• For young engineers, Flint offers a lesson on the importance of listening

    Sheldon Masters, a former Virginia Tech Ph.D. student, says he used to think scientists and engineers should be like robots: “Emotionally unattached.” But after attending a class entitled “Engineering Ethics and the Public: Learning to Listen” with dozens of other young engineers at his university, he found his perspective changed. Developed with support from a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, the course is intended to explore the relationship between engineering, science, and society.

  • Can drinking water be delivered without disinfectants like chlorine and still be safe?

    When we open the tap, we expect the water to be safe. That is, the water should be free of pathogens that could make us sick and any chemicals that could cause problems later in life. For the most part, potable water systems in the developed world have done a great job providing safe water. However, there are still unfortunate situations that develop, resulting in issues with the safety of drinking water. One of the conclusions of the research we have conducted is that potable water systems should consider moving beyond carrying a disinfectant and focus instead on maintaining and replacing their aging delivery systems and upgrading their water treatment steps. This will have the benefit of limiting exposure to DBP while also continuing to deliver safe water to consumers.

  • Water pipes crawl with millions of bacteria

    Researchers have discovered that our drinking water is to a large extent purified by millions of “good bacteria” found in water pipes and purification plants. So far, the knowledge about them has been practically non-existent, but this new research is about to change that.

  • Rigid water pipes, fit for the future

    Water infrastructures – such as pipes, sewers, or water storages – are rigid systems. They are renewed according to certain renovation cycles. This can take up to 70 years for municipal sewage systems and up to 30 years for baths in rental apartments. “That has to be considered when creating concepts for the future of the water infrastructure,” says Dr.-Ing. Thomas Hillenbrand, scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute.

  • Contamination in North Dakota linked to fracking spills

    Accidental wastewater spills from unconventional oil production in North Dakota have caused widespread water and soil contamination, a new study finds. Researchers found high levels of ammonium, selenium, lead and other toxic contaminants as well as high salts in the brine-laden wastewater, which primarily comes from hydraulically fractured oil wells in the Bakken region of western North Dakota.

  • Climate change redistributes global water resources

    Rising temperatures worldwide are changing not only weather systems, but - just as importantly - the distribution of water around the globe, according to a new study. This study marked the first time scientists have used specific measurements to demonstrate how water sources are changing, especially in the northeastern United States.

  • New material promise to make nuclear fuel recycling cheaper, cleaner

    Researchers are investigating a new material that might help in nuclear fuel recycling and waste reduction by capturing certain gases released during reprocessing. Conventional technologies to remove these radioactive gases operate at extremely low, energy-intensive temperatures. By working at ambient temperature, the new material has the potential to save energy, make reprocessing cleaner and less expensive. The reclaimed materials can also be reused commercially.

  • In Sweden, replacing nuclear power with wind power does not make sense

    The Swedish power supply is largely free of carbon emissions. Indeed, it is mainly based on a combination of hydroelectric and nuclear power combined with power exchange with neighboring Scandinavian countries. A new study, investigating the possibility of replacing nuclear power with wind power, which is by nature intermittent, concludes that a backup system, based on fossil fuel, namely gas, would be required in combination with wind power. In such a scenario, the CO2 emissions would double.

  • Terrorists gaining cyber capability to bring major cities to a standstill: U.K. intelligence chief

    Robert Hannigan, the director of GCHQ, the British equivalent of the U.S. NSA, has warned that terrorists and rogue states are gaining the technical capability to bring a major city to a standstill with the click of a button. He said that the risk to cities like London would significantly increase as more physical objects – cars, household appliances — are connected online in what is called the Internet of Things.

  • Danger from extreme storms, high seas on the rise

    Storms that battered Australia’s east coast are a harbinger of things to come and a stark reminder of the need for a national effort to monitor the growing threat from climate change, researchers warn. “The damage we’ve seen is a harbinger of what’s to come,” said one expert. “Climate change is not only raising the oceans and threatening foreshores, but making our coastlines much more vulnerable to storm damage. What are king high tides today will be the norm within decades.”

  • Number of thyroid cancers in Belgian children rises post-Chernobyl

    Thyroid cancer is usually rare among children, with less than one new case per million diagnosed each year. Exposure in Belgium to radioactive fallout from the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident may have increased the incidence of thyroid cancer in those exposed as children.

  • We’re (not) running out of water – a better way to measure water scarcity

    Water crises seem to be everywhere. In Flint, the water might kill us. In Syria, the worst drought in hundreds of years is exacerbating civil war. But plenty of dried-out places aren’t in conflict. For all the hoopla, even California hasn’t run out of water. There’s a lot of water on the planet. What is critical is managing water to meet current and future demand. Biophysical indicators, such as the ones we looked at, can’t tell us where a water shortage is stressful to society or ecosystems, but a good biophysical indicator can help us make useful comparisons, target interventions, evaluate risk and look globally to find management models that might work at home.

  • Bacteria may help keep water cleaner

    Phosphorus is a crucial nutrient regularly applied to crops such as corn and soybeans to help them grow efficiently. However, excess phosphorus can be carried by rainwater runoff into lakes and streams, creating potential problems for aquatic environments and the ecosystem services they provide to humans. To combat this problem, researchers are trying to better understand two groups of bacteria that could affect whether phosphate is retained in the soil or becomes mobile and gets into the water.

  • Cities can prepare for hurricane season by reforming shortsighted and outdated laws

    In the past decade major storms have devastated U.S. coastal cities from Galveston to Atlantic City and New York. They also have ravaged inland capitals, including Baton Rouge, Richmond, and Montpelier. Ensuring that our cities have the legal infrastructure in place to build safer, more efficient, and more equitable neighborhoods and communities after storms is just as important as preparing homes and businesses to ride out those storms.

  • Leaving the electrical grid in the Upper Peninsula

    While Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is not the sunniest place in the world, solar energy is viable in the region. With new technologies, some people might be inclined to leave the electrical grid. Researched looked into the economic viability of grid defection in the Upper Peninsula, and found that by 2020, leaving the electrical grid is a viable economic option for the majority of seasonal households (92 percent) as well as single-family owner-occupied households (65 percent).