Five years on and questions still remain over the Deepwater Horizons oil spill, where millions of gallons of crude oil were spewed into the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps the most pressing is how oil might be best cleaned up should such an environmental catastrophe occur in the future. A team of Australian researchers claims to have found an answer, developing a special porous material that is claimed to soak up to 33 times its own weight in oil and organic solvents.
Natural gas accounts for over 28 percent of US energy consumption. Its main component, methane, is a widely-used fossil fuel but also a major contributor to rising CO2 levels, and thus climate change. To address this issue, researchers from the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a process that extracts the energy content of methane, in the form hydrogen, without producing carbon dioxide.
Researchers from Concordia University in Montreal are looking to tap into what may be the most plentiful yet overlooked source of power in the world. The group has invented a power cell that harnesses the electricity created during the natural processes of photosynthesis and respiration in blue-green algae.
A researcher at Switzerland's University of Zurich has combined 25 years worth of satellite imagery to show the complex behavior of glaciers in a single second. The effort made use of data collected by NASA's Landsat satellites, focusing on the Karakoram mountain range in Asia.
Industrial designer Carter Zufelt has created a new process for recycling discarded plastics. Unlike most current methods, his is able to transform garbage into uniquely-crafted art. Not only can the process be replicated in the comfort of one's own home, but through his sustainable project Müll, Zufelt is choosing to make it available to all those interested.
Last year around 2.3 million barrels of oil were pulled each day from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, the third largest oil reserve in the world. This mining process is hugely water-intensive, and though much of it is recycled, it still results in massive pools of polluted wastewater which are difficult to treat and pose a threat to the environment. Canadian researchers have developed a new approach to removing the contaminants using sunlight and nanoparticles, an approach they say will prove much more effective and cheaper than existing methods.
As access to clean water continues to be an issue throughout the developing world, there's an increased demand for easier ways to turn contaminated and salty water into something you can drink. Researchers at MIT may have found a solution using a method they are calling shock electrodialysis. It uses electric shock waves to separate contaminated or salty water into two separate streams, with a natural barrier between each one.
In a deal between the Scottish government and Norwegian oil company Statoil, five wind turbines with a capacity of six megawatts each will be set on floating structures some 15 miles (25 km) off the northeast coast of Scotland near Peterhead. The Hywind pilot park, as it's named, is claimed to be the first floating wind farm in the world, and will generate enough power for 20,000 homes with operations expected to start in late 2017.
In recent years, satellite photos of Greenland's ice sheet have shown what appears to be a darkening of the ice's surface. A number of scientists have suggested that this could be due to settled soot particles from fossil fuel production and/or forest fires, and that their presence could result in accelerated melting of the ice. Now, however, researchers from Dartmouth College believe that the ice may still still be relatively clean, and that its darkness in the photos could just be due to faulty sensors on the satellites.
Researchers at the Technological Institute of the Lagoon (ITL), Mexico, have created a nanoparticle-rich, superconducting ink that they have used to coat pipes of solar water heaters to increase their efficiency by up to 70 percent. The new coating was recently proven on the solar heating of a Mexican city sports complex swimming pool, where 2 million cubic meters (70.6 million cubic feet) of water were heated from 26 °C to 37 °C (79 °F to 98°F).