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Environment

A number of parks in the Boston area will soon receive solar-powered smart benches, courtesy of Changing Environments, an MIT Media Lab spin-off company. Dubbed Soofa, the benches sport a solar panel, a pair of charging points for smartphones (or similar devices), and they monitor environmental data such as local air quality and noise pollution. Read More
Rising atmospheric CO2 levels can generally be tackled in three ways: developing alternative energy sources with lower emissions; carbon capture and storage (CCS); and capturing carbon and repurposing it. Researchers at Princeton University are claiming to have developed a technique that ticks two of these three boxes by using solar power to convert CO2 into formic acid. Read More
It was seven years ago that Ecosphere Technologies revealed its first iteration of a self-contained relief unit to provide power, water and shelter to disaster-struck areas. The company has since been busy refining the system's form and function and now announces the completion of what it says to be the world's largest deployable solar power generator. Capable of generating 15 kW of electricity, PowerCube is transported as a standard shipping container and can morph into a shelter, water treatment plant and communications base all with a push of a button. Read More
The Great Wall of China was primarily built to keep out nomadic tribes, but a new study suggests constructing great walls in the American Midwest could keep out a different kind of threat – tornadoes. It might sound far-fetched, but a study conducted by Dr. Rongjia Tao from the Department of Physics at Philadelphia's Temple University suggests there is in fact some scientific merit to it. Strategically placed, 1,000 ft (300 m) high great walls could negate the forming of the destructive wind storms in Tornado Alley, and by extension, the destruction they leave in their wake. Read More
Tofu has long been touted as a good way to clean out your insides, but now a researcher at the University of Liverpool says an ingredient in tofu could also be used to clean up solar cells. The hope is that the naturally occurring substance could replace a key ingredient in thin film solar cells that is highly toxic and expensive to produce. Read More
Researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have conducted a study to examine the potential for solar power to provide reliable electricity around the clock, every day of the year. The team found that a large, distributed network of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants in the Mediterranean basin or the Kalahari desert in southern Africa would be able to consistently run at 80 percent of maximum capacity or more throughout the year regardless of time of day, season, or weather conditions. Read More
Thanks to its extensive composting and recycling facilities, the city of Edmonton, Canada is already diverting approximately 60 percent of its municipal waste from the landfill. That figure is expected to rise to 90 percent, however, once the city's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility starts converting garbage (that can't be composted or recycled) into methanol and ethanol. It's the world's first such plant to operate on an industrial scale, and we recently got a guided tour of the place. Read More
When we think of wind power, we generally think of huge wind turbines sitting high atop towers where they can take advantage of the higher wind speeds. But Maryland-based Solar Wind Energy, Inc. is looking to turn wind power on its head with the Solar Wind Downdraft Tower, which places turbines at the base of a tower and generates its own wind to turn them. Read More
Using wastewater to clean itself is the premise of new Australian technology that relies on the formation of compounds called hydrotalicites, and which results in less sludge than traditional water treatment with lime. In one test in Australia, the equivalent of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools of wastewater were treated, with final sludge reductions of up to 90 percent. Read More
Tomatoes are already found in soup, ketchup, and most Italian dishes, but researchers at Ford and Heinz may have discovered the secret sauce to making car parts from them. The companies' boffins are currently investigating the potential use of waste tomato peel for the manufacture of interior car parts, such as wiring brackets, and dashboard-based storage. Read More