Infrastructure

  • Grid in western U.S. can handle more renewable energy

    A new study says 35 percent of electricity in the western United States could come from solar and wind — without expensive new backup power plants; the findings provide a strong counterargument to the idea that the existing power grid is insufficient to handle increasing amounts of renewable power

  • Self-healing concrete developed

    University of Rhode Island researchers develop a new type of self-healing concrete that promises to be commercially viable and have added environmental benefits; a microencapsulated sodium-silicate healing agent is embedded directly into a concrete matrix; when tiny stress cracks begin to form in the concrete, the capsules rupture and release the healing agent into the adjacent areas

  • Italian-Russian reactor could be the first to achieve self-sustaining fusion

    As the interest in alternatives to fossil fuels grows, so does the interest in nuclear fusion; a Russian-Italian project will build a self-sustaining fusion reactor based on a design by an MIT scientist; the design employs a doughnut-shaped device which uses powerful magnetic fields to produce fusion by squeezing superheated plasma of hydrogen isotopes

  • Deep-water oil spills do most of the damage deep down

    Oil spills like the one in the Gulf do most of their damage in the deep; the oil visible on the surface accounts for only 2 percent of the oil spilling into the Gulf; most of the oil remains submerged in the form of droplets that only slowly make their way to the surface

  • Fears grow that Gulf oil could strike Florida

    Worries grow over the ecological and economic impact of the huge oil spill, with the most recent fears focused on its possible spread into a “loop current” that could carry the pollution to the Florida Keys and nearby tourist beaches; the U.S. government has already extended fishing closure to nearly 20 percent of the Gulf because of the contamination of harvested seafood

  • The day of transportable, refrigerator-size nuclear reactor nears

    The need for more energy and the growing interest in energy not based on fossil material have led to a revival of interest in nuclear power; there is a competition afoot among several companies for designing and building — and receiving a operation license for — a refrigerator-size nuclear reactor; the $50 million, 25-megawatt unit is transportable by truck, and would put electricity into 20,000 homes

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  • BP's emergency "plan" for the Gulf discusses impact on "seals, sea otters and walruses"

    BP’s 582-page emergency-response never anticipated an oil spill as large as the one now gushing on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico; a closer reading shows the document was not much than a boilerplate, cut-and-paste job used by BP from region to region; in a section titled “Sensitive Biological & Human-Use Resources,” the emergency plan lists “seals, sea otters and walruses” as animals that could be impacted by a Gulf of Mexico spill — even though no such animals live in the Gulf; the plan was approved in July by the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS), a toothless agency accused by lawmakers of being in the pocket of the oil industry

  • BP oil leak "much bigger" than official estimates'

    BP first asserted that the amount of oil its well releases into the Gulf is about 1,000 barrels daily; following the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s (NOAA) initial estimates, that figure has been increased to 5,000 barrels; ocean scientists and engineers now say that amount of oil released daily is more likely to be between five times and 14 times that — about 25,000 to 80,000 barrels a day

  • Scientists discover huge oil plumes deep in Gulf of Mexico; worry for marine life

    The news from the Gulf get worse: Scientists discover giant plumes of oil in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico; one of the plumes was ten miles long, three miles wide, and 300 feet thick; the plumes are depleting the oxygen in the Gulf, prompting fears that the process could eventually kill much of the sea life near the plumes

  • Cigarette butts may be used to prevent corrosion of oil pipes

    Cigarettes butts are so toxic, they kill fish; still, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts find their way into the environment each year; Chinese scientists find that chemical extracts from cigarette butts be used to protect steel pipes from rusting; rust prevention and treatment cost the oil industry millions of dollars annually

  • The boom (or is it a bubble?) in federal cybersecurity

    The Obama administration and Congress are allocating more funds to cybersecurity; much of that new spending, estimated at $6 to $7 billion annually just in unclassified work, is focused on the Washington region, as the federal government consolidates many of its cybersecurity-focused agencies in the area; some VCs warn of a cybersecurity bubble

  • Cybersecurity summit pays little attention to control system's security

    Despite threats of infrastructure attacks, scant attention was paid to control systems during a global security conference; the problem is safeguarding infrastructure’s control systems against attackers is that such protection requires a different approach to securing PCs or networks; Windows-based security products will not help; says one expert: “All the devices that sense things — temperature, pressure, flow, and things like that — are not Windows, those are proprietary, real-time or embedded, and there’s no security there”

  • BP tries new, smaller capping device to plug Gulf gusher

    BP is lowering a new device — the top-hat cofferdam — in an effort to plug the oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico; the top-hat is a 5-foot-tall, 4-foot-diameter structure and it weighs less than two tons; BP built the smaller dome after a much larger, four-story containment vessel, designed to cap the larger of two leaks in the well, developed glitches Saturday

  • Will the World Cup change South Africa?

    Thabo Mbeki, the disgraced former South African president, grandly claimed that the 2010 World Cup would be the moment when the African continent “turned the tide on centuries of poverty and conflict”; a BBC reporter touring the country on the eve of the tournament notes the new stadiums and roads, but says the more likely aftermath is that South Africa will have spent billions of dollars on a 30-day advert for the country that quickly fades as the sporting world moves on

  • Russia, Italy to build new fusion reactor

    The reactor, designed by MIT researchers, is based on MIT’s Alcator fusion research program, which has the highest magnetic field and highest plasma pressure of any fusion reactor, and is the largest university-based fusion reactor in the world; the new reactor, called Ignitor, would be about twice the size of Alcator — but much smaller and less expensive than the ITER fusion reactor currently under construction in France