• Geoengineering polar glaciers to slow sea-level rise

    Targeted geoengineering to preserve continental ice sheets deserves serious research and investment, argues an international team of researchers. Without intervention, by 2100 most large coastal cities will face sea levels that are more than three feet higher than they are currently.

  • We need laws on geoengineering, and soon

    Humans have been accidentally altering the planet’s climate for thousands of years. Soon, it may be possible alter it intentionally. The deliberate, large-scale manipulation of climate is called geoengineering. The term encompasses a variety of proposals, from pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to reflecting sunlight back into space in an attempt to slow the earth’s warming. Global geoengineering tactics haven’t yet been deployed, but as climate change starts to spin out of control, support for some forms of geoengineering seems to be growing.

  • Pipe-crawling robot to help decommission DOE nuclear facility

    A pair of autonomous robots developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute will soon be driving through miles of pipes at the U.S. Department of Energy’s former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio, to identify uranium deposits on pipe walls. The CMU robot has demonstrated it can measure radiation levels more accurately from inside the pipe than is possible with external techniques.

  • Living sensor may prevent environmental disasters from fuel spills

    The Colonial Pipeline, which carries fuel from Texas to New York, ruptured last fall, dumping a quarter-million gallons of gas in rural Alabama. By the time the leak was detected during routine inspection, vapors from released gasoline were so strong they prevented pipeline repair for days. Now, scientists are developing technology that would alert pipeline managers about leaks as soon as failure begins, avoiding the environmental disasters and fuel distribution disruptions resulting from pipeline leaks.

  • Preventing hurricanes using air bubbles

    In recent years we have witnessed intense tropical storms that have taken many thousands of lives and caused massive destruction. For example, in 2005, hurricane Katrina killed more than 2,000 people and caused damage estimated to be in the billions of dollars. In 2016, hurricane Matthew swept across Haiti, taking 852 lives and destroying many towns on the island. Many people have tried to find ways of preventing hurricanes before they make landfall. Norwegian researchers believe that the answer lies in cold bubbles.

  • Expanding real-time radiological threat detection to include other dangers

    Advanced commercially available technologies—such as additive manufacturing (3-D printing), small-scale chemical reactors for pharmaceuticals, and CRISPR gene-manipulation tools—have opened wide access to scientific exploration and discovery. In the hands of terrorists and rogue nation states, however, these capabilities could be misused to concoct chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in small quantities and in form factors that are hard to detect. DARPA’s SIGMA+ program aims to create additional sensors and networks to detect biological, chemical, and explosives threats.

  • DTRA awards British university $1.1 million for improved radiation detectors

    The University of Surrey has been awarded $1.1 million by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to research new types of nanomaterials that produce high efficiency radiation detectors for use in nuclear security. The project will develop materials that are used as highly sensitive radiation detectors.

  • Nerve agents: what are they and how do they work?

    The first nerve agents were invented by accident in the 1930s when researchers were trying to make cheaper and better alternatives to nicotine as insecticides. In their search, German scientists made two organic compounds containing phosphorus that were very effective at killing insect pests. However, they soon discovered that, even in minuscule amounts, the substances caused distressing symptoms in humans exposed to them. The two substances – too toxic to be used as commercial insecticides in agriculture – became known as tabun and sarin. Since then, other nerve agents have been developed, but much less is known about them, although they are thought to work in broadly the same way. Unlike street drugs, nerve agents cannot be made in your kitchen or garden shed, on account of their toxicity, even in tiny amounts. Synthesis of nerve agents requires a specialist laboratory, with fume cupboards. As more details emerge from the case of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, we’ll know more about the precise substance used and how it should be tackled. Either way, nerve agents are horrendously lethal and chemical warfare is an obscene use of chemicals.

  • Combining old and new to create a novel power grid cybersecurity tool

    An innovative R&D project that combines cybersecurity, machine learning algorithms and commercially available power system sensor technology to better protect the electric power grid has sparked interest from U.S. utilities, power companies and government officials. Creating innovative tools and technologies to reduce the risk that energy delivery might be disrupted by a cyber incident is vital to making the nation’s electric power grid resilient to cyber threats.

  • Microgrids have a large impact

    As many as 1.3 billion people lack access to electrical power. Engineers make strides in technologies that promise to make electrical power more accessible almost anywhere on the planet. One of his solutions is microgrids, which provide independent power generation and storage systems capable of operating as mobile or standalone systems or as a supplemental part of larger conventional power grids.

  • MIT energy conference speakers say transformation can happen fast

    The pace of advances in key clean energy technologies has been growing faster than many experts have predicted, to the point that solar and wind power, combined with systems for storing their output, can often be the least expensive options for new types of power-generating capacity. In fact, a radical transformation of the world’s energy landscape is well-underway, experts say.

  • AI profiling: the social and moral hazards of “predictive” policing

    While the use of AI predictions in police and law enforcement is still in its early stages, it is vital to scrutinize any warning signs that may come from its use. One standout example is a 2016 ProPublica investigation which found that COMPAS software was biased against black offenders. Society needs to maintain a critical perspective on the use of AI on moral and ethical grounds. Not least because the details of the algorithms, data sources and the inherent assumptions on which they make calculations are often closely guarded secrets. Those secrets are in the hands of the specialist IT companies that develop them who want to maintain confidentiality for commercial reasons. The social, political and criminal justice inequalities likely to arise should make us question the potential of predictive policing.

  • Small-drone threats to infantry units require development of countermeasures

    The emergence of inexpensive small unmanned aircraft systems (sUASs) that operate without a human pilot, commonly known as drones, has led to adversarial groups threatening deployed U.S. forces, especially infantry units. Although the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are developing tactics and systems to counter single sUASs, a new report emphasizes the need for developing countermeasures against multiple sUASs — organized in coordinated groups, swarms, and collaborative groups — which could be used much sooner than the Army anticipates. The committee that conducted the study developed a classified report that details its findings and recommendations, along with an unclassified public version that discusses key background issues presented in this news release.

  • Metal-eating microbes are cost-effective for recycling rare earth elements

    Today’s high-tech devices usually contain components made of rare earth elements (REEs), a class of metallic elements including neodymium and dysprosium. Despite this demand, and despite the fact that REEs are relatively common in the earth’s crust, REEs are difficult to obtain, and the U.S. currently does not produce a domestic supply. This scarcity of domestic REEs leaves manufacturers of everything from cellphones and computers to wind turbines and telescope lenses vulnerable to supply disruptions. have developed an economical way to recycle REEs using a bacterium called Gluconobacter oxydans.

  • Using artificial intelligence to predict criminal aircraft

    The ability to forecast criminal activity has been explored to various lengths in science fiction, but does it hold true in reality? It could for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). ) DHS S&T is developing a Predictive Threat Model (PTM) to help CBP’s Air and Marine Operations Center (AMOC) more quickly and efficiently identify and stop nefarious aircraft.