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Archive for the ‘sustainability’ category: Page 5

Oct 2, 2019

Quantum destabilization of a water sandwich

Posted by in categories: food, quantum physics, sustainability

From raindrops rolling off the waxy surface of a waterlily leaf to the efficiency of desalination membranes, interactions between water molecules and water-repellent “hydrophobic” surfaces are all around us. The interplay becomes even more intriguing when a thin water layer becomes sandwiched between two hydrophobic surfaces, KAUST researchers have shown.

In the early 1980s, researchers first noted an unexpected effect when two hydrophobic surfaces were slowly brought together in . “At some point, the two surfaces would suddenly jump into contact—like two magnets being brought together,” says Himanshu Mishra from KAUST’s Water Desalination and Reuse Center. Mishra’s lab investigates water at all length scales, from reducing in agriculture, to the properties of individual water molecules.

Researchers were unable to explain the phenomenon at the , so in 2016, Mishra organized a KAUST conference on the subject. “We brought together leaders in the field—experimentalists and theorists—leading to intense debates on the understanding of hydrophobic surface forces,” he says.

Oct 2, 2019

Humans Produce 100x More CO2 Than All Earth’s Volcanoes Combined

Posted by in category: sustainability

According to a decade-long study by an international team of researchers, human CO2 emissions total 100 times more than the planet-warming effects of all volcanoes combined.

The total amount emitted by volcanoes is only about 0.3 gigatons a year — a tiny fraction of the 37 gigatons humankind produced in 2018 alone.

That means they’re not nearly as big of a contributor to global emissions as some prevailing theories hold.

Oct 2, 2019

Mars Is Heaven!

Posted by in categories: solar power, space, sustainability

You probably hear a lot of news from NASA’s many amazing Mars missions: the Curiosity rover, InSight, MRO, and more. NASA is good at promoting their stuff of course, but also the images returned from all these missions are truly wonderful.

You may not hear as much from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission. Well, you may have heard about the lander Beagle 2: It set down safely on the surface, but two of the four solar panels didn’t deploy, dooming that part of that mission.

Oct 2, 2019

Chemists synthesize perseanol for the first time

Posted by in categories: food, sustainability

A team of chemists at California Institute of Technology has totally synthesized perseanol using a 16-step process for the first time. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes their process and how well it worked.

In nature, perseanol is a molecule produced by the persea tree. Shortly after its discovery in the , researchers found that the molecule was similar to ryanodine, a once-popular pesticide. They have similar architecture, though perseanol lacks a pyrrole-2-carboxylate ester. Because of the similarities, interest in using perseanol on commercial crops grew. Not much later, a cheaper alternative was found, and the molecule never made it to the farm. But interest in it persists because of its ecofriendly reputation. For that reason, chemists have been working to produce it in the lab—if successful, the results would be both cheaper and more environmentally friendly than products now in use.

The researchers note that ryanodine works as a pesticide by binding to in insects’ muscles, paralyzing them. It can paralyze animals, too, but perseanol is believed to be more specific to insects, making it a potentially safer pesticide. The researchers also note that little research has been performed to determine the means by which perseanol kills bugs. That could change however, if interest in using perseanol as a pesticide is rekindled.

Oct 2, 2019

Designer Dreams up Tesla Motorbike Despite Elon Musk’s Refusal to Create One

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, sustainability, transportation

Electric motorcycle and scooter design uses two or three wheel layouts outfitted with an electric motor and battery used for long distance travel, commuting and cruising.

an electric motorcycle concept based on dyson’s bladeless fans.

Oct 2, 2019

Biologists track the invasion of herbicide-resistant weeds into southwestern Ontario

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food, sustainability

A team including evolutionary biologists from the University of Toronto (U of T) have identified the ways in which herbicide-resistant strains of an invasive weed named common waterhemp have emerged in fields of soy and corn in southwestern Ontario.

They found that the resistance—which was first detected in Ontario in 2010—has spread thanks to two mechanisms: first, pollen and seeds of resistant plants are physically dispersed by wind, water and other means; second, resistance has appeared through the spontaneous emergence of resistance mutations that then spread.

The researchers found evidence of both mechanisms by comparing the genomes of herbicide-resistant plants from Midwestern U.S. farms with the genomes of plants from Southern Ontario.

Oct 2, 2019

‘The next era of human progress’: what lies behind the global new cities epidemic?

Posted by in categories: business, economics, energy, government, sustainability, transportation

This new breed of city takes various different forms, from government initiatives, to public-private partnerships, to entirely private enterprises. Many are being used to jump-start economies in the developing world, with masterplans carefully calibrated to attract foreign investors and treasuries looking to sink their funds into something concrete. They provide a powerful means for wealthy countries to expand their strategic influence abroad, with the construction of new cities acting as a form of “debt-trap diplomacy”, tying host nations into impossibly burdensome deals. They are billed as a panacea for the world’s urban ills, solving overcrowding, congestion and pollution; yet, more often than not, they turn out to be catalysts for land dispossession, environmental degradation and social inequality.


The feature Kim enjoys most is a small touchscreen display on his kitchen wall that allows him to keep track of his and his wife’s consumption of electricity, water and gas and, most important, compare it against the average statistics for the building. Flicking between the screens of bar charts and graphs, a broad grin spreads across his face: for yet another day running, they are more energy-efficient than all their neighbours.

From their living room window at the top of one of the city’s new residential towers, a panorama of downtown Songdo unfolds. Across an eight-lane highway lies Central Park, a broad swath of trees surrounding an ornamental lake, flanked by rows of glass towers with vaguely jaunty silhouettes. Armies of identikit concrete apartment blocks march into the hazy distance beyond, terminating at a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. It looks a lot like many other modern Asian cities, a place of generic towers rising above a car-dominated grid. Public life is mostly confined to the air-conditioned environments of malls and private leisure clubs.

Continue reading “‘The next era of human progress’: what lies behind the global new cities epidemic?” »

Oct 1, 2019

Machine learning finds new metamaterial designs for energy harvesting

Posted by in categories: chemistry, robotics/AI, sustainability

Electrical engineers at Duke University have harnessed the power of machine learning to design dielectric (non-metal) metamaterials that absorb and emit specific frequencies of terahertz radiation. The design technique changed what could have been more than 2000 years of calculation into 23 hours, clearing the way for the design of new, sustainable types of thermal energy harvesters and lighting.

The study was published online on September 16 in the journal Optics Express.

Metamaterials are synthetic materials composed of many individual engineered features, which together produce properties not found in nature through their structure rather than their chemistry. In this case, the terahertz metamaterial is built up from a two-by-two grid of silicon cylinders resembling a short, square Lego.

Oct 1, 2019

Tesla patents new liquid-cooled charging connector

Posted by in categories: sustainability, transportation

Tesla has filed for a new patent on a design for a liquid-cooled charging connector, like the one used at its Supercharger stations.

With the advent of faster-charging electric vehicles, charging station manufacturers need to develop higher-powered DC fast charger and those machines generate more heat that needs to be dissipated.

Continue reading “Tesla patents new liquid-cooled charging connector” »

Sep 29, 2019

How Tech Can Help Curb Emissions

Posted by in categories: climatology, sustainability

Wangari Maathai for years told people to plant trees. She is the reason Kenyans plant trees in protected forests, and will continue for a very long time.


Trees are a low-tech, high-efficiency way to offset much of humankind’s negative impact on the climate. What’s even better, we have plenty of room for a lot more of them.

A new study conducted by researchers at Switzerland’s ETH-Zürich, published in Science, details how Earth could support almost an additional billion hectares of trees without the new forests pushing into existing urban or agricultural areas. Once the trees grow to maturity, they could store more than 200 billion metric tons of carbon.

Continue reading “How Tech Can Help Curb Emissions” »

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