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Environment

Mining operations tend not be very good for the environment, nor does the disposal of treated solid waste that still contains potentially-toxic metals. Now, however, scientists are looking into taking that waste and harvesting its trace amounts of metals such as gold, silver and platinum. Doing so could ultimately reduce the need for mining and decrease the amount of metals entering the environment, while also turning sewage into a source of revenue. Read More
For under-resourced park rangers patrolling the porous, poacher-friendly borders of Africa's national parks, conserving the ailing rhino and elephant populations is certainly a tall order. With tusks and horns only yielding more and more cash on black markets all across Asia, poaching numbers are on the rise and the future of local species hangs in the balance. But equipped with drones, big data and high-tech infrared cameras, one organization says it has the capabilities to start stemming the tide. Read More
When a new lab was recently being set up at Purdue University in Indiana, a lot of the equipment arrived in boxes full of protective packing "peanuts." Unfortunately, few facilities exist for recycling the little pieces of foam, so they typically end up sitting in (or getting blown around) landfills for several decades. A team of Purdue researchers, however, discovered that they could find use in better-performing lithium-ion batteries. Read More
Those who question the environmental benefits of electric vehicles over their gas-guzzling brethren often point out that the electricity powering EVs usually comes from fossil fuel-burning power plants. But a study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) and Hunan University in China has revealed some hidden benefits of EVs, regardless of where the electricity originates. Read More
When people are attempting to clean up oil spills at sea, one of the key things they need to know is the amount of oil that's been spilled – among other things, this will determine the amount of dispersant or other agents that are used. In order to make that process easier and more accurate, scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have developed a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that does the job by measuring the thickness of oil slicks from below the surface. Read More
We've already seen a number of technologies developed for capturing carbon dioxide emissions from smokestacks or other sources, but many of them have a limitation – in order to reclaim the captured CO2 for disposal, a considerable amount of energy is needed. Now, however, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a new carbon-capture material that requires far less energy in order to give up its payload. Read More
Human urine has been turned into all sorts of things over the centuries. Alchemists distilled phosphorous from it, it was once used for the production of gunpowder, tanners employed it in great vats to tan hides, and it has served as the basis of a myriad chemical substances, including the first types of plastics. Now yet another use for this ubiquitous liquid has been created. Researchers working at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have built a urinal that converts urine directly into electricity. Read More
Homes may one day benefit from improved acoustic insulation with an orange flavor after researchers in Spain managed to turn waste material from orange trees into high-performance acoustic insulation. The new material is more environmentally friendly to produce and an improvement in terms of acoustic insulation compared to conventional laminated gypsum boards. Read More
A treatment process developed by engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder promises a simpler and more economical way to clean up the wastewater produced by oil and gas operations that is heavily salinated and full of organic contaminants. The technique, which involves the use of a microbe-powered battery, also produces rather than consumes energy. Read More
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute have developed a "biobattery" in the form of a highly efficient biogas plant that can turn raw materials like straw, scrap wood and sludge into a variety of useful energy sources including electricity, purified gas and engine oil. The new plant design, currently being put to the test in a prototype plant in Germany, is said to be highly modular and economically viable even at the small scale. Read More
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