Pollution

Cloth masks offer poor protection against air pollution
August 19, 2016 11:12 AM - University of Massachusetts at Amherst via EurekAlert!

Results of a new study by environmental health scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggest that inexpensive cloth masks worn by people who hope to reduce their exposure to air pollution vary widely in effectiveness and could be giving users a false sense of security, especially in highly polluted areas.

Researchers Richard Peltier, Kabindra Shakya and colleagues believe theirs is the first study to rigorously test disposable surgical masks and washable cloth masks, which are widely used in Asia and Southeast Asia for personal protection against airborne particulate matter. Their study shows that "wearing cloth masks reduced the exposure to some extent," but "the most commonly used cloth mask products perform poorly when compared to alternative options available on the market."

Mapping the health threat of wildfires under climate change in US West
August 16, 2016 03:08 PM - Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies via ScienceDaily

A surge in major wildfire events in the U.S. West as a consequence of climate change will expose tens of millions of Americans to high levels of air pollution in the coming decades, according to a new Yale-led study conducted with collaborators from Harvard.

The researchers estimated air pollution from past and projected future wildfires in 561 western counties, and found that by mid-century more than 82 million people will experience "smoke waves," or consecutive days with high air pollution related to fires.

The regions likely to receive the highest exposure to wildfire smoke in the future include northern California, western Oregon, and the Great Plains.

Today's electric vehicles can make a dent in climate change
August 16, 2016 02:51 PM - Massachusetts Institute of Technology via ScienceDaily

Electric cars that exist today could be widely adopted despite range constraints, replacing about 90 percent of existing cars, and could make a major dent in the nation's carbon emissions, new research indicates.

The study, which found that a wholesale replacement of conventional vehicles with electric ones is possible today and could play a significant role in meeting climate change mitigation goals, was published today in the journal Nature Energy by Jessika Trancik, the Atlantic Richfield Career Development Associate Professor in Energy Studies at MIT's Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), along with graduate student Zachary Needell, postdoc James McNerney, and recent graduate Michael Chang SM '15.

Methane leaks: A new way to find and fix in real time
August 16, 2016 10:07 AM - University of Michigan via ScienceDaily

Researchers have flown aircraft over an oil and gas field and pinpointed -- with unprecedented precision -- sources of the greenhouse gas methane in real time. The technique led to the detection and immediate repair of two leaks in natural gas pipelines in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest.

The technique led to the detection and immediate repair of two leaks in natural gas pipelines in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest. The approach could inform strategies for meeting new federal limits on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Methane emissions have spiked in recent decades along with the boom in natural gas drilling.

Warming climate likely to have 'minor' impact on power plant output
August 15, 2016 02:15 PM - Duke University via EurekAlert!

Future climate warming will likely cause only minor cuts in energy output at most U.S. coal- or gas-fired power plants, a new Duke University study finds.

The study -- the first of its kind based on real-world data -- rebuts recent modeling-based studies that warn rising temperatures will significantly lower the efficiency of power plants' cooling systems, thereby reducing plants' energy output. Those studies estimated that plant efficiencies could drop by as much as 1.3 percent for each 1 degree Celsius of climate warming.

SLAC, Stanford gadget grabs more solar energy to disinfect water faster
August 15, 2016 11:39 AM - DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory via EurekAlert!

In many parts of the world, the only way to make germy water safe is by boiling, which consumes precious fuel, or by putting it out in the sun in a plastic bottle so ultraviolet rays will kill the microbes. But because UV rays carry only 4 percent of the sun's total energy, the UV method takes six to 48 hours, limiting the amount of water people can disinfect this way.

Now researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have created a nanostructured device, about half the size of a postage stamp, that disinfects water much faster than the UV method by also making use of the visible part of the solar spectrum, which contains 50 percent of the sun's energy.

Nature and the Nurture of Aerosols
August 15, 2016 07:07 AM - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

You've seen it when flying into major cities the world over: a haze over the city. It is caused by aerosol particles, but scientists don't know all the details of the complex chemistry involved. At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Dr. Alla Zelenyuk and her team took on a specific part of that haze: originated from isoprene. After being released by the trees and shrubs, isoprene reacts in the atmosphere and becomes assorted chemicals, including IEPOX (isoprene epoxydiols). The team found that IEPOX is a major player in producing aerosols from isoprene and that particle size, certain coatings, and acidity influence how IEPOX behaves. 

Threat of wildfires expected to increase as global temperatures rise
August 12, 2016 04:01 PM - United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has warned that wildfires could become more frequent and more destructive as global temperatures rise and drought conditions plague many regions of the world.

“Last year was the hottest year on record and was above average for the number of reported major droughts and heatwaves. This year we are seeing a similar pattern with new temperature records being set on a monthly basis,” UNISDR chief Robert Glasser said yesterday in a news release issued by the Office.

July Electric Car Sales in China Rose by 188 Percent Over Last Year
August 12, 2016 01:59 PM - Yale Environment 360

Chinese consumers bought 34,000 new electric cars in July, a 188 percent jump over the same period last year, according to CleanTechnica, an energy and technology news organization. The monthly total puts China on track to sell 400,000 electrical vehicles in 2016, accounting for 1.5 percent of the total auto sales market — larger than annual EV sales in Europe, or the U.S., Canada, and Mexico combined. 

Let's roll: Material for polymer solar cells may lend itself to large-area processing
August 12, 2016 01:48 PM - National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) via EurekAlert!

For all the promise they have shown in the lab, polymer solar cells still need to "get on a roll" like the ones employed in printing newspapers so that large sheets of acceptably efficient photovoltaic devices can be manufactured continuously and economically. Polymer solar cells offer advantages over their traditional silicon-based counterparts in numerous ways, including lower cost, potentially smaller carbon footprint and a greater variety of uses.

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