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Environment

Tires could be on the road to a greener future

According to the American Chemical Society, seven gallons of crude oil go into each one of approximately a billion car tires that are produced every year worldwide. Today, however, scientists announced a development that could drastically reduce oil usage in tires. It involves isoprene, a hydrocarbon that is currently obtained as a by-product from refining crude oil, and that is a key ingredient in the production of synthetic rubber. Using sugars from renewable sources such as sugar cane, corn or switchgrass, the scientists have been able to create a “green” isoprene, trademarked as BioIsoprene. They expect it could start being used to produce tires within five years.Read More

Ford to save over a million dollars by turning off computers

If companies and individuals still need an example of the economic and environmental benefits of switching off electrical equipment when not in use, here it is. Ford estimates it will save US$1.2 million annually on power costs alone and reduce its carbon footprint by an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 metric tons annually by implementing a new PC Power Management program. The new program will centrally control the power settings on Windows laptops and desktop PCs to enable a managed shutdown of computer systems not in use, especially overnight and on weekends. Read More

Tropical frog inspires new way to convert solar energy to biofuel

Natural photosynthesis isn't as efficient as we would like it to be, and incorporating solar energy into useful products is the subject for much collective research. Engineering researchers from University of Cincinnati have found a way to artificially create a photosynthetic material from foam which uses plant, bacterial, frog and fungal enzymes to produce sugars from sunlight and carbon dioxide. Read More

Backpack Power Plant offers hydroelectricity on the move

Hydroelectric power specialist Bourne Energy has developed a human-portable hydroelectric generator which can create clean, quiet power from any stream deeper than four feet. The "Backpack Power Plant", which joins the company's Riverstar, Oceanstar and Tidalstar designs, is aimed at bringing cheap, practical energy technology to remote areas. Read More

Generating hydrogen fuel from waste energy

We recently looked at a breakthrough in using sunlight to create hydrogen but now scientists have found a way to use ambient noise to turn water into usable hydrogen fuel. The process harvests small amounts of otherwise-wasted energy such as noise or stray vibrations from the environment to break the chemical bonds in water and produce oxygen and hydrogen gas.Read More

Solar panels made three times cheaper and four times more efficient

As regular readers will know, we cover more than our fair share of breakthroughs promising next-generation super-efficient solar cells. Everything from growing photovoltaic crystals, applying special coatings or using carbon nanotubes teases us with cheaper, more efficient solar energy - eventually. In this latest news, scientists are using current technology in a new type of concentrating array which they say is four times more efficient and three times cheaper than current solar cells.Read More

NoMix toilets make a splash in European study

If you’ve ever considered the humble urinal, you might have noticed that it uses much less water than a toilet. It only makes sense - since they don’t receive any feces, urinals don’t need all the water necessary to carry such solid waste through to the sewer line. When you use a toilet and just urinate, however, you’re still flushing away just as much water as if you, uh, went “Number 2.” If you were using a NoMix toilet, however, the Number 1 and Number 2 would go separate places, with the flushes being needed for solid waste only. It’s a good enough idea that in a recent pilot project, users in seven European countries gave the device a thumbs - or should that be bottoms? - up.Read More

Water Pebble watches you (and your water usage) in the shower

In today’s water-conscious environment, any device that helps conserve precious H2O should be applauded. Paul Priestman from design company Priestmangoode has created the Water Pebble – a gadget that monitors how long you’re taking in the shower by flashing red when it’s time to get out. But what makes Water Pebble different from other timing devices is that the Water Pebble memorizes how long you took for your first shower and sets about gradually minimizing the amount of water you use by reducing the time it takes for the device to flash red in subsequent showers.Read More

Plant-based fuel is cheap, easy, and ready to power your jet

Engineers at University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a way to convert 95% of the energy of cellulosic biomass into jet fuel using stable, inexpensive catalysts, basic equipment and minimal processing. The end hydrocarbon product is so similar to jet fuel that it is ready for application by present internal engine designs. Read More

'The trouble with gribbles' may actually be a boon for biofuel industry

Just what, you may ask, is a gribble? It’s a tiny marine isopod, and it eats wood. For centuries, they destroyed wooden ships. Today, they continue to munch away on docks and piers. Unlike creatures such as termites, however, gribbles have no helpful microbes in their digestive system to help them digest wood - they themselves possess the enzymes necessary for converting it to sugar. British researchers are now suggesting that what works for the gribbles could also work for converting wood waste and straw into liquid biofuels.Read More

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