Sci-Tech

  • WildfiresWildfires release more greenhouse gases than assumed in California’s climate targets

    A new study quantifying the amount of carbon stored and released through California forests and wildlands finds that wildfires and deforestation are contributing more than expected to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The results could have implications for California’s efforts to meet goals mandated by the state Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The bill, which passed in 2006, assumed no net emissions for wildland ecosystems by 2020.

  • WaterCalifornia not the only state to face water shortage

    Over the past two weeks, California’s long drought — and Governor Jerry Brown’s mandatory water conservation rules — have captured the headlines. As the country keeps an eye on how Californians will adapt to the new reality of water conservation, other states must prepare to maintain the sustainability of their own water supplies. “As far as other states, if they haven’t seen it [water shortages] in the past, it’s something they will see in the future,” says a water policy analyst in Los Angeles.

  • EnergyBig data technology helps identify best river locations for hydro-power generation

    A new technology has the potential to revolutionize the sourcing of renewable energy from rivers. The software app automatically selects appropriate locations in U.K. rivers to site a large range of micro renewable hydro-power turbines in these rivers, and determines the environmental sensitivity of the location.

  • Infrastructure protectionVirtual guard detects real-time leaks in water, oil-, or gas pipes

    Often, water, gas, or oil distribution networks suffer from leaks in storage tanks, pumping failures, or illegal tapping. In order to prevent losses which typically result, researchers designed a virtual guard which immediately detects abnormalities in any type of duct. Through the laws of physics and application of a mathematical model of fluid mechanics, the device calculates when an irregularity occurs on site, and issues an alert.

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  • CO2 sequestrationDoubts about burying CO2 underground to address climate change

    Burying the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, has been mooted as one geoengineering approach to ameliorating climate change. To be effective, trapping the gas in geological deposits would be for the very long term — thousands of years. Now, researchers have reviewed the risk assessments for this technology, suggesting that a lack of knowledge means we should be cautious of turning to this method rather than finding sustainable ways to reduce emissions at their source.

  • ResilienceJoplin, Missouri hospital re-built to withstand powerful tornadoes

    In 2011 St. John’s Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri was devastated by one of the most ferocious tornadoes in U.S history. Today, Mercy Hospital Joplinstands on the site of the former hospital, occupying a new structure designed to survive future tornadoes, with windows that can withstand 250-mile-per-hour winds. The buildingis covered in concrete and brick paneling, and houses an underground bunker where generators and boilers are kept.

  • WaterCalifornians mull life with less water

    Following Californian governor Jerry Brown’s decision to enforce mandatory water restrictions for the first time in history, Californians are planning for changes in their daily lives. Experts say, though, that California cannot resemble its drier neighbor, Arizona. “Without water, you can’t live in California,” Stanford University’s Bill Whalen. “It ties into the California psyche. They have plush lawns and nice gardens that require lots of water. They have the ocean and Lake Tahoe skiing. You have a nice car. You want it clean. You need water. You can’t have California agriculture without water. You lose the nation’s salad bowl.”

  • Protective materialStructures tougher than bulletproof vests

    Researchers have created new structures that exploit the electromechanical properties of specific nanofibers to stretch to up to seven times their length, while remaining tougher than Kevlar. These structures absorb up to 98 joules per gram. Kevlar, often used to make bulletproof vests, can absorb up to 80 joules per gram. Researchers hope the structures will one day form material that can reinforce itself at points of high stress and could potentially be used in military airplanes or other defense applications.

     

  • WaterNASA putting satellite eyes on threat to U.S. fresh water

    Algal blooms are a worldwide environmental problem causing human and animal health risks, fish kills, and taste and odor in drinking water. In the United States, the cost of freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated at $64 million annually. In August 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it was contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie. NASA has joined forces with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Geological Survey to transform satellite data designed to probe ocean biology into information that will help protect the American public from harmful freshwater algal blooms.

  • Protective gearSoldiers, astronauts to be protected by tough, flexible new material

    A team of researchers has developed a revolutionary material that has superior anti-penetration properties while remaining flexible. Inspired by the way nature designed fish scales, the material could be used to make bulletproof clothing for the military and space suits that are impervious to micro-meteorites and radiation when astronauts embark on spacewalks. The material emulates the skins of many species of fish — skins which are flexible, but which also protect the fish by hard scales.

  • Rare earth elementsA surprising source of valuable metals, critical elements: Sewage

    More than seven million tons of biosolids come out of U.S. wastewater facilities each year. About half of that is used as fertilizer on fields and in forests, while the other half is incinerated or sent to landfills. Researchers say that poop could be a goldmine — literally. Surprisingly, treated solid waste contains gold, silver, and other metals, as well as rare elements such as palladium and vanadium which are used in electronics and alloys. The researchers are looking at identifying the metals that are getting flushed and how they can be recovered. This could decrease the need for mining and reduce the unwanted release of metals into the environment.

  • WaterCalifornians hoping the state would innovative itself out of a water crisis

    California’s water agencies have relied on innovation to cope with the worsening drought and depleting water resources. Irrigation systems have evolved overtime to help the agriculture sector maintain crop yields as temperatures rise and wells begin to dry up.Some are hoping the state would innovate itself out of a water crisis.

  • WaterAs the drought worsens, California’s conservation measures fall short

    As the drought worsens, California is doing a poor job of conserving water. Water use has declined by only 2.8 percent in February compared with the same time in 2013. Some Southern Californians are actually increasing their water use. “These are sobering statistics — disheartening statistics, considering how hard we have been working on this,” said Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of California’s water control board, which reported the findings. “We are very concern about these numbers. They highlight the need for further action.”

  • Water70 percent of glaciers in Western Canada will be gone by 2100

    There are over 17,000 glaciers in B.C. and Alberta and they play an important role in energy production through hydroelectric power. The glaciers also contribute to the water supply, agriculture, and tourism. A new study says that 70 percent of glacier ice in British Columbia and Alberta could disappear by the end of the twenty-first century, creating major problems for local ecosystems, power supplies, and water quality.

  • WaterCalif. business leaders: State’s worsening water situation threatens economic havoc

    California’s drought outlook is alarming to the point that Governor Jerry Brown recently announced the first-ever mandatory restrictions on water usage, aimed at reducing the state’s urban water use by 25 percent. For much of its history, California has measured up to its challenges while maintaining a healthy economy. Business leaders in the state say that the time has come for California once again to take bold actions to ensure a sustainable future. “We have a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment — or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc,” said former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who now co-chairs the Risky Business Project.Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter agrees: “The state of California has to deal with groundwater, or we’re going to ruin this state,” he said.