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Environment

RemScan puts a self-contained soil analyzer in your hand (Photo: ZilteK)

Contamination of soil from petroleum spills is an ongoing problem that threatens to adversely affect the environment and the health of the people in it, so rapid testing of sites is a pressing issue. However, with laboratory samples and results requiring at least a number of days turn around, particularly in remote locations, rapid analysis is not usually possible. RemScan is a self-contained, hand-held hydrocarbon contamination testing device designed to address this problem. Recently released on the US market, the device is capable of testing many hundred samples a day, providing data on the spot, within seconds, and completely without the need of a laboratory.  Read More

Is space-based solar power the answer to our energy needs? JAXA envisions solar satellites...

Space-based solar power seems like an idea from a Star Trek script, but given the uncertain future of its power generation industry, Japan stands to gain as much as anyone by exploring this potential source of renewable energy. The disaster at Fukushima, limited access to fossil fuels and advances in technology has, at least in the eyes of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), added further weight to the notion of a space-based solar power system. The agency is developing a complex roadmap involving a 1 GW extraterrestrial solar farm, a microwave beam and a man-made island in the Tokyo harbor which could be used collect solar energy in space and supply power to Earth by 2040.  Read More

Jacob D Lanphere, a Ph.D. student at UC Riverside, holds a sample of graphene oxide

I've been waiting for some time now to write a headline along the lines of "scientists discover thing that graphene is not amazing at" ... and here it is. Everybody’s favorite nanomaterial may have a plethora of near-magical properties, but as it turns out, it could also be bad for the environment – and bad for you, too.  Read More

Early design concept of the new polar research ship

What’s big and red and costs £200 million? The answer is the new flagship of Britain’s polar research fleet complete with helideck and robot submarines. On Friday at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne announced that the British government had authorized the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to go ahead with the design and construction of a new state-of-the-art vessel for polar research and to maintain the British presence in Antarctica and the South Atlantic.  Read More

Panasonic's Power Supply Container is a self-contained solar power plant designed for deve...

In an effort to bring reliable electricity supplies to emerging regions and remote island communities, Panasonic has developed an expandable, portable, self-contained photovoltaic system. The "Power Supply Container" comes equipped with 12 of Panasonic's HIT240 solar modules on the roof and generates approximately 3 kW of electricity, with 24 lead-acid batteries capable of storing 17.2 kWh of energy used to store excess electricity.  Read More

By infusing the leaves of an Arabidopsis thaliana plant with nanoparticles, MIT researcher...

In 2010, Stanford University researchers reported harnessing energy directly from chloroplasts, the cellular "power plants" within plants where photosynthesis takes place. Now, by embedding different types of carbon nanotubes into these chloroplasts, a team at MIT has boosted plants' ability to capture light energy. As well as opening up the possibility of creating "bionic plants" with enhanced energy production, the same approach could be used to create plants with environmental monitoring capabilities.  Read More

The Audi traffic light system uses icon prompts

One of life's small but satisfying pleasures is hitting the sweet spot while driving across town and catching all the green lights. At the moment, having that happen is a matter of luck, but Audi is developing a system that will make never getting caught by a red light an everyday thing as a way of speeding up traffic while improving fuel efficiency and cutting emissions.  Read More

A rubber mat forms the 'carpet,' and sits atop a grid of hydraulic actuators, cylinders an...

Many organizations around the world are looking at ways to harness the power of waves as a renewable energy source, but none are covering quite the same ground as a team of engineers from the University of California (UC), Berkeley. The seafloor carpet, a system inspired by the wave absorbing abilities of a muddy seabed, has taken exploring the potential of wave power to some intriguing new depths.  Read More

The Riverview system is a symbiosis of two robots – an Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV) an...

The string of disastrous floods currently plaguing Britain demonstrate that managing rivers and other waterways is about more than protecting curlew nests and counting otters. To help provide a better understanding of riverine areas, a team headed by José Barata and Pedro Santana of the University of Lisbon are developing a “marsupial” robotic system called Riverwatch that teams a robotic catamaran with an on-board hexacopter to survey areas beyond the reach of the hip-boots and rubber raft brigade.  Read More

An inbuilt sensor notifies the organization that it's time for a pickup (Photo: SFGoodwill...

Goodwill of San Francisco has launched a smart donation bin called goBin that aims to make donating old clothes and other textiles a snap. Instead of having to make a regular trip to a Goodwill store, the bin will allow residents of apartment towers to donate their stuff from the comfort of their buildings. Developed in collaboration with the global product strategy firm, Frog Design, the high-tech textile-recycling bin is expected to help the city's environmental department reach its goal of making San Francisco a zero waste city by 2020.  Read More

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