• Human health risks from hydroelectric projects

    In a new study, Harvard University researchers find over 90 percent of potential new Canadian hydroelectric projects are likely to increase concentrations of the neurotoxin methylmercury in food webs near indigenous communities. 

    The research forecasts potential human health impacts of hydroelectric projects and identifies areas where mitigation efforts, such as removing the top layer of soil before flooding, would be most helpful. The works uses factors such as soil carbon and reservoir design to forecast methylmercury increases for 22 hydroelectric reservoirs under consideration or construction in Canada.

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  • Major advance in solar cells made from cheap, easy-to-use perovskite

    Solar cells made from an inexpensive and increasingly popular material called perovskite can more efficiently turn sunlight into electricity using a new technique to sandwich two types of perovskite into a single photovoltaic cell.

    Perovskite solar cells are made of a mix of organic molecules and inorganic elements that together capture light and convert it into electricity, just like today’s more common silicon-based solar cells. Perovskite photovoltaic devices, however, can be made more easily and cheaply than silicon and on a flexible rather than rigid substrate. The first perovskite solar cells could go on the market next year, and some have been reported to capture 20 percent of the sun’s energy.

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  • Solar-panel picnic tables and bus stops? Students starting a 'solar-cell revolution'

    A group of BYU engineering students wants to start a solar-cell revolution.

    Led by mechanical engineering professor John Salmon, the students hope to trigger energy change by installing solar cells in public locations you wouldn’t think of, such as:

    • Bus stops
    • Park picnic tables and benches
    • Cafeterias and restaurants
    • Car window shades
    • Stadium Seats
    • Blinds
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  • Can Radioactive Waste be Immobilized in Glass for Millions of Years?

    How do you handle nuclear waste that will be radioactive for millions of years, keeping it from harming people and the environment?

    It isn’t easy, but Rutgers researcher Ashutosh Goel has discovered ways to immobilize such waste – the offshoot of decades of nuclear weapons production – in glass and ceramics.

    Goel, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is the primary inventor of a new method to immobilize radioactive iodine in ceramics at room temperature. He’s also the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI for six glass-related research projects totaling $6.34 million in federal and private funding, with $3.335 million going to Rutgers.

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  • See How Arctic Sea Ice Is Losing Its Bulwark Against Warming Summers

    Arctic sea ice, the vast sheath of frozen seawater floating on the Arctic Ocean and its neighboring seas, has been hit with a double whammy over the past decades: as its extent shrunk, the oldest and thickest ice has either thinned or melted away, leaving the sea ice cap more vulnerable to the warming ocean and atmosphere.

    “What we’ve seen over the years is that the older ice is disappearing,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This older, thicker ice is like the bulwark of sea ice: a warm summer will melt all the young, thin ice away but it can’t completely get rid of the older ice. But this older ice is becoming weaker because there’s less of it and the remaining old ice is more broken up and thinner, so that bulwark is not as good as it used to be.”

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  • New biochar model scrubs CO2 from the atmosphere

    New Cornell University research suggests an economically viable model to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to thwart global warming.

    The researchers propose using a “bioenergy-biochar system” that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in an environmental pinch, until other removal methods become economically feasible and in regions where other methods are impractical. Their work appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of Nature Communications.

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  • Food and Energy Demand Drives 58 Percent Decline in Global Wildlife Populations

    Global populations of vertebrates -- mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish -- have declined by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012, states a new report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Animals living in the world’s lakes, rivers, and freshwater systems have experienced the most dramatic population declines, at 81 percent. Because of human activity, the report states that without immediate intervention global wildlife populations could drop two-thirds by 2020.

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  • On College Campuses, Signs of Progress on Renewable Energy

    U.S. colleges and universities are increasingly deploying solar arrays and other forms of renewable energy. Yet most institutions have a long way to go if they are to meet their goal of being carbon neutral in the coming decades.

    The soul of Arizona State University is Memorial Union, a hulking brick-and-glass community center that opens onto a sprawling pedestrian mall. Although the building sits at the heart of campus, its outdoor plaza was once virtually uninhabitable for four months each year, when summer temperatures in scorching Tempe often hover over 100 degrees. So in 2014, the university – Arizona’s leading energy consumer – completed construction on a PowerParasol, a 25-foot-tall shade canopy composed of 1,380 photovoltaic solar panels capable of producing 397 kilowatts of electricity.

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  • Better water splitting advances renewable energy conversion

    Washington State University researchers have found a way to more efficiently create hydrogen from water – an important key in making renewable energy production and storage viable.

    The researchers, led by professors Yuehe Lin and Scott Beckman in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, have developed a catalyst from low cost materials. It performs as well as or better than catalysts made from precious metals that are used for the process.

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  • From Ancient Fossils to Future Cars

    Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering have developed an inexpensive, energy-efficient way to create silicon-based anodes for lithium-ion batteries from the fossilized remains of single-celled algae called diatoms. The research could lead to the development of ultra-high capacity lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and portable electronics.

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