An indomitable particle: Colloidal silica takes on extreme environments

An indomitable particle: Colloidal silica takes on extreme environments

environment, Materials Science
Colloidal silica stabilizes the ground under buildings during earthquakes and stops the spread of toxic pollutants below ground. It also preserves ancient carvings in the jungle, keeps the lenses and sensors aboard space vehicles clear and clean, and stands up to the hot, salty environment of petroleum and natural gas wells. It's being tested as a construction material for 3D printed houses on Earth and for missions to the Moon and Mars. My e-book for W.R. Grace and C&EN BrandLab (gated content, free registration required).
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Adapt and Survive

Adapt and Survive

Uncategorized
By Nancy McGuire The hardiest plants and animals are those that adapt to changes in their environment, and the same applies to companies. Companies that survive in the long term are the ones that are the best prepared to weather gradual change and catastrophic upheavals. In the wake of mounting evidence of the adverse effect s of fossil fuel extraction and combustion, governments around the world are adopting stricter standards for fossil fuel extraction and emissions. Consumers increasingly embrace electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind energy. What are the largest petroleum-producing companies doing to adapt? A recent review article by Matthias J. Pickl in Energy Strategy Reviews looks at eight major oil companies and how they are planning for a less carbon-intensive future. Perhaps not surprisingly, three of the four…
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River deltas show electrical potential

River deltas show electrical potential

energy, environment
How in the world do you generate electricity from the slow-moving water in a river delta? Think about all the ways we have of generating electricity. You can turn a turbine using steam. You can place the turbine in a waterfall and have the falling water turn the blades, or build tall towers with windmill blades that spin in the wind. You can put a battery into your mobile phone, in between two strips of metal. These generators look very different, but they all have something in common: they are all situated in places where some kind of energy flows from one place to another, and they all tap into that flow to do some kind of work. Unless you put up some kind of barrier, if you put a…
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Tiny Crystal Provides a Big Clue

Tiny Crystal Provides a Big Clue

environment, explorations, geology, issues in the news, Materials Science
Is there an immense ocean, far beneath the surface of the Earth, that replenishes the oceans above? Recent news items describe a deep reservoir containing as much as three-quarters of the Earth's water supply. Most of these news stories are careful to note that this isn't some great sloshing underground pool, and you won't find any fish living there. Rather, the water is "bound up" in mineral deposits and released when these minerals are put under immense pressure. Some news stories compare the minerals to sponges, which is not something you usually associate with rocks. (Here are a couple of examples of the news items: Daily Digest News, The Guardian.) What's really going on here? Last March, a research paper in the journal Nature reported the discovery of a tiny…
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Touring a Green Building

Touring a Green Building

emerging technologies, energy, environment, Uncategorized
This afternoon, I joined the Earth Ethics Committee of the Washington Ethical Society and friends for a tour of the Camille Kendall Academic Center of the Universities at Shady Grove (Rockville, MD). When this building received a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification, it was the largest building ever to receive this designation. The building is one of three main academic buildings on this suburban campus, which serves as a branch location for nine Maryland universities. Students at USG specialize in one of several career-oriented programs geared toward meeting the needs of regional businesses. One of the first things you notice as you enter is the terrazzo glass flooring, made from blue and green recycled glass and concrete. Just off the lobby is a cafe. The catering…
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Note to Wombats: Don’t Eat the Heliotrope

Note to Wombats: Don’t Eat the Heliotrope

environment, Uncategorized
The wombats didn't start getting sick until after Australian ranchers moved their livestock off the plot of land that the livestock and wombats had shared, after the foul-tasting weeds took over, pushing aside the tasty native grasses. The older wombats knew that something had changed, but the younger generation ate whatever was available, and they paid for it with liver damage, hair loss, and sun-blistered skin. Lucy Woolford and Wayne Boardman of the University of Adelaide and Mary Fletcher of the University of Queensland reported recently on their study of ten southern hairy-nosed wombats that lived on a plot of land in the Murraylands near Blanchetown, South Australia, about 130 km (80 miles) northeast of Adelaide. Park rangers had shot five of them to end their suffering, two of them…
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How did the Fukushima nuclear accident affect wildlife?

How did the Fukushima nuclear accident affect wildlife?

energy, environment, Uncategorized
On March 11, 2011, a tsunami, a giant wave set off by an earthquake, struck the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan. The tsunami caused a catastrophic failure of the power station and a release of radioactive material that has been rated second in magnitude only to the Chornobyl disaster. The extent of the radiological impact of this event on surrounding wildlife has been a contentious topic, but the results of a recent study are cautiously optimistic. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation oversaw a study by an international team of scientists, who evaluated the results of a 2011 environmental assessment of the area near the power plant and published their results earlier this year (Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 2014, 1, 198–203). The UN committee…
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A World of Slow Drips

A World of Slow Drips

conference report, energy, environment, issues in the news, legislation, public perceptions, regulations
by Nancy McGuire, Wordchemist.com On January 24, a panel of seven journalists gathered at Washington, DC's, Wilson Center to brief an overflow crowd of policy wonks, issue advocates, writers and reporters, and other interested citizens on the likely hot topics in environment and energy for 2014. The annual event, co-sponsored by the Global Sustainability and Resilience Program, the Canada Institute, the Science and Technology Innovation Program, and the Society of Environmental Journalists, featured a lively audience Q&A session at the end. This is the last in a four-part series on this briefing. Dennis Dimick, executive editor of the environment at National Geographic, spoke of a nexus where food, water, and energy issues meet. Much of the petroleum extraction being done today, including water-intensive fracking operations, is being done in arid…
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Coal: Politics and Power Supplies

Coal: Politics and Power Supplies

conference report, energy, environment, issues in the news, legislation, regulations
by Nancy McGuire, Wordchemist.com On January 24, a panel of seven journalists gathered at Washington, DC's, Wilson Center to brief an overflow crowd of policy wonks, issue advocates, writers and reporters, and other interested citizens on the likely hot topics in environment and energy for 2014. The annual event, co-sponsored by the Global Sustainability and Resilience Program, the Canada Institute, the Science and Technology Innovation Program, and the Society of Environmental Journalists, featured a lively audience Q&A session at the end. This is the second in a four-part series on this briefing. Coal in U.S. Politics This year's U.S. midterm elections will increasingly influence the debate on the use, regulation, and export of coal, said Suzanne Goldenberg, the U.S. environmental correspondent for The Guardian. Coral Davenport, who covers climate and…
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Energy and the Environment: Global Issues, Local Actions

Energy and the Environment: Global Issues, Local Actions

conference report, emerging technologies, energy, environment, issues in the news, legal issues, legislation, public perceptions, regulations
by Nancy McGuire, Wordchemist.com A newly assertive federal executive branch, push-back from the legislature and judicial system, unintended effects of social activism, unanticipated effects of leaking storage tanks and Arctic thaws, who's using coal, reasons to "go green" that don't involve tree-hugging — 2014 will have no shortage of news stories on energy and the environment, according to a panel of seven journalistic prognosticators. On January 24, the panel gathered at Washington, DC's, Wilson Center to brief an overflow crowd of interested policy wonks, issue advocates, writers and reporters, and other interested citizens on the likely hot topics in environment and energy for 2014. The annual event, co-sponsored by the Global Sustainability and Resilience Program, the Canada Institute, the Science and Technology Innovation Program, and the Society of Environmental Journalists,…
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