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Thermopower Waves and Nanopollution

A group of MIT nanotechnology researchers has discovered a new way of generating electricity: Like a collection of flotsam propelled along the surface by waves traveling across the ocean, it turns out that a thermal wave — a moving pulse of heat — traveling along a microscopic wire can drive electrons along, creating an electrical current. The key ingredient in the recipe is carbon nanotubes — submicroscopic hollow tubes made of a chicken-wire-like lattice of carbon atoms. These...

Your Stuff: If It Isn't Grown, It Must Be Mined

Where does your stuff come from? Before the store, before the factory, where did it really begin? If it isn't made of wood, cloth, or other living matter, it was dug out of the ground. Number one of The Natural Step's four System Conditions is that "In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust". So ultimately, one day our industrial economy will be made up entirely of recycled and biologically...


Paper + Nanotubes = Reeeally Thin Batteries

A significant limiting factor in pushing new technologies forward is often the size of the batteries needed to keep them electrified. Mobile phones have been around since the mid-1980s -- but they swept across the globe and became one of the most transformative technologies ever in part because their batteries became small and powerful instead of chunky, clunky and weak. So this development is interesting: Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic University in Troy, New York have found a way...


Ten Stories You May Have Missed

Gosh, we were busy in the last three months. Between the launch of the book, the book tour and our normal efforts to cover sustainability and innovation on this site, there were a number of great stories that we meant to get to, but couldn't given our time constraints. Here are ten pieces worth your attention. Title: The Green 50 What it is: Profiles of a fairly arbitrary collection of fifty sustainability innovators. Why it's important: Because green enterprise has become big enough...

Looking Toward 2007: What's Next?

In many ways, 2006 was a year of unprecedented success in raising awareness of the large planetary problems facing us, and of some of their possible solutions. Consider if you will: Poverty: Mohammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize. The (RED) campaign launched, bringing social entrepreneurial marketing to retail outlets everywhere. Movies (like Syriana, the Constant Gardener and Blood Diamond) have brought social messages to the big screen. Celebrities tromped off to Africa en masse to bring...

WC Retro: Biomimicry 101

By Jeremy Faludi, posted October 13, 2005. You probably hear the word "biomimicry" bandied about a lot, but a recent article in an otherwise respectable technical journal showed me how little most people know about it. So here's a quick primer on what it is, why it's useful, and why you'll be seeing a lot more of it in years to come. Biomimicry In A Nutshell Biomimicry--usually called Bionics in Europe--is getting ideas from nature for the way we make or do things. For example, Velcro...


Nanotechnology for Clean Water

Worldchanging guest writers David Zaks and Chad Monfreda are graduate research assistants at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison where they study how human activities affect our planet. We live on the Blue Planet, but 97% of Earth's water lies in the oceans. Salt water can neither be drunk nor used for farming. Therefore, a cheap, efficient method to turn seawater into freshwater is something of a holy grail in water planning, offering as it would the...

Ecological Handprints: Population and the Limits of Possibility

Population, in some ways, is the critical wild card in our efforts to win the Great Wager, stave off ecological collapse and build a bright green future. On the one hand, its clear as day that building individual livelihoods that provide prosperity and a high quality of life yet whose ecological footprints are small enough to be globally sustainable is possible. Only a very few yet live those lives, and much work remains to be done before they can be available to all, but there is no doubt...


The Week in Sustainable Mobility 4/2/06

Mike Millikin covers the ongoing evolution of sustainable mobility at Green Car Congress. A new analysis of weather balloon observations from the last 30 years reveals that the Antarctic has the same global warming signature as that seen across the whole Earth—but three times larger than that observed globally. The major warming of the Antarctic winter troposphere is larger than any previously identified regional tropospheric warming on Earth. (The troposphere is the lowermost portion of...

On the Horizon (03/03/06): Charge!

In a world of Moore's Law, fuel cell cars and iPods, the humble battery stands out as a poor performer. Modern lithium-ion batteries are certainly lighter, less toxic, and somewhat more capacious than the nickel-cadmium or lead-acid batteries of days gone by, but these are incremental improvements -- and they still rely on the kinds of electro-chemical processes used by the clay jar batteries of 2000 years ago. If we're ever going to have a world of widespread electric transportation, useful...

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