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Portable mass spectrometer allows on-site gas analysis

Analyses of environmental gases which previously required months of laboratory work can now be carried out rapidly in the field. A group of Eawag scientists have developed a portable mass spectrometer allowing on-site measurements – and a spin-off has been created to commercialize the new system.

What are the effects of volcanic gases accumulating in Lake Kivu in central Africa? How does the Rhine’s groundwater system function near Pratteln? What is the best way of controlling greenhouse gas emissions from a landfill in northeastern Switzerland? Answers to questions like these can be provided by a newly developed portable mass spectrometer – by the researchers named “miniRuedi” – which allows gas and water samples to be analysed on site and in real time. For example, the concentrations of different gases were determined at a landfill during a one-day measurement campaign. This study supports the optimisation measures to aerate the landfill in order to reduce the formation of methane, a strong greenhouse gas.

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France Moves Forward with 17 GW of Clean Energy Investments

France is moving forward on renewables, as the European Commission has approved a plan for Europe’s second-largest economy to contribute another 17 gigawatts (GW) of clean power to its infrastructure. If this plan comes to fruition, France could almost double its combined current wind and solar power capacity.

And that decision dwarfs the Commission’s approval earlier this year of a request from France to add about 2.6 GW of renewables, mostly from solar and hydropower. Known during the postwar era for De Gaulle and nuclear, France is embarking on the path of Macron and renewables.

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Next-gen solar cells could be improved by atomic-scale redesign

Researchers have uncovered the exact mechanism that causes new solar cells to break down in air, paving the way for a solution.

Solar cells harness energy from the Sun and provide an alternative to non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels. However, they face challenges from costly manufacturing processes and poor efficiency - the amount of sunlight converted to useable energy.

Light-absorbing materials called organic lead halide perovskites are used in a new type of solar cells that have shown great promise, as they are more flexible and cheaper to manufacture than traditional solar cells constructed of silicon.

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NASA Study Finds Unexpectedly Primitive Atmosphere Around 'Warm Neptune'

A study combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes reveals that the distant planet HAT-P-26b has a primitive atmosphere composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Located about 437 light years away, HAT-P-26b orbits a star roughly twice as old as the sun.

The analysis is one of the most detailed studies to date of a “warm Neptune,” or a planet that is Neptune-sized and close to its star. The researchers determined that HAT-P-26b’s atmosphere is relatively clear of clouds and has a strong water signature, although the planet is not a water world. This is the best measurement of water to date on an exoplanet of this size.

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Biological Activity Found to Affect Aerosols Produced from Sea Spray

Chemists have discovered that tiny particulate matter called aerosols lofted into the atmosphere by sea spray and the bursting of bubbles at the ocean’s surface are chemically altered by the presence of biological activity.

Their finding, published in this week’s issue of the journal Chem, is a critical discovery that should improve the accuracy of future atmospheric and climate models.

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Some Dryland Forests Have Been Hiding in Plain Sight

A new estimate of the extent of dryland forests suggests that the global forest cover is at least 9% higher than previously thought. The study , published in the May 12 issue of Science, will help reduce uncertainties surrounding how much carbon dioxide plants absorb from the atmosphere globally. As carbon dioxide is a key driver of climate change, the study's results are important for climate modeling.

Given the vastness of land across the globe, researchers rely on satellite data to estimate the amount of forest cover. Yet dryland biomes — as their name suggests — are arid ecosystems where precipitation is outweighed by evaporation, making them particularly difficult places to spot and measure forests via satellite.

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Bacteria living in marine sponge produce toxic compounds found in man-made products

Researchers have discovered for the first time that a common marine sponge hosts bacteria that specialize in the production of toxic compounds nearly identical to man-made fire retardants, a finding that could help scientists better understand the human health implications of these common additives.

The new findings, by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) at the University of California, San Diego, moved the research team a step closer to unraveling the mysteries of this powerful group of chemical compounds, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

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Shelf sediments reveal climate shifts through the eons

Climate change around Antarctica can severely affect Australia’s rainfall and even influence the distribution of wet and dry zones across southeast Asia, an international study has revealed.

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Can crab shells provide a "green" solution to malaria?

A non-toxic mixture of chitin-rich crab shell powder and nanosized silver particles could be an environmentally friendly way of curbing the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes, and malaria in particular. This is according to a series of experiments led by Jiang-Shiou Hwang of the National Taiwan Ocean University. The findings are published in Springer’s journal Hydrobiologia.

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Teleconnection between the tropical Pacific and Antarctica

In April 2016, a large-scale breakup of land-fast ice was observed in Lutzow-Holm Bay near Syowa Station, a Japanese research facility. It was the first comparably large calving in the region since 1998. Land-fast ice is sea ice that grows along the Antarctic coast and does not move much once formed. Syowa Station is normally surrounded by land-fast ice, which makes it very difficult for even an icebreaker to reach.

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