Sustainability

Blending wastewater may help California cope with drought
August 26, 2016 11:56 AM - University of California – Riverside via EurekAlert!

Recycled wastewater is increasingly touted as part of the solution to California's water woes, particularly for agricultural use, as the state's historic drought continues. The cost of treating wastewater to meet state health standards for reuse and to reduce salt levels that damage crops presents a new set of challenges, however.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed an economic model that demonstrates how flexible wastewater treatment processes which blend varying levels of treated effluent can be optimized to produce a water supply that is affordable, and meets and surpasses a variety of water quality requirements.

Ecological consequences of amphetamine pollution in urban streams
August 25, 2016 03:32 PM - Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies via EurekAlert!

Pharmaceutical and illicit drugs are present in streams in Baltimore, Maryland. At some sites, amphetamine concentrations are high enough to alter the base of the aquatic food web. So reports a new study released today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, which is one of the first to explore the ecological consequences of stimulant pollution in urban streams.

Lead author Sylvia S. Lee conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. Lee, now with the Environmental Protection Agency, comments, "Around the world, treated and untreated wastewater entering surface waters contains pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs that originate from human consumption and excretion, manufacturing processes, or improper disposal. We were interested in revealing how amphetamine exposure influences the small plants and animals that play a large role in regulating the health of streams."

Perfluorinated compounds found in African crocodiles, American alligators
August 25, 2016 11:12 AM - National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) via EurekAlert!

American alligators and South African crocodiles populate waterways a third of the globe apart, and yet both have detectable levels of long-lived industrial and household compounds for nonstick coatings in their blood, according to two studies from researchers at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, and its affiliated institutions, which include the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Production of some compounds in this family of environmentally persistent chemicals--associated with liver toxicity, reduced fertility and a variety of other health problems in studies of people and animals--has been phased out in the United States and many other nations. Yet all blood plasma samples drawn from 125 American alligators across 12 sites in Florida and South Carolina contained at least six of the 15 perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs) that were tracked in the alligator study.

Sustainable alternative to methyl bromide for tomato production
August 25, 2016 10:49 AM - American Society for Horticultural Science via EurekAlert!

Following the phase out of methyl bromide, scientists continue to explore effective, viable, and more sustainable options for vegetable crop production. Among nonchemical alternatives, anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) is considered to be one of the most promising methods. ASD has been determined to be effective with a range of crops and environments against several soilborne fungal and bacterial plant diseases, plant-parasitic nematodes, and weeds.

New electrical energy storage material shows its power
August 24, 2016 06:17 PM - Northwestern University via EurekAlert!

A powerful new material developed by Northwestern University chemist William Dichtel and his research team could one day speed up the charging process of electric cars and help increase their driving range.

An electric car currently relies on a complex interplay of both batteries and supercapacitors to provide the energy it needs to go places, but that could change.

"Our material combines the best of both worlds -- the ability to store large amounts of electrical energy or charge, like a battery, and the ability to charge and discharge rapidly, like a supercapacitor," said Dichtel, a pioneer in the young research field of covalent organic frameworks (COFs).

How Elephant Seals Are Helping Scientists Study Climate Change
August 24, 2016 06:10 PM - Yale Environment 360

A group of southern elephant seals is helping scientists monitorhow climate change is impacting Antarctica by tracking water temperature, depth, and salinity as they swim and dive around the frozen continent. 

Selecting the right house plant could improve indoor air
August 24, 2016 07:30 AM - American Chemical Society via EurekAlert!

Indoor air pollution is an important environmental threat to human health, leading to symptoms of "sick building syndrome." But researchers report that surrounding oneself with certain house plants could combat the potentially harmful effects of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a main category of these pollutants. Interestingly, they found that certain plants are better at removing particular harmful compounds from the air, suggesting that, with the right plant, indoor air could become cleaner and safer. 

The researchers are presenting their work today at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world's largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 9,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics. A brand-new animation on the research is available at http://bit.ly/ACSindoorairpollution.

"Buildings, whether new or old, can have high levels of VOCs in them, sometimes so high that you can smell them," says Vadoud Niri, Ph.D., leader of the study. 

New class of fuel cells offer increased flexibility, lower cost
August 23, 2016 01:27 PM - DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory via EurekAlert!

A new class of fuel cells based on a newly discovered polymer-based material could bridge the gap between the operating temperature ranges of two existing types of polymer fuel cells, a breakthrough with the potential to accelerate the commercialization of low-cost fuel cells for automotive and stationary applications.

A Los Alamos National Laboratory team, in collaboration with Yoong-Kee Choe at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan and Cy Fujimoto of Sandia National Laboratories, has discovered that fuel cells made from phosphate-quaternary ammonium ion-pair can be operated between 80°C and 200°C with and without water, enhancing the fuel cells usability in a range of conditions. The research is published in the journal Nature Energy.

Researchers reduce expensive noble metals for fuel cell reactions
August 22, 2016 05:03 PM - Washington State University via EurekAlert!

Washington State University researchers have developed a novel nanomaterial that could improve the performance and lower the costs of fuel cells by using fewer precious metals like platinum or palladium.

Led by Yuehe Lin, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, the researchers used inexpensive metal to make a super low density material, called an aerogel, to reduce the amount of precious metals required for fuel cell reactions. They also sped up the time to make the aerogels, which makes them more viable for large-scale production.

Investing in Walkable Neighborhoods
August 22, 2016 07:24 AM - Nithin Coca, Triple Pundit

According to Redfin, several American cities – some the usual progressive suspects, but others quite surprising – are making moves to build more homes in walkable neighborhoods. Other, however, are stuck in the past, building more of the distant suburbs.

Why do we need more walkable cities? Quite simply because walkable cities are, by definition, sustainable cities. Transportation remains a major source of greenhouse gas pollution, and, unlike electricity or agriculture, the United States remains firmly stuck on a fossil-fuel dependent transport infrastructure. When we live in spread out suburbs, far from work, shopping, schools, and cultural centers, we have to drive. Often, we drive inefficient, single-occupancy vehicles, burning more fossil fuels, and creating more traffic.

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