Enn Original News
Low Cost Solar Cells
December 5, 2011 11:07 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The cost of a solar cell is given per unit of peak electrical power. Manufacturing costs necessarily include the cost of energy required for manufacture. Solar power must become more efficient and less expensive to compete with energy produced by fossil fuels. Silicon-based solar cells are the dominant technology in the field, but the widespread adoption of these cells has been slowed by their high costs. Solar cells that use inorganic nanocrystals or quantum dots could be a cheaper alternative, but they are generally less efficient at turning solar energy into electricity. Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers have now found a new way to generate an electrical field inside the quantum dots, making them more suitable for building an energy-efficient nanocrystal solar cell.
European Automakers Meet in Brussels
December 5, 2011 09:41 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Last Friday, there was a gathering of the European Union's car manufacturers to discuss future cuts in CO2 emissions. In 2009, the EU set legally binding fuel efficiency standards for automobile CO2 emissions at 120 grams per kilometer (g/km). A binding emissions cap will be imposed in 2012 at 130 g/km. By 2020, the European Commission has the objective of reaching 95 g/km. This ambitious objective was supposed to be supported and confirmed at last Friday's meeting. But automakers could not reach a common position, and the issue has been left on the table.
The Beginning of the Last Ice Age Melt
December 5, 2011 09:26 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The end of the last ice age and the processes that led to the melting of the northern and southern ice sheets supply information on changes in our climate. Although the maximum size of the ice sheet in the northern hemisphere during the last ice age is relatively well known, there is little reliable data on the dimensions of the Antarctic ice sheet. A publication appearing in the journal Science on 1 December now furnishes indications that the two hemispheres attained their maximum ice sheet size at nearly the same time and started melting 19,000 years ago.
The Banning of BPA
December 2, 2011 05:40 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound with two phenol functional groups. It is used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, along with other applications. As it has been known to be estrogenic since the mid 1930s, concerns about the use of bisphenol A in consumer products have been regularly reported in the news media since 2008, after several governments issued reports questioning its safety, prompting some retailers to remove products containing it from their shelves. Reaction on a regulatory level has been mixed from around the world with differing rules on state. local and federal levels. This October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act (Assembly Bill 1319) into state law, and it will go into effect on July 13, 2013. The purpose of the law is to protect children from potential health hazards that may result from BPA exposure and consumption. It bans the use of BPA in all products related to babies and children. California Assembly Member Betsy Butler introduced the bill into legislation, which gained the support of the governor and many legislators. California has some of strictest health and environmental laws and regulations in the United States. The banning of BPA in California further widens the gap between state and federal health laws and regulations.
New Large Boiler Rules
December 2, 2011 04:15 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing changes to Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators based on extensive analysis, review and consideration of data and input from states, environmental groups, industry, lawmakers and the public. The proposed reconsideration would achieve extensive public health protections through significant reductions in toxic air pollutants, including mercury and soot, while increasing the rule’s flexibility and addressing compliance concerns raised by industry and labor groups. The changes also cut the cost of implementation by nearly 50 percent from the original 2010 proposed rule while maintaining health benefits. Soot and other harmful pollutants released by boilers and incinerators can lead to adverse health effects including cancer, heart disease, aggravated asthma and premature death. In addition, toxic pollutants such as mercury and lead that will be reduced by this proposal.
Electric Car Battery Safety
December 1, 2011 11:20 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Electric cars may present different hazards than conventional design. Recent crash tests as well as one report of a battery fire suggest that the present car design may have to be improved. Crash tests have been carried out in the well known Euro NCAP testing center on the Volt and the Renault Fluence EV that gives tested cars crash resistance ratings scores ranging from 1 to 5 points. Overall crash test results of both of cars resulted in the Fluence EZ having an over crash test rating of 4 points, as compared to the Volt receiving a higher score of 5 points, highest in the auto safety rating program. One Chevy Volt battery pack that was being closely monitored following a government crash test caught fire. Another recently crash-tested battery emitted smoke and sparks.
December 1, 2011 10:12 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time. A new study presents geophysical evidence of fluids (water) migrating into the creeping section of the San Andreas fault that seem to originate in the region of the uppermost mantle that also stimulates tremor, and evidence that along-strike variations in tremor activity and amplitude are related to strength variations in the lower crust and upper mantle. From the pattern of electrical conductivity and seismic activity they were able to deduce that rock water acts as a lubricant.
The Durban Climate Talks
December 1, 2011 09:59 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Global climate discussions have moved from Cancun to Copenhagen, and now to Durban, South Africa. They began last Monday in the hopes of finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the global mandate that set targets for cutting carbon emissions. Kyoto was never ratified by the United States, the world's leading carbon emitter, and did not apply to the large growing Asian economies of China and India. Durban began amid downplayed expectations that a worldwide agreement would take place, especially following the disappointing climate talks in Copenhagen. This may be a blessing in disguise in that it will force climate activists to pursue a different strategy. Rather than a top-down approach, some are now calling for local policies that would create incremental change.
Book Review: Homegrown and Handmade
November 30, 2011 01:36 PM - Maddie Perlman-Gabel, ENN
Gone are the days when people relied on what they could grow or make to sustain their families. These days you go to the grocery store and you can find almost any food you desire, at any time of the year. Though having everything accessible all the time has its benefits, it is also has its downsides. In order to produce such quantities of food, the farming industry relies on mass use of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides. Then there's the other unsustainable and questionable practices like hybrid chickens and genetically modified produce. These practices are not only harmful to the farmers who manage the food, but their health effects on consumers are still uncertain. It's starting to seem the only way to 'protect' yourself from these unwanted additives is to grow and raise everything you eat and use on your own. This isn't always an option, especially for those of us who live or work in cities, and don't have the time or space to grow all their own food. Deborah Neimann's book, "Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to a More Self-Reliant Living" is as an introduction to self-reliance for people who don't necessarily have the time or resources to grow everything for ourselves, but are interested in taking the first steps to a more sustainable lifestyle.
Walnut Trees Survival
November 30, 2011 09:39 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Walnut trees are deciduous,30—130 feet of the species Juglans. The 21 species in the genus range across the north temperate Old World from southeast Europe east to Japan, and more widely in the New World from southeast Canada west to California and south to Argentina. Warmer, drier summers and extreme weather events considered possible as the climate changes would be especially troublesome - possibly fatal - for walnut trees, according to research at Purdue University.