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Environment

Science

Autonomous boats get disguised as crocodiles and used to study hippo poop

Although hippos may look slow and docile, they're actually very aggressive, killing more people every year than any other large African animal. So, it would follow that you wouldn't want to swim anywhere near them. That's why when researchers from Yale University and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies wanted to study the effects of hippo dung on water quality in Kenya's Mara River, they sent in three autonomous air boats instead of people. To help those boats blend in, they were dressed up as crocodiles. Read More

Environment

Handheld device detects and analyzes soil contamination within seconds

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

Space

Could a space-based solar farm become a reality by 2040?

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
Marine

British government okays £200 million Antarctic science 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

Good Thinking

Panasonic's Power Supply Container: A solar power plant in a box

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

Environment

Nano technique boosts plant energy production and creates plant biosensors

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

Environment

Seafloor carpet mimics muddy seabed to harness wave power

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

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