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Archive for the ‘sustainability’ category

Jan 19, 2017

ExxonMobil extends algae biofuels research using synthetic biology technologies

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biological, genetics, sustainability, transportation

After making significant progress in understanding algae genetics, growth characteristics and increasing oil production, Synthetic Genomics, Inc. and ExxonMobil said they would extended their joint research agreement into advanced algae biofuels.

The two companies have been researching and developing oil from algae for use as a renewable, lower-emission alternative to traditional transportation fuels since 2009. They are seeking to develop strains of algae that demonstrate significantly improved photosynthetic efficiency and oil production through selection and genetic engineering of higher-performance algae strains.

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Jan 18, 2017

A big nano boost for solar cells

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Solar cells convert light into electricity. While the sun is one source of light, the burning of natural resources like oil and natural gas can also be harnessed.

However, solar cells do not convert all light to power equally, which has inspired a joint industry-academia effort to develop a potentially game-changing solution.

“Current solar cells are not good at converting visible light to electrical power. The best efficiency is only around 20%,” explains Kyoto University’s Takashi Asano, who uses optical technologies to improve energy production.

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Jan 17, 2017

Enhancing fuel cell performance with graphene

Posted by in categories: energy, engineering, sustainability

  • Exploiting the usage of 2 D crystals in methanol fuel cells

ChemEurpoe — Scientists from the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, in the University of Manchester have come up with a way to utilize 2D materials in an actual operating direct methanol fuel cell. They have shown that the addition of single layer graphene by Chemical vapour deposition, on to the membrane area has significantly reduced the methanol cross over at the same time obtaining negligible resistance to protons thereby enhancing the cell performance by 50%.

Fuel cells count as interesting energy technology of the near future, as they pave the way for the production of sustainable energy using simple hydrocarbons as fuels. They work by a simple operational mechanism with the fuel oxidation on one side, and oxidant reduction on other side, which liberates electrons used for electrical energy generation. A wide variety of fuels, short chain alcohols have been used so far. Methanol remains a favourable candidate due to its high energy density, ease of handling and other operational characteristics.

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Jan 17, 2017

Energy Dept. Seeks A Few Good (Really, Really Good) Seaweed Farmers

Posted by in categories: energy, food, sustainability

Attention all seaweed farmers! US DoE and DARPA wants you.


Did you know that the amount of commercially produced seaweed almost hit the mark of 25 million metric tons last year? China and Indonesia dominate the global seaweed-to-food market, and now the Department of Energy has been casting a hungry eye on the potential for the US to get in on the action, with a particular focus on converting seaweed to biofuel and other high value products.

Of course, there is a problem. Growing seaweed — aka macroalgae — for food is one thing. The algae-to-energy cycle is quite another thing entirely. That’s why the Energy Department has called upon its cutting edge funding division, ARPA-E, to put out a call for the super macroalgae farmer of the future.

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Jan 14, 2017

Why a New Group Aims to Elect More Scientists to the Government

Posted by in categories: climatology, education, government, mathematics, sustainability

Concerned that scientific views are not being properly represented in Washington, a new nonprofit group wants to get more scientists elected. 314 Action, named after the first three digits of pi, wants scientists to embrace the political process, running for all levels of government. The group’s aim is to get as many scientists elected as possible in the 2018 elections.

314 Action sees particular urgency for its work due to the rise of anti-science rhetoric on the Hill, especially from the right. The current Republican standard bearer President Trump has questioned the idea that climate change is caused by humans and seemingly encouraged debunked anti-vaccination opinions. With the appointments Trump made so far, it’s hard to believe his administration will advance scientific causes.

The 314 Action group describes its members as people who come from the STEM community whose goals are to increase communication between STEM community and elected officials, to actually elect STEM-trained candidates to public office, to increase presence of STEM ideas through the media, and to prevent the U.S. from falling further and further behind the rest of the world in math and science education.

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Jan 13, 2017

Taiwan’s smog-eating twisting tower will feature luxury apartments — take a look inside

Posted by in categories: environmental, habitats, sustainability

I usually don’t post things from business insider since it is broadcasted everywhere already. However, I saw this and we way too cool not to share.


The Tao Zhu Yin Yuan Tower will include 23,000 trees and shrubs to eat CO2 — nearly the same amount found in Central Park.

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Jan 13, 2017

MIT Scientists Brings Incandescent Light Bulbs Back

Posted by in category: sustainability

Some have deemed old-fashioned light bulbs as good as dead. But researchers at MIT have devised an incandescent light that’s greener than ever.

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Jan 12, 2017

How Photosynthetic Pigments Harvest Light

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Harvesting light.


Plants and other photosynthetic organisms use a wide variety of pigments to absorb different wavelengths of light. MIT researchers have now developed a theoretical model to predict the spectrum of light absorbed by aggregates of these pigments, based on their structure.

The new model could help guide scientists in designing new types of solar cells made of organic materials that efficiently capture light and funnel the light-induced excitation, according to the researchers.

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Jan 12, 2017

New model could help scientists design materials for artificial photosynthesis

Posted by in categories: solar power, sustainability

Plants and other photosynthetic organisms use a wide variety of pigments to absorb different wavelengths of light. MIT researchers have now developed a theoretical model to predict the spectrum of light absorbed by aggregates of these pigments, based on their structure.

The could help guide scientists in designing new types of solar cells made of organic materials that efficiently capture and funnel the light-induced excitation, according to the researchers.

“Understanding the sensitive interplay between the self-assembled pigment superstructure and its electronic, optical, and transport properties is highly desirable for the synthesis of new materials and the design and operation of organic-based devices,” says Aurelia Chenu, an MIT postdoc and the lead author of the study, which appeared in Physical Review Letters on Jan. 3.

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Jan 10, 2017

2D materials enhance a 3D world

Posted by in categories: particle physics, solar power, sustainability

In the past decade, two-dimensional, 2D, materials have captured the fascination of a steadily increasing number of scientists. These materials, whose defining feature is having a thickness of only one to very few atoms, can be made of a variety of different elements or combinations thereof. Scientists’ enchantment with 2D materials began with Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov’s Nobel Prize winning experiment: creating a 2D material using a lump of graphite and common adhesive tape. This ingeniously simple experiment yielded an incredible material: graphene. This ultra-light material is roughly 200 times stronger than steel and is a superb conductor. Once scientists discovered that graphene had more impressive properties than its bulk component graphite, they decided to investigate other 2D materials to see if this was a universal property.

Christopher Petoukhoff, a Rutgers University graduate student working in the Femtosecond Spectroscopy Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), studies a 2D material, made of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). His research focuses on the 2D material’s optoelectronic applications, or how the material can detect and absorb light. Optoelectronics are ubiquitous in today’s world, from the photodetectors in automatic doors and hand dryers, to solar cells, to LED lights, but as anyone who has stood in front of an automatic sink desperately waving their hands around to get it to work will tell you, there is plenty of room for improvement. The 2D MoS2 is particularly interesting for use in photodetectors because of its capability of absorbing the same amount of light as 50nm of the currently used silicon-based technologies, while being 70 times thinner.

Petoukhoff, under the supervision of Professor Keshav Dani, seeks to improve optoelectronic devices by adding a 2D layer of MoS2 to an organic semiconductor, which has similar absorption strengths as MoS2. The theory behind using both materials is that the interaction between the MoS2 layer and the organic semiconductor should lead to efficient charge transfer. Petoukhoff’s research, published in ACS Nano, demonstrates for the first time that charge transfer between these two layers occurs at an ultra-fast timescale, on the order of less than 100 femtoseconds, or one tenth of one millionth of one millionth of a second.

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