Revolutionizing Winter Road Maintenance with Self-Heating Concrete

Winter weather poses significant challenges for road maintenance, with snow and ice accumulation causing hazards and necessitating costly clearing operations. However, researchers at Drexel University have developed a groundbreaking solution: self-heating concrete integrated with a phase-change material. This innovation promises to melt snow and ice for extended periods without the need for salt or manual intervention, offering a sustainable and efficient alternative for road management.

The integration of a phase-change material, specifically paraffin, into concrete slabs enables them to release heat when temperatures drop, effectively melting snow and ice. By maintaining a surface temperature above freezing, the self-heating concrete reduces the need for plowing and salting, mitigating the associated costs and environmental impacts.

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Growing Architecture: The Innovative Rise of Biomimetic Tree Structures

In a wooded area along the Hudson River, a unique structure is slowly taking shape. This building, however, is not conventional; it’s designed to house not just humans but also animals and plants. What sets it apart is that it’s constructed from, or rather, by growing trees. This groundbreaking project is the brainchild of Terreform One, a non-profit organization focusing on art, architecture, and urban design, led by architect Mitchell Joachim.

The concept of this tree-integrated building had its roots around 2002 when Habitat for Humanity initiated a design competition seeking fresh approaches to suburban housing. Joachim, pursuing a Ph.D. in architecture at MIT, collaborated with researchers Lara Greden and Javier Arbona to explore ecological processes for large-scale housing construction. Their goal was to leverage computing, fabrication systems, and ecological principles to guide nature in creating usable structures.

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Green Steel Breakthrough: Hydrogen Process Transforms Aluminum Waste into Environmentally Friendly Steel

In a groundbreaking development, researchers have unveiled an economically viable method to reduce the environmental impact of both the steel and aluminum industries. By utilizing hydrogen to melt down the toxic red mud, a byproduct of aluminum production, scientists from the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Germany have devised a process that yields green steel in just 10 minutes.

The aluminum industry annually generates approximately 198 million tons (180 million tonnes) of bauxite residue, known as red mud, which poses environmental challenges due to its high alkalinity and rich content of toxic heavy metals. Traditionally, red mud is disposed of in large landfills, incurring high processing costs. Simultaneously, the steel industry contributes significantly to global carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for 8%. Despite these environmental concerns, the demand for steel and aluminum is expected to surge by up to 60% by 2050.

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MANTA: The Solar-Powered Boat Aiding the Battle Against Ocean Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution in our world’s oceans poses a grave environmental threat, necessitating innovative solutions to address this pressing issue. Engineers have unveiled the MANTA, a solar-powered autonomous vessel designed to collect and remove ocean garbage, contributing to a cleaner and healthier marine ecosystem.

Developed by the German engineering company RanMarine Technology, the MANTA operates entirely on renewable energy sources, emphasizing its eco-friendly nature. Its power is derived from a combination of solar panels, batteries, and electric motors, making it a sustainable solution to combat plastic waste. This autonomous boat is specifically engineered to target floating debris, including plastic bottles, bags, and other litter found in our oceans. It is well-suited for deployment in regions with high pollution levels, such as river deltas, coastal cities, and busy shipping lanes.

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Hydrogen-Powered Heavyweights: Toyota Offers Conversion Kit for Diesel Semis

The state of California has recently passed a new regulation that will ban the sale of diesel-powered trucks starting in 2036, in an effort to promote cleaner air and reduce carbon emissions. The new rule is part of the state’s Advanced Clean Fleets program, which aims to make California’s entire trucking industry zero emissions by 2045. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted in favor of the rule last Friday, but it still awaits approval from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take effect.

While the ban on diesel trucks is a step towards a cleaner future, not all zero-emission trucks will be battery-powered. Fuel cell trucks that generate electricity through the combination of hydrogen stored in tanks with atmospheric oxygen also qualify under the rule. The only byproduct of fuel cell trucks is water vapor, making them a cleaner alternative to diesel-powered trucks.

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Much of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s Plastic Comes From These 5 Countries

Section of the Garbage Patch in 2019.


Our oceans are swirling concoctions of waste that scientists have for years reported are fed by an influx of pollution from both the land and the sea.

But working out what rubbish winds up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific, where it comes from, and who is responsible is an ongoing challenge. Now a new study further implicates the global fishing industry in the mix.

“Here we show that most floating plastics in the North Pacific subtropical gyre can be traced back to five industrialized fishing nations,” data scientist Laurent Lebreton and colleagues write.

When analyzing 573 kilograms of (dry) hard plastic debris collected by Lebreton and The Ocean Cleanup organization in 2019, the researchers found more than a quarter of the fragments were from ‘abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear’ (aka ALDFG) – and that’s not including discarded fishing nets and ropes.

This waste category includes items like oyster spacers, eel traps, and lobster and fish tags, as well as plastic floats and buoys.

Another third of the debris was unidentifiable.

When the authors used computer models to simulate how their samples ended up in the patch, they found that a plastic fragment was 10 times more likely to originate from fishing activities than land-based ones.

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Self-watering soil could transform farming


Researchers planted radishes in this miniature greenhouse using their self-watering soil and compared it to sandy soil found in dry regions of the world.

A new type of soil created by engineers at The University of Texas at Austin can pull water from the air and distribute it to plants, potentially expanding the map of farmable land around the globe to previously inhospitable places and reducing water use in agriculture at a time of growing droughts.

As published in ACS Materials Letters, the team’s atmospheric water irrigation system uses super-moisture-absorbent gels to capture water from the air. When the soil is heated to a certain temperature, the gels release the water, making it available to plants. When the soil distributes water, some of it goes back into the air, increasing humidity and making it easier to continue the harvesting cycle.

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These researchers have found a way to turn a common plastic into high-value molecules


More than 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic has been produced in the last six decades.

However, recycling plastic can be difficult as the most common process involves melting and reworking the material.

A new process developed by the University of California can turn polyethylene into useful smaller molecules.

If you thought those flimsy disposable plastic grocery bags represented most of our plastic waste problem, think again. The volume of plastic the world throws away every year could rebuild the Ming Dynasty’s Great Wall of China – about 3,700 miles long.

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Getting a country from moderate/high EV purchase rate to 100% EV market share – some ideas


 Norway just hit 82% plugin vehicle new car sales in September 2020. This raises the question: “Why are 18% of the purchases non-plugin vehicles?” That got me dreaming up ideas for how to get a country from moderate EV market share (5–10%, for example) to 100% EV market share. Perhaps some of those ideas could be effective in Norway now, and other countries later as they get closer and closer to a high percentage of plugin vehicles.

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Sociologist : When fracking becomes a mental health disaster


“What’s stressful is the unknowns and how this industry is operating behind a curtain all the time.”

Fracking’s devastating impact on our health and the planet, not to mention its contributions to climate change, are extremely well-documented. What’s not as well understood, however, is how it impacts our mental health.

As it turns out, Colorado State University sociologist Stephanie Malin wrote in The Conversation, the answer is “quite a bit.” As she describes it, the problem is two-fold: stress and other direct impacts caused by the increased noise in the area, and then a feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it.

Citing her own research in the journal Energy Research & Social Science, Malin argues that fracking leads to serious mental health issues throughout Colorado — and that those affected are being overlooked.

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Satellites are mapping out every tree on earth using artificial intelligence


Scientists have mapped 1.8 billion individual tree canopies across millions of kilometres of the Sahel and Sahara regions of West Africa. It is the first time ever that trees have been mapped in detail over such a large area.

So how was it possible? Researchers analysed a huge database of satellite images using artificial intelligence. They employed neural networks which are able to recognise objects, like trees, based on their shapes and colours.

To train it, the AI system was shown satellite images where trees had been manually traced. This involved lead author Martin Brandt going through the arduous process of identifying and labelling nearly 90,000 trees himself, beforehand.

From these images, the computer learnt what a tree looked like and could pick out individual canopies from the thousands of images in the database. Brandt says it would have taken millions of people years to identify the trees without the AI system.

In a review of the research, commissioned by Nature, scientists at New Mexico State University wrote that “it will soon be possible, with certain limitations, to map the location and size of every tree worldwide”

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New super-enzyme eats plastic bottles six times faster


Breakthrough that builds on plastic-eating bugs first discovered by Japan in 2016 promises to enable full recycling

A super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster than before has been created by scientists and could be used for recycling within a year or two.

The super-enzyme, derived from bacteria that naturally evolved the ability to eat plastic, enables the full recycling of the bottles. Scientists believe combining it with enzymes that break down cotton could also allow mixed-fabric clothing to be recycled. Today, millions of tonnes of such clothing is either dumped in landfill or incinerated.

Plastic pollution has contaminated the whole planet, from the Arctic to the deepest oceans, and people are now known to consume and breathe microplastic particles. It is currently very difficult to break down plastic bottles into their chemical constituents in order to make new ones from old, meaning more new plastic is being created from oil each year.

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