came into being. “It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice,” said atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus. The sudden emergence of this hole, for the second year in a row, has confounded scientists, whose access to the site is limited. “This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge,” said Moore. “If we didn’t have a satellite, we wouldn’t know it was there.” Known as a polynia, the observed phenomenon occurs when open ocean water is surrounded by solid sea ice, leading to changes in the surrounding ice and below. This particular polynia has been known to scientists since the 1970s, though they were unable to fully investigate in the past. “At that time, the scientific community had just launched the first satellites that provided images of the sea-ice cover from space,” said Dr. Torge Martin, meteorologist and climate modeler. “On-site measurements in the Southern Ocean still require enormous efforts, so they are quite limited.” Related: New Antarctic farm will grow produce despite temperatures of -100 degrees F This is the second year in a row in which the reported polynia hole has opened in Antarctica, “the second year in a row it’s opened after 40 years of not being there,” according to Moore. While some may feel that climate change is behind this unusual occurrence, Moore cautions further study before drawing any conclusions. However, climate change certainly can influence the structure of sea ice and polynia. “Once the sea ice melts back, you have this huge temperature contrast between the ocean and the atmosphere ,” said Moore explained. “It can start driving convection.” This can result in polynias, fueled by warmer water rising to the surface, lasting longer than previously observed. Regardless of its origins, the reported polynia offers additional information for the study of climate. “For us, this ice-free area is an important new data point which we can use to validate our climate models,” said Moore. “Its occurrence after several decades also confirms our previous calculations.” Via Motherboard Images via  meereisportal.de , Jeff Schmaltz/LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response/Jesse Allen/NASA , and  MODIS-Aqua via NASA Worldview; sea ice contours from AMSR2 ASI via University of Bremen

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Mysterious giant hole cracks open in Antarctica

The entire world could be powered by one deep-sea wind farm

October 10, 2017 by  
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What if the world’s energy problems could be solved with one deep-sea wind farm ? A new study, conducted by the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, California, suggests it could. Scientists determined that if a renewable energy project the size of India were to be constructed in the ocean, enough electricity could be generated to fulfill the energy needs of every nation on earth. In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doctors Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira wrote: “On an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world.” The duo noted that wind speeds are on average 70 percent higher over the Earth’s oceans than on land. In order to generate the equivalent of all energy used today, a deep-sea wind farm would need to span three million square kilometers. On land, the concept would never work. This is because when more wind turbines are added to a farm, the combined drag from the turning blades limits the amount of energy that can be obtained. As a result of this effect, electricity generation for large wind farms on land is limited to about 1.5 watts per square meter . In the North Atlantic, however, the limit would be much higher — more than six watts per square meter. Related: The world’s biggest offshore wind farm is being built in the UK The Independent reports that this is possible because more heat pours into the atmosphere above the North Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the problem of “ turbine drag” is essentially overcome. Said Possner, “We found that giant ocean-based wind farms are able to tap into the energy of the winds throughout much of the atmosphere whereas wind farms onshore remain constrained by the near-surface wind resources.” During the summer, the output from the vast North Atlantic wind farm would drop to one-fifth of the annual average. Despite this, enough energy would still be generated to meet the electricity demands of all countries in the European Union . The scientists added that a deep sea wind farm would have to operate in “remote and harsh conditions,” where waves heights often reach more than 3 meters. If these hurdles were overcome, political and economic challenges would need to be tackled next. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons [1] , Wikimedia Commons [2] , Wikimedia Commons [3] and Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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The entire world could be powered by one deep-sea wind farm

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

Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites

August 25, 2017 by  
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The Donald Trump administration seems to be plugging its ears against the mention of any health risks of residing near coal mines. His Department of the Interior (DOI) recently shut down a study on potential health impacts for such people in Central Appalachia, reportedly citing a changing budget. The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign representative Bill Price told The Washington Post, “It’s infuriating that Trump would halt this study…that people in Appalachia have been demanding for years.” The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine were conducting a study on health risks for people living near surface coal mining sites when they were told to stop by the DOI as the agency reviewed projects needing more than $100,000. The National Academies was still allowed to hold scheduled meetings in Kentucky earlier this week. But they’ve been told to cease all other work on the project. Related: Montana judge stops massive coal mine expansion, citing climate impact Central Appalachia coal mining sometimes employs mountaintop removal , a practice scientists say is particularly destructive . Price told The Washington Post, “Everyone knows there are major health risks living near mountaintop removal coal mining sites, but communities living with daily health threats were counting on finally getting the full story from the professionals at the National Academies of Science.” The National Mining Association seemed to stand behind the Trump administration’s move, pointing to an analysis from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences examining multiple reports which said the studies usually didn’t account for lifestyle and extraneous health effects. The association also pointed to a United States Energy Information Administration analysis saying mountaintop mining only comprises under one percent of coal production and a study of health impacts may be unnecessary. The National Academies said they believe the study is important and they stand ready to continue the work, hoping they’ll be allowed to continue. But they don’t know the end date of the DOI’s review. Via The Washington Post Lead image via Pixabay , others via iLoveMountains.org on Flickr and Pixabay

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Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites

Timber cabin on wheels lets you hit the open road in luxurious comfort

August 25, 2017 by  
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Seek adventure on the open road without leaving the comforts of home—that’s the charm of ESCAPE , a Wisconsin-based company that designs and builds RVs that look like tiny towable cabins. We’re always impressed by ESCAPE’s line of tiny homes on wheels and their latest addition, Escape ONE XL, is no exception. Clad in charred wood siding, the ONE XL was launched this month and comfortably sleeps up to eight inside a surprisingly lavish modern interior. We’ve seen many tiny homes on Inhabitat but few pull out all the stops like the Escape ONE XL. Designed as the larger version of the Escape ONE , this tiny mobile home measures 30 feet in length (35 feet with the hitch), 8.5 feet in width, and nearly 14 feet in height. The 388-square-foot cabin is wrapped in unique Shou Sugi Ban siding and punctuated with low-e windows and a glazed door that lets in ample natural light. It includes two sleeping lofts on opposite sides, one accessible via a staircase with hidden storage and the other via ladder, that fit a queen bed, full, or twin beds. The interior is handsomely lined in timber, including Raw Lodgepodge Pine center match with pine trim, laminate flooring with an oak hardwood option, a pine solid core bathroom door, and handcrafted wood details. The first floor features a spacious living room that’s separated from the bathroom by a large kitchen. A ceiling fan hangs above the kitchen. Closed cell foam insulation made with recycled materials boasts an average of R30. Related: Escape Traveler is a tiny cabin on wheels that can be moved anywhere In addition to its beautiful timber craftsmanship, the ONE XL includes luxury amenities, particularly for a tiny mobile home. The kitchen features maple cabinetry, a deep sink, a fridge and freezer, solid butcher block tops, microwave, and full-size range with four burners. The living room is multipurpose with built-in LED lighting , storage, and large windows. The bathroom has a 60” tub and shower with a large vanity, Toto toilet, towel bars, vent fan, and option to change the tub into a soaking or jet tub. Additional options, such as a flatscreen TV with Blu-ray and inhabitat.com/tag/off-grid/ off-grid capability are available. The Escape ONE XL , which is over 100 square foot larger than its predecessor Escape ONE, starts at $69,800. + Escape ONE XL Via Dezeen Images via Escape

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Timber cabin on wheels lets you hit the open road in luxurious comfort

Schmidt Hammer Lassen adds modern Scandinavian design to Detroit

August 25, 2017 by  
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Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s first project in the U.S. will dramatically modernize the look of downtown Detroit . Expected to break ground in early 2018, the Monroe Block project is a mixed-use development with shimmering glass towers. The cluster of five buildings will feature pedestrian friendly design with plenty of greenery inside and out. Located next to Detroit’s historic theater district, the Monroe Block will comprise 810,000 square feet of office space , 170,000 square feet of retail, 482 apartments, and 48,000 square feet of public plazas and green space. Schmidt Hammer Lassen is working alongside local architects Neumann Smith and engineering firm Buro Happold. Developer Bedrock Detroit commissioned the project alongside a mixed-use development designed by SHoP Architects that includes Detroit’s tallest tower and will replace the historic Hudson’s department store. Related: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects unveils competition-winning design for the Shanghai Library “Our Scandinavian heritage has a strong influence on the way we approach city building on this scale,” said Schmidt Hammer Lassen senior partner Kristian Ahlmark according to Dezeen . “We always try to think urbanism, city space and the built environment in that order. In Detroit, we found many existing spaces that held a great amount of urban qualities, but laid undefined due to the vast amount of open space. Our project is very much about stitching together and re-establishing some of the indisputable qualities of the original masterplan.” The Monroe Block is expected for completion in early 2022. + Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects Via Dezeen

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Schmidt Hammer Lassen adds modern Scandinavian design to Detroit

Scientists observe ‘diamond rain’ similar to that found on icy giant planets

August 24, 2017 by  
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You may have heard that icy planets like Neptune and Uranus experience diamond rain. But now, scientists have been able to mimic conditions of those planets and observe diamond rain at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Since it’s difficult for us at this point to directly observe the interiors of these planets, such research could help scientists better understand and classify worlds. For a long time, scientists have hypothesized that diamond rain arises over 5,000 miles below the surface of planets like Neptune and Uranus. In this recent experiment, a group of researchers simulated the conditions of these planets “by creating shock waves in plastic with an intense optical laser ” in the laboratory , according to a recent press release. They were able to observe that almost every carbon atom of the plastic was incorporated into diamond structures. The diamonds were tiny – only around a few nanometers wide – but on Uranus and Neptune, the researchers think the falling diamonds could weigh millions of carats. Related: Mysterious object near Neptune just made space a lot weirder Study lead author Dominik Kraus of research center Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf said in a statement, “We can’t go inside the planets and look at them, so these laboratory experiments complement satellite and telescope observations.” The scientists think diamond rain could produce an energy source, generating heat as it falls. Beyond observing a neat phenomenon, the experiment could help scientists learn about how elements mix together under pressure in the interiors of planets, providing them with more information on a planet’s defining features. These researchers plan to apply their methods to study the processes of other planets as well. Nature Astronomy published the study online this week. 23 scientists of institutions in Germany, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom contributed to the research. Via SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Images via Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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Scientists observe ‘diamond rain’ similar to that found on icy giant planets

Fly down a zipline in the Willy Wonka-esque Future Forest in London

August 24, 2017 by  
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Bompas & Parr are like real-life Willy Wonkas—and they brought their magic touch to the inside of a UK shopping mall. The design duo launched a free ‘Future Forest’ in the Westfield London shopping center with the theme of urban reforestation. The immersive experience is an incredible indoor forest playground with a fantastical Fruit Cloud, electricity-producing plants, a historic tree circus, and even a 40-meter-long zip-line that starts atop a 5.3-meter-high treehouse. The Future Forest is envisioned as rural escapism in the concrete jungle that promotes relaxation, health, and wellness as well as environmental awareness . “Imagining how we can co-exist in nature is one of the key challenges facing our collective future, where we face increased urban populations while climate change and pollution threatens the stability of the natural world,” says Harry Parr, Director of Bompas & Parr. “We’ve tried to bring to life these concerns in a fun and interactive way that conveys important messages and delivers big on the fun factor too. What better way to engage young people in the future of our urban environment than by zorbing through Westfield or experiencing the fruit cloud?” Related: London to Launch Edible Fireworks Display to Ring in the New Year! The temporary nature-inspired installation first popped up earlier this summer at Westfield Stratford City and has now moved to Westfield London , where it will stay until August 28. The move to Westfield also comes with the new addition of the Adventure Zip-Line that offers an exhilarating 40-meter descent front the top of a treehouse . It is the only indoor zip-line in the UK, and free to the public. A Fruit Cloud that immerses visitors in a breathable aromatic cloud with regularly changing flavors, as well as other inspiring installations, complements the zip-line. + Bompas & Parr Images © Ann Charlott Ommedal and Bompas & Parr

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Fly down a zipline in the Willy Wonka-esque Future Forest in London

Household pets responsible for up to 30% of US meat environmental impact

August 8, 2017 by  
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Just last week a report found that American citizens’ insatiable appetite for meat is resulting in the largest-ever “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico . Now we’ve learned that furry family members are just as guilty when it comes to environmental degradation. This is because American cats and dogs rank 5th in global meat consumption, according to a new study. In his research, UCLA professor Gregory Okin was interested to learn what effect household pets have on the environment. “I was thinking about how cool it is that chickens are vegetarian and make protein for us to eat, whereas many other pets eat a lot of protein from meat,” he said. “And that got me thinking – how much meat do our pets eat?” Okin found that the meat consumption by pet dogs and cats creates the equivalent of about 64 million tons of CO2 annually. To put that into perspective, that’s about the same climate impact as a year’s worth of driving 13.6 million cars. Okin confesses he has nothing against household pets, but their contribution to climate change cannot be overlooked. “I like dogs and cats, and I’m definitely not recommending that people get rid of their pets or put them on a vegetarian diet, which would be unhealthy,” said the UCLA professor. “But I do think we should consider all the impacts that pets have so we can have an honest conversation about them. Pets have many benefits, but also a huge environmental impact.” Related: Taiwan is first Asian country to ban eating cats and dogs According to the study published in the journal PLOS , if cats and dogs ruled their own country, they would be responsible for an astounding 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the U.S. In fact, household pets’ meat consumption fall behind only Russia, Brazil, the United States and China. As a result of, they produce 5.1 million tons of feces each year — as much as 90 million Americans, writes Alison Hewitt of UCLA. In the study, Okin cited previous research that found the American diet “produces the equivalent of 260 million tons of carbon dioxide from livestock production.” He then calculated how much meat 163 million cats and dogs consume compared to 321 million Americans. This data helped him establish how many tons of greenhouse gases are tied to pet food. It turns out cats and dogs in the U.S. consume 19 percent as many calories as American people do — that’s the same amount as the entire population of France! Additionally, about 25 percent of cats’ and dogs’ diets are meat-based. Okin concluded the best thing humans can do to benefit the environment is to compromise the quality of meat they serve their furry family members. “A dog doesn’t need to eat steak,” Okin said. “A dog can eat things a human sincerely can’t. So what if we could turn some of that pet food into people chow?” “I’m not a vegetarian , but eating meat does come at a cost,” he added. “Those of us in favor of eating or serving meat need to be able to have an informed conversation about our choices, and that includes the choices we make for our pets.” + PLOS Via TreeHugger Images via Pixabay

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Household pets responsible for up to 30% of US meat environmental impact

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