Business & Innovation
15 Jan 2013:
Key Offshore Transmission Line
To Be Built For U.S. East Coast Wind Power
A group of prominent U.S. investors, including Google, is expected to announce today that it is moving forward with construction on the first leg of an ambitious $5 billion undersea transmission line
that will connect
Atlantic Wind Connection
New Jersey Energy Link
future offshore wind farms along the mid-Atlantic coast, a project they say will avert the regulatory hurdles required in connecting each individual wind farm to land-based electricity lines. The first segment of the project, which will occur in three phases, includes construction of a 189-mile transmission cable along the New Jersey coast. Coordinators of the project, known as the Atlantic Wind Connection, say the cable would deliver more than 3,400 megawatts of electric capacity
from future offshore wind projects to three locations in New Jersey. Construction is expected to begin in 2016, according to the sponsors. The project intends to eventually link offshore wind farms with electricity grids from Virginia to New York.
11 Jan 2013:
California Solar Rebate
Program Reaches 1-Gigawatt Milestone
California homeowners and businesses, taking advantage of a state rebate program that encourages the installation of solar panels, are now generating 1 gigawatt — or 1,000 megawatts — of electricity, roughly the equivalent of a nuclear power plant, state regulators say. Launched in 2007, the $2.4 billion California Solar Initiative
has offered rebates as high as $2.50 per watt to businesses and homeowners who installed solar panels, with a target of generating 1,940 megawatts by the end of 2016. According to state data, the program so far has encouraged the installation of 1,066 megawatts, more solar capacity than any other state and more than most countries. While the state incentive has fallen by as much 92 percent since the program was introduced, the number of applications continues to increase as the price of solar power installations falls, the San Francisco Chronicle reports
. When the program started six years ago, residential solar systems cost about $9.76 per watt; they now cost about $6.19 per watt.
10 Jan 2013:
Up to 50 Percent of Food
Is Wasted Worldwide, Report Says
As much as half of the food produced globally is wasted
each year as a result of inefficient agricultural practices, inadequate storage facilities and transportation systems, and wasteful consumer habits, a new report says. While the world community produces about 4 billion metric tons of food annually, roughly 1.2 to 2 billion metric tons of that food — or 30 to 50 percent — is never consumed, according to the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers
. The causes of waste vary from region to region, the report says. In developing nations, much of the waste occurs at the local level as a result of inefficient harvesting, lack of transportation, and poor infrastructure and storage. In richer nations, the waste is often triggered by customer and retail behavior. For example, as much as 30 percent of UK vegetables are never harvested because their appearance doesn’t meet consumer standards. “This level of wastage is a tragedy that cannot continue if we are to succeed in the challenge of sustainably meeting our future food demands,” the report says.
08 Jan 2013:
Using Fireflies As a Model,
Scientists Boost Efficiency of LED Lights
Drawing inspiration from the structure of a firefly, scientists say they have improved the efficiency of a light-emitting diode (LED) by 55 percent
. While studying the insects, the researchers noticed that
LED inspired by fireflies
a pattern of sharp, jagged scales on the fireflies’ bodies enhanced the amount of light emitted by the fireflies’ lantern, an abdominal organ that creates the flashes of light to attract mates. After mimicking that structure in the production of a LED design, the researchers found that the amount of light extracted was significantly increased. Light-emitting diodes are made from semi-conductors and represent a major advance in lighting efficiency over traditional incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs. “The most important aspect of this work is that it shows how much we can learn by carefully observing nature,” said Annick Bay, a Ph. D. student at the University of Namur in Belgium and one of the authors of a paper published in the journal Optics Express
04 Jan 2013:
Starbucks Targets Reduction
In Paper Waste with $1 Reusable Cups
Starbucks, the world’s largest chain of coffee shops, this week started selling $1 reusable plastic cups
at its stores
A reusable plastic cup
in the U.S. and Canada, an initiative the company hopes will drastically reduce the amount of paper waste that ends up in landfills. The company, which has more than 11,000 stores in the U.S., tested the reusable cups at 600 stores in the Pacific Northwest in October, and within a month found that the use of reusable cups increased 26 percent compared with a year earlier. While Starbucks says nearly 2 percent of drinks sold in 2011 were served in personal tumblers brought in by customers
— a 55-percent increase in three years — the company is now targeting 5 percent use of reusable cups by 2015. Five years ago, the company had set a goal of serving 25 percent of its coffee drinks in reusable cups. Starbucks uses about 4 billion disposable cups
02 Jan 2013:
U.S. Wind Tax Credit
Extended in ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Compromise
The last-minute tax deal brokered by U.S. lawmakers to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” included a one-year extension of the wind energy tax credit, a subsidy that industry officials say is critical for the growth of the wind energy sector. The bill, which now awaits President Obama’s signature, preserves the 2.2-cents-per-kilowatt-hour credit for all wind energy projects that begin construction in 2013
, allowing projects that are not completed until 2014 to qualify, as well. While the wind energy sector achieved record growth in 2012 — accounting for 44 percent of all new electricity generating capacity in the U.S.
— industry leaders say the possible expiration of the tax credit forced some turbine manufacturers to idle factories and lay off workers during the latter half of 2012. The lack of a long-term federal policy has created “a ‘boom-bust’ cycle” in the wind energy sector
for more than a decade, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a trade organization.
31 Dec 2012:
Network of Smartphone-Based
Sensors Track Air Pollution Levels
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a network of smartphone-based air pollution monitors
that allow individuals to track
pollution levels in real time and feed a central database of air quality trends citywide throughout the day. The so-called CitySense devices are equipped with sensors that measure ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide, and a digital app that illustrates the color-coded results based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality ratings. During a four-week test, in which the phones were distributed to 30 volunteers, the system showed hotspots of elevated pollution that shifted over the course of the day. Ultimately, the developers hope to deploy hundreds of devices in order to generate a public database on air quality levels. “We want more data and better data, which we can provide to the public,” said William Griswold, a computer science professor at UC San Diego. “We are making the invisible visible.”
27 Dec 2012:
Group Collecting DNA Codes
Of Endangered Species Gets Google Boost
The Consortium for the Barcode of Life
(CBOL), a global initiative assembling the “DNA barcodes
” of the world’s endangered species, received $3 million from Google this month to create an online database organizers hope will emerge as a critical tool in the enforcement of international wildlife protection laws. Since it was formed in 2004, the consortium’s 200 participating organizations have collected genetic information for more than 100,000 species. With tens of thousands of species currently in danger of extinction, project organizers hope the database will provide a quick and inexpensive way to identify species, including many that are regularly smuggled through airports. In some cases, law enforcement officials would be able to send a small tissue sample to a laboratory for identification rather than requiring an expert to identify the species.
20 Dec 2012:
‘Peel-and-Stick’ Solar Cells
Expand Potential for Photovoltaic Systems
Stanford University researchers say they have developed a “peel-and-stick” solar cell that can be attached to a variety of hard surfaces
, an innovation they say could vastly expand the potential for solar
Click to enlarge
Chi Hwan Lee/Stanford School of Engineering
“Peel-and-stick” solar cells
energy technology. Normally, thin-film solar cells are attached to rigid, often heavy, silicon and glass substrates because most unconventional surfaces aren’t compatible with the thermal and chemical processes involved in producing the cells. The new process gets around that challenge, the scientists say, because it does not require any fabrication to occur on the final substrate surface. Instead, it involves pressing an ultra-thin film of nickel, a silicon/silicon dioxide wafer, and a protective polymer into a “sandwich,” and then attaching a layer of thermal release tape. When dipped in water, the thin-film solar cell can be peeled from the original wafer and attached to a wide range of surfaces, from window glass to cellphones, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports
18 Dec 2012:
Coal May Rival Oil As
World’s Top Energy Source by 2017, IEA Says
Coal could rival oil as the world’s largest energy source within five years as consumption continues to climb in most regions of the world, a trend that could have profound effects on the climate, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says
. While coal consumption is expected to decline in the U.S., where it increasingly has been displaced by ample supplies of natural gas, that reduction in U.S. coal burning has helped drive down coal costs globally
. According to the IEA’s annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report
, the world will burn about 1.2 billion more tons of coal annually by 2017 than it does today. The surge in coal consumption will be driven largely by China and India, with China projected to pass the rest of the world in coal demand within five years, and India predicted to pass the U.S. as the world’s second-biggest coal consumer. Without a high carbon tax, the report says, only competition from cleaner natural gas will reduce coal demand.
17 Dec 2012:
‘Peak Farmland’ Reached, as
Yields Rise and Growth Slows, Report Says
The amount of agricultural land needed to feed the world’s population has reached its peak as a result of improved crop yields
and slower population growth, and as much as 10 percent of the land currently used for farming could be “restored to Nature” within 50 years, a team of experts says. In an analysis published in the journal Population and Development Review
, three researchers from Rockefeller University’s Program for the Human Environment
(PHE) predict that the 1.53 billion hectares (3.78 billion) acres of arable land and farming areas that existed in 2009 could drop to 1.38 billion hectares (3.41 billion acres) by 2060. “Happily, the cause is not exhaustion of arable land, as many have feared, but rather moderation of population and tastes and ingenuity of farmers,” said Jesse Ausubel
, director of the PHE and lead author of the report. The PHE study stands in stark contrast to a recent UN report, which predicted that by 2050 another 70 million hectares of land would have to be cultivated to feed a growing population.
14 Dec 2012:
Car-Mounted Sensor Able to
Pinpoint Sources of Natural Gas Leaks
A U.S.-based company has developed a sophisticated sensing technology capable of detecting and pinpointing the source of even minor natural gas leaks from great
distances, an innovation that could provide critical insights into the still largely unknown climate impacts of natural gas drilling. Using a car-mounted system — which combines an advanced methane detector, wind-direction sensors, isotope detectors, and specially developed algorithms — technicians from California-based Picarro
are able to collect data on concentrations of methane, a major component of natural gas, at regular driving speeds. The so-called Picarro Surveyor technology logs the data and, in real time, plots the source of natural gas leaks using Google Maps. In a recent survey, the system identified more than 3,350 specific locations in Boston where methane levels were 15 times higher than normal, according to MIT’s Technology Review
13 Dec 2012:
U.S. Awards $28 Million
To Offshore Wind Farm Projects
The U.S. Department of Energy has announced plans to provide $28 million in grants to seven proposed offshore wind projects, a financial commitment the Obama administration hopes will provide a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to gain a foothold in American waters. Each of the seven projects — located in Maine, New Jersey, Virginia, Texas, Ohio, and Oregon — will receive $4 million
during the engineering, design, and permitting phases. Eventually, if Congress approves, three of the projects could each receive up to $47 million over four years for later phases, including siting, construction, and installation. In contrast to Europe, where offshore wind projects are growing, no offshore wind projects are currently being built in the U.S., although two projects have been approved in Massachusetts
and Rhode Island. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is urging lawmakers to extend the Production Tax Credit
, a 2.2-cent per kilowatt-hour incentive that has helped the land-based wind sector to surge past 50,000 megawatts but is set to expire at the end of the year.
12 Dec 2012:
Large Cellulosic Biorefinery
Will Convert Corn Stalks into Biofuel
Chemical giant DuPont has started construction of a large-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Iowa capable of converting corn stalks and leaves into
Corn stover in bales
a biofuel that could be used in place of fossil fuels at some power plants. The $200 million facility, which will be among the first and largest of its kind in the world
, will produce more than 30 million gallons of ethanol annually
using so-called corn stover, the remains of corn plants after the harvest, DuPont says. The company plans to collect the stover from more than 500 local farmers within a 30-mile radius, and the plant could be operational as soon as mid-2014. DuPont plans to license the production system internationally and work on designs that will expand this aspect of the biofuel industry.
Interview: Designing Green Cities
To Meet 21st Century Challenges
Landscape architect Martha Schwartz is a passionate believer in the role that landscape can play in urban sustainability. Great landscape design, she says, can
Martha Schwartz Partners
moderate extreme heat, recycle water, reduce energy use, lower carbon emissions, and attract people to urban areas. Following these principles, her London-based firm, Martha Schwartz Partners
, has designed such projects as Dublin’s Grand Canal Square; Exchange Square, in Manchester, England; and Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beachfront area. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Schwartz, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, talks about the importance of incorporating cultural values in urban design, explains why the design of streets and parking lots is as important as the design of parks, and discusses why the U.S. lags behind many other nations in the greening of its cities. Read the interview
21 Nov 2012:
Solar-Equipped ‘iShacks’ Offer
Cheap, Sustainable Housing in South Africa
South African researchers say they have developed a low-cost and sustainable housing alternative to the flimsy corrugated iron shacks found in the country’s growing settlements. Developed by an interdisciplinary
team at Stellenbosch University’s TsamaHUB center
, the so-called iShack is insulated with inexpensive, natural materials such as mud and cardboard boxes and has a sloped roof for harvesting rainwater. A photovoltaic cell on the roof provides the energy for motion-sensitive exterior lighting, interior lighting, and a cellphone charger. So far, a mother and her three children are living in a prototype iShack
in Ekanini, an informal settlement of 8,000 residents in Cape Town that lacks access to electricity and an adequate water supply. Project developers also taught six residents in the community how to install and maintain the solar power system in hopes they can use the skills for future entrepreneurial ventures. Researchers look to apply the iShack’s design to upgrade settlements in other regions.
Five Questions for Bill McKibben:
On the Road for ‘Do the Math’ Tour
Bill McKibben — author, climate activist, and founder of 350.org — is in the midst of a 21-city “Do the Math” tour to build grassroots support for combating climate change.
The target of the campaign is the fossil fuel industry, and McKibben and 350.org are calling for universities, colleges, and governments to divest themselves of oil and coal company assets. Yale Environment 360
caught up with McKibben by email in Boston recently and asked him five questions about his tour.
15 Nov 2012:
GM to Make 500,000 Vehicles
With Electric Technology Within 5 Years
General Motors aims to build as many as 500,000 vehicles that utilize some sort of electric technology
by 2017. Speaking to reporters this week, GM’s product development chief, Mary Barra, said the company’s fleet of cleaner vehicles will include the plug-in Chevrolet Volt; the all-electric Spark EV, which will go on sale in some markets next year; and cars that utilize the eAssist technologies, which can improve efficiency in some vehicles by as much as 25 percent. A half-million vehicles would represent about 5 percent of the company’s global sales last year; GM expects to sell 50,000 vehicles equipped with electric technologies this year. While the market for electric cars is sluggish, Barra said plug-in vehicles remain central to the company’s strategy
. “We have every intention of maintaining our leadership position in plug-in vehicles,” she said. Like all automakers, GM will need to offer more fuel-efficient vehicles to meet stricter U.S. auto emissions standards that will be in place in 2025.
14 Nov 2012:
Algal Biofuel Blend
Reaches Market at California Gas Stations
A U.S. company this week began pumping a mix of an algae-based biofuel and gasoline at gas stations in California
, a pilot project the company hopes will be a first step in providing a large-scale alternative to fossil fuels.
The fuel, known as Biodiesel B20, contains 80 percent petroleum and 20 percent algae grown by San Francisco-based Solazyme. The fuel is produced in a fermentation process at Solazyme’s Illinois plant that combines sugar with an organism company officials will not identify. According to the company, the new fuel blend produces 30 percent fewer particulates, 20 percent less carbon monoxide, and 10 percent fewer hydrocarbons than other biodiesel fuels. So far, the fuel is being sold for diesel vehicles at four gas stations in the Bay Area for $4.25 per gallon, which is also the average price right now for diesel fuel in California. But Propel Fuels, which is providing the infrastructure for the fuel delivery, hopes to make the fuel available at hundreds of California stations, said Matt Horton, Propel’s CEO.
08 Nov 2012:
Molecular ‘Trap Door’ Method
May Reduce Costs of Carbon Capture
Australian scientists have developed a method for trapping carbon dioxide
that they say could ultimately reduce the costs of separating and storing carbon from fossil fuel emissions. Writing in the Journal of the American Chemical Society
, researchers from the University of Melbourne say they have produced an ultra-fine sieve that separates only carbon dioxide from a gas stream, acting as a sort of “molecular trapdoor.” According to the study, the new method — which can be used in power plants or during natural gas extraction — uses a chemical called a chabazite that allows carbon dioxide to pass through but blocks other chemicals. While many such existing carbon capture technologies use similar “sieves,” they often require additional stages of refining and extraction before yielding a pure form of CO2. “Because [the new process] allows only carbon dioxide molecules to be captured, it will reduce the cost and energy required for separating carbon dioxide,” said Paul Webley, a professor at the University of Melbourne and one of the study’s authors.
07 Nov 2012:
Green Ballot Initiatives
Rejected by Voters in California, Michigan
Two closely watched state ballot initiatives endorsed by environmental groups went down to defeat on Tuesday, as voters in California rejected a proposal that would have required the labeling of all genetically modified crops and Michigan voters soundly defeated a measure that would have required stricter renewable standards on electric utilities. In California, Prop. 37 was backed by the organic food industry and consumer groups but faced rising opposition in recent weeks in the form of a $44 million advertising campaign funded largely by the biotechnology sector, including agribusiness giant Monsanto. While advocates said they have the right to know what’s in the their food, opponents warned voters that the initiative would cost families hundreds of dollars annually in higher grocery costs. According to the Los Angeles Times
, the measure was losing, 57 percent to 42 percent, with most precincts reporting. In Michigan, a ballot initiative that would have required utilities to generate 25 percent of their power
from green sources by 2025 also triggered a major ad blitz by opponents, including the state’s utilities.
26 Oct 2012:
Digital Atlas App Documents
Human Effects on the Natural World
A team of UK-based developers has created an interactive app that enables users to explore a trove of global data on several critical issues, including how human populations are impacting the natural world and
Mapping world trends: Carbon emissions
the production and consumption of energy resources. Released this month, Atlas by Collins
uses a series of 3D globes to illustrate seven topics, including energy, the environment, politics, and population. The digital atlas contains data from every nation and more than 200,000 geographical sites, including cities, landmarks, and natural features. Users can compare trends in population, pollution, and forest loss, and trace the shifting dynamics of the distribution of energy resources. The app allows viewers to swipe across the planet’s surface and click key points to zoom to street-level detail using Apple Maps and Google Maps.
23 Oct 2012:
French Panel Rejects Study
That Linked GM Corn to Cancer in Rats
An independent state panel in France has rejected the findings
of a recent controversial study that linked genetically modified corn to cancer in rats, but the panel did recommend long-term research into the risks of genetically engineered food. In the report, requested by the French government, the Higher Biotechnologies Council (HCB) found “no causal relationship” between an increase in tumors in rodents and the consumption of GM corn or the widely used herbicide, Roundup, both of which are produced by the biotech giant Monsanto. The study, published in September
in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology
, had claimed that the consumption of Roundup-tolerant GM corn increased the incidence of cancer in rats. On the contrary, the HCB researchers said
, “the data are insufficient to establish scientifically a causal link... or to support the conclusions or pathways suggested by the authors.” To address public concerns, however, the panel did recommend that a “long-term, independent, transparent study, with adversarial views, be undertaken under government auspices.”
12 Oct 2012:
New Disney Paper Policy
Promises Responsible Use and Sourcing
The Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, has announced a dramatic shift in how the company will use and source paper
, vowing to minimize the amount of paper it uses overall and eliminate its purchase of irresponsibly harvested timber products. In an announcement, the multinational media company, which had been under pressure from forest activists, said it would increase its use of recycled paper and paper products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and will avoid products coming from what it called “high conservation-value” and “high carbon-value” forests. In addition, executives say they will work with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and other groups to identify "regions with poor forest management and high rates of deforestation,” including Indonesia, where rampant deforestation for pulp and paper products is decimating rainforests. The policy shift comes two years after RAN launched a campaign against Disney, citing evidence that its publishing arm, which produces 50 million books and 30 million magazines annually, was using hardwood pulp likely sourced in Indonesia rainforests
11 Oct 2012:
Norway Proposes CO2 Tax Hike
To Increase Climate Mitigation Funds
Norway has announced plans to nearly double its carbon tax
on the nation’s offshore petroleum sector to create a £1 billion fund to help combat the effects of climate change, including in developing nations. In a draft budget released this week, government officials proposed a climate program that would increase the tax on oil companies from about £24 per ton of carbon dioxide to £45 (Nkr410) per ton. The plan would allocate about £1 billion (Nkr10 billion) to promote green energy initiatives, reduce carbon emissions, and improve food security in developing countries. In addition, Norway would pledge about £44 million to help developing nations preserve tropical forests, which play a critical role in storing carbon. Norway has previously helped fund efforts to reduce deforestation in Brazil, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. These new plans come as the oil-rich nation looks to expand its oil exploration into the Barents Sea between Norway and Russia.
11 Oct 2012:
Group Calls for Swift Growth
Of Carbon Capture-and-Storage Facilities
An industrial group says that to avoid “dangerous climate change” an additional 55 facilities that capture carbon from power plants and store it underground must be built by 2020
. The group, the Global CCS Institute, said that only one new carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) plant was built in the past year, bringing the current number to 75. The institute acknowledged that the goal of building 130 CCS plants by 2020 was unlikely, but argued that the technology is a proven method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions
and vital to future strategies to slow global warming. The institute said that just eight of the 75 plants now in operation have achieved a greater reduction in CO2 emissions that all other greenhouse gas reduction efforts instituted in the UK and Australia. CCS Institute President Brad Page said that governments should treat CCS technology as they do other low-carbon initiatives, like solar and wind power, which often receive subsidies and other government aid designed to encourage the growth of renewable energy.
04 Oct 2012:
New Cleanup Method Offers
Major Solution to Oil Spills, Study Claims
Scientists have developed a superabsorbent material they say offers a cost-effective way to remove, recover and clean up large oil spills
. Writing in the journal Energy & Fuels
, Pennsylvania State University
researchers Xuepei Yuan and T. C. Mike Chung describe a polymer material that they say can absorb 40 times its own weight in oil, transforming spilled material into a solid, oil-containing gel that is strong enough to be collected and transported to oil refineries for reprocessing. While many of the methods typically used to clean up oil spills — including booms, skimmers, burning, and the use of dispersants — waste most of the spilled oil and leave behind significant levels of environmental pollution, the scientists say their so-called polyolefin oil-SAP technology offers a potentially “complete solution” to dealing with oil spills. They say the material does not absorb water, is buoyant, and is relatively inexpensive.
03 Oct 2012:
Major Policy Shifts Needed
To Maintain Decline in U.S. CO2 Emissions
A decline in U.S. carbon emissions in recent years is unlikely to continue over the long term
unless there is a significant shift in how the nation produces and uses its energy, according to a new analysis. While several factors have triggered a 9 percent decline in annual carbon emissions in the U.S. since 2005 — including a decrease in the use of coal-fired electricity as a result of the natural gas boom — the most significant factor has been the economic recession, according to the group Climate Central. As the economy recovers, any reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will likely be offset by increased incomes that drive an greater demand for vehicles, electrical appliances, and other consumer products.
calculates that U.S. carbon emissions can be reduced 38 percent below 2005 levels by 2035 if several hypothetical changes occur. These include the number of miles driven remaining at today’s level and average vehicles achieving fuel efficiency of 55 miles-per-gallon; significant gains being made in the efficiency of energy-consuming equipment; and natural gas continuing to reduce the share of coal-burning technologies.
02 Oct 2012:
Genetically Modified Cow
Reportedly Lacks Allergy-Causing Protein
Scientists in New Zealand have produced a genetically modified cow whose milk lacks a protein that causes allergic reactions in people
, particularly children. Researchers at the government-owned AgResearch
Genetically modified Daisy
lab used a cloning procedure — the same one used to create Dolly the Sheep in 1996 — to produce a cow named Daisy that lacks a whey protein known as BLG, or beta-lactoglobulin protein, which provokes an allergic reaction in two to three percent of infants. Stefan Wagner, a scientist on the cloning team, said he and his colleagues now plan to investigate whether the BLG-free milk causes allergic reactions and whether the BLG-free cows will produce less milk than normal cows. Meanwhile, some scientists say that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is moving too slowly
to decide whether to allow the production and sale of food from genetically engineered animals. These include a genetically altered salmon that grows much faster than regular salmon, and so-called enviropigs engineered to digest plant phosphorous more efficiently, which could cut feed costs and reduce levels of polluting phosphorous in manure.
28 Sep 2012:
Biodegradable Electronics Could
Lessen Environmental Impact of Devices
A team of U.S. scientists says it has developed a class of biodegradable electronics technology that could be utilized for a wide range of products — from consumer devices to medical implants — and that ultimately would dissolve completely
, leaving no environmental
University of Illinois and Tufts University
An integrated circuit dissolves in water.
impacts. Drawing on techniques that enable the production of systems using ultrathin sheets of silicon that dissolve in liquids, the so-called “transient electronics” technology has been used experimentally to make transistors, diodes, temperature sensors, and solar cells that degrade completely in even tiny amounts of water, the researchers say. The devices are encapsulated in silk, enabling manufacturers to alter the rate of dissolution based on the structure of the silk used. According to John Rogers, a professor at the University of Illinois and leader of the research team, the technology could be used for a myriad of electronic devices that end up in landfills; for environmental monitoring equipment, such as sensors used in oil spills; and for medical implants needed for short-term diagnostic or therapeutic functions.