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Environment

The Urubu app collects data on roadkill hotspots in order to make roads and railways safer...
In Brazil alone, officials estimate that some 475 million animals die from being struck on the nation's roads. That's around 15 animals per second, totaling more than twice the country’s human population. The Centro Brasileiro de Estudos em Ecologia de Estradas (CBEE) is working to reduce those grim statistics with the help of an app called Urubu (vulture in Portuguese), which uses the power of crowd-sourcing to identify roadkill hotspots across the country.  Read More
Panasonic is claiming a world-record conversion efficiency of 25.6 percent for its HIT sol...
Panasonic is reporting a 25.6 percent conversion efficiency for its HIT (Heterojunction with Intrinsic Thin layer) solar cells. This is an improvement of 0.9 percentage points over the 24.7 percent conversion efficiency Panasonic achieved in February 2013, with the company claiming it as a world record for crystalline silicon-based solar cells of a "practical size."  Read More
The Buoyant Air Turbine, from Altaeros Energies
Winds are stronger and steadier at higher altitudes, that’s why the Buoyant Air Turbine (BAT) from Altaeros is pushing to be the highest wind turbine in history. Already tested to 500 feet off the ground in 45 mph winds, this helium-filled shell with a wind turbine in the middle is soon shooting for a world record 1,000 ft float. Packing down into a shipping container for transport, the BAT is being proposed as a quickly deployable tethered power source for remote areas and emergency zones.  Read More
The installation on Jaguar Land Rover's new plant in South Staffordshire is the largest ro...
The rooftops of automotive manufacturing plants have proven fertile ground for solar arrays with Audi, Ferrari and Renault installing extensive fields of solar panels at their respective facilities. Now Jaguar Land Rover has got on board with the largest rooftop solar panel array in the UK sprouting from its new Engine Manufacturing Centre in South Staffordshire.  Read More
Unwanted toilets may soon have new life, as a component of cement  (Photo: Shutterstock)
An international team of researchers has discovered a potential new use for discarded toilets, along with other ceramic waste such as basins, stoneware and bricks. It turns out that they can be made into a more eco-friendly form of cement.  Read More

DualWingGenerator mimics flapping wings to harvest energy

April 2, 2014
Festo has applied the same methodology used in its robotic SmartBird to harvest energy fro...
Back in 2011, Festo created a natural-flight mimicking bionic seagull with flapping wings dubbed SmartBird. The company is now looking to apply similar principles in order to convert wind power into electricity with its DualWingGenerator system.  Read More
Honda estimates its smart home will generate a surplus of 2.6 mWh of electricity
With homes and light-vehicles accounting for roughly 44 percent of total greenhouse gases emitted in the US, neutralizing these emissions would certainly go a long way towards a clean energy future. What if these sources of pollution could not only be nullified, but play an active role in reducing our environmental footprint? Such is the thinking behind the Honda Smart Home US unveiled last week, which generates enough solar energy to power both car and home, with a little left over to feed back into the grid.  Read More
The panels at the Ketura Sun solar plant in Israel are now cleaned autonomously by E4 robo...
The dusty desert environments where many solar plants are located can make their photovoltaic arrays dirty and reduce their effectiveness. Cleaning the panels can be a time-consuming and expensive process. An Israeli solar plant is now said to be the first to have fully-automated cleaning in place.  Read More
A demonstration of how the phosphorus-laden particles can be removed from water using a ma...
Phosphorus is a mineral that's widely used in fertilizer, which itself has an unfortunate tendency to leach out of farmers' fields and into our waterways. Now, researchers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research have devised a method of retrieving some of that phosphorus from the water – thus both reducing pollution, and providing a source of reclaimed phosphorus.  Read More
The three young inventors of the Pluvia system, which uses rainwater runoff to generate el...
When we complain about the rain, other people will often say "Yeah, but it's good for the plants." Well, thanks to a microturbine-based system created by three students from the Technological University of Mexico, it's now also being used to generate electricity for use in low-income homes.  Read More
By infusing the leaves of an Arabidopsis thaliana plant with nanoparticles, MIT researcher...
In 2010, Stanford University researchers reported harnessing energy directly from chloroplasts, the cellular "power plants" within plants where photosynthesis takes place. Now, by embedding different types of carbon nanotubes into these chloroplasts, a team at MIT has boosted plants' ability to capture light energy. As well as opening up the possibility of creating "bionic plants" with enhanced energy production, the same approach could be used to create plants with environmental monitoring capabilities.  Read More
Samples of Fraunhofer's wood foam insulation
Insulating your home may help the environment by lowering your energy usage, but unfortunately the petroleum-based foam that's typically used as insulation isn't all that eco-friendly itself. Researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, however, have developed a reportedly greener alternative that they claim works just as well – it's foam made from wood.  Read More
The green network is designed to encourage outdoor activities along with mitigating the im...
Its hard to imagine a major metropolis devoid of cars in any country, let alone in the home of celebrated brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Germany's affection for all things automotive may be in for a shake up however, with the city of Hamburg setting the wheels in motion for its "Green Network," a bold plan make cars an optional mode of transport in the city within 15-20 years.  Read More
Don't throw those eggshells away – they could be made into ceramics (Photo: Shutterstock)
According to the US Department of Agriculture, every year approximately 455,000 tons (412,769 tonnes) of discarded eggshells must be transported and disposed of in the US alone. Now, however, scientists at the University of Aveiro in Portugal have developed a method of using such eggshell waste in the production of ceramic goods.  Read More
The Global Forest Watch platform launched this month
According to World Wildlife Fund data, we are losing 12 to 15 million hectares (46,332 to 57,915 square miles) of the world's forests every year. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change, as it accounts for 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, besides killing biodiversity, depleting natural resources, compromising water sources, causing soil erosion and other environmental problems. Efforts to fight deforestation require fast information that could help authorities and NGOs take action before the worst damage is done. Global Forest Watch is a new initiative offering the possibility to do just that. It monitors deforestation activity across the globe, in near real time.  Read More

A rubber mat forms the 'carpet,' and sits atop a grid of hydraulic actuators, cylinders an...
Many organizations around the world are looking at ways to harness the power of waves as a renewable energy source, but none are covering quite the same ground as a team of engineers from the University of California (UC), Berkeley. The seafloor carpet, a system inspired by the wave absorbing abilities of a muddy seabed, has taken exploring the potential of wave power to some intriguing new depths.  Read More
'If we can't comprehend the issue then we don't feel anything, therefore we don't act. I'm...
Around the world there are hundreds of millions of discarded mobile phones lying around in drawers and boxes, displaced by the bigger screen or better camera of the latest version. But truth be told, even if we were talking about hundreds of billions it would be unlikely to elicit a much different response, because ridiculously big numbers are ridiculously big numbers, right? Seattle-based photographer and activist Chris Jordan is on a mission to make these measures of consumerism manifest through visual art and, as he explained to Gizmag, bridge the disconnect between our mass consumption and its largely invisible consequences.  Read More
The world's largest solar thermal generation plant, Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Syst...
After three years of construction, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is now operational. The 392 MW plant, funded by NRG, Google, and BrightSource Energy, is expected to generate enough electricity to power 140,000 homes, each year. NRG announced last week that each of the plant's three units is now supplying electricity to California’s grid.  Read More
The Parasol system uses passive radar sensors and mathematical algorithms to determine if ...
With aspirations to claim 80 percent of its power from renewable sources by the 2050, it follows that Germany is taking a proactive approach to its clean energy transformation. Wind farms, while set to play an important part in achieving this goal, often meet impassioned opposition from disgruntled neighbors piqued by their perpetually blinking beacons. In an effort to address this issue, researchers have developed a sensor system for wind turbines which detects nearby aircraft, switching on a beacon warning system only as they approach.  Read More
Heat stored in the Pacific Ocean could be a ticking climate time bomb (Photo: Shutterstock...
Despite an overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that warming trends over the past century are most likely the result of human activities, some claim that a plateau in global surface air temperatures since 2001 is evidence to the contrary. However, a new study suggests the recent stabilization of air temperatures is a result of abnormally strong east to west trade winds, causing warmth to be stored temporarily beneath the western Pacific ocean.  Read More
The CRUTEM4 dataset provides Google Earth users with access to one of the most widely used...
Talking about the weather is a pastime as old as language, but climate researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK have just given people a whole lot more to talk about. As part of an ongoing effort to increase the accessibility and transparency of data on past climate and climate change, they've made one of the most widely used records of Earth's climate accessible through Google Earth.  Read More
Scientists have succeeded in converting plant waste to gasoline (Photo: Shutterstock)
By now, most people have at least a passing knowledge of biodiesel – it's diesel fuel made from plant or animal oils, as opposed to the more traditional and less eco-friendly petroleum. While it's a good choice for people with diesel-powered vehicles, those of us with gas-burning cars haven't been able to get in on the action ... although that may be about to change.  Read More
Stefanie Kring studies zooplankton gathered from wastewater lagoons
With dwindling non-renewable fuel sources creating an enormous energy challenge, the search is on to develop sustainable, renewable types of energy such as solar, wind and biofuel. One of the recent developments in this field comes from New York's Clarkson University, where new findings suggest that small organisms found in wastewater treatment lagoons could be used as biofuel feedstock.  Read More
The optical sensor system developed to detect the amount of salt on a road (Photo: UC3M)
Just as a good meal can be ruined by too much table salt, too much sodium chloride applied to road surfaces to prevent icing can have a detrimental effect on vehicles, infrastructure and the environment. Engineers at Spain's Carlos III University (UC3M) have developed an optical sensor intended to prevent excessive salt treatment by detecting the amount of salt already on the road in real time.  Read More
The humidity-driven flexing of a spore-covered piece of latex rubber (right) drives the mo...
Ozgur Sahin believes that water evaporation is the largest power source in nature. In an effort to demonstrate the potential of this untapped resource, Sahin and his fellow researchers have created prototype electrical generators with rubber sheets that move in response to changes in humidity thanks to a coating of bacterial spores.  Read More

The Salicornia is one species of halophyte that is a promising feedstock for biofuel produ...
Whenever the topic of plant-derived biofuels is raised, the issue of turning valuable arable land over to the task of growing feedstock is generally not far behind. A discovery by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SRBC) that desert plants fed by seawater can produce biofuel more efficiently than other well-known feedstocks could help alleviate such concerns.  Read More
The PLEASED project aims to turn plants into environmental biosensors (Image: Shutterstock...
Many claim that talking to plants helps them grow faster. But what if the plants could talk back? That’s what the EU-funded PLants Employed As SEnsing Devices (PLEASED) project is hoping to achieve by creating plant cyborgs, or "plant-borgs." While this technology won't allow green thumbs to carry on a conversation with their plants, it will provide feedback on their environment by enabling the plants to act as biosensors.  Read More
A new type of carbon nanotube sponge containing sulfur and iron could help clean up oil sp...
A new type of carbon nanotube (CNT) sponge that contains sulfur and iron has been developed and is proving to be more effective at soaking up water contaminants, such as oil, fertilizers, pesticides and pharmaceuticals, than previously seen. The magnetic properties of these nanosponges also make them easier to retrieve from the environment once the clean-up job is done.  Read More
Rawlemon has designed an aesthetic take on  solar power devices
Despite their noble cause of harnessing clean, renewable energy from the sun, solar panels tend to be aesthetically uninspiring. Solar start-up Rawlemon aims to change all that with a new, and undeniably beautiful, take on concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology.  Read More
RUB researchers have developed a bio-based solar cell using cyanobacteria found in hot spr...
Researchers at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum have created a bio-based solar cell capable of generating a continuous electrical current of several nanowatts per sq cm. The new approach avoids damage to the tapped photosynthetic cells, an issue that has plagued previous attempts to harness nature's "power plant."  Read More
Scientists have found huge freshwater reserves under the world's oceans (Photo: Shuttersto...
Scientists in Australia have reported the discovery of huge freshwater reserves preserved in aquifers under the world's oceans. The water has remained shielded from seawater thanks to the accumulation of a protective layer of sediment and clay. And it’s not a local phenomenon. Such reserves are to be found under continental shelves off Australia, China, North America and South Africa.  Read More
The 'Flying House' will be used to test a new solar thermal heating system as part of the ...
Researchers at the University of Stuttgart are preparing to test a solar heating system capable of long term storage as part of "Solspaces," a three-year project that kicked off in March 2012. The heating concept uses a solar thermal system in conjunction with a sorption tank for storing heat from solar collectors throughout the warmer months that can then be released when the mercury drops.  Read More
The new system puts the weight of vehicles to use
Over the years, various researchers have developed systems in which the weight transferred through cars' wheels onto the road – or through pedestrians' feet onto the sidewalk – is used to generate electricity. These systems utilize piezoelectric materials, which convert mechanical stress into an electrical current. Such materials may be effective, but they're also too expensive for use in many parts of the world. That's why Mexican entrepreneur Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández created his own rather ingenious alternative.  Read More
Amphiro's a1 self-powered water and energy meter puts water and energy consumption in the ...
There's nothing like putting real time water and energy usage information in your face to change people's shower habits, and that's just what Amphiro's a1 self-powered water and energy meter does. It connects between the shower hose and a handheld showerhead and, like the Driblet, generates the electricity required to power it from the flow of water running through it.  Read More
Spectrolab has achieved a new world record efficiency for a multi-junction solar cell (Pho...
Spectrolab has set a new solar cell efficiency record of 38.8 percent for a ground-based multi-junction solar cell. The new world record doesn't exactly smash the previous mark of 37.8 percent, which was also set by Spectrolab, but is welcome news in a field where every percentage point counts.  Read More

Vancouver's cigarette butts are being used to manufacture shipping pallets, among other th...
What can you say about cigarette butts? They instantly make wherever they are look seedy, they don't biodegrade, plus they're highly toxic to aquatic organisms. It turns out, however, that they are good for something. The City of Vancouver and TerraCycle Canada launched a first-of-its-kind pilot program this Tuesday, in which the butts will be collected for recycling.  Read More
Scientists have had success at capturing rare earth elements diluted in industrial wastewa...
Rare earth elements are an integral part of many of today's electronic devices, serving as magnets, catalysts and superconductors. Unfortunately, these minerals are also ... well, rare, and thus very pricey. Recently, however, scientists discovered that some of them can be reclaimed from industrial wastewater, instead of being mined from the earth.  Read More
Samsung's Digital Villages are powered by the Sun
Combining solar power, health care and education is the concept behind Samsung’s Digital Villages, a project recently launched in South Africa as the kick-off a larger plan that includes units in Ethiopia and Gabon by the end of 2013. The Digital Village is also designed to help local traders develop their business with a sustainable and low-cost alternative to fossil fuels.  Read More
A CPV system brings electricity to Madagascar villagers
Fondation Énergies pour le Monde (Energy for the World Foundation), an organization that promotes clean energy in developing countries, has completed the installation of a concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) system in Ambondro, southern Madagascar. The CPV system was also combined with existing wind turbines in the village, with project partner Sunidarity claiming it is the first decentralized rural electrification operation of its kind in Madagascar.  Read More
The raw materials and end products of the recycling process
Of all the things that we regularly dispose of, you would think that shoes would be one of the most difficult to recycle. Not only are well-used shoes kind of ... gross, but they're also made of a variety of different materials, all of which are joined together. Nonetheless, scientists at Loughborough University in the UK announced last week that they have created and trialled "the world’s first comprehensive system for separating and recovering useful materials from old footwear."  Read More
UK company Pro-Teq's glow-in-the-dark spray coating could prove a cheaper alternative to c...
UK company Pro-Teq has developed a new water-resistant, spray-on coating that absorbs UV light during the day and releases it at night, adapting to the lighting conditions in its surroundings. The technology is being given a test run at the Christ's Pieces park in Cambridge, and could prove a cost effective alternative to conventional street lighting.  Read More
 2,000 shipping containers are planned to be transformed into water purifying stations
Joining forces with engineering firm Deka R&D, Coca-Cola has launched a project which will see the transformation of approximately 2,000 shipping containers into water purifying stations. Dubbed Ekocenter, the shipping container module has been designed to provide isolated and developing communities with facilities to produce safe drinking water, as well as access to wireless internet technology and solar powered charging.  Read More
The new Spirit Solar Powered Lighting Column can be powered 100-percent by the sun
Street lights are one of things people in heavily populated areas tend to take for granted. They make walking and driving a safer, more pleasant experience, but they also account for a significant chunk of a city's energy usage. Solar powered street lights offer a solution for places where electricity is at a premium, or locations that are off the grid completely and the Spirit Solar Powered Lighting Column is the first example we've seen which rolls the post and the panels together in a standalone design.  Read More
Nuon Team preparing for business time (Photo: World Solar Challenge)
Delft University's Nuon Solar Team has won the Challenger class of the World Solar Challenge. Its solar-powered Nuna 7 vehicle arrived in Adelaide at 10:03 a.m. on the morning of the fifth day of the event, having led from the front for the full 3,021 km from Darwin, crossing Australia from north coast to south in a total of a little over 33 hours. That puts its average speed at an impressive 91 km/h (57 mph).  Read More
Vitamilk's 'Dead batteries for Dead Batteries' charging wall
Thai soymilk company Vitamilk has rolled out a rather interesting advertising vehicle in the form of a large signboard that takes "dead" batteries and squeezes enough extra power out of them to charge smartphones.  Read More

Plastic bags like these may one day be a common source of carbon nanotubes
Discarded plastic bags are if nothing else, certainly one of the most visible forms of litter out there. While it's possible to recycle some of them into other plastic products, scientists at Australia's University of Adelaide have found another use for them – they can be used in the production of high-value carbon nanotubes.  Read More
The Ocean Cleanup Project hopes to utilize the oceans' gyres as a means to collect plastic...
Boyan Slat, an aerospace engineering student at the Delft University of Technology, is working to combine environmentalism, technology, and his creative outlook to rid our oceans of plastic debris. His Ocean Cleanup Project aims to utilize the oceans’ natural gyres (five circular currents in the oceans around the world – two in the Atlantic, two in the Pacific, and one in the Indian) to collect plastic waste.  Read More
The new system being tested on the A6 highway, near Madrid
According to scientists at Spain's Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), approximately five percent of vehicles on the road are responsible for about 90 percent of toxic vehicle emissions. Short of pulling each and every car over to analyze its tailpipe output, though, how does one go about identifying the offenders? Well, the UC3M researchers have helped design a system that images the emissions of individual vehicles in real time, on highways up to three lanes wide.  Read More
PhotoFlow is a two-in-one concept design that combines solar power generation with rainwat...
In many countries around the world the supply of electricity and clean water is often sporadic and of poor quality. Consulting and design company NOS is looking to address this problem with PhotoFlow, a two-in-one concept design that combines solar power generation with water collection and storage.  Read More
New research examines the economics of storing energy from renewable sources (Photo: Shutt...
True or false: solar and wind power are freely available and clean, and thus should always be stored when they generate more energy than the grid can use? It's easy to assume that renewable energy should never be turned off, but scientists at Stanford have done the math to find the break-even point where storing energy is better than "wasting," or curtailing, that energy, and their findings aren't necessarily as you'd think.  Read More
Zeoform promises a recyclable, low carbon-footprint building material that's as strong as ...
Australian company Zeo has developed and patented a glue-free process that creates a strong, versatile new building material out of just cellulose and water. The resulting hardwood-like material known as Zeoform can then be sprayed, molded or shaped into a range of products. And it's not just trees that stand to benefit – Zeoform also promises an eco-friendly alternative to the use of plastics and resins.  Read More
The US Department of Energy will be using fuel cells to power the refrigeration units of f...
The refrigeration units used in cold transport trailers are typically powered by small diesel engines, which use up non-renewable fuel and release greenhouse gases, just like their big brothers. The US Department of Energy, however, is looking into an alternative. As part of a two-year pilot project, it’s equipping four such trailers with clean-running hydrogen fuel cells.  Read More
MIT's high-performance membranelss flow battery could be used to store green energy for th...
Researchers at MIT have come up with a new design for a rechargeable flow battery that does away with the expensive and ineffective membrane of previous designs. The device could prove the ideal solution for effectively storing energy from intermittent power sources such as solar and wind power.  Read More
You want flies with that? Mealworms on a pigeon burger at Rentokil's pop-up 'pestaurant' (...
By 2050, the UN expects that there will be almost 10 billion people on the Earth. This poses some serious practical questions, not least among which is how we'll put food into 2.5 billion or so extra tummies (especially given that we don't adequately fill all of the 7-plus billion we already have). If you're yet to hear alarming phrases like "food security" and "sustainable intensification" you've probably been living under a rock. Which is apt, actually, because that's exactly where you might find one of the proposed answers: insects. A pop-up kitchen in London on Thursday served up a variety of bug-based bites to passers by, and Gizmag arrived soon after it opened to sample the wares on offer.  Read More
The Fraxinus game (Image: The Sainsbury Laboratory)
Playing video games and feeling virtuous may seem almost like a contradiction in terms, but the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK has turned gaming into a way to advance science and help protect the environment. The Fraxinus game is a Facebook app that uses player participation to figure out the structure of a fungus genome, as part of a crowdsourcing effort to combat a disease that threatens Britain and Europe’s ash trees.  Read More

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