Day: July 23, 2013

Saving Energy and Water through State Programs for Clothes Washer Replacement in the Great Lakes Region

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) are collaborating to identify opportunities for energy and water savings in the clothes washer sector as part of the development of an innovative program for the Great Lakes region. This paper presents a characterization of existing clothes washer markets, both commercial and residential, as well as the technical and economic potential for water and energy savings in various clothes washer markets in the Great Lakes states. This research will inform efforts to develop a statewide program for implementation in the Great Lakes states to save energy and water through clothes washer replacement.

While the residential clothes washer market has seen significant success in a transition to high performance ENERGY STAR machines, there are still opportunities for energy savings through replacement with the highest efficiency units ranked by programs such as TopTen USA and ENERGY STAR Most Efficient. Additionally, the commercial clothes washer market has significant potential for energy and water savings. The commercial clothes washer market is significantly more diverse and varied than the residential market with respect to machine type, size, and usage patterns. As a result, upgrades to commercial clothes washers in multifamily, laundromat, and on-premise laundry settings have the potential to yield significant energy and water savings.

Off-grid sterilization

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

Rice Univ. nanotechnology researchers have unveiled a solar-powered sterilization system that could be a boon for more than 2.5 billion people who lack adequate sanitation. The “solar steam” sterilization system uses nanomaterials to convert as much as 80% of the energy in sunlight into germ-killing heat.

The technology is described online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. In the paper, researchers from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) show two ways that solar steam can be used for sterilization—one setup to clean medical instruments and another to sanitize human waste.

Team creates first above-ground carbon density map for whole country

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

Researchers have for the first time mapped the above ground carbon density of an entire country in high fidelity. They integrated field data with satellite imagery and high-resolution airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data to map the vegetation and to quantify carbon stocks throughout the Republic of Panama. The results are the first maps that report carbon stocks locally in areas as small as a hectare (2.5 acres) and yet cover millions of hectares in a short time. The system has the lowest demonstrated uncertainty of any carbon-counting approach yet—a carbon estimation uncertainty of about 10% in each hectare overflown with LiDAR as compared to field-based estimates. Importantly, it can be used across a wide range of vegetation types worldwide.

BGSU grants support ‘green’ bike shelters, recycling

Read the full story from Bowling Green State University.

From green-roofed bike shelters to more convenient recycling, Bowling Green State University is continuing its progress toward campus sustainability. Beginning later this year, the campus will be able to park bikes under a canopy of succulents and toss recyclables into a nearby bin, with support from two new grants.

From green-roofed bike shelters to more convenient recycling, Bowling Green State University is continuing its progress toward campus sustainability. Beginning later this year, the campus will be able to park bikes under a canopy of succulents and toss recyclables into a nearby bin, with support from two new grants. – See more at:
From green-roofed bike shelters to more convenient recycling, Bowling Green State University is continuing its progress toward campus sustainability. Beginning later this year, the campus will be able to park bikes under a canopy of succulents and toss recyclables into a nearby bin, with support from two new grants. – See more at:

URI awarded $1 million grant to lead national climate change education initiative

Read the full story from the University of Rhode Island.

The University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) has been awarded a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to serve as the national hub for the Climate Change Education Partnership Alliance. The grant will enable the University to build a network of climate change scientists, educators, communication professionals, and government and private-sector stakeholders to educate the public about the science of climate change and its implications.

Agriculture and climate change meet at new institute

Read the full story in the Cornell Chronicle.

For farmers, a warming climate challenges fundamental decisions they have always made based on the certainty of the weather – such as when to plant various crops, which varieties to choose or what investments in cooling or irrigation infrastructure would make the most economic sense. They will soon have a resource to help them navigate the changes: the Cornell Institute for Climate Change and Agriculture. Allison Morrill Chatrchyan becomes its first director Sept. 1.

Recent biochar research articles

Daniele Fabbri; Alessandro G. Rombolà; Cristian Torri; Kurt A. Spokas (2013). “Determination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in biochar and biochar amended soil.” Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis In press. Online at

Abstract: A method for the determination of the 16 USEPA polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in biochar and biochar amended soil was developed. Samples were Soxhlet extracted with an acetone/cyclohexane (1:1) solvent mixture, and PAHs were analyzed by GC–MS after silica gel clean-up. In a comparative study based on reflux extraction, the Soxhlet solvent system acetone/cyclohexane exhibited a higher extraction efficiency of low molecular weight PAHs (e.g. naphthalene) than toluene or dichloromethane. Utilizing a reference biochar, this Soxhlet method possessed a 67–88% recovery of spiked deuterated PAHs (acenaphthene, phenenthrene, and chrysene), analytical precision (as assessed by relative standard deviations) between 5 and 18%, and a limit of detection in the 0.01–0.4 ng g−1 range. The method was successfully validated through the analysis of a certified soil material, and was capable to quantify total PAHs following biochar addition at 1% (w/w). The concentration of the 16 USEPA-PAHs along with the 15 EU-PAHs (priority hazardous substances in food) was determined in a suite of currently available biochars for agricultural field applications, which were derived from a variety of parent materials and pyrolysis conditions. The total PAH levels ranged between 1.2–19 μg g−1 and 0.2–5 μg g−1 interval for USEPA and EU PAHs, respectively. Specifically, benzo[a]pyrene ranged between 0.01 and 0.67 μg g−1 across these various biochars. Considering an application of 20–60 t biochar ha−1, the degree of PAH contamination will be dependent on both the presence of background PAHs in soil and the sorbed concentrations of PAHs on the biochar. Our data, along with PAH levels determined in other studies, suggest that biochars produced by slow pyrolysis from woody biomass possess the lowest level of sorbed PAHs (<10 μg g−1).

Minori Uchimiya and Desmond I Bannon (2013). “Solubility of Lead and Copper in Biochar-Amended Small Arms Range Soils: Influence of Soil Organic Carbon and pH.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, online ahead of print. Online at

Abstract: Biochar is often considered a strong heavy metal stabilizing agent. However, biochar in some cases had no effects on, or increased the soluble concentrations of heavy metals in soil. The objective of this study was to determine the factors causing some biochars to stabilize, and others to dissolve heavy metals in soil. Seven small arms range soils with known total organic carbon (TOC), cation exchange capacity, pH, and total Pb and Cu contents were first screened for soluble Pb and Cu concentrations. Over 2 wk successive equilibrations using weak acid (pH 4.5 sulfuric acid) and acetate buffer (0.1 M at pH 4.9), Alaska soil containing disproportionately high (31.6%) TOC had nearly 100% residual (insoluble) Pb and Cu. This soil was then compared with sandy soils from Maryland containing significantly lower (0.5-2.0%) TOC in the presence of 10 wt% (i) plant biochar activated to increase the surface-bound carboxyl and phosphate ligands (PS450A), (ii) manure biochar enriched with soluble P (BL700), and (iii) unactivated plant biochars produced at 350 °C (CH350) and 700 °C (CH500), and by flash carbonization (corn). In weak acid, pH was set by soil and biochar, and the biochars increasingly stabilized Pb with repeated extractions. In pH 4.9 acetate buffer, PS450A and BL700 stabilized Pb, and only PS450A stabilized Cu. Surface ligands of PS450A likely complexed and stabilized Pb and Cu even under acidic pH in the presence of competing acetate ligand. Oppositely, unactivated plant biochars (CH350, CH500, and corn) mobilized Pb and Cu in sandy soils; putative mechanism is the formation of soluble complexes with biochar-born dissolved organic carbon. In summary, unactivated plant biochars can inadvertently increase dissolved Pb and Cu concentrations of sandy, low TOC soils when used to stabilize other contaminants.

Ouyang Lei; Renduo Zhang (2013). “Effects of biochars derived from different feedstocks and pyrolysis temperatures on soil physical and hydraulic properties.” Journal of Soils and Sediments, online ahead of print, online at


New Initiatives to Clean Up The Global Aquarium Trade

Read the full story in Yale Environment360.

An estimated 30 million fish and other creatures are caught annually to supply the home aquarium market, taking a toll on some reef ecosystems. Now conservationists are working to improve the industry by ending destructive practices and encouraging aquaculture.