Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Reusable Glass Nanoparticle Sponge Can Extract Toxins From Water

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

A flexible web of glass nanoparticles makes up each piece of Osorb. When it comes in contact with pollutants, the web opens up to encapsulate them, causing the Osorb to swell. Ben Goldstein

“Chemist Paul Edmiston has plenty of data to prove how well Osorb, a glass substance, soaks up petroleum, solvents and other organic contaminants.

But he’s most convincing when he mixes motor oil with water, adds Osorb, filters off the swollen powder and drinks the remaining liquid. “It works like a nanomechanical sponge,” he says. “I’ve done trace analysis, and the water’s totally clean.”

A graduate student of Edmiston’s stumbled upon the material while experimenting with molecules for a bomb-detection device. After she added acetone to a beaker of silicas, they ballooned to eight times their normal size. She went straight to Edmiston, asking, “Did I mess up?”

Much to the contrary: The silicas, Edmiston realized, are hydrophobic, so they ignore water but grab both polar compounds (such as acetone) and nonpolar ones (such as octane) out of solution.

The contaminants can be released for disposal or recycling by squeezing the nanomechanical sponge—that is, by applying heat. The swellable glass can be reused more than 100 times.”

New Method Purifies Textile Industry’s Toxic Waste

October 1, 2011 Leave a comment

“Textile dying is one of the most environmentally hazardous aspects of the textile industry. During dying, harmful chemicals that are difficult to break down are released, all too often into rivers and agricultural land.

However, Maria Jonstrup, a doctoral student in Biotechnology at Lund University, has developed a new, environmentally friendly purification process which leaves only clean water.

The findings are presented in Maria Jonstrup’s thesis. The research is so far only research, and has therefore only been tested in the laboratory, but Maria Jonstrup is optimistic about its future potential.

“In the long term it should be possible for textile factories in India, China and Bangladesh to use the technique. If it works on a laboratory scale it is quite likely that it will also work in a real-life situation,” she says.”

A Cosmic Thermostat Controls Earth’s Temperature?

October 1, 2011 Leave a comment

“In recent years, the idea that the climate is driven by clouds and cosmic rays has received plenty of attention. Interest in the idea was prompted by a Danish physicist named Henrik Svensmark, who first suggested it in the late 1990s.

Using satellite data on cloud coverage, which became available with the establishment of the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project in 1983, Svensmark found a correlation between lower troposphere cloud cover and the 11-year solar cycle.

He proposed that cosmic rays initiate the formation of aerosols in the lower atmosphere that then form condensation nuclei for cloud droplets, increasing cloud formation from water vapor. Since low-level clouds increase Earth’s albedo (the amount of incoming solar radiation that is reflected back into space), more clouds mean cooler temperatures.

Svensmark claimed that this mechanism was responsible for virtually every climatic event in Earth history, from ice ages to the Faint Young Sun paradox to Snowball Earth to our current warming trend. Needless to say, this would overturn decades of climate research.

Cosmic “rays” are actually energetic subatomic particles. The solar wind shields the Earth from many of the cosmic rays coming from elsewhere in the Milky Way, so the number of rays that reach the Earth is modulated by variations in solar activity, such as the well-known 11-year solar cycle.

Early work by Svensmark and a group at CERN (we recently covered their initial results) has indicated that charged particles like cosmic rays can cause molecules of sulfuric acid, water, or other vapors to combine and form aerosols (particles about 1 nanometer in diameter). This provides a potential link between cosmic rays and cloud formation.”

Chlorophyll’s Competitor Arrives: Artificial Leaf Created

October 1, 2011 1 comment

“Researchers led by MIT professor Daniel Nocera have produced something they’re calling an “artificial leaf”: Like living leaves, the device can turn the energy of sunlight directly into a chemical fuel that can be stored and used later as an energy source.

The artificial leaf — a silicon solar cell with different catalytic materials bonded onto its two sides — needs no external wires or control circuits to operate.

Simply placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, it quickly begins to generate streams of bubbles: oxygen bubbles from one side and hydrogen bubbles from the other.

If placed in a container that has a barrier to separate the two sides, the two streams of bubbles can be collected and stored, and used later to deliver power: for example, by feeding them into a fuel cell that combines them once again into water while delivering an electric current.”

SeaTwirl Uses The Ocean As Roller Bearing To Produce Energy

September 30, 2011 Leave a comment

“Swedish eco-designers, Ehrnberg Solutions AB, have just completed their most successful prototype of the floating SeaTwirl vertical wind turbine.

The device captures and harvests offshore wind, without having to convert the energy as it is being stored. SeaTwirl is the first of its kind with only two moving parts, and it uses only sea water as a roller bearing, omitting the need for a gearbox or transmission.

SeaTwirl is already being praised as one of the most simple and cost effective wind turbines ever made. Its vertical blades spin, absorbing energy from the wind and storing it throughout a water filled torus.

The torus also holds the turbine above sea level and assists in the spinning even when winds have died down. Meanwhile, a tiny generator at the bottom of the turbine then converts the energy to electricity.”

Self-Powered Microbial Fuel Cell Produces “Limitless” Hydrogen

September 21, 2011 1 comment

An example of a microbial fuel cell has gone on display at London's Science Museum

“US researchers say they have demonstrated how cells fuelled by bacteria can be “self-powered” and produce a limitless supply of hydrogen.

Until now, they explained, an external source of electricity was required in order to power the process.

However, the team added, the current cost of operating the new technology is too high to be used commercially.

Details of the findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There are bacteria that occur naturally in the environment that are able to release electrons outside of the cell, so they can actually produce electricity as they are breaking down organic matter,” explained co-author Bruce Logan, from Pennsylvania State University, US.”

Make Yourself A Solar Charger For Your iPhone or iPod

September 20, 2011 Leave a comment


“This new Instructable is made specifically for those of us who want to charge our Apple gadgets, and it can be made for under $20 — and it can be done in as little as 30 minutes (or 60 if you’re less experienced with putting these little chargers together).

The parts include:

  • Charging Circuit
  • 2x AA Battery Holder
  • 2x Rechargeable Batteries
  • 1N914 Blocking Diode
  • Solar Cell greater than 4V
  • Stranded Wire
  • Tape

And of course, the trusty Altoids Tin that is the mark of all things small, gadgety and DIY.”