Energy

Air Pollution Casts Shadow over Solar Energy Production
June 26, 2017 04:09 PM - Ken Kingery via Duke University

Global solar energy production is taking a major hit due to air pollution and dust.

According to a new study, airborne particles and their accumulation on solar cells are cutting energy output by more than 25 percent in certain parts of the world. The regions hardest hit are also those investing the most in solar energy installations: China, India and the Arabian Peninsula.

The study appears online June 23 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

"My colleagues in India were showing off some of their rooftop solar installations, and I was blown away by how dirty the panels were," said Michael Bergin, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke University and lead author of the study. "I thought the dirt had to affect their efficiencies, but there weren't any studies out there estimating the losses. So we put together a comprehensive model to do just that."

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Moisture-Responsive 'Robots' Crawl with No External Power Source
June 26, 2017 10:59 AM - The Optical Society

Using an off-the-shelf camera flash, researchers turned an ordinary sheet of graphene oxide into a material that bends when exposed to moisture. They then used this material to make a spider-like crawler and claw robot that move in response to changing humidity without the need for any external power.

“The development of smart materials such as moisture-responsive graphene oxide is of great importance to automation and robotics,” said Yong-Lai Zhang of Jilin University, China, and leader of the research team. “Our very simple method for making typical graphene oxides smart is also extremely efficient. A sheet can be prepared within one second.”

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SPOTLIGHT

The Great Green Wall of Africa

Llowell Williams, Care2

Though a border wall with Mexico is currently a matter of serious discussion in the United States, the aim of which is to prevent the physical movement of people (with few other apparent “benefits”), some walls can actually bring together and preserve communities, rather than divide them.

In only five years, the UN says, around 60 million Africans may be displaced as their land ceases to be arable, a potential humanitarian disaster the scale of which would be unprecedented. This would be devastating to a huge portion of the African continent not only ecologically and economically but socially as well.

That’s where Africa’s ingenious Great Green Wall comes in.

Experts at the United Nations say without action, desertification may claim two-thirds of Africa’s farmlands in under a decade. The Great Green Wall, however, was conceived as a wide-reaching strategy to halt Northern Africa’s rapidly advancing Sahara Desert.

The Great Green Wall, once complete, will stretch an incredible 4,400 miles from Senegal in West Africa to the East African nation of Djibouti. Instead of bricks and mortar, the wall will be made of trees and other vegetation, including plants that can be eaten or used to create medicine.

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