Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Pollution

The MicroPEM measures air pollution, along with its wearer's activity level

For decades now, scientists have been monitoring air pollution in order to better understand how atmospheric contaminants affect our health. The gathered data can tell us the amount and type of pollutants that are in the air, which can in turn sometimes be linked to health problems in the area. What that data doesn’t tell us, however, is the effect that different types of physical activities can have on the amount of pollutants that are breathed in – if a smog warning is issued, for instance, does that mean we shouldn’t go outside at all, or just that we shouldn’t go jogging outside? A new personal exposure monitoring device, known as the MicroPEM, has been designed to answer such questions.  Read More

Newly-developed earplug-sized air samplers are said to offer several advantages over tradi...

The monitoring of air quality can be a tricky business. Gases may be blown into the sampling site from another area, they may leak out of an air sample before it can be analyzed, or the sampling container itself may introduce compounds, emitted through off-gassing. If samples are being gathered in remote areas, it can also be difficult getting bulky equipment to and from the sampling site. Now, scientists from Sandia National Laboratories have announced a tiny new type of air sampler, that addresses these and other challenges.  Read More

A newly-developed magnetic soap could be used to minimize the environmental impact of oil ...

When oil gets spilled in a waterway, clean-up crews will often introduce a solution known as a surfactant. This is a detergent that lessens the surface tension between the water and the overlaying oil slick, causing the oil to form into individual droplets which then sink or get dispersed by wave action. Unfortunately, such detergents aren’t entirely environmentally-friendly themselves, so the use of them on oil spills has been criticized as simply replacing one pollutant with another. Now, however, scientists from the University of Bristol have created a magnetic soap, that could be removed from the water once it had done its job.  Read More

A commonly-available, inexpensive polymer has been shown to be very effective at capturing...

In recent years, worries over global climate change caused by excess atmospheric carbon dioxide have led to a number of technologies all aimed at the same thing – capturing human-generated CO2 at the source. These have included the use of things such as edible sponges, molten salts and bacteria, to name just a few. Now, a group of scientists are claiming success with a process that has achieved “some of the highest carbon dioxide removal rates ever reported for humid air” ... and it uses a common and inexpensive polymer.  Read More

A prototype system has been created for cleaning and heating the air in chicken and swine ...

If you’ve ever so much as stepped into a chicken or swine barn, you’ll know that they can be very, very smelly places. When vented outdoors, the air from these buildings does more than just make the area stink – it can actually be a major source of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Fortunately, however, researchers from North Carolina State University and West Virginia University have created a system that not only helps clean the air going out of the barns, but it heats up the air coming in from outside.  Read More

A new process has been developed for removing trace amounts of heavy metals from water (Ph...

Once released into the environment from industrial sources, trace amounts of heavy metals can remain present in waterways for decades, or even centuries, in concentrations that are still high enough to pose a health risk. While processes do exist for removing larger amounts of heavy metals from water, these do not work on smaller quantities. Now, however, scientists from Rhode Island’s Brown University have combined two existing methods, to create a new one that removes even trace amounts of heavy metal from water.  Read More

Professor Eyal Ben-Dor has created a portable hyperspectral sensor, which can be used to d...

When any two compounds are combined, the resulting chemical reaction shows up as a specific color when natural sunlight reflects off the area where that reaction is occurring. Therefore, by assessing the colors of an object, material or environment, it is possible to determine what compounds are present within it. Unfortunately, many of those colors fall outside the mere three bands of light (red, green and blue) visible to the human eye. Spectral analysis equipment can detect a much wider range of light, but it is typically located in labs, which samples must be transported to. Now, however, a scientist from Israel’s Tel Aviv University (TAU) has created a portable hyperspectral sensor, that can “see” over 1,000 colors – this means that it could be used to detect pollutants in the environment, on location and in real time.  Read More

The winners of the US$1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE were announced tod...

Last July, in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the X PRIZE Foundation launched the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. As with previous X PRIZE competitions, this one was intended to encourage private sector scientific research, by offering a cash prize to whichever team could best meet a given challenge. In this case, teams had to demonstrate a system of their own making, that could recover oil from a sea water surface at the highest Oil Recovery Rate (ORR) above 2,500 US gallons (9,463.5 liters) per minute, with an Oil Recovery Efficiency (ORE) of greater than 70 percent. Today, the winning teams were announced.  Read More

Dr. Nichola Coleman and Cameron Abercrombie, a final year Chemistry student from the Unive...

While you may feel quite virtuous when you leave all your glass containers out for recycling, you might be surprised to know that much of your colored glass won’t be used. That’s because even though there’s a fairly constant demand for recycled clear glass, glass in colors such as green, brown and blue isn’t all that sought-after, so many recycling centers don’t bother processing it. As a result, waste colored glass is now being stock-piled in some locations, waiting for a use. Thanks to research conducted at the University of Greenwich, however, that glass may soon be used for filtering pollutants out of ground water.  Read More

Flush Puppies are dog waste bags that dissolve when flushed down the toilet

Dog poop bags have become so commonly used, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time that dog-walkers typically let their pooches go Number 2 in parks or on other peoples’ lawns, with no intentions of cleaning it up. While it’s definitely a good thing that such is no longer the case (for the most part, at least), there’s still the small matter of what happens to the bagged excrement once it’s thrown away. Conventional bags keep it sealed inside, perhaps so that future archeologists can marvel at it when digging through our landfills. Even biodegradable bags take a long time to break down under certain conditions, and leave landfills full of untreated feces. Flush Puppies flushable doodie bags, however, reportedly allow dog poop to be flushed down the toilet, so it can be treated in a municipal sewage system.  Read More

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