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Friday, August 22, 2014

Switzerland's new natural swimming pool does away with the chemicals

The Naturbad Riehen swimming pool is entirely chemical-free (Photo: Helen Schneider).

Image Gallery (10 images)

A whiff of chlorine is virtually synonymous with taking a dip in a swimming pool. While it helps to kill off bacteria, it also serves as a subtle reminder that you are wading around in chemically treated water (if tasting the odd mouthful just isn't enough). Switzerland's Naturbad Riehen swimming pool is entirely chemical-free, relying instead on a biological filter system to provide clean and natural water for thousands of patrons, no itchy red eyes in sight.

A town of around 20,000 people, Riehen sits just outside of Basel on the Swiss-German border. This section of the border wraps around Riehen in such a way that in 2006, the town's old swimming pool had to be demolished to make way for a tunnel connecting two German cities on either side. With the controversial roadway completed in 2013, the people of Riehen were quick to reclaim their territory.

"The citizens wanted their pool back and believed that a natural swimming pool would suit their interest in bathing, swimming and playing, just as well as a traditional pool," Christian Lupp, Recreation and Sports representative from the Municipality of Riehen tells Gizmag. "Furthermore, there was the understanding that the natural water is better for the skin and eyes and feels smoother and softer".

Features include a wading pool for toddlers, a separate pool with a sloping gravel beach.

The first man-made natural swimming pools date back to the early 1980s in Austria, though these were largely for private use. The precise mechanics vary between each natural pool, but they typically contain the swimming water inside a membrane and then a separate water regeneration zone to clean it. Aquatic plants kill off germs while absorbing nutrients from the water for growth. Often the water is pumped across the surface of rocks or gravel to which the bacteria clings, functioning as a natural filter.

Since the 1980s, the concept has been commercialized and spread to different parts the world. Natural pools for public use have popped up in Germany, the UK and one is currently under construction at Webber Park in Minneapolis, set to be the first in the United States. Lupp says a point of difference for the Naturbad Riehen is that it's au naturel from the ground up, allowing for better integration of the pool's natural technology with its wooden infrastructure.

"Many other projects are conversions of traditional pools," he explains. "Our pool is absolutely built from zero, allowing the extraordinary possibility of a holistic design and a combination between the natural technology and its according architecture."

An on-site cafe offers refreshments and snacks, with wooden decking and grass.

Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron designed Riehen's new swimming pool to accommodate the town's families and blend in with the greenery that surrounds. Features include a wading pool for toddlers, a separate pool with a sloping gravel beach, a water-slide, a 25-meter (82 ft) lap pool and a diving board. An on-site cafe offers refreshments and snacks, with wooden decking and grass providing a place for some time out.

Officially opening for business in mid-June, the Naturbad Riehen is equipped to deal with 2,000 daily visitors. We're guessing the residents of Riehen are pretty happy with their new pool, with the possible exception of those in the business of selling swimming goggles.

Source: Naturbad Riehen

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Tel Aviv University building is "greenest in the Middle East"

Date: August 13, 2014

A new building has been opened for Tel Aviv University's Porter School of Environmental Studies.

You'd hope that a school of environmental studies would practice what it preaches. Well, Tel Aviv University's Porter School of Environmental Studies does so emphatically. Its newly inaugurated building is, it says, the first LEED Platinum-certified in Israel and the greenest in the Middle East.

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification has become a widely recognized mark of environmental good practice in the design, construction, maintenance and operation of buildings. Amongst the LEED Platinum-certified buildings that were recently featured, BioCasa 82 in Italy was claimed to be Europe's first LEED Platinum home, the Munich-based NuOffice was claimed to be the world's most sustainable office building and Dubai's Chance Initiative was claimed to be the world's most sustainable building overall.

The PSES building was designed in collaboration by Geotectura Studio and Axelrod Grobman Architects with the aim of being a "living laboratory." As well as providing spaces for education and learning, it was decided that the building should be a demonstrative educational platform in itself, with users and visitors able to examine the environmental technologies installed therein.

The Capsule in the PSES building houses a workshop and meeting space (Photo: Shai Epstein).

Amongst the public and education spaces in the building are an auditorium, a spacious atrium that can be used for meetings and exhibitions, classrooms, lecture halls, research offices, meeting rooms and offices. The temperature in the PSES building is regulated using a solar energy-powered air conditioning system, along with a structure design optimized for local conditions. Grey water, meanwhile, is recycled and reused elsewhere in the building.

In addition to a green roof, the building features an "EcoWall" which is described as an iconic element of the building's aesthetic, but is also a functional part of its environmental efforts. The EcoWall provides protection from the sun in the building's atrium, but also capitalizes on its south-facing orientation by hosting the array of solar panels used to power the building's air conditioning. Terraces along the EcoWall can also be used for experimental research.

The PSES building has a green roof (Photo: Shai Epstein).

The PSES building also features a striking Capsule element as part of its design. The Capsule is a 3D elliptical structure that's suspended in the building's atrium and that pokes out of the EcoWall. Housed in the Capsule is a workshop and meeting room with "state of the art multimedia technology." The external surface of the Capsule is covered in connected LEDs that are used to display environmental information, such as energy statistics of the PSES Building and pollution levels in Tel Aviv.

The PSES building was inaugurated in May and held its first graduation ceremony in June.

The video below shows an animated rendering of the PSES building.

Source: Porter School of Environmental Studies

Monday, August 4, 2014

Scientists Caution Against Exploitation of Deep Ocean

Date: July 30, 2014
Source: Oregon State University
Summary: The world's oceans are vast and deep, yet rapidly advancing technology and the quest for extracting resources from previously unreachable depths is beginning to put the deep seas on the cusp of peril, an international team of scientists has warned.


A new OSU study looks at how exploiting the ocean's vast resources have put it in peril.
Credit: Image courtesy of Oregon State University

The world's oceans are vast and deep, yet rapidly advancing technology and the quest for extracting resources from previously unreachable depths is beginning to put the deep seas on the cusp of peril, an international team of scientists warned this week.

In an analysis in Biogeosciences, which is published by the European Geosciences Union, the researchers outline "services" or benefits provided by the deep ocean to society. Yet using these services, now and in the future, is likely to make a significant impact on that habitat and what it ultimately does for society, they point out in their analysis.

"The deep sea is the largest habitat on Earth, it is incredibly important to humans and it is facing a variety of stressors from increased human exploitation to impacts from climate change," said Andrew Thurber, an Oregon State University marine scientist and lead author on the study. "As we embark upon greater exploitation of this vast environment and start thinking about conserving its resources, it is imperative to know what this habitat already does for us."

"Our analysis is an effort to begin to summarize what the deep sea provides to humans because we take it for granted or simply do not know that the deep sea does anything to shape our daily lives," he added. "The truth is that the deep sea affects us, whether we live on the coast or far from the ocean -- and its impact on the globe is pervasive."

The deep sea is important to many critical processes that affect Earth's climate, including acting as a "sink" for greenhouse gases -- helping offset the growing amounts of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. It also regenerates nutrients through upwelling that fuel the marine food web in productive coastal systems such as the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Chile and others. Increasingly, fishing and mining industries are going deeper and deeper into the oceans to extract natural resources.

"One concern is that many of these areas are in international waters and outside of any national jurisdiction," noted Thurber, an assistant professor (senior research) in Oregon State's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. "Yet the impacts are global, so we need a global effort to begin protecting and managing these key, albeit vast, habitats."

Fishing is an obvious concern, the scientists say. Advances in technology have enabled commercial fisheries to harvest fish at increasing depths -- an average of 62.5 meters deeper every decade, according to fisheries scientists. This raises a variety of potential issues.

"The ability to fish deeper is shifting some fisheries to deeper stocks, and opening up harvests of new species," Thurber said. "In some local cases, individual fisheries are managed aggressively, but due to how slow the majority of the fish grow in the deep, some fish populations are still in decline -- even with the best management practices."

The orange roughy off New Zealand, for instance, is both a model of effective and conservation-based management, yet its populations continue to decline, though at a slower rate than they would have experienced without careful management, Thurber noted.

"We also have to be concerned about pollution that makes its way from our continental shelves into the deep sea," he added. "Before it was 'out of sight, out of mind.' However, some of the pollution can either make it into the fish that we harvest, or harm the fishers that collect the fish for us. It is one of the reasons need to identify how uses of the deep sea in the short term can have long-term consequences. Few things happen fast down there."

Mining is a major threat to the deep sea, the researchers point out in their analysis. In particular, the quest for rare earth and metal resources, which began decades ago, has skyrocketed in recent years because of their increased use in electronics, and because of dwindling or limited distribution of supplies on land. Mining the deep ocean for manganese nodules, for example -- which are rich in nickel -- requires machines that may directly impact large swaths of the seafloor and send up a sediment plume that could potentially affect an even larger area, the scientists note.

These mining resources are not limited to muddy habitats, Thurber pointed out. Massive sulfides present at hydrothermal vents are another resource targeted by mining interests.

"The deep sea has been an active area for oil and gas harvesting for many years," he said, "yet large reservoirs of methane and other potential energy sources remain unexploited. In addition to new energy sources, the potential for novel pharmaceuticals is also vast.

"There are additional threats to these unique habitats, including ocean acidification, warming temperatures and possible changes to ocean circulation through climate change."

The next step, the researchers say, is to attach an economic value to both the services provided by the deep sea -- and the activities that may threaten those services.

"What became clear as we put together this synopsis is that there is vast potential for future resources but we already benefit greatly through this environment," Thurber said. ""What this means is that while the choices to harvest or mine will be decided over the coming decades, it is important to note that the stakeholders of this environment represent the entire world's population."

"The Bible, the Koran, the Torah, and early Greek texts all reference the deep sea," he added. "Maybe it's time for all of us to take a closer look at what it has to offer and decide if and how we protect it."

Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State University.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Oklahoma earthquakes induced by wastewater injection by disposal wells, study finds

House damage in central Oklahoma from the magnitude 5.6 earthquake on Nov. 6, 2011.

Credit: Brian Sherrod, USGS

The dramatic increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma since 2009 is likely attributable to subsurface wastewater injection at just a handful of disposal wells, finds a new study to be published in the journal Science on July 3, 2014.

The research team was led by Katie Keranen, professor of geophysics at Cornell University, who says Oklahoma earthquakes constitute nearly half of all central and eastern U.S. seismicity from 2008 to 2013, many occurring in areas of high-rate water disposal.

"Induced seismicity is one of the primary challenges for expanded shale gas and unconventional hydrocarbon development. Our results provide insight into the process by which the earthquakes are induced and suggest that adherence to standard best practices may substantially reduce the risk of inducing seismicity," said Keranen. "The best practices include avoiding wastewater disposal near major faults and the use of appropriate monitoring and mitigation strategies."

The study also concluded:

  • Four of the highest-volume disposal wells in Oklahoma (~0.05% of wells) are capable of triggering ~20% of recent central U.S. earthquakes in a swarm covering nearly 2,000 square kilometers, as shown by analysis of modeled pore pressure increase at relocated earthquake hypocenters.
  • Earthquakes are induced at distances over 30 km from the disposal wells. These distances are far beyond existing criteria of 5 km from the well for diagnosis of induced earthquakes.
  • The area of increased pressure related to these wells continually expands, increasing the probability of encountering a larger fault and thus increasing the risk of triggering a higher-magnitude earthquake.

"Earthquake and subsurface pressure monitoring should be routinely conducted in regions of wastewater disposal and all data from those should be publicly accessible. This should also include detailed monitoring and reporting of pumping volumes and pressures," said Keranen. 'In many states the data are more difficult to obtain than for Oklahoma; databases should be standardized nationally. Independent quality assurance checks would increase confidence. "

Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University.

Journal Reference: K. M. Keranen, M. Weingarten, G. A. Abers, B. A. Bekins, and S. Ge. Sharp increase in central Oklahoma seismicity since 2008 induced by massive wastewater injection. Science, 3 July 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1255802

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

World's First Industrial-Scale Waste-to-Biofuels Facility

By Ben Coxworth | June 20, 2014

NYCU 20140630

Thanks to its extensive composting and recycling facilities, the city of Edmonton, Canada is already diverting approximately 60 percent of its municipal waste from the landfill. That figure is expected to rise to 90 percent, however, once the city's new Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility starts converting garbage (that can't be composted or recycled) into methanol and ethanol. It's the world's first such plant to operate on an industrial scale, and we recently got a guided tour of the place.

The process begins with garbage trucks dumping their loads on the tipping floor at the Integrated Processing and Transfer Facility. The trash is manually and mechanically sorted, with things like appliances being set aside for electronic parts recycling and e-waste disposal, while organic matter heads off to the Composting Facility.

Recyclable materials are already pre-separated by citizens as part of the city's blue bag program. They avoid the garbage stream entirely, going straight to the Materials Recovery Facility for recycling.

Soon, though, high-carbon materials such as wood, fabric and discarded plastic will be getting shredded into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), also known as "garbage fluff." It will be transferred to the Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility, which is owned and operated by Enerkem Alberta Biofuels.

There, it will be heated in a low-oxygen atmosphere. This will cause its chemical bonds to break (without the material actually burning), releasing their carbon and hydrogen content to form what's known as syngas. This will in turn be cleaned up and converted into chemical products and biofuels – such as methanol and ethanol.

The Waste-to-Biofuels and Chemicals Facility is scheduled to go online in the next several weeks. It is ultimately expected to convert 100,000 tonnes (110,231 tons) of municipal solid waste into 38 million liters (10 million gallons) of biofuels and chemicals annually.

You can see our video tour of the facility below, conducted by the Edmonton Waste Management Centre's Education Programs Co-ordinator, Garry Spotowski. There are also photos of the process in the gallery.

The video can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKKweSAm1Ks

Source: http://www.gizmag.com/edmonton-waste-to-biofuels-facility-video-tour/32630/

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Magnets Mean Your New Refrigerator Will Make History

June 10th, 2014 | by Michael Keller

Coming soon to a kitchen near you - magnets in your refrigerator. And we're not talking about slapping your kid's artwork inside the fridge next to the milk and butter.

It's the next generation of residential food and drink cooling, and it's powered by magnets. Gone will be the almost century-old unit in your kitchen that uses a heat-transfer process based on liquid refrigerants called vapor compression refrigeration. Condensers and refrigerants will be replaced with magnets and special alloys that get hot and cold based on their proximity to magnetic fields. The technology could also be used for air-conditioning.

Magnetic refrigeration, proponents say, is a rapidly approaching technology that will amount to a revolution in domestic energy use.

"It's the equivalent to a gas-powered car moving to electric - that's the kind of leap we're making in refrigeration," said Ed Vineyard, a senior researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Vineyard's Building Technologies Program has teamed up with GE to bring magnetic refrigeration to the public in around five years.

The idea behind refrigerators and air conditioners is all the same. In their broadest sense, they are heat pumps - devices that take heat energy from inside your refrigerator box or room and move it outside. Removing this energy makes the temperature go down.

In most contemporary home and commercial refrigeration systems, mechanical work compresses and expands a liquid refrigerant. The pressure drop associated with expansion lowers the temperature of the refrigerant, which then cools air blown over it by a fan into the refrigerator box or the cooled room. In magnetic refrigeration systems, the compressor is replaced with magnetic fields that interact with solid refrigerants and the water-based cooling fluid. Changing the strength of magnetic fields alters how much heat is pulled away from the refrigerator box.

Along with this refrigerator revolution comes a dramatic drop in the amount of energy you need to cool your cucumbers and cantaloupes. ORNL says magnetic refrigeration "is a promising alternative to the vapor compression systems used in today's appliances" that could theoretically drop energy consumption by 25 percent compared to current technology. Those liquid refrigerant chemicals that can be damaging to the environment and hard to recycle at the end of a refrigerator's life are also being replaced by cheaper water-based fluid.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Ayyoud Momen works on the team's "breadboard" prototype refrigerator-freezer: a flexible platform used to evaluate material compatibility and to analyze components including the magnet, generators, motor, pump, heat exchangers, plumbing and leakless rotating valve. Courtesy ORNL.

Developers expect the new refrigerators to cost a bit more than vapor compression models, but buyers should see savings through spending less on electricity over the long term. If the technology is adopted broadly, it could mean major electricity savings on the national scale. Besides savings from more efficient refrigerators, magnetic cooling would lower electricity use in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment, which accounts for around 60 percent of the average household's energy use.

Source: http://txchnologist.com/post/88367608863/magnets-mean-your-new-refrigerator-will-make-history

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wastewater That Cleans Itself Results in More Water, Less Sludge

The treatment process in progress, using chemicals naturally abundant in wastewater to clean itself.

Using wastewater to clean itself is the premise of new Australian technology that relies on the formation of compounds called hydrotalicites, and which results in less sludge than traditional water treatment with lime. In one test, the equivalent of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools of wastewater were treated, with final sludge reductions of up to 90 percent.

Hydrotalicites are layered crystal structures of carbonates, magnesium, and aluminum, and importantly, they can trap impurities within themselves.

By chemically manipulating these elements "naturally" present in wastewater in high concentrations, researchers at CSIRO, Australia's science agency, caused the formation of these hydrotalicites. This process occurs as the concentration of magnesium and aluminum is altered and the pH of the water raised. As the crystals form, trapped within them are numerous other waste substances – in the test case, those included radium, rare earth elements, anions and transition metals.

The resulting mixture can be easily centrifuged to separate out the sludge, which there is less of due to its higher concentration and smaller volume of water mixed in. The now-concentrated sludge can be theoretically "mined" again to recover some of the metals and minerals from the mixture. The water can be more efficiently purified further, if needed, and reused by the facility.

The wastewater sludge that remains after treated water is removed from a hydrotalcite treatment.

With the reduction in volume of sludge comes greater ease and lower costs in transporting and disposing of it.

The process is being developed for licensing by Virtual Curtain Limited.

In the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=W-9nGeDxt1c, Dr. Grant Douglas, a senior researcher at CSIRO, presents the process and benefits of using wastewater as a template to clean itself.

Source: CSIRO