Hardly a day goes by without some important announcement from the global scientific community regarding green science. It may be related to climate change, water pollution, greenhouse gasses… A common theme is that the inhabitants of Earth must get serious about finding and utilizing new energy sources before it’s too late.
Looking at current events is a great way to help your students recognize how crucial science is in their daily lives, now and in the future. We’ve compiled a selection of newsworthy articles that you can use in class to prompt discussions about biofuels as well as energy from the wind, sun and water.
Enjoy! If you find an article you’d like us to share, please let us know in the comments below.
Up, Up and Away!
Wind energy is a growing alternative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. There are many pros related to wind energy, but also a few cons. For instance, one impact of large-scale wind energy development has been widespread mortality of bats and other flying species.
Recently, researchers came up with a new idea for harnessing wind energy. They asked themselves, instead of creating more “wind farms” on the ground—which are sometimes considered unattractive and can impact natural wildlife—why not send the turbines up high into the clouds, where winds are stronger and steadier?
An excellent question. This student-friendly article from Science News explains the problem—and the possible solution.
Making Biogas from Dung?
Costa Rica drew world attention in 2015 when it said it managed to generate 99 percent of the electricity for its 4.8 million people from renewables, chiefly hydropower.
Now its the latest clean-energy idea is gaining even more attention.
Because it produces power from a renewable (if foul-smelling) source: animal dung, blood and offal.
The resulting methane gas is produced in a large metal container called a “biodigester.” Although the concept may seem stomach-turning at first, the benefits derived from this new technology are nothing to sniff at!
Read on for more details from phys.org.
Why just use solar power or wind power when you can use both?
Designed by Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino as part of an Italian design contest, this so-called Solar Wind concept would have solar cells embedded in the roadway (an idea that’s already catching on) and an array of 26 wind turbines underneath, which the designers say could produce enough energy combined to power 15,000 homes.
Called Solar Wind, the bridge tries to make full advantage of one of the defining traits of bridges: the exposure to the elements. Since these types of constructions are always bombarded by the sun and wind, thanks to their positioning over deep valleys, rivers or even seas, solar and wind power should be found here in abundance.
To make the design greener still, the designers have even included a “green promenade” that would run alongside the road, which they suggest could be used to grow fruits and vegetables that’d then be sold to folks driving by.
Read the full article here:
Reclaiming Heat as Energy
Each year, energy that equates to billions of barrels of oil is wasted as heat lost from machines and industrial processes. Recovering this energy could reduce energy costs.
Scientists from Australia and Malaysia have recently developed a novel system that is designed to maximize such recovery. The work could provide the basis for future development of larger scale energy recovery systems.
As this article explains, heat can be converted to electricity by devices called thermoelectric power generators (TEGs), which are made of thermoelectric materials that generate electricity when heat passes through them.
As an example: When two kilowatts of energy were supplied to the TEG system, researchers recovered approximately 1.35 kilowatts of heat—that’s more than 67% of the energy supplied.
Saving Sunshine for a Rainy Day
We can’t control when the wind blows and when the sun shines, so finding efficient ways to store energy from alternative sources has been an urgent research problem for decades.
The batteries we use now to store sun power (such as these solar cells) can only store a fixed amount of energy.
But recently a research team at the University of Toronto discovered an impressive, energy-efficient method of harnessing enormous amounts of energy from sun or wind.
Read more here.
Ride Your Bike, Power Your Life
Manoj Bhargava, CEO of 5-hour Energy maker Living Essentials, is working to make that possible. His Free Electric hybrid bike can power a rural household for 24 hours after just one hour of someone pedaling on the stationary bike.
According to this article from Discovery News, the innovative bicycle wheel drives a flywheel that turns a generator, which in turn charges a battery. Bhargava created this concept out of his desire to give power to the parts of world affected by poverty. According to the creator, pricing of the bike will range from free to $250, depending on people’s ability to pay.
In a March 2016 update, Bhargava wrote that three manufacturing plants were about to start production—one in Singapore and two more in India. “I want you to be among the first to see our new short video clip updating everyone on the Free Electric project!”
Good News for Wind Power!
2015 was a very good year for wind energy. This article from the Washington Post explains that wind energy has become not only environmentally desirable, but it’s also cost effective for big companies like Google, Facebook, Walmart, Dow Chemicals and many more.