Sustainability

Non-toxic solvent removes barrier to commercialisation of perovskite solar cells
October 5, 2016 12:15 PM - University of Oxford

Scientists at Oxford University have developed a solvent system with reduced toxicity that can be used in the manufacture of perovskite solar cells, clearing one of the barriers to the commercialisation of a technology that promises to revolutionise the solar industry.

Perovskites – a family of materials with the crystal structure of calcium titanate – have been described as a 'wonder material' and shown to be almost as efficient as silicon in harnessing solar energy, as well as being significantly cheaper to produce.

UC Researcher Develops Clean Water-Treatment Option to Target Sporadic Outbreaks
October 5, 2016 10:26 AM - John Bach

A University of Cincinnati scientist has engineered an environmentally friendly technology to zap outbreak-causing viruses and bacteria from public drinking water.

Environmental and biomedical engineer David Wendell, an associate professor in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, developed a protein-based photocatalyst that uses light to generate hydrogen peroxide to eliminate E. coli, Listeria, and potentially protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium.

The Psychology Behind Climate Change Denial
October 5, 2016 06:53 AM - Uppsala University

Climate change is a serious threat to humans, animals, and the earth’s ecosystems. Nevertheless, effective climate action has been delayed, partly because some still deny that there is a problem. In a new thesis in psychology, Kirsti Jylhä at Uppsala University has studied the psychology behind climate change denial. The results show that individuals who accept hierarchical power structures tend to a larger extent deny the problem.

In the scientific community there is a strong consensus that humans have significantly affected the climate and that we are facing serious challenges. But there is a lot of misinformation about climate change in circulation, which to a large part is created and distributed by organised campaigns with the aim of postponing measures that could combat climate change. And there are people who are more prone than others to trust this misinformation.

Previous research has consistently shown that it is more common among politically conservative individuals to deny climate change. In her thesis, Kirsti Jylhä has investigated this further and in more detail. Her studies included ideological and personality variables which correlate with political ideology, and tested if those variables also correlate with climate change denial.

Farming with forests
October 3, 2016 02:28 PM - University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Feeding the world’s burgeoning population is a major challenge for agricultural scientists and agribusinesses, who are busy developing higher-yielding crop varieties. Yet University of Illinois researchers stress that we should not overlook sustainability in the frenzy to achieve production goals.

More than a third of the global land area is currently in food production. This figure is likely to expand, leading to deforestation, habitat loss, and weakening of essential ecosystem services, according to U of I agroecologist Sarah Taylor Lovell and graduate student Matt Wilson. To address these and other problems, they are promoting an unconventional solution: agroforestry.

Technique could assess historic changes to Antarctic sea ice and glaciers
September 30, 2016 10:09 AM - University of Plymouth via EurekAlert!

Historic changes to Antarctic sea ice could be unraveled using a new technique pioneered by scientists at Plymouth University.

It could also potentially be used to demonstrate past alterations to glaciers and ice shelves caused by climatic changes, a study published in Nature Communications suggests.

The new method builds on an existing technique, also developed by Plymouth University over the last 10 years, which identified a means by which scientists could measure changes to sea ice in the Arctic.

Longest record of continuous carbon flux data is now publicly available
September 28, 2016 10:04 AM - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory via ScienceDaily

Around the world -- from tundra to tropical forests, and a variety of ecosystems in between -- environmental researchers have set up micrometeorological towers to monitor carbon, water, and energy fluxes, which are measurements of how carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor and energy (heat) circulate between the soil, plants and atmosphere. Most of these sites have been continuously collecting data, some for nearly 25 years, monitoring ecosystem-level changes through periods of extreme droughts and rising global temperatures. Each of these sites contributes to a regional network -- i.e. the European Network (Euroflux) or the Americas Network (AmeriFlux) -- and the regional networks together comprise a global network called FLUXNET.

It May Not Cost You More To Drive Home In A Climate-Friendly Car
September 27, 2016 02:34 PM - NPR

It has been a common belief that low-emissions vehicles, like hybrids and electric cars, are more expensive than other choices. But a new study finds that when operating and maintenance costs are included in a vehicle's price, cleaner cars may actually be a better bet.

Millions of Trees are Dying Across the US
September 26, 2016 06:53 AM - Julie Rodriguez, Care2

Throughout the U.S., trees are dying at an astonishing rate. The reasons for the die-off vary from location to location — drought, disease, insects and wildfires – but the root cause in many of these cases is the same: climate change.

The epidemic is even threatening the oldest white oak tree in America, a 600-year-old giant in New Jersey that predates Columbus’ visit to the Americas.

Inexpensive semiconducting organic polymers can harvest sunlight to split carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels
September 23, 2016 09:33 AM - University of Texas, Arlington via ScienceDaily

Chemists at The University of Texas at Arlington have been the first to demonstrate that an organic semiconductor polymer called polyaniline is a promising photocathode material for the conversion of carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels without the need for a co-catalyst.

"This opens up a new field of research into new applications for inexpensive, readily available organic semiconducting polymers within solar fuel cells," said principal researcher Krishnan Rajeshwar, UTA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-Director of UTA's Center for Renewable Energy, Science & Technology.

Soil will absorb less atmospheric carbon than expected this century, study finds
September 22, 2016 05:23 PM - University of California, Irvine via ScienceDaily

By adding highly accurate radiocarbon dating of soil to standard Earth system models, environmental scientists from the University of California, Irvine and other institutions have learned a dirty little secret: The ground will absorb far less atmospheric carbon dioxide this century than previously thought.

Researchers used carbon-14 data from 157 sample sites around the world to determine that current soil carbon is about 3,100 years old -- rather than the 450 years stipulated by many Earth system models.

"This work indicates that soils have a weaker capacity to soak up carbon than we have been assuming over the past few decades," said UCI Chancellor's Professor of Earth system science James Randerson, senior author of a new study on the subject to be published in the journal Science. "It means we have to be even more proactive in finding ways to cut emissions of fossil fuels to limit the magnitude and impacts of climate warming."

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