Infrastructure

  • New drone-based system improves safety of dealing with nuclear hazards

    Hazardous nuclear events have the potential to cause widespread damage to individuals and the environment. Getting close enough to these incidents to accurately assess the problem can be extremely dangerous. Following the incident at the Fukushima power plant in Japan in 2011, for example, helicopter pilots assessing the site were exposed to significant amounts of radiation. Researchers have developed a new system for remote and accurate assessment of dangerous nuclear accident sites.

  • Obscure element shows promise for nuclear waste storage

    One of the least known elements of the periodic table, californium, may hold the key to the safe and effective long-term storage of nuclear waste, according to new research. The researchers have demonstrated that californium (Cf) has an “amazing” ability to bond and separate other materials, as well as being extremely resistant to radiation damage.

  • NIST issues final Joplin tornado report

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the final report on its technical investigation into the impacts of the 22 May 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri. The massive storm was the single deadliest tornado in the United States in the sixty years that official records have been kept. The NIST Joplin tornado study was the first to study scientifically a tornado in terms of four key aspects: storm characteristics, building performance, human behavior, and emergency communication — and then assess the impact of each on preventing injury or death.

  • The costs of using wind energy, natural gas for electricity virtually equal

    The costs of using wind energy and natural gas for electricity are virtually equal when accounting for the full private and social costs of each, making wind a competitive energy source for the United States, according to a new study on the federal tax credit for wind energy. The analysis shows that wind energy comes within .35 cents per kWh when levelized over the 20-year life of a typical wind contract, compared on an equivalent basis to the full costs for natural gas-fired energy.

  • Russia leads, U.S. lags in construction of nuclear power reactors around the world

    Has a new cold war developed between Russian and the United States in the twenty-first century? Many argue that it has — but with a more unconventional front of commercial nuclear energy contracts with developing countries. Russian companies are building 37 percent of new nuclear reactors around the world; U.S. companies build only 7 percent of new nuclear facilities.

  • Delaware launches cyber initiative

    Delaware is joining the number of states that have decided to invest in a statewide cybersecurity workforce to combat the growing threat of cyberattacks directed at both private and public institutions.Delaware hopes its cyber initiative will accelerate current efforts to develop a stronger cyber workforce. The Delaware Cyber Initiative proposes $3 million for a collaborative learning and research network in the form of part research lab, part business park, dedicated to cyber innovation.

  • West Virginia chemical spill degrades air, water quality

    In the more than two months since the 9 January chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River, new findings reveal the nature of the chemicals that were released into the water and then into the air in residents’ houses. The lack of data motivated researchers to take on essential odor-related research that went beyond their National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant to better understand the properties of the chemical mixture called crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, the major component in the crude mix of the spilled chemicals into the Elk River

  • World record in high altitude wind turbine set to be broken

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    Boston, Massachusetts-based Altaeros Energies, a wind energy company formed out of MIT, said its Alaska demonstration project is set to break the world record for the highest wind turbine ever deployed. The $1.3 million, 18-month project will deploy the Altaeros BAT at a height 1,000 feet above ground. At that height, the BAT commercial-scale pilot project in Alaska will be over 275 feet taller than the current record holder for the highest wind turbine, the Vestas V164-8.0-MW. Investment into the high altitude wind sector has recently gained momentum with several large acquisitions.

  • Quantum mechanics may lead to ultra-secure Internet

    In 1935 Einstein and researchers highlighted a “spooky” theory in quantum mechanics, which is the strange way entangled particles stay connected even when separated by large distances. In the 1990s, scientists realized you can securely transmit a message through encrypting and using a shared key generated by Einstein’s strange entanglement to decode the message from the sender and receiver. Using the quantum key meant the message was completely secure from interception during transmission.

  • Conflicting views hamper N.C. preparation for sea level rise

    Residents of North Carolina’s coastal towns are finding themselves increasingly caught in the cross-fire between local and state government regarding how to define future sea level rise resulting from global warming and the necessary measures needed to prepare for it. Due to a four-year moratorium on any action on the state level, area developers and homeowners have received no official input, and the lack of consensus has negative consequences for the health and prosperity of the region.

  • Making the grid smarter makes it more vulnerable to hackers

    The U.S. electric grid is constantly under attack despite attempts by utilities to boost physical security and cyberdefenses. In 2013 a DHS cyber emergency team responded to more than eighty incidents involving energy companies. “If you’re a utility today, depending on your scale, you’re under attack at this moment,” says Robert Weisenmiller, chairman of the California Energy Commission.

  • New insight into improved wave energy testing

    Scientists have studied how wave energy developers can more accurately measure and predict the wave conditions within wave energy test sites. The researchers deployed wave measurement buoys and used wave modelling to show how variations in wave size and strength could be resolved.

  • Iran becoming serious cyber-warfare threat

    Both government and private cybersecurity experts are increasingly considering Iran as a “top ten” cyberthreat. Iran’s recent activities and its motives have led analysts to rank the country among other cyberspace heavy hitters such as Russia and China.

  • Ground-improvement methods to protect against earthquakes

    Researchers are developing ground-improvement methods to help increase the resilience of homes and low-rise structures built on top of soils prone to liquefaction during strong earthquakes. Findings will help improve the safety of structures in Christchurch and the Canterbury region in New Zealand, which were devastated in 2010 and 2011 by a series of powerful earthquakes.

  • Climate change, population pressures leading to rethink of floating cities

    The concepts have existed for decades, but governments and financiers, responding to the growing threat of rising tides, pollution, and overpopulation to coastal urban centers, are now beginning to take a more serious look at floating cities.