Environmental Science News -- ScienceDaily
Environmental science news. Learn about current research into rainforest deforestation, sustainable development, energy use, air quality monitoring, mining processes and hazardous waste disposal. Updated daily.
11/22/2017 06:13 PM
How the Earth stops high-energy neutrinos in their tracks
For the first time, a science experiment has measured Earth's ability to absorb neutrinos -- the smaller-than-an-atom particles that zoom throughout space and through us by the trillions every second at nearly the speed of light. The experiment was achieved with the IceCube detector, an array of 5,160 basketball-sized sensors frozen deep within a cubic kilometer of very clear ice near the South Pole.
11/22/2017 04:30 PM
How to cut your lawn for grasshoppers
Picture a grasshopper landing randomly on a lawn of fixed area. If it then jumps a certain distance in a random direction, what shape should the lawn be to maximize the chance that the grasshopper stays on the lawn after jumping?
11/21/2017 02:53 PM
New device boosts road time for Tesla, Leaf drivers
Nissan Leafs, which go about 107 miles on a charge, sometimes end up relegated to commuter cars due to battery-range worries. The mass-market, standard Tesla Model 3 can go double that but still can be disconcerting on long road trips. Both batteries could work up to 50 percent longer with a new device. It reconfigures modules -- clusters of battery cells -- in electric cars to be online or offline depending on whether they're going to pull down the other modules.
11/20/2017 04:36 PM
Light green plants save nitrogen without sacrificing photosynthetic efficiency
Scientists designed plants with light green leaves with hopes of allowing more light to penetrate the crop canopy and increase overall light use efficiency and yield. This strategy was tested in a recent modeling study that found leaves with reduced chlorophyll content do not actually improve canopy-level photosynthesis, but instead, conserve a significant amount of nitrogen that the plant could reinvest to improve light use efficiency and increase yield.
11/20/2017 02:00 PM
Raindrops splash pathogens onto crops
Pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses or fungi, cause harmful plant disease and often lead to the destruction of agricultural fields. With many possible dispersal methods, it can often be difficult to assess the damage of a pathogen’s impact before it’s too late.
11/20/2017 01:59 PM
Peace, equality and prosperity all depend on affordable clean energy, study shows
The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals are aimed at achieving equality, securing global peace and ending extreme poverty – an ambitious agenda that will require a wide-range of conditions to be met. But one requirement lies at the center of most of the SDGs: that people have access to clean, affordable energy, says a new study.
11/17/2017 07:17 PM
Making it easier to recycle plastics
Researchers report new approaches could dramatically increase the amount of plastic waste that can be successfully recycled.
11/17/2017 03:37 PM
Hydrogen fuel from water by harnessing red and near-infrared regions of sunlight
Scientists have synthesized a compound that absorbs near-infrared light to produce hydrogen from water. The compound contains three ruthenium atoms connected by an organic molecule. The absorbed light stimulates electrons to 'jump' into orbitals that do not exist in other, similar compounds. This is the first successful use of infrared light to reduce water into hydrogen, which can be used for energy conversion and storage, and other industrial purposes in a future sustainable energy society.
11/17/2017 01:58 PM
European forests might not be realizing their full potential
European forest managers can have their cake and eat it, because according to a new study maximizing timber production in a forest does not necessarily have to come at a cost of reduced species diversity or the capacity to regulate climate change by the same forest. However most European forests fall well below their possible maximum levels of these three capacities.
11/17/2017 01:52 PM
Evaluation of novel hybrid membranes for carbon capture
Hybrid materials known as mixed matrix membranes are considered a promising approach to capture carbon dioxide and mitigate against global warming. These materials are derived from a polymer combined with porous nanoparticles. We show that materials prepared using porous organic polymers are resilient to the acidic impurities present in industrial gas streams, whereas other hybrid materials fail. This means that they can be effective in carbon capture applications where these impurities are present.
11/16/2017 06:26 PM
Groundwater depletion could be significant source of atmospheric carbon dioxide
Humans may be adding large amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by using groundwater faster than it is replenished, according to new research. This process, known as groundwater depletion, releases a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has until now been overlooked by scientists in calculating carbon sources, according to the new study.
11/16/2017 04:42 PM
Could we predict La Niña drought years in advance?
Scientists' ability to predict the strength and duration of droughts caused by La Niña -- a recurrent cooling pattern in the tropical Pacific Ocean -- has been significantly improved thanks to new research. Their findings, which predict that the current La Niña is likely to stretch into a second year, could help scientists know years in advance how a particular La Niña event is expected to evolve.
11/16/2017 04:42 PM
Ceria nanoparticles: It is the surface that matters
Exhaust gas cleaning of passenger cars, power generation from sunlight, or water splitting: In the future, these and other applications may profit from new findings relating to ceria. Scientists have studied ceria nanoparticles with the help of probe molecules and a complex ultrahigh vacuum-infrared measurement system and obtained partly surprising new insights into their surface structure and chemical activity.
11/16/2017 02:25 PM
Air quality atlas for Europe: Mapping the sources of fine particulate matter
The European Commission published today an Air Quality Atlas for Europe. This new publication produced by the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) helps to pave the way for targeted air quality measures by mapping the origins of fine particulate matter in Europe's largest cities.
11/16/2017 12:52 AM
One in ten historic coastal landfill sites in England are at risk of erosion
There are at least 1,215 historic coastal landfill sites in England, mostly clustered around estuaries with major cities, including Liverpool, London, and Newcastle on Tyne. An investigation by researchers finds that 122 sites are at risk of starting to erode into coastal waters by 2055 if not adequately protected.
11/15/2017 10:53 PM
Shape of Lake Ontario generates white-out blizzards, study shows
A 6-foot-wide snow blower mounted on a tractor makes a lot of sense when you live on the Tug Hill Plateau. Tug Hill, in upstate New York, is one of the snowiest places in the Eastern US and experiences some of the most intense snowstorms in the world. This largely rural region, just east of Lake Ontario, gets an average of 20 feet of snow a year, and a new report explains why.
11/15/2017 07:15 PM
Are petite poplars the future of biofuels? Studies say yes
Scientists are trying to make poplar a viable competitor in the biofuels market by testing the production of younger poplar trees that could be harvested more frequently — after only two or three years — instead of the usual 10- to 20-year cycle.
11/15/2017 06:09 PM
Ionic 'solar cell' could provide on-demand water desalination
Modern solar cells, which use energy from light to generate electrons and holes that are then transported out of semiconducting materials, have existed for over 60 years. Little attention has been paid, however, to the promise of using light to drive the transport of oppositely charged protons and hydroxides obtained by dissociating water molecules. Researchers report such a design, which has promising application in producing electricity to turn brackish water drinkable.
11/15/2017 06:09 PM
Pine and poplar wood improve sunlight-driven water purification
Engineers have found that porous types of wood from trees like poplar and pine can greatly increase the efficiency of water-to-steam conversion under sunlight. The findings could be used in a simple and inexpensive biodegradable device for water purification.
11/15/2017 05:49 PM
Off track: How storms will veer in a warmer world
The dry, semi-arid regions are expanding into higher latitudes, and temperate, rainy regions are migrating poleward. In a new paper, researchers provide new insight into this phenomenon by discovering that mid-latitude storms are steered further toward the poles in a warmer climate.
11/15/2017 05:45 PM
What counts as 'nature'? It all depends
A psychology professor describes 'environmental generational amnesia' as the idea that each generation perceives the environment into which it's born, no matter how developed, urbanized or polluted, as the norm. And so what each generation comes to think of as 'nature' is relative, based on what it's exposed to. He argues that more frequent and meaningful interactions with nature can enhance our connection to -- and definition of -- the natural world.
11/15/2017 04:50 PM
Pulling iron out of waste printer toner
Someday, left-over toner in discarded printer cartridges could have a second life as bridge or building components instead of as trash, wasting away in landfills and potentially harming the environment. A research group reports that they have devised a method to recycle the residual powder in 'empty' cartridges into iron using temperatures that are compatible with existing industrial processes.
11/15/2017 03:49 PM
Filling intercropping info gap
In some parts of Africa, farmers intercrop sorghum -- a grain -- and peanuts. But they face a major information gap. There hasn't been much research on optimal levels of fertilizer use for intercropping sorghum and peanuts in these areas. A new study has filled this information gap. Researchers have developed a method to help farmers determine how much fertilizer to apply when intercropping.
11/14/2017 05:34 PM
Artificially cooling planet 'risky strategy'
Proposals to reduce the effects of global warming by imitating volcanic eruptions could have a devastating effect on global regions prone to either tumultuous storms or prolonged drought, new research has shown.
11/14/2017 05:33 PM
Low dose, constant drip: Pharmaceutical, personal care pollution impacts aquatic life
Traditional toxicity testing underestimates the risk that pharmaceutical and personal care product pollution poses to freshwater ecosystems. Criteria that account for ecological disruption -- not just organism death -- are needed to protect surface waters, which are under pressure from a growing population and escalating synthetic chemical use.
11/14/2017 02:19 PM
Butterfly wing inspires photovoltaics: Light absorption can be enhanced by up to 200 percent
Sunlight reflected by solar cells is lost as unused energy. The wings of the butterfly Pachliopta aristolochiae are drilled by nanostructures (nanoholes) that help absorbing light over a wide spectrum far better than smooth surfaces. Researchers have now succeeded in transferring these nanostructures to solar cells and, thus, enhancing their light absorption rate by up to 200 percent.
11/14/2017 02:12 PM
To find new biofuel enzymes, it can take a microbial village
In search of new plant enzymes? Try looking in compost. Researchers have demonstrated the importance of microbial communities as a source of stable enzymes that could be used to convert plants to biofuels. This approach yields robust enzymes that researchers can't easily obtain from isolates.
11/14/2017 02:12 PM
A fast reactor system to shorten the lifetime of long-lived fission products
Researchers have proposed a more efficient method to reduce radioactive waste. The study involves converting radioactive material into short-lived nuclides by absorbing surplus neutrons in the core peripheral portion of a small fast reactor faster than they are generated in the core, thus providing an effective way to lessen the burden of nuclear waste on future generations.
11/14/2017 12:50 AM
Neutrons probe oxygen-generating enzyme for a greener approach to clean water
A new study sheds light on a unique enzyme that could provide an eco-friendly treatment for chlorite-contaminated water supplies and improve water quality worldwide. An international team of researchers used neutron analysis, X-ray crystallography and other techniques to study chlorite dismutase, an enzyme that breaks down the environmental pollutant chlorite into harmless byproducts. Their results advance understanding of the catalytic process involved to support future applications in bioremediation and biotechnology.
11/13/2017 09:28 PM
Geologists uncover Antarctica’s fossil forests
Prehistoric polar forests were built for survival, but were not hardy enough to live in ultra-high concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. A geologist is studying the tree fossil record in Antarctica from a mass extinction 250 million years ago, looking for clues to how greenhouse gases affected plants -- then and now.
11/13/2017 05:37 PM
When continents break it gets warm on Earth
The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere determines whether the Earth is in greenhouse or ice age state. Before humans began to have an impact on the amount of CO2 in the air, it depended solely on the interplay of geological and biological processes, the global carbon cycle. This study shows that the break-up of continents - also known as rifting -- contributed significantly to higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.