Desert Twins produce water through condensation in driest place on Earth

May 29, 2017 by  
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One in 10 people on Earth lack access to safe water , which is why artist Ap Verheggen has been working so hard to address water scarcity over the last decade or so. He and the rest of the SunGlacier team, invited by the Dutch Ministry of Defense, recently tested their idea of making water from thin air in what they describe as the driest, hottest place on the planet: the Sahara Desert . They were able to accomplish the feat solely with the power of the sun and a bit of basic physics. Take a closer look at their groundbreaking Desert Twins , designed specifically for this project, after the jump. From an ice-making leaf in the desert to a solar-powered desert waterfall , SunGlacier has pioneered creative, artistic approaches to the lack of water in Earth’s dry areas. They recently made water from air in Mali with the solar-powered Desert Twins, two devices built for the Sahara Desert test. One device makes water, the other houses an energy unit. Condensation enables the devices to create water. Related: Produce your own water from thin air with SunGlacier’s solar-powered DC03 But it’s much harder to pull water from air in the Sahara than it is in the Netherlands, where SunGlacier is based. According to the team, air in Mali on a summer day only has around half the water vapor of a dry summer day in the Netherlands. They faced several days of challenges as they tinkered with their devices, adding insulation and re-configuring cooling air streams before they finally succeeded in producing any water. The team knew their design could operate in ideal conditions, but the Mali success shows it can work just about anywhere in the world. SunGlacier says their device is “probably the world’s first artificial water well to work entirely off the grid .” SunGlacier intends to keep improving their technology, and say in the future they plan to focus on cleaning and enriching water with salts and minerals, and water storage. Their goal is to build a machine that is able to operate without electricity or a liquid water source, much like a well. + SunGlacier Via SunGlacier Images courtesy of SunGlacier

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New MIT water purification method eliminates even trace chemical waste and pesticides

May 12, 2017 by  
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Ridding water of tiny concentrations of pollutants isn’t easy. Typically, a lot of energy or chemicals are required to remove these dangerous contaminants – but that could change. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany have come up with an electrochemical process able to pull out toxins like chemical wastes, pharmaceuticals , or pesticides . Their process could help people in developing countries obtain water without those unhealthy compounds. The scientists pioneered an electrochemical process able to selectively get rid of organic pollutants, which can be harmful even in minimal amounts. Here’s how it works: small surfaces are coated with Faradaic materials which can become positively or negatively charged after reactions. An electrical source is added to the surfaces, and then as water flows around the materials, the surface materials are tuned to bind with noxious pollutants. Unlike other systems that require either high pressures or high voltages to work, the new way can function at what chemical engineering professor T. Alan Hatton described as relatively benign low voltages and pressures. Related: Researchers develop solar-powered device to harvest water in the desert The system could help people in the developing world obtain water free of toxic pollutants. Chemical engineer Xiao Su of MIT , lead author on a paper published recently in Energy and Environmental Science , said in a statement, “Such systems might ultimately be useful for water purification systems in remote areas in the developing world, where pollution from pesticides, dyes, and other chemicals are often an issue in the water supply.” Su said the system, which is highly efficient, could operate even in rural locations with a little help from solar panels . The new method isn’t quite ready to go yet, but mechanical engineer Matthew Suss of Technion Institute of Technology in Israel seems hopeful. He said the system still needs to be tested under real-word conditions and for lengthy periods of time to see if it’s durable, but the prototype “achieved over 500 cycles, which is a highly promising result.” Via MIT News Images via Melanie Gonick/MIT and Felice Frankel

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Eco artists build gigantic octopus to save coral reefs in the British Virgin Islands

May 8, 2017 by  
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A group of artists working under the name Secret Samurai Productions have installed a massive mesh octopus on top of a defunct Pearl Harbor ship only to push the large barge into the deep ocean waters of British Virgin Islands – all in the name of coral reef research. Now at the bottom of the sea off the coast of Virgin Gorda, Project YOKO is the world’s largest underwater art installation and marine life habitat, and it will raise funds for research into the ongoing destruction of the area’s coral reefs . The hollow rebar and mesh sea monster with 80-foot tentacles holding court at the bow of the Kodiak Queen was actually the last step of the ship’s reformation. The team of artists spent months cleaning the boat and transforming its chambers into an interactive art installation that will be explored by divers from around the world. Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death In addition to the artists’ efforts, the project counted on support from various members of Maverick1000 , a group of entrepreneurs who meet annually on Sir Richard Branson’s famed Necker Island. At the 2016 meeting, the founding manager for the nonprofit Unite BVI , Lauren Keil, gave a presentation on the challenges of the BVI community, focusing mainly on the problems caused by global warming and overfishing and their undeniable impact on the health of the area’s beloved coral reefs . During the presentation, Keil also mentioned the Kodiak Queen, a WWII fuel barge that had been discovered in a local junkyard. After Keil’s speech, Aydika James, art director of Secret Samurai Productions had the idea to use the historic ship as a way to bring attention to the growing issues facing the BVI waters. With collaboration from fellow members and Branson himself, the idea for the YOKO BVI Art Reef was born. Thanks to funding from local supporters, the ship was soon being transformed into an artificial dive site that would serve as beacon of hope for the region’s disappearing coral reef populations . The artists and dive specialists worked together to create an interactive diving experience,taking divers through the ship’s many chambers. To convert the installation into a research center as well as diving site, the nonprofit organization, Beneath the Waves , was called in to install an emerging technology called environmental DNA that will be used to collect data on the entire marine ecosystem surrounding the sunken ship. And the giant octopus? Well, it’s more than just a fun sculpture; it actually plays a vital role in the project. Its body and tentacles were designed to form a protected habitat for the repopulation of grouper. The dwindling grouper population is a major cause of coral damage considering the large fish help form an ecosystem in BVI waters, which is essential to the health of the coral reefs. After a long process of fund raising and transforming the boat, Project YOKO is slated to open to divers at a cost of $10 donation. All funds will go towards research into local marine health as well as a program promoting swim education for children. + Project YOKO BVI Art Reef + Secret Samurai Productions Via Fast Company Photography by Rob Sorrenti + Owen Buggy Photography via BVI YOKO Art Reef

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Researchers develop solar-powered device to harvest water in the desert

April 14, 2017 by  
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A solar-powered device could make water worries a thing of the past. Nine scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology , and University of California, Berkeley designed a water harvester that can pull water from air even if humidity is just 20 percent. Chemist Omar Yaghi of UC Berkeley said, “We wanted to demonstrate that if you are cut off somewhere in the desert , you could survive because of this device.” Yaghi invented compounds known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) 20 years ago, and now is using MOF crystals to harvest water even in dry places. In the water harvesting device, around two pounds of tiny MOF crystals are compressed between a solar absorber and condenser plate to collect around 0.7 gallons of water in 12 hours. Related: World’s largest fog harvester produces water from thin air in the Moroccan desert That may not sound like all that much, but it’s plenty for a human trapped in the desert to survive. Yaghi said, “A person needs about a [330ml] can of water per day. That is something one could collect in less than an hour with this system.” Right now there’s no other way to harvest water in low humidity except to draw on extra energy , according to Yaghi. “Your electric dehumidifier at home ‘produces’ very expensive water,” he says. In contrast sunlight enables the new device to work. Rooftop tests at MIT have already demonstrated the device works in the real world. Even if you never find yourself stranded in the desert, you could benefit from such a water harvester. “One vision for the future is to have water off-grid , where you have a device at home running on ambient solar for delivering water that satisfies the needs of a household,” said Yaghi. “To me, that will be made possible because of this experiment. I call it personalized water.” Science published the team’s research yesterday . Via the University of California, Berkeley and The Independent Images via MIT/laboratory of Evelyn Wang and MIT/Hyunho Kim

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Scientists say we have 10 years to save Earth

April 14, 2017 by  
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Time is running out to protect Earth from the disastrous effects of climate change . An international team of eight researchers said we have just 10 years to save the planet. But their news isn’t all bad: they’ve come up with a model for balancing carbon dioxide emissions with carbon sinks , like forests, to keep temperatures from passing the 1.5 degree Celsius mark widely considered safe for life as we know it. Scientists say if the world actually intends to stick to the Paris agreement , the next decade will be critical. They say there are two ways to reduce carbon emissions: by slashing the emissions we humans produce and by restoring carbon sinks, and it’s time to take action on both. They detailed their plan in a Nature Communications study, published online yesterday. Related: Scientists say Trump’s presidency could lead to a “game over” scenario for the planet World Bank consultant Brian Walsh, who led the study while doing research for the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), said they scrutinized carbon emissions from fossil fuels , agriculture, food production, bioenergy, and land use. They also accounted for natural ecosystems taking in carbon emissions to determine where they originate and where they go. Here’s the recommendation: we must reduce fossil fuel use to the point where it’s under 25 percent of the global energy supply by 2100; it’s at 95 percent right now. And we need to reduce deforestation to attain a 42 percent decrease in emissions by 2100. Renewable energy is also part of the answer. The researchers considered four scenarios for energy development in the future. A high-renewable scenario would see wind, solar, and bioenergy use increase by five percent a year so emissions would peak by 2022. Even that pathway would lead to a 2.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase if we don’t also employ negative emissions technologies. IIASA Energy Program Director and co-author Keywan Riahi said, “Earlier work on mitigation strategies by IIASA has shown the importance of demand-side measures, including efficiency, conservation , and behavioral change. Success in these areas may explain the difference between reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees Celsius.” Via the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and EcoWatch Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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New graphene sieve can remove even small salts from seawater

April 4, 2017 by  
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Graphene is the world’s strongest material, but that’s not all it can do. The wonder material can also be used as a filter that removes salts from seawater so it’s safe to drink. While scientists have eyed graphene-oxide membranes for better filtration – and even showed graphene could filter out large salts – now 13 University of Manchester scientists developed graphene membranes that can sieve common, smaller salts out of water. It takes small sieves to remove common salts from substances like seawater, and in the past when placed in water graphene-oxide membranes swelled, and weren’t able to catch those smaller salts. The University of Manchester scientists found a way to control the pore size of the graphene to sieve those common small salts out of water. Professor Rahul Nair, one of the scientists part of the research, said the realization of “membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale” is a significant step. Related: Affordable new biofoam could revolutionize how developing countries clean water The discovery could open doors to efficient, less expensive desalination technology – which the university points out is crucial as climate change depletes water supply in modern cities. In just around eight years, 14 percent of the world’s population could face water scarcity, according to United Nations estimates, and not all countries can afford large, expensive desalination plants to provide relief to their citizens. The university says the graphene technology pursued by the scientists could revolutionize water filtration around the world, offering an affordable option for developing countries . The researchers think their discovery could be scaled up for wider use. Nair said in a statement, “This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sieve sizes.” The journal Nature Nanotechnology published the research online yesterday. Via The University of Manchester Images via The University of Manchester and Pixabay

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Is tidal power finally coming of age?

April 4, 2017 by  
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A British company wants to demonstrate that underwater turbines can be a viable source of hydroelectricity, by winning a share of $363 million worth of electricity generation contracts being offered up by the U.K. government. As Bloomberg reports, Atlantis Resources wants to build power turbines under the ocean in Scotland, and their success would not only mean a whole pile of cash, but also provide another option for producing clean energy . The company faces steep competition for the government funds from offshore wind power companies, but they’re hoping to convince officials that tidal power has finally come of age. If they manage to do so, tidal power could eventually provide the U.K. with one fifth of its energy needs. As Bloomberg notes, previous efforts at producing tidal power have been largely experimental and operated at costs around triple that of wind power . To be successful in their bid to government, Atlantis must find a way to bring the cost of energy down by 70 percent—to about $125 per megawatt hour. That’s close to the price of nuclear and offshore wind power. If they can pull it off, Atlantis is hoping to get a $125 million investment that would let them build a manufacturing plant in Scotland, which would in turn let the company get much-sought contracts from France, South Korea and Indonesia. It’s all leading up to the final goal of helping to turn Scotland into a “Saudi Arabia of green energy.” Related: World’s longest wind turbine blade expected to drive down offshore energy costs With that in mind, the company is already working on its “MyGen” project, which involves the installation of up to 269 turbines under the Pentland Firth, a stretch of water that links the Atlantic ocean to the North Sea. It’s an eight-mile-wide channel of water that flows regularly at about 10 feet per second. Four turbines are already generating 6 megawatts, and two more phases should see enough turbines to generate about 86 megawatts of power by this summer. Via Bloomberg Images via Atlantis Resources

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Michigan to replace thousands of Flint water lines in settlement

March 29, 2017 by  
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A judge approved a settlement with the state of Michigan today that will come as welcome news to thousands of residents: at least 18,000 homes in Flint will have their toxic water pipes replaced over the next three years. The state has committed $87 million to identify and replace any service lines containing lead or galvanized steel by 2020. The settlement marks the end of a lawsuit filed last year by Concerned Pastors for Social Action , the Natural Resources Defense Council , the American Civil Liberties Union and a resident of Flint, targeted at both city and state officials. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has praised the agreement. The $87 million used to replace the pipes will come from a variety of sources. The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which was passed by Congress last year, will provide up to $20 million in funds, with the state matching another $20 million. The state must also hold an extra $10 million in reserve, in case the repairs end up being more expensive than anticipated. The state will also cover the $895,000 the plaintiffs ran up in litigation costs. Related: 1,700 Flint residents sue the EPA over tainted water In the meantime , residents will have to either pick up bottled water from designated locations in the city, or they’ll have to install water filters on their taps. Though the filters have been shown to render the city’s water safe for human consumption, many residents are nervous and distrustful of anything that comes out of their taps (and with good reason). The lawsuit had asked that bottled water be delivered door to door throughout the city until pipe replacement was complete, but the judge shot down that request. Via Reuters Images via Pixabay and Paul Hudson

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Trump ignores clean energy jobs in first address to Congress

March 1, 2017 by  
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In his first address to Congress Tuesday night, President Donald Trump failed to mention the clean energy jobs boom taking place across the United States. Instead of talking up the more than three million domestic jobs that have been created in solar, wind and other renewables, Trump touted the “tens of thousands of jobs” that construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines would create — adding that he directed the pipelines be made with American steel. Trump also boasted about ending an Obama-era coal mining rule that protects waterways from coal mining waste, telling Democratic and Republican lawmakers gathered on Capitol Hill that the regulation “threatens the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.” Trump also failed to mention climate change in his speech, an issue that the president has been ambivalent about at best, in denial about at worst. In perhaps an encouraging sign for the majority of Americans who support the US staying in the Paris climate deal , including Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the president didn’t talk about withdrawing from the landmark agreement to curb carbon emissions, instead discussing his withdrawing the US from the “job-killing” Trans-Pacific Partnership. Related: Trump will give architects just five days to submit proposals for a Mexican border wall Earlier in the day, Trump signed an executive order aimed at rolling back an Obama-era environmental regulation to protect American waterways. New EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is also expected to undo major environmental rules on clean water, climate change and air pollution. So it is no surprise that many in the environmental community found it a bit hypocritical when during Trump’s address he pledged to “promote clean air and clear water.” Boosting the defense budget (at the expense of domestic programs) was a major talking point during the address. Trump said that he is sending Congress a budget that “rebuilds the military, eliminates the Defense sequester, and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.” That isn’t good news for the environment as Trump is expected to ask Congress to  cut the EPA’s budget 24 percent, or nearly $2 billion. Related: New EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s emails reveal troubling oil-industry ties An area that could be a positive sign for the environmental community and clean energy industry is Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan . Saying that the time has come for a “new program of national rebuilding,” Trump said that he will be asking Congress to approve the massive infrastructure investment. Could new public works projects include green infrastructure? That remains to be seen, although Trump has said previously that he is a big fan of high-speed rail . At the end of his speech, Trump set a vision for what the country could achieve by the nation’s 250th anniversary in 2026. He looked back at the country’s 100th anniversary in 1876 when American inventors showed off their new technology such as Thomas Edison’s electric pen and an early attempt at electric light. But while Trump seems adamant about reviving 20th century energy sources such as coal, there is another electric revolution led by the revolutionaries of our time, including Elon Musk and his vision for electric vehicles, rooftop solar and battery storage. Will Trump embrace the clean energy future or be stuck in the dirty energy past? That is still an open question after his first address to Congress. + Transcript: President Trump’s First Address to Congress Images via KTBS

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Self-sustaining island eco-lodge in Florida has its own desalination system

February 21, 2017 by  
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For those looking to get away from the chaos of modern life, a stunning luxury eco-lodge is currently on the market. The solar-powered Melody Key Lodge is a timber home located on 5.24 acres of secluded island paradise, just 25 miles from Key West, Florida. But if you’re on a tight budget, you might not want to read on. The breathtaking lodge previously owned by an undisclosed rockstar comprises a three-story timber structure with three bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. The top open floor, which houses the gourmet kitchen, dining area, living and lounge space, offers beautiful 360-degree views of the ocean. Lucky guests will be able to choose between a dip in the pristine beaches or the adjacent freshwater pool. Related: For $2.3 million, this breathtaking self-sufficient Scottish island could be yours The home, which is listed for $6,900,000, is perfect for wealthy folks looking to go off grid . In addition to its integrated solar system and backup generator, there’s also a desalination water system. Add in all-you-can-eat seafood, and off-grid living has never been so luxurious. + Engel & Völkers Florida Keys Via Uncrate  

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