Plants start work as metal miners

Mustard plantsScientists at the University of York are to lead an international team that will explore the use of plants to recover precious metals from mine tailings around the world.
Researchers in the University’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence and the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) aim to develop ways to extract platinum group metals (PGM) discarded during mine processing which might then be used in catalysis. The research will investigate “phyto-mining,” which involves growing plants on mine waste materials to sponge up PGM into their cellular structure.

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Sea squirt enables production of greener and faster computer chips

Sea squirt

Sea squirt Ascidia (Source: Wikipedia).

Scientists from the University of Aberdeen’s Marine Biodiscovery Centre and the University of St Andrews last week presented their work on the components of a new type of computer chip created using molecules from a sea squirt sourced from the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, at the British Science Festival 2012.

Their research – which is the first of its kind in the world – could lead to the development of a computer which is greener to produce, processes information faster and is more compact in size. Continue reading

Climate change caused 2,500 year collapse of Panamanian coral reef

partly dead coral reefClimate change drove coral reefs to a total ecosystem collapse lasting thousands of years, according to a paper published this week in Science. The paper shows how natural climatic shifts stopped reef growth in the eastern Pacific for 2,500 years. The reef shutdown, which began 4,000 years ago, corresponds to a period of dramatic swings in the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). “As humans continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the climate is once again on the threshold of a new regime, with dire consequences for reef ecosystems unless we get control of climate change,” said coauthor Richard Aronson, a biology professor at Florida Institute of Technology.

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First ever completely carbon solar cell captures infrared light

About 40 percent of the solar energy reaching Earth’s surface lies in the near-infrared region of the spectrum — energy that conventional silicon-based solar cells are unable to harness. But a new kind of all-carbon solar cell developed by MIT researchers could tap into that unused energy, opening up the possibility of combination solar cells — incorporating both traditional silicon-based cells and the new all-carbon cells — that could make use of almost the entire range of sunlight’s energy.

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New sustainability index created that looks at more than gross domestic product

The world’s fixation on economic growth ignores a rapid and largely irreversible depletion of natural resources that will seriously harm future generations, according to a report which today unveiled a new indicator aimed at encouraging sustainability – the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI).

The IWI, which looks beyond the traditional economic and development yardsticks of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI) to include a full range of assets such as manufactured, human and natural capital, shows governments the true state of their nation’s wealth and the sustainability of its growth.

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