Photokina 2014 highlights

Environment

New research examines the economics of storing energy from renewable sources (Photo: Shutt...

True or false: solar and wind power are freely available and clean, and thus should always be stored when they generate more energy than the grid can use? It's easy to assume that renewable energy should never be turned off, but scientists at Stanford have done the math to find the break-even point where storing energy is better than "wasting," or curtailing, that energy, and their findings aren't necessarily as you'd think.  Read More

Zeoform promises a recyclable, low carbon-footprint building material that's as strong as ...

Australian company Zeo has developed and patented a glue-free process that creates a strong, versatile new building material out of just cellulose and water. The resulting hardwood-like material known as Zeoform can then be sprayed, molded or shaped into a range of products. And it's not just trees that stand to benefit – Zeoform also promises an eco-friendly alternative to the use of plastics and resins.  Read More

The US Department of Energy will be using fuel cells to power the refrigeration units of f...

The refrigeration units used in cold transport trailers are typically powered by small diesel engines, which use up non-renewable fuel and release greenhouse gases, just like their big brothers. The US Department of Energy, however, is looking into an alternative. As part of a two-year pilot project, it’s equipping four such trailers with clean-running hydrogen fuel cells.  Read More

MIT's high-performance membranelss flow battery could be used to store green energy for th...

Researchers at MIT have come up with a new design for a rechargeable flow battery that does away with the expensive and ineffective membrane of previous designs. The device could prove the ideal solution for effectively storing energy from intermittent power sources such as solar and wind power.  Read More

You want flies with that? Mealworms on a pigeon burger at Rentokil's pop-up 'pestaurant' (...

By 2050, the UN expects that there will be almost 10 billion people on the Earth. This poses some serious practical questions, not least among which is how we'll put food into 2.5 billion or so extra tummies (especially given that we don't adequately fill all of the 7-plus billion we already have). If you're yet to hear alarming phrases like "food security" and "sustainable intensification" you've probably been living under a rock. Which is apt, actually, because that's exactly where you might find one of the proposed answers: insects. A pop-up kitchen in London on Thursday served up a variety of bug-based bites to passers by, and Gizmag arrived soon after it opened to sample the wares on offer.  Read More

The Fraxinus game (Image: The Sainsbury Laboratory)

Playing video games and feeling virtuous may seem almost like a contradiction in terms, but the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK has turned gaming into a way to advance science and help protect the environment. The Fraxinus game is a Facebook app that uses player participation to figure out the structure of a fungus genome, as part of a crowdsourcing effort to combat a disease that threatens Britain and Europe’s ash trees.  Read More

Would partly black turbines be safer for birds? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Four turbines at the Smøla wind farm in Norway are to have one rotor blade painted black to see whether increasing the visual contrast of the turbine against its background might help to reduce bird strikes.  Read More

Cactus needles draw moisture to the plant, just like the new material draws in oil droplet...

When an oil spill occurs at sea, there are already a number of possible options for gathering the oil that floats in a layer on the water’s surface. Some of the oil also forms into tiny suspended droplets, however, which have proven much more difficult to gather. Now, Chinese scientists have developed what could be a solution – and it owes a debt to the humble cactus needle.  Read More

Does water hold the key to more efficient windows? (Photo: Nathan Larkin)

Researchers at the University of Toronto say they can improve the energy of efficiency buildings by fitting window panes with tiny channels of water. The scientists says that these channels, inspired by vascular systems in nature such as the network of blood vessels in the human body, can provide 7º to 9º C of cooling in the summer, and reduce heat loss during winter.  Read More

Metabolix is genetically engineering switchgrass to produce bioplastic and chemicals.

Petroleum-based plastic may be fantastic, but due to the durability that makes the material so popular it may take hundreds of years to break down. Plastic made from renewable biomass, known as bioplastic, is a biodegradable alternative to fossil fuel versions. A company called Metabolix, based in Cambridge (MA), has been working on a technology to genetically engineer plants such as switchgrass to create a biodegradable polymer that can be extracted directly from the plant.  Read More

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