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September 2022

14 Sep

Confirmed: Atmospheric helium levels are rising

A by-product released by use of fossil fuels has been increasing since 1974 Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego used an unprecedented technique to detect that levels of helium are rising in the atmosphere, resolving an issue that has lingered among atmospheric chemists for decades. The atmospheric abundance of the 4-helium (4He) isotope is rising because 4He is released during the burning and extraction of fossil fuels. The researchers report that it is increasing at a very small but, for the first time, clearly measurable rate. The 4He isotope itself does not add to the greenhouse effect that is making the planet warmer, but measures of it could serve as indirect markers of fossil-fuel use. The National Science Foundation-supported...
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14 Sep

Why natural gas is not a bridge technology

The study was headed by Professor Claudia Kemfert from the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) and Leuphana University Lüneburg in collaboration with Franziska Hoffart from Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Fabian Präger from Technische Universität Berlin and Isabell Braunger and Hanna Brauers from the University of Flensburg. Energy crisis is only one facet of the problem In the wake of the offensive war waged by Russia, the German government faces the challenge of reducing energy reliance on Russia and continuing to ensure an affordable and secure energy supply that is in line with climate goals. Efforts are currently being made to compensate for Russian natural gas, whose supply is curtailed and uncertain, by establishing new gas trade relations and new infrastructure. Claudia Kemfert, who...
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14 Sep

Researchers create method for breaking down plant materials for earth-friendly energy

These chemical tools can access renewable energy from plant matter that could lessen our dependence on fossil fuels With energy costs rising, and the rapidly emerging effects of burning fossil fuels on the global climate, the need has never been greater for researchers to find paths to products and fuels that are truly renewable. "We use 20 million barrels of oil a day in the U.S.; that's about a fifth of the world's usage," said Ned Jackson,a professor of organic chemistry in the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University. "All our liquid fuels and nearly all of our manufactured materials, from gasoline and gallon jugs to countertops and clothes, start with petroleum -- crude oil." Developing the tools to move from...
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14 Sep

New method to promote biofilm formation and increase efficiency of biocatalysis

Birmingham scientists have revealed a new method to increase efficiency in biocatalysis, in a paper published today in Materials Horizons. Biocatalysis uses enzymes, cells or microbes to catalyse chemical reactions, and is used in settings such as the food and chemical industries to make products that are not accessible by chemical synthesis. It can produce pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, or food ingredients on an industrial scale. However a major challenge in biocatalysis is that the most commonly used microbes, such as probiotics and non-pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli, are not necessarily good at forming biofilms, the growth promoting ecosystems that form a protective micro-environment around communities of microbes and increase their resilience and so boost productivity. This problem is normally solved by genetic engineering, but researchers...
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14 Sep

New laser-based instrument designed to boost hydrogen research

Advance could lead to more environmentally friendly rocket fuels Researchers have developed an analytical instrument that uses an ultrafast laser for precise temperature and concentration measurements of hydrogen. Their new approach could help advance the study of greener hydrogen-based fuels for use in spacecraft and airplanes. "This instrument will provide powerful capabilities to probe dynamical processes such as diffusion, mixing, energy transfer and chemical reactions," said research team leader Alexis Bohlin from Luleå University of Technology in Sweden. "Understanding these processes is fundamental to developing more environmentally friendly propulsion engines." In the Optica Publishing Group journal Optics Express, Bohlin and colleagues from Delft University of Technology and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, both in the Netherlands, describe their new coherent Raman spectroscopy instrument for studying hydrogen....
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14 Sep

Planting trees not always an effective way of binding carbon dioxide

Tree-planting has been widely seen as an effective way of binding carbon as carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere. But now researchers from the University of Gothenburg and elsewhere are warning that forests on nutrient-poor land won't be an additional carbon sink in the long term. As forests age, their uptake of CO2 declines and, each time forests are planted, there is a risk of additional carbon being released from the soil. The capacity of plants to bind carbon is a key factor in calculating the effects of climate change as carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere. Scientists have now measured how much biomass grows under air with elevated CO2 concentrations in several long term field experiments. Growth stimulation was poor or...
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14 Sep

Conifer communication is complex and can be altered by air pollution

Conifers are dominant tree species in boreal forests, but they are susceptible to attack by bark beetles.A new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows that upon attack by bark-feeding weevils, conifers release substantial quantities of volatile organic compounds that provide important cues to neighbouring seedlings. It has long been known that when plants are damaged, they release odorous chemicals into the atmosphere. These chemicals represent an important medium through which plants communicate. "Whereas broadleaved plants have been frequently shown to respond to chemical odours, the same observations have not been seen in conifers. Therefore, we decided to look whether conifers undergo a similar response and were amazed at the results," Doctoral Researcher Hao Yu of the University of Eastern Finland...
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14 Sep

Where do high-energy particles that endanger satellites, astronauts and airplanes come from?

For decades, scientists have been trying to solve a vexing problem about the weather in outer space: At unpredictable times, high-energy particles bombard the earth and objects outside the earth's atmosphere with radiation that can endanger the lives of astronauts and destroy satellites' electronic equipment. These flare-ups can even trigger showers of radiation strong enough to reach passengers in airplanes flying over the North Pole. Despite scientists' best efforts, a clear pattern of how and when flare-ups will occur has remained enduringly difficult to identify. This week, in a paper in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, authors Luca Comisso and Lorenzo Sironi of Columbia's Department of Astronomy and the Astrophysics Laboratory, have for the first time used supercomputers to simulate when and how...
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14 Sep

Environmental scientists develop a method to turn hazardous acidic industrial wastewater into valuable resources

A research team of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev environmental scientists has developed a circular process for eliminating the risk posed by phosphoric acid plant wastewater. The process turns the environmentally toxic wastewater into clean water while recovering valuable acids. Phosphoric acid is the main ingredient in industrial fertilizers, a massive industry worldwide. Their method was just published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, a journal published by the American Chemical Society. Lior Monat, a PhD student in Dr. Oded Nir's lab led the research under his supervision. "Phosphoric acid production generates a lot of industrial wastewater that cannot be treated efficiently because of its low pH and high precipitation potential," explains Dr. Oded Nir, the co-lead researcher, "Today, the wastewater is usually...
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14 Sep

New granular hydrogel bioink could expand possibilities for tissue bioprinting

Every day in the United States, 17 people die waiting for an organ transplant, and every nine minutes, another person is added to the transplant waiting list, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. One potential solution to alleviate the shortage is to develop biomaterials that can be three-dimensionally (3D) printed as complex organ shapes, capable of hosting cells and forming tissues. Attempts so far, though, have fallen short, with the so-called bulk hydrogel bioinks failing to integrate into the body properly and support cells in thick tissue constructs. Now, Penn State researchers have developed a novel nanoengineered granular hydrogel bioink that makes use of self-assembling nanoparticles and hydrogel microparticles, or microgels, to achieve previously unattained levels of porosity, shape...
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