Posts about green

Research on Ancient Roman Concrete Will Allow the Creation of More Durable and Environmentally Friendly Concrete

Analysis of samples of ancient Roman concrete pinpointed why the best Roman concrete was superior to most modern concrete in durability, why its manufacture was less environmentally damaging – and how these improvements could be adopted in the modern world.

“It’s not that modern concrete isn’t good – it’s so good we use 19 billion tons of it a year,” says Paulo Monteiro (U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). “The problem is that manufacturing Portland cement accounts for seven percent of the carbon dioxide that industry puts into the air.”

Portland cement is the source of the “glue” that holds most modern concrete together. But making it releases carbon from burning fuel, needed to heat a mix of limestone and clays to 1,450 degrees Celsius (2,642 degrees Fahrenheit) – and from the heated limestone (calcium carbonate) itself. Monteiro’s team found that the Romans, by contrast, used much less lime and made it from limestone baked at 900˚ C, or lower, requiring far less fuel than Portland cement.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is one powerful incentive for finding a better way to provide the concrete the world needs; another is the need for stronger, longer-lasting buildings, bridges, and other structures. Roman harbor installations have survived 2,000 years of chemical attack and wave action underwater. We now expect our construction to last 50 to 100 years.

The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated – incorporating water molecules into its structure – and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together.

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The Wonderful Coconut

One of the treats of living in a tropical climate is drinking coconut water. I love drinking the water from fresh coconuts. This video provides insight into the many uses of all parts of the coconut tree.

The Truth About Coconut Water by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD – WebMD

[coconut water] has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.

There are some health benefits to consuming coconut water. It’s an all-natural way to hydrate, reduce sodium, and add potassium to diets. Most Americans don’t get enough potassium in their diets because they don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, or dairy, so coconut water can help fill in the nutritional gaps.

Beyond that, the scientific literature does not support the hype that it will help with a laundry list of diseases. “There is a lot of hype about coconut water, yet the research is just not there to support many of the claims and much more research is needed,” says Cheung.

I have tried bottled coconut water which was pitiful. I don’t know if that was just a bad type and good options exist or the fresh stuff is just much much better. But I’ll stick to fresh coconut water as long as I can.

Related: Does Diet Soda Result in Weight Gain?Can You Effectively Burn Calories by Drinking Cold Water?How do Plants Grow Into the Sunlight?Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Chart of Wind Power Generation Capacity Globally 2005-2012

Chart of installed wind energy capacity by country from 2005 to 2012

Chart of installed wind energy capacity by country from 2005 to 2012 by Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog using data from the Wind Energy Association. 2012 data is for the capacity on June 30, 2012. Chart may be used with attribution as specified.

Wind power generation capacity continues to grow faster than the increase in electricity use. The rate of growth has slowed a bit overall, though China’s growth continues to be large.

From 2005-2012 globally wind power generation capacity increased 330%; lead by China with an increase of 5,250%. Of the leading countries Germany grew the least – just 63%. The percent of global capacity of the 8 countries listed in the chart (the 8 countries with the highest capacity in 2012) has been amazingly consistent given the huge growth: from a low of 79% in 2006 to a high of 82.4% in 2011 (2012 was 82%).

Global growth in wind energy capacity was 66% in 2008-2010. In 2010 to 2012 the increase was 28%. The second period is just 18 months (since the 2012 data is for the first half of the year). Extending the current (2010-2012) rate to the end of 2012 would yield an increase of 37%, which still shows there has been a slowdown compared to the 66% rate in the previous 2 year period. The decrease in government subsidies and incentives is responsible for the slowing of added capacity, though obviously the growth is still strong.

From 2005 to 2012 China’s share of global wind energy capacity increased from 2% to 27%, the USA 15% to 20%, Germany fell from 31% to 12%, India fell from 7.5% to 6.8% (while growing capacity 292%).

Hydro power is by far the largest source of green electricity generation (approximately 5 times the capacity of wind power – but hydro capacity is growing very slowly). And installed solar electricity generation capacity is about 1/5 of wind power capacity.

Related: Global Wind Energy Capacity Exceeds 2.5% of Global Electricity Needs (2010)Wind Power Capacity Up 170% Worldwide from 2005-2009Wind Power Provided Over 1% of Global Electricity in 2007

Solar Powered Water Jug to Purify Drinking Water

Deepika Kurup, a 14-year-old New York student, won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for her invention of a solar-powered water jug that changes dirty water into purified drinking water. She won the top prize of $25,000.

During “the 5 minutes of my presentation 15 children have died from lack of clean drinking water.”

I am thankful we have kids like this to create solutions for us that will make the world a better place. We rely on hundreds of thousands of such people to use science and engineering methods to benefit society.

Related: Strawjet: Invention of the YearCheap Drinking Water From SeawaterWater and Electricity for AllThanksgiving, Appropriately (power of capitalism and people to provide long term increases in standards of living)

Add Over-Fishing to the Huge Government Debt as Examples of How We Are Consuming Beyond Our Means

Fish are hidden under the water so the unsustainable harvesting isn’t quite as obvious as the unsustainable government debt but they both are a result of us living beyond our sustainable production. You can live well by consuming past wealth and condemning your decedents to do without. That is the way we continue to live. Over-fishing a century ago was not as obviously dangerous as it is today. But we have witnessed many instances of overfishing devastating the fishing economy (when the fishing is unsustainable the inevitable result is collapse and elimination of the vast majority of the food and income that previous generations enjoyed).

The normal pattern has been to turn to more aggressive fishing methods and new technology to try and collect fish as over-fishing devastates yields. This, of course, further devastates the state of the resources and makes it so recovery will take much much longer (decades – or more).

New research shows the existing problems and the potential if we apply science and planning to manage fisheries effectively.

Using new methods to estimate thousands of unassessed fisheries, a new comprehensive study provides a new view of global fish stocks. The results show that the overall state of fisheries is worse than previously thought. Unassessed stocks, which are often left out of global analyses because of a lack of data, are declining at disturbing rates. When these fisheries are taken into account, the results indicate that over 40 percent of fisheries have crashed or are overfished, producing economic losses in excess of $50 billion per year.

The good news is that this decline is not universal: fisheries are starting to rebound in many areas across the globe and we can learn from these examples. Recovery trends are strongest for fisheries where data on the status of the fishery exists, and in which managers and fishermen have made science-based decisions and stuck with them in the face of political pressure.

The amount of fish brought to shore could increase 40 percent on average – and double in some areas – compared to yields predicted if we continue current fishing trends.

The management solutions to overfishing are well known, tested and proven to work. While these solutions are not “one-size-fits-all” for fisheries, there are common themes. Specifically, managers and fishermen must: 1. Reduce fishing to allow stocks to rebuild; 2. Set catches at a sustainable level that is based on the best available scientific and economic information rather than short-term political pressures; and 3. Prevent dangerous fishing activities that destroy habitat, wildlife, or breeding fish.

The over fishing problem is difficult because our nature is to ignore problems that are not immediate. But the costs of doing so are very large. If we don’t behave more wisely our children will pay the price. And, in fact, this problem is so acute now that those of us that expect to live a couple decades can expect to pay the price. In rich countries this will be tolerable, a bit less fish at much higher prices. In rich countries food prices are a minor expense compared to the billions of those not living in rich countries. They will suffer the most. As will those that have jobs directly dependent on fishing.

Related: Fishless FutureEuropean Eels in Crisis After 95% Decline in Last 25 yearsLet the Good Times Roll (using Credit)SelFISHingRunning Out of FishThe State of the Oceans is Not GoodChinook Salmon Vanish Without a Trace

Repair Cafes in The Netherlands

Repair Cafes in The Netherlands Give Life Back to Broken Objects

A new brand of DIY self-sufficiency is spreading across The Netherlands. Skilled craftswomen, mechanics, seamstresses, and handypersons are banding together to resist disposable consumer culture. It is the rise of the Repair Cafe, a place where neighbors get together to extend the life of their material belongings. “Fixers” mend clothes, restore furniture, rehabilitate electrical appliances, and enjoy each other’s company while industriously toiling away. The first cafe was founded by Martine Postma in Amsterdam in October of 2009. Today, there are 20 fully operational Repair Cafes, and 50 more in the planning stages.

I really like these efforts. We throw away too much stuff that has plenty of useful life left. Also it is a great way to build community. And it is an interesting way to learn about products we use everyday (both by fixing them and having your items fixed). The throw away culture is something we should aim to change. By these actions and also by engineers designing products to be fixed instead of thrown away. I donated to a similar fixer collective in Brooklyn via Kickstarter.

Related: Fix it GooBook Explores Adventures in MakingTeaching Through Tinkering

Google Lets Servers Stay Hot, Saving Air Conditioning Costs

The electricity to run huge server farms is enormous. One of the significant cost is air conditioning to cool down the server rooms.

Too Hot for Humans, But Google Servers Keep Humming

Google’s data center in Belgium, which was the company’s first facility to rely entirely upon fresh air for cooling, instead of energy-hungry chillers.

For the vast majority of the year, the climate in Belgium is cool enough that this design works with no problems. When it gets hot in Belgium, the temperature inside Google’s data center warms beyond the facility’s desired operating range

During these periods, the temperature inside the data center can rise above 95 degrees.

“We’ve had very few excursion hours, and they don’t last long, so we let the site run right through them. We ask our employees to go in and do office work. It’s too warm for people, but the machines do just fine.”

Google’s experience is the latest affirmation that servers are much tougher than we think. Many data centers feel like meat lockers, as servers are maintained in cool environments to offset the heat thrown off by components inside the chassis. Typical temperature ranges in data centers often range from 68 and 72 degrees.

In recent years, rising power bills have prompted data center managers to try and reduce the amount of power used in cooling systems.

The temperatures in Fahrenheit obviously. I was surprised that the servers don’t seem to need to be chilled to perform well.

Related: Saving Energy with Smart SoftwareNew Server Uses 75% Less Power and Space

Mitsubishi Uses a Sled of Bubbles To Improve Ship Efficiency

Mitsubishi completed the conceptual design of a new container ship; this eco-ship achieves a 25% decrease in CO2 emissions over existing ships. Three, of these ships, with the Mitsubishi Air Lubrication System (MALS), are being built now (they should be completed in 2014).

In addition to blowers to create air bubbles under the vessel bottom, the three grain carriers will also feature a newly designed bow shape that will reduce wave-making resistances. For propulsion, the ship adopts a system to effectively convert the main engine power into propulsion power by positioning fins forward of the propellers and placing particular grooves in the propeller boss cap.

Using “eco-ships” to substantially reduce CO2 emissions from maritime transport

Reducing the frictional drag on the hull of a ship saves fuel and lowers CO2 emissions. To achieve this, MHI developed the Mitsubishi Air Lubrication System (MALS), which reduces frictional drag by introducing air bubbles by air blower into the water around the bottom of a ship’s hull, covering the ship in bubbles. By arranging the air blowhole location and shape and controlling the air volume, the lubrication effect has been enhanced, reducing CO2 emissions per container transportation by 10 percent.

This system has already been introduced on module carriers, and has been proven to reduce CO2 emissions significantly.

Related: Sails for Modern Cargo ShipsEco-Vehicle Student Competition

Using a Virus to Improve Solar-cell Efficiency Over 30%

Solar and wind energy are making great strides, and are already contributing significantly to providing relatively clean energy.

Researchers at MIT have found a way to make significant improvements to the power-conversion efficiency of solar cells by enlisting the services of tiny viruses to perform detailed assembly work at the microscopic level.

In a solar cell, sunlight hits a light-harvesting material, causing it to release electrons that can be harnessed to produce an electric current. The research, is based on findings that carbon nanotubes — microscopic, hollow cylinders of pure carbon — can enhance the efficiency of electron collection from a solar cell’s surface.

Previous attempts to use the nanotubes, however, had been thwarted by two problems. First, the making of carbon nanotubes generally produces a mix of two types, some of which act as semiconductors (sometimes allowing an electric current to flow, sometimes not) or metals (which act like wires, allowing current to flow easily). The new research, for the first time, showed that the effects of these two types tend to be different, because the semiconducting nanotubes can enhance the performance of solar cells, but the metallic ones have the opposite effect. Second, nanotubes tend to clump together, which reduces their effectiveness.

And that’s where viruses come to the rescue. Graduate students Xiangnan Dang and Hyunjung Yi — working with Angela Belcher, the W. M. Keck Professor of Energy, and several other researchers — found that a genetically engineered version of a virus called M13, which normally infects bacteria, can be used to control the arrangement of the nanotubes on a surface, keeping the tubes separate so they can’t short out the circuits, and keeping the tubes apart so they don’t clump.

The system the researchers tested used a type of solar cell known as dye-sensitized solar cells, a lightweight and inexpensive type where the active layer is composed of titanium dioxide, rather than the silicon used in conventional solar cells. But the same technique could be applied to other types as well, including quantum-dot and organic solar cells, the researchers say. In their tests, adding the virus-built structures enhanced the power conversion efficiency to 10.6% from 8% — almost a one-third improvement.

Read the full press release

Related: Using Virus to Build BatteriesUsing Viruses to Construct ElectrodesUsing Bacteria to Carry Nanoparticles Into Cells

How To Make Your Own Pesticide with Ingredients from Your Kitchen

Video by the Singapore National Park Board, on creating your own pesticide with just water, dish-washing liquid, chili, garlic and cooking oil.

Related: Pigs Instead of PesticidesAutomatic Cat FeederRethinking the Food Production SystemBuild Your Own Tabletop Interactive Multi-touch ComputerScience Toys You Can Make With Your KidsPesticide Laced Fertiliser Ruins GardensLiving in Singapore

Google Invests $168 million in Largest Solar Tower Power Project

Google is investing in a new solar tower power project located in California that will generate 392 gross MW of clean, solar energy. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 90,000 cars off the road. Google has now invested $250 million in clean energy.

Investing in the world’s largest solar power tower plant

works by using a field of mirrors, called heliostats, to concentrate the sun’s rays onto a solar receiver on top of a tower. The solar receiver generates steam, which then spins a traditional turbine and generator to make electricity. Power towers are very efficient because all those mirrors focus a tremendous amount of solar energy onto a small area to produce steam at high pressure and temperature (up to 1000 degrees F).

Several large solar projects are in the works in the sunny Southwest (and around the globe), but Ivanpah will be the first solar power tower system of this scale. The Ivanpah Power Tower will be approximately 450 feet tall and will use 173,000 heliostats, each with two mirrors.

The Department of energy is also providing financing for this project. The project is 10 times larger than the largest solar photovoltaic project in California.

Related: Google Investing Huge Sums in Renewable Energy and is HiringGoogle.org Invests $10 million in Geothermal EnergyGoogle’s Energy InterestsMolten Salt Solar Reactor Approved by CaliforniaSolar Tower Power GenerationFinding Huge Sources of Energy Without Increasing Carbon Dioxide Output

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