Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Environment

The white solar panel provides architects with more flexibility in using solar power syste...

Solar panels are seen as a way of making buildings greener and more sustainable, as well as making them less dependent on the grid for power. The problem is that the blue/black panels stick out like sore thumbs and end up exiled to rooftops. With the goal of making solar panels aesthetically invisible, the Swiss private, nonprofit technology company CSEM has developed what it bills as the world's first white solar modules – designed to blend into buildings instead of sitting on the roof.  Read More

Magic Dirt premium potting soil and Bioproduct Innovation of the Year award winner

Magic Dirt may sound like the soil used by Jack to grow his beans, but the Bioproduct Innovation of the Year award winner is just one result of a process that’s addressing the environmental issues caused by effluence from factory farm feedlots. The process starts with anaerobic digesters, specifically a patented two-stage model from Wisconsin-based DVO, which more efficiently converts manure into three valuable byproducts.  Read More

This large buoy has an array of advanced scientific instruments to measure offshore wind e...

Offshore wind power in the United States is nowhere close to meeting the potential this renewable energy form has to offer. There are a myriad of reasons why, including lack of information on energy-harnessing possibilities at specific sites. The US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is looking to change this, by dropping two very advanced data-collecting buoys into coastal waters.  Read More

The predictive abilities of big data is being used to improve farming outcomes (Photo: Shu...

Data scientists studying crop growth and weather patterns in Colombia have advised rice farmers not to plant crops, saving millions of dollars. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Colombian Rice Growers Federation have developed a computer model that can work out what crops work best under specific weather conditions in certain areas.  Read More

Waste water from fracking is over five times saltier than seawater (Photo: Christopher Hal...

Fracking is a highly controversial and divisive issue. Proponents argue that it could be the biggest energy boom since the Arabian oil fields were opened almost 80 years ago, but this comes at a serious cost to the environment. Among the detrimental effects of the process is that the waste water it produces is over five times saltier than seawater, which is, to put it mildly, not good. A research team led by MIT that has found an economical way of removing salt from fracking waste water that promises to not only reduce pollution, but conserve water as well.  Read More

Muufri founders Ryan Pandya and CTO Perumal Gandhi are aiming for a marketable product by ...

“Got (synthetically bioengineered plant-based) Milk?” may not have the punch of the famous California dairy industry advert, but the founders of a Silicon Valley-based biotech startup are hoping their genetically engineered yeast will produce a dairy alternative as good or better than the cow version.  Read More

China's used cooking oil may soon find use fueling airliners  (Photo: Shutterstock)

Two years ago, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner became the first biofuel-powered aircraft to cross the Pacific Ocean. It was actually running on a biofuel/regular jet fuel mix, with the biofuel derived mainly from used cooking oil. Now, in the interest of ensuring a consistent supply of that biofuel, Boeing has partnered with Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) to produce it in a pilot plant.  Read More

If California’s drought continues, residents may be drinking the recycled water from the S...

Drinking recycled urine may be the stuff of Dune novels, and a drastic response to California’s ongoing drought. But officials in Santa Clara County in the heart of Silicon Valley are hoping its new high-tech purification plant will help residents get past the ick factor and eventually allow treated wastewater to flow through their faucets in a "toilet to tap" scenario. Opened in July, the $72 million Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center is the most advanced such plant in the US, and uses a multi-step system of microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet rays to produce water of higher quality than typical drinking water.  Read More

Canadian researchers are taking advantage of aerial drones to track the well being of Kill...

Researchers from the Vancouver Aquarium and the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have begun using drones to keep tabs on endangered killer whales off the west coast of the continent. The technology is giving the researchers a fresh perspective on the well-being of the animals, and provides yet another example of how UAVs are giving rise to new means of conservation.  Read More

Equipped with an array of multi-junction photovoltaic chips, each of the IBM 'sunflowers' ...

Looking rather like a 10-meter (33 ft) tall sunflower, IBM's High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal (HCPVT) system concentrates the sun’s radiation over 2,000 times on a single point and then transforms 80 percent of that into usable energy. Using a number of liquid-cooled microchannel receivers, each equipped with an array of multi-junction photovoltaic chips, each HCPVT can produce enough power, water, and cooling to supply several homes.  Read More

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