‘We get only one planet’
Warning that there’s no Plan B when it comes to our planet, US President Barack Obama recently unveiled a landmark initiative to slash emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from power stations in the country by almost a third within 15 years. The proposal, called America’s ‘Clean Power Plan’, puts the burden on renewable sources of energy in place of coal and natural gas. This implies that the United States has to derive 28% of its power from clean sources like solar and wind by 2030, compared to 22% in an earlier draft. Obama asserted, “No challenge poses a greater threat to our future, the future generations, than the changing climate.”
A floating dam to trap waste
A floating dam that traps plastic bags, bottles and other waste choking the world’s oceans will be tested at sea for the first time this year, the Ocean Cleanup Foundation has said. According to the Foundation, the 100 metre-long (328 feet) barrier segment which will be deployed 23 kilometres off the coast of The Netherlands, will use currents to passively ensnare waves of garbage, while allowing fish and other sea creatures through. Plastic waste, said the Foundation, is ingested by some of the creatures, and enter the food chain, where they are suspected of links to health risks like cancer and infertility.
In search of cleaner fuel cells
An international group of scientists from Russia, France and Germany have reportedly developed ion-exchange synthetic membranes based on amphiphilic compounds that are able to convert the energy of chemical reactions into electrical current. The study, said the report, was conducted by MIPT's Laboratory of Functional Organic and Hybrid Materials, which was opened in 2014. The new study, the report said, not only shows how a new material can be obtained from certain molecules, but also holds promise for combating global warming. Fuel cells themselves will not solve the problem of rising temperatures on the planet, but are part of a possible solution, the report underlined.
Mimicking the sun
Scientists in north-east Germany have switched on an experiment they hope will advance the quest for nuclear fusion, considered a clean and safe form of nuclear power, by mimicking conditions inside the sun, an Associated Press report has revealed. Part of a world-wide effort to harness nuclear fusion, once achieved, it could replace fossil fuels and conventional nuclear fission reactors, said the report, and added that construction has already begun in southern France on ITER, a huge international research reactor that uses a strong electric current to trap plasma inside a device long enough for fusion to take place.
Drones to plant trees
BioCarbon Engineering, an Oxford-based start-up company, is seeking international backing to develop the first automated tree-planting drones to help counter deforestation across the world, says a report in The Independent. If the plan were to succeed, specially developed fixed-wing drones will reportedly take detailed images of a particular area to tell the company about its nutrients, biodiversity and topology, to help afforestation.
A sea change in data centre cooling
According to a Computerworld report, Microsoft is looking at locating data centres under the sea, and has reportedly designed, built, and deployed its own subsea data centre in the ocean. The project started in late 2014, and the experiment is in the research stage, the report said, and citing Microsoft, added that it highlights the ongoing search for cloud data centre solutions that offer rapid provisioning, lower costs, high responsiveness and are more environmentally sustainable. Computerworld revealed that Google’s data centre in Hamina uses seawater from the Bay of Finland for cooling, while Facebook has built a data centre in Lulea in Sweden to let cold weather do the cooling and cut costs. Another proposed Facebook data centre in Clonee, Ireland, will reportedly rely on local wind energy.