• DOE’s rare-earth recycling invention commercially licensed

    The Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI) seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of high-tech industries. A new technology developed by CMI aids in the recycling, recovery, and extraction of rare earth minerals. It has been licensed to U.S. Rare Earths, Inc. The membrane solvent extraction system is the first commercially licensed technology developed through the CMI.

  • Three new Engineering Research Centers to advance U.S. resiliency, sustainability

    The NSF awards $55.5 million for compact mobile power, off-grid water treatment, and nature-inspired soil engineering. The NSF says that innovations that improve the affordability, availability, quality, and resilience of infrastructure services will enhance the nation’s economic competitiveness and societal well-being.

  • Price of wind energy in U.S. at an all-time low, spurring demand

    Wind energy pricing is at an all-time low, according to a new report released by the U.S. Department of Energy. The prices offered by wind projects to utility purchasers averaged under 2.5¢/kWh for projects negotiating contracts in 2014, spurring demand for wind energy.

  • Cars to harvest energy from bumps in the road

    The 255 million cars on the road in the United States account for 40 percent of the country’s fuel consumption. Most of that fuel is wasted. Engineers may have a partial solution: harvesting energy from the car’s suspension. Only 10 to 16 percent of the fuel a car consumes is actually used to drive — that is, to overcome road resistance and air drag. Most of the rest is lost to heat and other inefficiencies. With clever engineering, however, that deficit can be reduced. Three major opportunities exist for recovering or generating energy while driving: the waste heat given off by the engine, the kinetic energy absorbed during braking, and the vibrational energy dampened by the shock absorbers.

  • If climate trends continue, Manhattan climate index will resemble Oklahoma City today

    In a few decades, climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions will alter the way that Americans heat and cool their homes. The number of days each year that heating and air conditioning are used will decrease in the Northern states, as winters get warmer, and increase in Southern states, as summers get hotter. In the future, the amount of heating and cooling required in New York City will be similar to that used in Oklahoma City today. By this same measure, Seattle is projected to resemble present day San Jose, and Denver to become more like Raleigh, North Carolina, is today.

  • Building resilient urban infrastructure to cope with climate challenges

    In addition to urban flooding, global climate change is predicted to bring increased coastal flooding, like that associated with Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, as well as extreme heat. As extreme weather events like these occur more frequently, global climate change may demand that we recalibrate our definition of “rare.” Historically, infrastructure to mitigate flooding and extreme heat has been designed to be fail-safe, meaning that it is designed to be fail-proof. But recently we have seen that fail-safe can be a dangerous illusion. Fifty researchers from different disciplines from fifteen institutions have teamed up to explore these challenges and to change the way we think about urban infrastructure.

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  • Historic drought complicates firefighting in California

    The twenty-one wild fires which have erupted in different parts of the state have already cost lives, dozens of homes, and millions of dollars in damages. To fight fires, firefighters need water – and although state water and fire officials say that, so far, there is no danger of running out of water, they are conscious of the state’s water predicament and they are trying to be more careful in the use of water. The persistent drought has forced crews to get creative, using more dirt and retardant on wildfires. Firefighting response to several blazes has been slowed down by the drought, because firefighting helicopters found it impossible to siphon water from lakes and ponds where water levels were lower than in previous years. In the past, property owners whose properties were threatened by fire, would allow firefighting crews to tap water on their property, and would then be compensated by cash reimbursements from the state. Now, many property owners demand instead that the state replenish the water used by firefighters to protect the owners’ property.

  • Pentagon: Climate change aggravates U.S. security risks

    Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries, according to a report the Defense Department sent to Congress last week. The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security, and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations.

  • Students race robot submarines in RoboSub competition

    High school and college engineering students from across the globe competed for bragging rights and cash prizes at the 18th International RoboSub Competition, which wrapped up 26 July. The mission theme for this year’s contest played on the theme of the “Back to the Future,” movie trilogy. The individual autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) had to navigate and complete an obstacle course — with tasks like “check the flux capacitor” and “travel through the time portal” — without human or computer interaction by team members.

  • Confronting weather extremes by making infrastructure more resilient

    South Florida’s predisposition to weather extremes renders the region’s infrastructure acutely vulnerable. But weather extremes are not exclusive to South Florida. The Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather-Related Events Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN), a newly formed team of researchers, is addressing these challenges on an international scale.

  • New 3-D camera technology to uncover hidden landmines

    It is estimated there are 110 million landmines buried across the world, with the potential to kill and maim innocent men, women, and children for decades to come. Yet landmine detection techniques have barely changed since the Second World War. The UN estimates that, using current technology, it would take more than 1,100 years to clear the estimated 110 million landmines situated in seventy countries. Researchers are exploring new landmine detection technologies.

  • Coral reefs could protect Pacific islands from rising seas – but only if global warming slows

    The coral reefs that have protected Pacific Islanders from storm waves for thousands of years could grow rapidly enough to keep up with escalating sea levels if ocean temperatures do not rise too quickly, according to a new study. If global temperatures continue to rise and thus retard the growth of these natural storm barriers, the homelands of millions of people on lands throughout the Pacific Ocean will be in jeopardy.

  • More extreme heat coming to the Southeast

    The Southeastern United States and Texas are uniquely at risk from climate change, according to a new report release the other day by the Risky Business Project. The Southeast region also faces the highest risks of coastal property losses in the nation as seas rise and storms surge. Between $48.2 billion and $68.7 billion worth of existing coastal property in the Southeast will likely be below sea level by 2050. Cities like Miami and New Orleans will likely be severely affected. The dramatic increase in the number of days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will have a deleterious effect on people’s health, agricultural yields.

  • Strengthening urban infrastructure to withstand extreme weather-related events

    A multi-disciplinary team of about fifty researchers from fifteen universities and other institutions will address the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to extreme weather related events, and ways of reducing that vulnerability. Funded under a $12 million research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the researchers will conduct their extensive work over the coming five years. In light of weather related extremes, such as increasing storm frequency and intensity, as well as climate uncertainties, this network will evaluate threats to transportation, electricity, water, and other services in major urban areas, and the social, ecological, and technical systems to protect infrastructure and increase its flexibility and adaptability, using new designs and technologies.

  • Israel shares its approach, solutions to drought with California

    Israel has developed expertise in coping with droughts, and a delegation from Israeli water companies recently visited California, meeting with state officials and corporations to propose solutions to the drought, now in its fourth year. It was the latest in a series of consultations and symposiums highlighting Israeli water expertise and its potential to help California.