Researchers are already developing methods of making biofuel from cellulosic waste, such as corn stover and wood fibers, offering reduced environmental impact and no competition with food crops. Now, new research is investigating the possibility of turning waste from the winemaking industry into biofuel, not requiring the planting of any new crops.
In May, the Ocean Cleanup project announced that its first deployment would be delivered in the Korea Strait next year. That will pave the way for its ultimate goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. With that in mind, a research expedition at the Garbage Patch has just been completed.
"It's easy for people in the cities. They don't have to think about it. They turn on the tap and they have water to wash and water to drink. Here, access to water is a much more complicated issue." Daniel Rojas might have been talking about any place on Earth where water is hard to come by, but his words have a particular salience in Peña Blanca, Chile. The remote, drought-stricken community lies on the fringes of an expanding Atacama Desert, the driest (non-polar) desert on Earth. Parts of this parched, desolate land have never seen a single drop of rain, but by using a cleverly designed system the locals are able to harvest the mist that rolls in from the Pacific for farming, preserving native vegetation, and even producing beer.
The use of sunlight as an energy source is achieved in a number of ways, from conversion to electricity via photovoltaic (PV) panels, concentrated heat to drive steam turbines, and even hydrogen generation via artificial photosynthesis. Unfortunately, much of the light energy in PV and photosynthesis systems is lost as heat due to the thermodynamic inefficiencies inherent in the process of converting the incoming energy from one form to another. Now scientists working at the University of Bayreuth claim to have created a super-efficient light-energy transport conduit that exhibits almost zero loss, and shows promise as the missing link in the sunlight to energy conversion process.
As the world moves towards developing new avenues of renewable energy, the efficiencies of producing fuels such as hydrogen must increase to the point that they rival or exceed those of conventional energy sources to make them a viable alternative. Now researchers at Monash University in Melbourne claim to have created a solar-powered device that produces hydrogen at a world-record 22 percent efficiency, which is a significant step towards making cheap, efficient hydrogen production a reality.
It may not be the first airport to fit solar panels to its terminals, but India's Cochin International Airport is set to become the first in the world powered entirely by solar. Situated in Kochi, the airport handled 6.8 million passengers in the 2014-15 financial year and forecasts a 300,000-tonne (330,700-ton) reduction in carbon emissions over the next 25 years as a result of the switch to solar.
Ever balked at installing solar panels on your roof because it's pretty damn expensive or you're not sure how much power it would actually generate, or a combination of both? Well, a new venture from Google is aimed at taking the guesswork out of weaning your household off the grid. Powered by Google Maps, Project Sunroof can tell users how much sun is hitting their roof and how much they might be able to shave off their power bills.
A new initiative by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has taken a surprisingly low-tech approach to water conservation, by covering the LA Reservoir in 96 million black "shade balls." It's an attempt to combat water loss through evaporation, and to heighten water quality.
Three French students will travel from Bangkok, Thailand to Toulouse, France on an electric tuk-tuk in an effort to demonstrate that electric power will be sufficient for our future mobility needs. They plan to cover 20,000 km (12,427 mi) through 16 countries in 120 days on their modified three wheeler relying on two giant batteries, a solar panel and the generosity of strangers.
The world's growing population faces a constant string of tradeoffs. On the one hand, we need more rice to feed ourselves. On the other hand, control of greenhouse gases is a major priority and rice growing generates a lot of methane. It seems like a Catch 22, but a team led by the US Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has come up with a genetically engineered strain of rice that not only produces almost no methane, but also more grains.