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— Space

SpaceX Mars mission will fly on methane

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, says that the missions to Mars by his company will use rockets powered by methane, which can be manufactured on the Red Planet. The announcement came last as the South-African born entrepreneur was giving a lecture in November to the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, where he was presented with the Gold Medal – the society’s highest award. Read More
— Environment

Pilot plant converts fruit and veggie waste into natural gas for cars

Some readers might remember the Mr. Fusion unit in Back to the Future that Doc Brown fills with household garbage, including a banana peel and some beer, to power the iconic time-traveling DeLorean. While we're still some way from such direct means of running our cars on table scraps, researchers at Fraunhofer have developed a pilot plant that ferments the waste from wholesale fruit and veg markets, cafeterias and canteens to make methane, which can be used to power vehicles. Read More
— Around The Home

Philips Bio-light concept lights the home using bacteria

The search for greener, more power-efficient lighting systems won't stop with compact fluorescents and LED systems if Dutch electronics giant Philips has anything to say about it. In an effort to embrace a truly natural approach to lighting, the company took a cue from fireflies and deep-sea creatures to create a (literally) green light powered not by electricity or sunlight, but by glowing bioluminescent bacteria. Read More
— Environment

Cheap, simple composting toilet concept receives funding from Gates Foundation

Whatever you call it - lavatory, privy, latrine, crapper, loo or dunny - most of us take the humble toilet for granted. But in many parts of the world the absence of sanitary waste disposal is not just inconvenient, it can cause deadly diseases such as hepatitis, dysentery, trachoma, typhoid and cholera. Enter Marc Deshusses, a Duke University environmental engineer who has envisioned an innovative yet simple waste disposal system designed specifically for Third World countries that can be constructed from everyday items. Now, as part of a broad ranging project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Deshusses has received $100,000 to perfect and test the system in the laboratory before producing a prototype to field-test in 18 months time. Read More
— Environment

Study questions the eco-friendliness of biodegradable products

As tons of plastic items continue to take up space in landfills, and the floating Great Pacific Garbage Patch continues to grow, environmentally-conscious consumers are understandably becoming more interested in biodegradable alternatives to traditional plastic. Whether it's because they share these concerns, or are just trying to cash in on an "eco-fad," many companies have responded by producing biodegradable versions of formerly near-eternal plastic products. While biodegradable products are designed to reduce the amount of trash clogging up our waterways and spoiling our parks, at least one scientist believes they may ultimately be doing more harm than good. Read More
— Good Thinking

'Dry water' could be used to store carbon dioxide

You know, I’m pretty sure I remember a Far Side cartoon or something, where someone was selling powdered water – “Just add water!” Well, dry water isn’t quite the same thing. It’s 95 percent liquid water, but that water takes the form of tiny droplets each encased in a tiny globe of silica. The resultant substance is dry and granular. It first came to light in 1968, and was used in cosmetics. More recently, a University of Liverpool research team has been looking into other potential uses for the substance. They have found several, but most interesting is its ability to store gases such as carbon dioxide. Read More
— Science

Researchers use rocket science for sustainable waste treatment process

Rocket engines are generally not thought of as being environmentally-friendly, but thanks to a newly-developed process, we may someday see them neutralizing the emissions from wastewater treatment plants. The same process would also see those plants generating their own power, thus meaning they would be both energy-neutral and emissions-free. Developed by two engineers at Stanford University, the system starts with the formation of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane gas - something that treatment plants traditionally try to avoid. Read More
— Space

ESA and NASA pack their bags for Mars

The first joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA that will study the chemical makeup of the martian atmosphere is scheduled for 2016. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter marks an unprecedented alliance between the two agencies for future ventures to Mars and is the first in a planned series of joint missions leading to the return of a sample from the surface of the Red Planet. Scientists worldwide were invited to propose the spacecraft’s instruments and the ESA and NASA have now made their selections. Read More
— Pets

BokashiPetCycle puts your pet poop to use

What do you do with your dog or cat poop? Toss it in the garbage? Put it in your compost heap? Hurl it at your noisy neighbors? Well, according to Seattle researcher Lawrence Green, you shouldn’t be doing any of those things. Feces can contain wonderful things like toxoplasma parasites, E. coli, and salmonella bacteria, which can get into the groundwater. In plastic bags in landfills, it generates methane gas and attracts vermin. To that end, Green developed a product called the BokashiPetCycle Fermenting System. It allows you to pickle your pet’s poop, turning it into a harmless plant fertilizer. Read More