April 9, 2013
ERA

Our mission is to fund, support, and acknowledge environmental research projects on a global level.

We would like to extend our great appreciation to the law firm and partners of Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen and Shapiro LLP for their continuing support.

Our website provides the latest international news on the alternative energy sector, features exciting new technologies, and provides insights and blogs of leading scientists from our august Science Advisory Board. Check back often for announcements, updates and application information regarding the 2014 ERA Science Prize.

Each year ERA Science will identify the "Global Top 50" projects in renewable energy technology, as chosen by our Science Advisory Board. To learn more about the application process, click here.

A special thanks to the talented team of Ann Zumwinkle and Mike Bilz of Zumwinkle.com for the design and develpment of the Environmental Research Advocates website.

March 26, 2017

ERAscience is excited to collaborate with the brilliant team at CNSI UCLA in the creation of the first annual Nanovation Competition. The competition is designed to provide young science innovators with the necessary tools to develop and present their nanoscience based projects. Special thanks to UCLA Anderson School of Business for help in developing the program. The finalist teams have been selected and have begun work with mentor scientists. The competition concludes in May when a panel of judges will choose the winning teams.  


It was a great day as ERAscience, CNSI UCLA (California NanoSystems Institute) and Univision, collaborated to bring fun, hands on science experience to 30,000 kids and their parents at Univision's Feria de Educacion held at Cal State Northridge University. 25 grad students, post docs and faculty were on hand to introduce attendees to cutting edge nanoscience and nanotechnology concepts through exciting demonstrations and experiments. Attendees participated in demonstrations of super hydrophobic surfaces, solar cells, and magnetic fluids to name a few. 

 

March 16, 2016
Environmental Research Advocates (ERAscience.org), Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and CNSI (California Nano Systems Institute), launched a revolutionary inner-city teaching program to support science education for underserved children.  Perimeter Institute is considered to be one of the world’s leading research organizations in the field of theoretical physics. The first educational training event of the initiative took place February 28th and 29th at CNSI UCLA. Outstanding teachers representing 13 school districts across greater Los Angeles, with Green Dot Charter Schools, Da Vinci Schools, and non profit Girls Inc also participating in the sessions. The goal is to enable teachers to take new concepts back to their classrooms and teach theoretical physics to Junior High School and High School students in underserved and often dangerous areas. 
The sessions provided a unique, hands-on experience that demystifies and simplifies advanced concepts in math and science. The aim is to level the playing field for all underserved students who currently do not have access to these learning tools. 
California NanoSystems Institute, CNSI, established by former California Governor Gray Davis, is our full and dedicated partner and offers similar outreach workshops in the ever changing exciting field of nano science.
“Educating students today for the jobs of tomorrow requires a greater emphasis on STEM subjects.  This program provides educators with the necessary training in the field of science and experience they can bring back to the classroom,” says former First Lady of California Sharon Davis. “None of this would be possible without the vision and support from the Avchens and ERAscience." 
Science most definitely is fun and the potential of sharing it with young students is priceless! 
September 30, 2015

ERAscience's commitment to cutting edge research in the area of energy has led to a natural collaboration with one of the world's preeminent physics institutes, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Internationally regarded scientist Prof. Stephen Hawking holds the position of PI Distinguished Research Chair and is passionate about PI's work. The goal of our collaboration is to inspire and nurture future scientist. It is our combined belief that exposing undeserved and inner-city youth to complicated science material, in a fun engaging way, opens the doors to greater economic and intellectual opportunities in their future. ERAscience and Perimeter outreach will begin teacher training of the curriculum in Los Angeles the first week of December 2015. If you are a physics teacher in South Los Angeles and are interested in attending this training please contact us.

July 16, 2014
Denise Avchen and Amy Castle

In an interesting article for US News and World Report, Michael MacCracken, ERAscience board member and Chief Scientist for Climate Change at the Climate Institute in Washington, explores the possible reversal of climate change impact on Antarctica.

Technology to the Planet's Rescue?

It's time to explore whether geoengineering can reverse Antarctic ice loss.

Research from NASA released on May 12 suggests that a large section of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now on a path, perhaps irrevocably, to collapse. The result could be billions of tons of ice poured into the Southern Ocean each year. This could lead, over the span of coming decades and centuries, to as much as 10 feet of global sea level rise, attributable to this event alone.

Sea level rise of this magnitude, even spread over a long timescale, will be extremely disruptive and likely dangerous for human societies, with the worst and highest costs falling on those who are least able to bear them.

What can be done? The first choice would be an immediate halt to all global greenhouse gas emissions, which would help to slow sea level rise generally. Given the difficulty and seeming impracticality of that, it bears asking, could some sort of large-scale technological intervention in the region help to slow the calving away of the ice? While the shape of the underlying ocean bottom that no longer will hold back the ice stream is a critical contributor to the vulnerability of the ice sheet, there are, conceptually, a number of ways by which human intervention could reduce regional Antarctic warming, perhaps with the potential to slow the movement and loss of ice.

One possible option would be to increase the reflectivity of clouds over the Southern Ocean during the sunlit season, thus reducing ocean heat uptake. Models suggest that, in areas that are fairly clean, injection of finely misted salt water, targeted regionally, could increase the amount of solar radiation reflected back into space.

Another way to possibly bring about a localized cooling effect might be to inject reflective microbubbles into the frigid Antarctic waters, brightening the surface in the way that ship wakes brighten the waters, but doing so more efficiently.

Two other interventions could, potentially, encourage more rapid radiation of absorbed heat to space. One way to release heat trapped in the oceans could be to use icebreaking ships to open up selected areas of the ocean during the winter, allowing heat otherwise contained beneath the sea ice to escape to the atmosphere. Another option that has been proposed would be to use cloud-seeding techniques to thin out the high-altitude, winter layer of cirrus clouds, allowing heat radiated from the ocean’s surface to more readily pass into space.

Now, such ideas are highly speculative, at best. In fact, it’s easy to write them off as the stuff of science fiction. They are, though, among the kinds of climate geoengineering proposals that have been suggested as bottom-of-the-barrel approaches to limiting the increasingly severe impacts of climate change, perhaps, in the best case scenario, buying time for the growth in global emissions of carbon dioxide to be stopped and then reversed. Such geoengineering approaches are not a long-term solution and have limited potential, but they may be able to temporarily limit some of the worst impacts of climate change while actions are taken that cut through political and societal dithering around seriously addressing the increasing risks of climate change.

On the same day that that the world learned of the potential for runaway Antarctic ice melt, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spoke for many conservative politicians when he declared, “I don't agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow, there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate.” The day then closed with the announcement that the U.S. Senate, because of political wrangling over the Keystone XL pipeline, appears unable to pass a straightforward energy efficiency bill that has bipartisan sponsorship.

While these kinds of political and social intransigence seem to be making climate geoengineering technologies increasingly attractive, such approaches are not a long-term panacea, and they are, for good reason, controversial.

For one thing, it is unclear whether the kinds of ideas proposed above are technically feasible at the kind of scale that would make a difference in and around Antarctica. Nor is it clear that creating a solar shield could bring about a rapid and sufficient enough cooling of the ocean waters to slow the warming of the Antarctic ice streams that are so concerning to NASA scientists.

At the same time, there are thorny governance and justice issues presented by any geoengineering scheme. Who gets to control the technology and decide how and to what ends it is used? What if the talk of a technological response to Antarctic ice melt distracts attention from the greenhouse gas reduction efforts that the world so desperately needs? Such questions broach no easy answers.

Given the complexities and controversy surrounding climate geoengineering, it is tempting to write off the entire enterprise as hubristic and ill advised. However, indicators like the melting of Antarctic ice tell us that we may no longer have that luxury. If a radical, even risky, technological intervention could forestall polar ice melt, and in turn forestall suffering tied to sea level rise in places like Bangladesh, then who can deny the need to investigate the option?

Climate geoengineering is not going away. The technologies of climate geoengineering are far too enticing a genie to be stuffed back into their bottle. It is time, then, for climate geoengineering to be given proper social and scientific consideration. It is time for a broader, more robust, and more inclusive conversation on climate geoengineering to begin. 

May 14, 2014
Denise Avchen

Conservation International Chief Scientist and ERA Science Board Member Sandy Andelman joins an esteemed panel to discuss Biodiversity and the Earth's Sustainability at the 2014 Global Philanthropy Forum.

In the accompanying video below, Dr. Andelman discusses the need for global accountability and addresses the negative impact that some commercial endeavors have on the environment. 

 

April 14, 2014

Arthur Gossard, an ERA Science Board member, as well as a professor in the Materials Department and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was recently involved in a breakthrough discovery at the University of California Santa Barbara. The team created a semiconductor that can manipulate light energy in the infrared range; this discovery bodes well for solar energy development, as it would allow a broader spectrum of light to be absorbed and converted into energy, creating more efficient and effective solar technologies.

The following is the full article from Phys.org:

"In a feat that may provide a promising array of applications, from energy efficiency to telecommunications to enhanced imaging, researchers at UC Santa Barbara have created a compound semiconductor of nearly perfect quality with embedded nanostructures containing ordered lines of atoms that can manipulate light energy in the mid-infrared range. More efficient solar cells, less risky and higher resolution biological imaging, and the ability to transmit massive amounts of data at higher speeds are only a few applications that this unique semiconductor will be able to support.
 

'This is a new and exciting field,' said Hong Lu, researcher in UCSB's Materials department and lead author of a study published recently in the journal Nano Letters, a publication of the American Chemical Society.

Key to this technology is the use of erbium, a  that has the ability to absorb light in the visible as well as infrared wavelength—which is longer and lower frequency wavelength to which the human eye is accustomed—and has been used for years to enhance the performance of silicon in the production of fiber optics. Pairing erbium with the element antimony (Sb), the researchers embedded the resulting compound—erbium antimonide (ErSb)—as semimetallic nanostructures within the semiconducting matrix of gallium antimonide (GaSb).

ErSb, according to Lu, is an ideal material to match with GaSb because of its structural compatibility with its surrounding material, allowing the researchers to embed the nanostructures without interrupting the atomic lattice structure of the semiconducting matrix. The less flawed the crystal  of a semiconductor is, the more reliable and better performing the device in which it is used will be.

'The nanostructures are coherently embedded, without introducing noticeable defects, through the growth process by molecular beam epitaxy,' said Lu. 'Secondly, we can control the size, the shape and the orientation of the nanostructures.' The term 'epitaxy' refers to a process by which layers of material are deposited atom by atom, or molecule by molecule, one on top of the other with a specific orientation.

'It's really a new kind of heterostructure,' said Arthur Gossard, professor in the Materials Department and also in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. While semiconductors incorporating different materials have been studied for years—a technology UCSB professor and Nobel laureate Herbert Kroemer pioneered—a single crystal heterostructured semiconductor/metal is in a class of its own.

The nanostructures allow the compound semiconductor to absorb a wider spectrum of light due to a phenomenon called surface plasmon resonance, said Lu, and that the effect has potential applications in broad research fields, such as solar cells, medical applications to fight cancer, and in the new field of plasmonics.

Optics and electronics operate on vastly different scales, with electron confinement being possible in spaces far smaller than light waves. Therefore, it has been an ongoing challenge for engineers to create a circuit that can take advantage of the speed and data capacity of photons and the compactness of electronics for information processing.

The highly sought bridge between optics and electronics may be found with this compound semiconductor using surface plasmons, electron oscillations at the surface of a metal excited by light. When light (in this case, infrared) hits the surface of this semiconductor, electrons in the  begin to resonate—that is, move away from their equilibrium positions and oscillate at the same frequency as the infrared light—preserving the optical information, but shrinking it to a scale that would be compatible with electronic devices.

In the realm of imaging, embedded nanowires of ErSb offer a strong broadband polarization effect, according to Lu, filtering and defining images with infrared and even longer-wavelength terahertz light signatures. This effect can be used to image a variety of materials, including the human body, without the risk posed by the higher energies that emanate from X-rays, for instance. Chemicals such as those found in explosives and some illegal narcotics have unique absorption features in this spectrum region. The researchers have already applied for a patent for these embedded nanowires as a broadband light polarizer.

'For infrared imaging, if you can do it with controllable polarizations, there's information there,' said Gossard.

While infrared and terahertz wavelengths offer much in the way of the kind of information they can provide, the development of instruments that can take full advantage of their range of frequencies is still an emerging field. Lu credits this breakthrough to the collaborative nature of the research on the UCSB campus, which allowed her to merge her materials expertise with the skills of researchers who specialize in infrared and terahertz technology.

'It's amazing here,' she said. 'We basically collaborated and discovered all these interesting features and properties of the material together.'

'One of the most exciting things about this for me is that this was a 'grassroots' collaboration,' said Mark Sherwin, professor of physics, director of the Institute for Terahertz Science and Technology at UCSB, and one of the paper's co-authors. The idea for the direction of the research came from the junior researchers in the group, he said, grad students and undergrads from different laboratories and research groups working on different aspects of the project, all of whom decided to combine their efforts and their expertise into one study. 'I think what's really special about UCSB is that we can have an environment like that.'

Since the paper was written, most of the researchers have gone into industry: Daniel G. Ouelette and Benjamin Zaks, formerly of the Department of Physics and the Institute for Terahertz Science and Technology at UCSB, now work at Intel and Agilent, respectively. Their colleague Justin Watts, who was an undergraduate participant is now pursuing graduate studies at the University of Minnesota. Peter Burke, formerly of the UCSB Materials Department, now works at Lockheed Martin. Sascha Preu, a former postdoc in the Sherwin Group, is now assistant professor at the Technical University of Darmstadt.

Researchers on campus are also exploring the possibilities of this technology in the field of thermoelectrics, which studies how temperature differences of a material can create electric voltage or how differences in electric voltages in a material can create temperature differences. Renowned UCSB researchers John Bowers (solid state photonics) and Christopher Palmstrom (heteroepitaxial growth of novel materials) are investigating the potential of this new semiconductor."

 

March 25, 2014

We at Environmental Research Advocates are excited to announce that the focus of the 2014 Energy Prize will be in the field of energy stoarge research.

We, along woth the world's science and energy communities, believe that finding a more efficient method of energy stoarge is critical to the future of alternative energy. Many strides are being made in the alternative energy sector, and capturing this clean energy for later usage is of upmost importance.

In offering this prize, we hope to encourage further research that will ensure the greatest possible use of alterive energy sources. ERA Science is thrilled to encourage scientists and innovators to pursue a new, clean energy future.

Information on application criteria and deadlines will be announced on our website and through our social media. 

March 19, 2014
Matthew Miller

Conservation International’s Chairman, CEO and ERA Science Board member Peter Seligmann hosted the 18th annual Los Angeles dinner in Beverly Hills last Thursday to honor renowned Los Angeles attorney Skip Brittenham’s commitment to the environmental movement. 

Mr. Seligmann emphasized the importance of identifying and protecting vital natural resources around the world, and encouraging businesses and global leaders to join this critical race to save our planet. 

Dr. Sandy Andelman, Conservation International Chief Scientist and ERA Science Board Member, has focused her efforts on the continent of Africa, to create a dialogue and encourage action to protect their food sources and devise sustainable methods of food production. According to Dr. Andelmen:

 

“Pressure to increase agricultural production has never been greater, with 1 billion people currently undernourished and demand for food production expected to increase 70 per cent by 2050… to prevent unintended environmental consequences of increased agricultural production – particularly in the context of climate – change is needed in the way agricultural development decisions are made and agricultural systems managed.” 

 

The ERA Science team was in attendance along with CI’s Vice Chair Harrison Ford, Walmart Board Chair Rob Walton, Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, and many other leaders seeking solutions to the environmental crisis. 

The dinner was held at the Montage Beverly Hills, and featured inspiring talks by Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Brittenham, and Mr. Ford.

February 24, 2014
Matthew Miller

In a guest blog post for the Huffington Post, ERA Science Board Member and Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute Steven Cohen advocates for more of the federal budget to be spent on improving renewable energy technology.

Read his blog post to learn more:

In the past week, we've seen President Obama begin to deliver on his State of the Union promise to use his executive power to address the challenges presented by climate change. As Peter Baker and Coral Davenport reported in the New York Times last week, the president:

“...ordered the development of tough new fuel standards for the nation's fleet of heavy-duty trucks as part of what aides say will be an increasingly muscular and unilateral campaign to tackle climate change through the use of the president's executive power.”

Later in the week, the president, seeking to educate the country on the growing threat of climate-induced disasters, included increased federal funding for fighting the wildfires in the West in his proposed budget. President Obama tied this proposal to the need to provide additional funding to FEMA for fighting damage from floods and hurricanes in other parts of the country. The costs of firefighting have been growing. According to Davenport:

“In real dollar terms, adjusted for inflation, the Forest Service and Interior Department spent an average of $1.4 billion in annual wildfire protection from 1991 to 1999, according to a report by Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research group. But that spending has more than doubled -- from 2002 to 2012, the agencies spent an average of $3.5 billion to fight wildfires.”

 

This, along with EPA's effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act, are the "muscular" executive measures that the White House is spinning as the president's "aggressive" climate policy. I forgot to mention that the president also announced that his new budget would include a $1 billion climate resiliency fund. A billion dollars is such an inadequate level of funding for climate resiliency that I find it astonishing that something so small is even mentioned. Still, with right wing politicos working to delegitimize every policy move made by the president, it is easy to see why these tepid, inadequate policy moves are presented as major initiatives.

It is obvious that President Obama understands the climate and sustainability crisis facing America and the world. It is equally obvious that he and his team lack the leadership, management and political skills to do much about it. There is no question that Obama faces a set of fact-starved, racist and venomous political opponents who make their living by questioning his policies, his legitimacy and even his birthplace. I think that the racism and ideological fervor of some--but by no means all--of his opponents adds a level of intensity to the opposition. President Obama is far from the first president to face vitriol and hatred, however. If you read the press accounts of FDR during the New Deal, of the battles between Bill Clinton and the right-wing or George W. Bush and the left-wing, political attacks on the White House are simply the cost of doing business. FDR was called a "traitor to his class". The epithets directed at Clinton and Bush were far worse. Presidents are always loved by some and fiercely hated by others. FDR, LBJ and Clinton seemed to be presidents who thrived on political combat.

Obama is clearly a president who once thought he could rise above the political fray. Today, his vision (or perhaps his illusion) of a United States undivided by "red" and "blue" states is long gone. Congress and the political right have defined the political reality in Washington and with it have managed to wish away climate science. They have also tried to wish away evolution, economic facts and the complexity of the global economy. The president, outside of the war on terrorism, has never learned to marshal the political, economic and managerial power of the modern presidency to achieve his policy goals. The White House focus on political maneuvers and "realism" has resulted in an often ineffectual presidency that has never quite lived up to its hope or potential. In the sixth year of his presidency, the single most powerful government official in the world is reduced to announcing a billion dollar allocation for climate resiliency.

The pressure to build his presidency with Washington insiders was exacerbated by the economic meltdown Obama inherited when he came into office. The economy was headed toward a cliff, and there was no time for new folks to learn the job. Obama needed the old hands representing consensus and conventional wisdom. The successful response to that crisis defined the "organizational culture" of his presidency. Perhaps it was inevitable. The economic power exercised in Washington is massive. Once the Supreme Court defined donating political money as a form of free speech, any chance of reducing the political power of economic wealth was eliminated. Any effort to redefine national policy requires the support of those who wield economic power. Today more than ever, money is at the center of American politics.

One could argue that most of the political capital the president possessed when he came into office was spent on the economic recovery and enacting the economic stimulus. The rest was spent on the legislative sausage we came to call Obamacare. By the time he got to climate and sustainability, the political savings bank was broke. While his re-election could have reshuffled the deck and revitalized his presidency, it is clear that it has not.

The "executive-based" climate policy that is now taking shape reminds me of the administration's "all of the above" energy strategy. It is an unfocused, non-strategic grab bag of disconnected initiatives gathered together in place of an integrated, targeted effort. It's as if someone held a meeting and said, "Look, we're doing a lot of stuff that can help mitigate and adapt to climate change. Let's take inventory, add a little to what we're doing, and call it a muscular climate policy."

The Obama Administration is correct in assuming that Congress is incapable of enacting climate legislation, but I think that executive power can be deployed with far more impact than the proposals we are seeing. Here's what I suggest, Mr. President: Let's focus the climate effort on the research and development of less expensive and more efficient solar cells and energy storage systems (batteries). First, reallocate a significant chunk of the billions of dollars in the federal research budget in the Departments of Defense, Energy and Interior, along with some of the research funds spent by the National Science Foundation and NASA, and focus those dollars on basic and applied solar energy research. You should appoint a competent, visible, media-savvy and results-oriented manager to run a massive, 1000-day effort to make tangible progress on these technologies. A concentrated effort to focus our scientific and engineering brainpower on this critical issue would provide a visible, tangible and coherent climate mitigation strategy.

Just as the technology of computers, smart phones and the internet came from U.S. government research and development, the technology of renewable energy can come from the same place. I am not arguing that the other initiatives you announced should be stopped, but this one has the potential to be a game changer. It would be easy to understand and worth betting the ranch on. The president's current "muscular" executive-based climate policy looks a little flabby to me. Let's replace it with a well-managed, clear, focused and skillfully communicated renewable energy research project.

February 24, 2014
Matthew Miller

ERA Science Board member Flemming Besenbacher, a professor at Denmark’s Aarhus University, played a pivotal role in the breakthrough development of an environmentally friendly method of producing a molecular hydrogen compound used to refine crude oil into gasoline.

Check out the following article released by Stanford to learn more:

University researchers from two continents have engineered an efficient and environmentally friendly catalyst for the production of molecular hydrogen (H2), a compound used extensively in modern industry to manufacture fertilizer and refine crude oil into gasoline.

Although hydrogen is abundant element, it is generally not found as the pure gas H2but is generally bound to oxygen in water (H2O) or to carbon in methane (CH4), the primary component in natural gas. At present, industrial hydrogen is produced from natural gas using a process that consumes a great deal of energy while also releasing carbon into the atmosphere, thus contributing to global carbon emissions.

On the left, a scanning tunneling microscope image captures the bright shape of the moly sulfide nanocluster on a graphite surface. The grey spots are carbon atoms. Together the moly sulfide and graphite make the electrode. The diagram on the right shows how two positive hydrogen ions gain electrons through a chemical reaction at the moly sulfide nanocluster to form pure molecular hydrogen (Image: Jakob Kibsgaard).

In an article published in Nature and Chemistry, nanotechnology experts from Stanford Engineering and from Denmark's Aarhus University explain how to liberate hydrogen from water on an industrial scale by using electrolysis.

In electrolysis, electrical current flows through a metallic electrode immersed in water. This electron flow induces a chemical reaction that breaks the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The electrode serves as a catalyst, a material that can spur one reaction after another without ever being used up. Platinum is the best catalyst for electrolysis. If cost were no object, platinum might be used to produce hydrogen from water today.

But money matters. The world consumes about 55 billion kilograms of hydrogen per year. It now costs about $1 to $2 per kilogram to produce hydrogen from methane. So any competing process, even if it's greener, must hit that production cost, which rules out electrolysis based on platinum.

In their Nature Chemistry paper, the researchers describe how they re-engineered the atomic structure of a cheap and common industrial material to make it nearly as efficient at electrolysis as platinum – a finding that has the potential to revolutionize industrial hydrogen production.

The project was conceived by Jakob Kibsgaard, a postdoctoral researcher with Thomas Jaramillo, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. Kibsgaard started this project while working with Flemming Besenbacher, a professor at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) at Aarhus.

Meet Moly Sulfide

Since World War II petroleum engineers have used molybdenum sulfide – moly sulfide for short – to help refine oil.

Until now, however, this chemical was not considered a good catalyst for making moly sulfide to produce hydrogen from water through electrolysis. Eventually scientists and engineers came to understand why: the most commonly used moly sulfide materials had an unsuitable arrangement of atoms at their surface.

Typically, each sulfur atom on the surface of a moly sulfide crystal is bound to three molybdenum atoms underneath. For complex reasons involving the atomic bonding properties of hydrogen, that configuration isn't conducive to electrolysis.

In 2004, Stanford Chemical Engineering Professor Jens Norskov, then at the Technical University of Denmark, made an important discovery. Around the edges of the crystal, some sulfur atoms are bound to just two molybdenum atoms. At these edge sites, which are characterized by double rather than triple bonds, moly sulfide was much more effective at forming H2.

Armed with that knowledge, Kibsgaard found a 30-year-old recipe for making a form of moly sulfide with lots of these double-bonded sulfurs at the edge.

Using simple chemistry, he synthesized nanoclusters of this special moly sulfide. He deposited these nanoclusters onto a sheet of graphite, a material that conducts electricity. Together the graphite and moly sulfide formed a cheap electrode. It was meant to be a substitute for platinum, the ideal but expensive catalyst for electrolysis.

The question then became: could this composite electrode efficiently spur the chemical reaction that rearranges hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water?

As Jaramillo put it: "Chemistry is all about where electrons want to go, and catalysis is about getting those electrons to move to make and break chemical bonds."

The acid test

So the experimenters put their system to the acid test –- literally.

They immersed their composite electrode into water that was slightly acidified, meaning it contained positively charged hydrogen ions. These positive ions were attracted to the moly sulfide clusters. Their double-bonded shape gave them just the right atomic characteristic to pass electrons from the graphite conductor up to the positive ions. This electron transfer turned the positive ions into neutral molecular hydrogen, which bubbled up and away as a gas.

Most importantly, the experimenters found that their cheap, moly sulfide catalyst had the potential to liberate hydrogen from water on something approaching the efficiency of a system based on prohibitively expensive platinum.

Yes, but does it scale?

But in chemical engineering, success in a beaker is only the beginning.

The larger questions were: could this technology scale to the 55 billion kilograms per year global demand for hydrogen, and at what finished cost per kilogram?

Last year, Jaramillo and a dozen co-authors studied four factory-scale production schemes in an article for The Royal Society of Chemistry's journal of Energy and Environmental Science.

They concluded that it could be feasible to produce hydrogen in factory-scale electrolysis facilities at costs ranging from $1.60 and $10.40 per kilogram – competitive at the low end with current practices based on methane—though some of their assumptions were based on new plant designs and materials.

"There are many pieces of the puzzle still needed to make this work, and much effort ahead to realize them," Jaramillo said. "However, we can get huge returns by moving from carbon-intensive resources to renewable, sustainable technologies to produce the chemicals we need for food and energy."

Support was provided by the Carlsberg Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Jan. 26, 2014

By Tom Abate, Stanford School of Engineering

- See more at: https://energy.stanford.edu/news/researchers-teach-old-chemical-new-tricks-make-cleaner-fuels-fertilizers#sthash.TwcGA2Cb.dpuf

January 3, 2014
Matthew Miller

The future of innovation in renewable energy technology has us excited at Environmental Research Advocates!

Here we share a few important developments in solar technology research and design to keep an eye on in 2014 and beyond. These technologies can help make solar one of the most viable energy options of the future.

Reference our “Solar Panel Cheat Sheet” to brush up on how solar panels work, and better understand the goals of innovation in the solar sector.

 

Graphene:

·      Application: Electricity conductor in solar cells

·      What’s the big deal: Can conduct electricity efficiently while allowing more photon absorption.

·      Details:

o   Graphene, a multi-purpose carbon-based material, has received a lot of hype from the science world. It turns out it could serve as an excellent material in solar cells to conduct electricity efficiently.

o   “Graphene has extreme conductivity and is completely transparent while being inexpensive and nontoxic. Therefore it is a perfect candidate material for transparent contact layers for use in solar cells to conduct electricity without reducing the amount of incoming light.”

·      READ MORE: http://phys.org/news/2013-10-major-graphene-solar-cells-retains.html#jCp

 

Solar Walk Way:

·      Application: Durable solar panels used as material to build sidewalks.

·      What’s the big deal: Solar panels must be placed in an open space with exposure to sunlight, which often relegates them strictly to rooftops. Solar walkways would open up an entirely novel space to generate electricity. Further research could even create solar roads!

·      Details:

o   The project was installed at George Washington University, and the solar walkway technology was designed by Onyx Solar, a company based in Spain.

o   “The landscaped pedestrian sidewalk boasts a solar-powered trellis and 27 slip-resistant semi-transparent walkable panels with photovoltaic technology that converts sunlight into electricity.”

·      READ MORE: http://gwtoday.gwu.edu/gw-debuts-solar-walk-virginia-science-and-technol...

 

Quantum Dot Solar Cells:

·      Application: Nanotechnology replacements for semiconductors in solar cells

·      What’s the big deal: Quantum solar dots can be more cheaply engineered in a lab, and can absorb a greater spectrum of photons than standard silicon semiconductors (including infrared light).

·      Details:

o   The broader spectrum of photons absorbed gives Quantum Dot Solar Cells more potential to reach high levels of efficiency, wasting less potential energy in the process.

o   Dr. Ted Sargent of the University of Toronto has achieved 7% conversion efficiency in lab testing of Quantum Dot Solar Cells, which is significantly lower than silicon cells, but a very promising number for future research and design.

·      READ MORE: http://erascience.org/news/blog/2013/05/paul_weiss_friend_era_and_direct...

 

Perovskites

·      Application: Alternative material for semiconductors in solar cells

·      What’s the big deal: Perovskites don’t require an electrical field to produce a current, saving room on the panel for more solar cells. Perovskite solar cells have the potential to convert light into electricity at over 50% efficiency.

·      Details:

o   Perovskites are modified compounds that have crystalline structures.

o   “The researchers also showed that it is relatively easy to modify the material so that it efficiently converts different wavelengths of light into electricity. It could be possible to form a solar cell with different layers, each designed for a specific part of the solar spectrum, something that could greatly improve efficiency compared to conventional solar cells”

·      READ MORE: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/521491/a-new-solar-material-shows-i...

 

Robots for Solar Panel Installation and Maintenance:

·      Application: Robots are programmed to efficiently install and maintain solar panels.

·      What’s the big deal: Keep solar panels functioning efficiently, saving money on installation maintenance costs.

·      Details:

o   Solar panel modules dropped to 35 percent of system costs in 2013, down from 53 percent in 2010, while labor, engineering and permitting rose to 15 percent from 9 percent in the same time period. Robots could significantly lower these costs.

·     READ MORE: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/business/energy-environment/putting...

 

Direct Semiconductor Bonding

·      Application: Enables semiconductor “stacking” within the solar cell, which allows a broader spectrum of photons to be absorbed.

·      What’s the big deal: Set world record solar conversion efficiency at 44.7% (in-lab testing) in September 2013

·      Details:

o   Direct Semiconductor bonding connects "two semiconductor crystals, which otherwise cannot be grown on top of each otherwith igh crystal quality... [producing] the optimal semiconductor combination to create the highest efficiency solar cells.

·      READ MORE: http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/press-and-media/press-releases/presseinformationen-2013/world-record-solar-cell-with-44.7-efficiency

December 26, 2013
Matthew Miller

As solar energy becomes more and more cost-competitive with oil as an energy source, we at Environmental Research Advocates are very excited to see the incredible strides being made by solar scientists and engineers.  

For those of you who are less-familiar with solar panels and how they function, or if you just want to brush-up on the facts, here is ERA’s Solar Panel Cheat Sheet. 

How a solar panel works:

Sunlight hits a solar panel, and a semi-conductor (most commonly made of silicon or cadmium telluride) absorbs the photons. Electrons in the semiconductor are knocked free of their atoms, which creates an electrical current that is fed into the grid to power our homes.

Commercial solar panels:

Today, commercial panels generally operate between 12-20% efficiency, which means that less than 1/5 of the sunlight’s photons are converted into electricity.

Solar Research and Design

The two main goals of solar research are to (1) increase the electrical yield and (2) lower the costs of solar electricity.

Increasing the electrical yield is possible in a few ways:

      1.  Adding more solar cells to the panel.

      2.  Improving the efficiency of electricity transfer from panel to grid.

      3.  Broadening the spectrum of light frequencies that the cells are able to absorb and convert into electricity.

Lowering costs involves:

      1.  Reducing the hard and soft costs of solar installation.

      2.  Increasing the electrical yield of solar panels (lowering the price of electricity).

      3.  Creating more durable solar panels that require less maintenance and repair.

Two important facts to note about “Efficiency:

Solar companies and researchers will throw around many numbers to describe their solar products, namely concerning the panel’s efficiency. When someone claims that a particular solar product or breakthrough is more efficient than another, keep this in mind:

      1.  Efficiency of a single solar cell is usually greater than the aggregate efficiency of the entire panel.

      2.  Performance in a controlled lab will usually yield better results than in commercial application.

So when it comes to solar efficiency claims, always make sure to note the conditions of the testing and take them with a grain of salt.

December 6, 2013
Matthew Miller

We at ERA Science are dedicated to promoting environmental research and technology, most of which will prevent or lessen long-term climate change and its negative impacts on the earth. The apparent increase in natural disasters in the past few years, however, such as hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, also concerns us about the more short-term effects of human-driven climate change; what sort of changes can we expect in the near future, and what can we do about them?

The National Academy of Sciences’ 200-page report released this week adds to a slew of scientific studies on climate change emerging in the past few months. Yet, rather than imploring humans to reduce carbon emissions and slow down the changing climate, this report focuses on potential calamities that could occur in the near future.

In an attempt to safeguard the earth and the species that inhabit it, scientists concluded in the report that as the risk of natural disaster rises, we ought to better prepare ourselves by setting up more effective monitoring systems.

The study warns of “tipping points” in the earth’s climate beyond which “major and rapid changes occur”, specifically pointing to amplified melting ice sheets in the Arctic over the past seven years, and the displacement and extinction of species due to changing habitats.

As the report notes, these “abrupt” changes are occurring on a scale of years, not centuries, and are thus more imminent and difficult to track: “when you think about gradual changes, you can kind of see where the road is and know where you’re going,” says Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrated biology at UC Berkley. “When you think of abrupt changes and threshold effects, the road suddenly drops out from under you, and it’s those kind of things that we are suggesting we need to anticipate in a much more comprehensive way.”

So, while there is most likely nothing we can do to stop the more immediate environmental and biological change that will occur in the coming years, there are ways to avoid the down-stream effects of this damage on ourselves and the species with whom we share the earth. Some of the report’s recommendations include closer monitoring of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, as well as more strategic ocean temperature measurement locations.

November 20, 2013
Matthew Miller

We at Environmental Research Advocates are excited by the potential implementation of graphene in renewable energy technologies.

The carbon-based super-material is making technology news yet again, as scientists in Korea claim they have developed a graphene supercapacitor that has the potential to drastically improve battery performance in electric vehicles.

As electric automobiles are gaining popularity around the world, Lithium-ion batteries are providing the energy storage necessary to allow these cars to function at comparable distances to gas-powered vehicles. The battery’s main drawback is the time it takes to charge, as lithium-ion batteries require at least a couple hours, if not an entire night, to fully charge.  This limits the automobile’s ability to cover long distances without long pit stops.

The solution to these issues is graphene, according to researchers at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Korea, who have developed a graphene supercapacitor that stores nearly the same amount of energy as a lithium-ion battery, but can charge in a mere 16 seconds and maintain its performance over thousands of charges.

Supercapacitors of the past also possess this ability to charge quickly, but generally lack the energy storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries; the application of graphene as an insulator allows for much higher energy storage, as the carbon-based material has a porous physical structure that creates more surface area to store energy.

Graphene has been touted as a wonder-material, and tech researchers continue to experiment with its many possible uses. It is strong, light, almost transparent, and an excellent conductor. Some potential areas of application include water filters, solar cells, and electrical functions.

If applied to electric cars, these graphene supercapacitors could cut down charging time significantly, even faster than pumping a full tank of gas, while still allowing longer travelling distances between charges. Some scientists believe that we could see graphene supercapacitors replace lithium-ion batteries within the next five to ten years.

November 14, 2013
Matthew Miller

ERA Science Board Member and Director of the Climate Institute Michael MacCracken, joined by 19 other US climate scientists, signed an open letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracking in California. The state is a leader in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the experts believe the governor’s support of fracking will have major negative impacts on the fight to slow down global warming.

Among the letter’s signees, in addition to MacCracken, is former NASA climate scientist James Hansen, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Michael Mann of Penn State University, and other prominent scientists from Universities and Institutions across the United States.

“Allowing fracking in California threatens to undermine Gov. Brown's own crucial efforts to fight climate disruption,” said Professor Paul R. Ehrlich of Stanford University, who also signed the letter. “I respect the governor’s work on climate issues, but he should acknowledge the danger fracking pollution poses to his legacy as a leader in the battle to head off a climate crisis.” 

The letter calls for Gov. Brown to put a moratorium on all fracking in California until studies can determine a safer, more climate-conscious method of extracting fossil fuels from the earth. Although he has an excellent track record with environmental issues, Brown has come under scrutiny as oil and gas have begun fracking before any comprehensive scientific review.

To read the full letter, follow this link.

November 6, 2013
Matthew Miller

The risks of irreversible damage to the environment will increase significantly if the global average temperature increases by 2° C in the coming century, and the solutions will only get more difficult and costly the longer we wait.

That’s according to the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) 4th Emission Gap Report, which was released on Tuesday, and highlights an urgent need to cut CO2 emissions before 2020. The report involved 44 scientific groups in 17 countries, with the expressed purpose of evaluating the least-cost path to keeping global temperature rise below 2° C.

The report offers a plan to cut down CO2 emissions that includes increased energy efficiency, improved agricultural practices, and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.

The UN believes that renewable energy initiatives could cut 1 to 3 Gigatons of Carbon Dioxide (GtCO2e) from emissions by 2020, and UNEP says that faster adoption will become more urgent if we don’t act soon: 

“If the [emissions] gap is not closed or significantly narrowed by 2020, the door to many options to limit temperature increase to a lower target of 1.5° C will be closed, further increasing the need to rely on faster energy-efficiency improvements and biomass with carbon capture and storage.” – UNEP

The report was released in anticipation of the Climate Change Conference of the Parties, which will take place later this month in Warsaw, Poland.

To view the entire report, follow this link.

October 17, 2013
Matthew Miller

The 2013 World Solar Challenge came to an end in Adelaide, Australia, with the Dutch Nuon solar racing team from the Delft University of Technology taking home gold in the challenger class. The win constitutes Nuon’s fifth in seven tries.

The World Solar Challenge is a biennial trans-continental race across Australia using solar powered cars. Teams from around the world, funded by universities, corporations and even high schools, designed and built their unique cars, and commenced the race on October 6 in the Northern Territory capitol Darwin. The course spans 3,000 km to the south, finishing in Adelaide.

The solar cars developed for the challenge test the boundaries of energy efficiency; each is uniquely designed for the race, and provides a comparison of technologies and strategies that can have impacts on both automobile and alternative energy research around the world.

Nuon’s vehicle, the Nuna7, finished after a total time of 33 hours and 3 minutes, with the team from Tokai University Japan finishing 2nd over 3 hours later. The Nuna7 averaged a speed of 90.71 km/h (56.4 mph), and can top out at 185 km/h.

“It’s the biggest pleasure you can get in your life,” stated Nuon team coach Wobbo Ockles in an interview with ABC after the win.

The World Solar Challenge’s 26-year history began with the purpose to “showcase the development of advanced automotive technology and promote alternatives to conventional vehicle engines.” The race has evolved over the years, and now consists of 3 classes, each with different requirements.

The 2013 race featured 42 total teams hailing from 25 different countries and 5 continents. The 10 challenger cars that crossed the finish line included University of Michigan and Stanford University contestants, in addition to teams hailing from Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, Canada and Ital

For more information on the World Solar Challenge race, check out http://www.worldsolarchallenge.org/ or follow WSC on twitter and facebook.

October 9, 2013
Matthew Miller

Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first segment of its 5th report, which describes the scientific basis for climate change caused by humans. The IPCC’s goal is to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information concerning climate change, its potential effects and options for adaptation and mitigation.

Over 2,000 scientists worked on this report, using a remarkable amount of raw data taken from 9,200 peer-reviewed studies. The IPCC reports always garner a healthy amount of controversy, as both climate change deniers and believers fight over the report’s implications.

Here are the 4 most important takeaways from the IPCC’s most recent report, so you can decide for yourself:

1.    It is virtually certain that the earth has warmed since the mid-20th century, and it probably will continue to warm.

· The planet’s surface could warm anywhere from 2.7°F to 7.2°F by 2100 relative to pre-1900 conditions.

· This means more extreme weather, storms, drought, flooding, and heat waves.

2.    Scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is human caused.

· They are over 95% sure; that’s increased from 90% certainty in 2007, 66% in 2001, and 50% in 1995.

3.    Glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate in the Arctic and Antarctica.

· Sea levels could rise more than 3 feet by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are unchecked.

· Major coastal cities like New York and Hong Kong would be affected.

4.     The rises in temperature, sea level, and occurrence of extreme weather all coincide with rising greenhouse gas levels.

· Greenhouse gas levels haven’t been this high in over 800,000 years.

           

The remaining segments of the 5th IPCC report, which concern potential impacts and recommended mitigation plans, will be released in 2014.

August 2, 2013

ERA Science Board members Leslie Cordes and Dr. Omar Masera have been instrumental in addressing and finding possible solutions to one of the planet’s pressing environmental and health concerns. In impoverished communities across the globe, families prepare food indoors on unsafe cookstoves, createing harmful pollution with detrimental health impacts to the families, and a negative carbon footprint on the environment.

Cookstove smoke is a serious environmental and health risk. A recent study found that indoor pollution from unsafe household cookstoves kills 4 million people every year. 42% of the world’s population is affected by indoor smoke and pollution on a daily basis, with the worst hit areas including Africa, India, China and Island nations around the world. Two ERA Science Advisory Board members are working to change this.

Dr. Omar Masera and Leslie Cordes are working to introduce cleaner cookstoves to affected areas, combating an issue that is responsible for up to 4% of the world’s entire disease burden and contributes to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions.

Leslie Cordes is a Senior Director of Energy and Climate at the United Nations Foundation in Washington DC. She also serves as a Senior Director at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in Washington, DC. Ms. Cordes is on the frontlines of GACC’s initiatives to address the pressing issue of cookstoves. The GACC supports research and innovation in design and performance to make clean cooking affordable and accessible, working on a global level and focusing on policy. The non-profit’s goal is to foster the adoption of clean cookstoves in 100 million households by 2020.           

Dr. Masera received a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as a member of an intergovernmental panel on climate change. He is a professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, led “Project Patsari,” a program that distributes safer Patsari stoves to families in rural Mexico. “Project Patsari” was awarded the Ashden Award, which recognizes enterprises that promote “sustainability for all.”

Some solutions to this issue are the incorporation of cleaner cookstoves such as the Patsari stove, advanced biomass cookstoves, and forced-air-stoves, all of which can reduce air pollution. GACC also encourages target countries to create market-based solutions to the issue.

According to Dr. Masera, "To make safer stoves available to local people, you need to design a stove that has clean combustion, that is affordable, and that works for traditional cooking purposes.”

For more information on clean cookstoves initiatives:

http://www.mnn.com/health/healthy-spaces/stories/indoor-air-pollution-in-the-developing-world-the-silent-killer

July 25, 2013
Peter Seligmann

Peter Seligmann, an ERA Science Board Member and Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Conservation International, believes that a sustainable future for our planet and the human race relies on collaboration across border lines. The following was featured in the May 21, 2013 issue of the Huffington Post.

Future Relies on US-China Collaboration

By Peter Seligmann

The world is sitting on a consumption time bomb -- more consumers, higher consumption, and more material intensity, coupled with diminishing supplies of natural capital, add up to a planet that is dangerously overspent and veering towards ecological bankruptcy in the not-too-distant future. China and the U.S., the two largest consuming nations with combined GDPs comprising one-third of global Gross Domestic Product, find themselves at the center of a potential catastrophe, in which human demand outspends Earth's supplies. The two nations consume one-quarter of world natural gas, one-third of world oil production, and produce nearly two-thirds of world coal. The two nations also are the planet's largest carbon dioxide emitters, jointly releasing nearly half of the world total each year.

As the problem worsens and threatens the sustainability of our planet, business-as-usual scenarios are insufficient to address the acute challenges that both nations, as well as the community of nations, will face in years ahead. As discussed in a major new report this week, U.S.-China 2022: Economic Relations in the Next Ten Years, only through massive collaboration and cooperation, can we chart a sustainable and positive path forward.

A 2012 assessment commissioned by 20 governments, the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, calculated that five million deaths occur each year from air pollution, hunger and disease as a result of climate change and carbon-intensive economies. That toll will rise significantly if current patterns of fossil fuel use continue.

Global growth in energy and consumer demand is driving much of this change. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) projects that the global middle class will skyrocket 250 percent to five billion people by 2030, with almost 90 percent of that growth coming from the Asia-Pacific region. Consumption in emerging markets is expected to rise from $12 trillion in 2010 to $30 trillion by 2025. These new consumers will move from bulk, unbranded products to highly processed and packaged goods.

From a producer's or investor's point of view, these may sound like profitable projections. However, runaway production to meet such ravenous, consumptive demand will create threatening deficiencies of our global natural capital, and therefore, shortages of supply, if we are not extremely careful.

China's urban transformation and rising middle class will play a significant role in these changes. In 20 years, China's cities will have added 350 million people, more than the entire population of the United States today. By 2025, China will have 221 cities with one million-plus inhabitants -- compared with 35 cities of this size in Europe today. The environmental ramifications of this unprecedented demographic shift will be severe.

Consequences are already being seen in the agricultural heartlands of both the U.S. and China, gripped by multi-year droughts. China has one-fifth of the world's population but just seven percent of arable land, further shrinking as urbanization converts nearly nine million more hectares of farmland per decade.

The U.S. and China, although at different stages with their respective economic and environmental challenges, are each increasingly vulnerable to resource scarcity, from minerals to water to food to the biodiversity that fuels science, medicine, and innovation. Climate destabilization is also a shared threat, with drought, floods, coastal storms, wildfires and other extreme weather occurring with alarming intensity and frequency. Both nations also have extensive supply chains operating in and withdrawing significant resources from other megadiverse countries, but neither nation will prosper in the long term if the other exhausts these critical supplies. These megadiverse nations face similar threats of natural resource exhaustion and collapse, but also can tap into the large pool of best practices in markets and governance to sustain their irreplaceable natural capital assets.

The costs and consequences of inaction are now undeniably immense and clearly indicate that business-as-usual is driving the global economy, society, humanity and the biosphere towards premature morbidity and mortality. A growing number of statesmen, corporate and civic leaders, and scientific experts have been loud and clear in their warnings: humanity has the next 10 years, starting immediately, to take and make transformational changes that put the global economy on a path consistent with keeping temperature rise below 2℃.

Joint initiatives and collaboration are in both of our nations' enlightened self interest to aid with immediate and sustained economic and environmental gains, as well as long-term well being and prosperity of our people. These initiatives will be a major and essential contribution to finding global solutions to devastating risks facing humanity and the biosphere.

Humanity's health and well-being hang in the balance.

The fundamental sustainability challenge for both nations is to sustain growth while maintaining, not diminishing or depleting, natural capital productivity and resilience. Together, we must account for, value and protect our natural factories and treasuries, so that they continue to generate the renewable goods and ecosystem services that our societies, families and businesses all depend upon to thrive.

Thankfully, there are many areas where the U.S. and China should work together to help achieve large-scale sustainability gains for themselves and for their trading partners.

First, being the two largest economies in the world, the U.S. and China should provide leadership in addressing global challenges, such as climate change and the loss of biodiversity, ecosystem health and vitality caused by unsustainable development. Success will require collaboration between the U.S. and China as well as their encouragement and support of the initiatives of their trading partners.

Second, the U.S. and China, accounting for 50 to 60 percent of global Research and Development, should embrace policies such as collaborative innovation networks to stimulate radical innovations in sustainability.

Third, Feed-In Tariff (FIT) performance payments are proving essential for spurring zero and near-zero emission power options -- solar, wind, geothermal, biowastes, small-scale hydro. Given the urgency this decade in reducing CO2 emissions, adoption of advanced FITs must become an imperative for aligning good governance, reduced CO2 emissions and flourishing markets. As of 2011, feed-in tariff policies have been enacted in China, seven U.S. states, and in more than 50 countries. China and the United States have the opportunity to show world-leading governance, by exponentially scaling up adoption of these policies in many more of our territories and provinces.

Fourth, nations require healthy ecological foundations for long term stability. Production that undercuts natural capital is not sustainable. The principles of 'No Net Biodiversity Loss' or 'Net Positive Impact' should be considered as normal business practice, using robust biodiversity performance benchmarks and assurance processes to avoid and mitigate damage, together with pro-biodiversity investment to compensate for adverse impacts that cannot be avoided.

Together, joint collaborations and cooperative partnerships between China and the United States, demonstrating leadership in markets and statesmanship in governance, offer our respective countries, the global community of nations, and the planet's biosphere a very hopeful, positive way forward. Let us make the most of it.

We at Conservation International believe strongly in this vision and know that we can make it reality if we "progress together, hand in hand," as a wise Chinese strategist once wrote. We must, so that future generations can praise our determination to sustain the health of the planet, which we all share and depend upon.

July 7, 2013

Environmental Research Advocates founders Terry and Denise Avchen opened their home Sunday July 7, 2013 to celebrate the establishment of two Fulbright Canada Chairs annually at CNSI UCLA. Guests enjoyed remarks by Canadian Consul General David Fransen and CNSI Director Paul Weiss as they told the story of this collaboration and the role Environmental Research Advocates played. The entertainment continued as a mentalist engaged 2013 Fulbright chairs Shana O. Kelley and Ted Sargent, as well as Monty and Marilyn Hall, Barbara Fransen, Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) his wife Crystal, former Vice Chancellor of UCLA and ERA Science board member Roberto Peccei and wife Jocelyn in the mysteries of spoon bending and mind reading.

Also among those in attendance were Anne Andrews of UCLA Anne Andrews Research Group (married to Paul Weiss), Deidre Hall (Days of Our Lives), Ken Kragen (Hands Across America, and We are the World creator) with wife Cathy Worthington, former Beverly Hills Mayors Tom Levyn ( with wife Allison), Meralee Goldman, and former Beverly Hills School Board president Myra Lurie. 

Seventy other inspiring friends and activists representing every walk of life celebrated together and were reminded of Dr. Carl Sagan's words..."Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

We at Environmental Research Advocates are striving to assist in the search for that "something incredible".


Stuart Wolpert

Professor Roberto Peccei has been selected to receive the American Physical Society’s (APS) 2013 J.J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics, awarded annually to recognize and encourage outstanding achievement in particle theory. He received the award at the APS meeting in April 2013, along with his Stanford University colleague, Helen Quinn.

An internationally renowned theoretical particle physicist, Peccei is the first UCLA recipient of the Sakurai prize, named in honor of a late UCLA physics colleague.

A major contribution to physics is the Peccei-Quinn Symmetry, an elegant theory that ties together several branches of physics and has important implications for our universe. The Peccei-Quinn Symmetry predicts the existence of very light particles called axions, which may nevertheless be the dominant source of mass in the universe. Axions may be the mysterious "dark matter" that account for most of the matter in the universe.

The citation for the J.J. Sakurai Prize recognizes the Peccei-Quinn theory as "the elegant mechanism to resolve the famous problem of strong-CP violation which, in turn, led to the invention of axions, a subject of intense experimental and theoretical investigation for more than three decades."

Peccei, a fellow of the American Physical Society and a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, served as UCLA’s vice chancellor for research, dean of physical sciences in the College of Letters and Science, and chair of UCLA’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. 

Born in Italy and raised in Buenos Aires, Peccei came to the United States to attend MIT as a physics undergraduate. He earned his master’s at New York University and returned to MIT, where he earned his Ph.D. in physics in 1969. After a brief period of postdoctoral research at the University of Washington, he joined the faculty of Stanford University in 1971. In 1978, he joined the staff of the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany. He became the head of the Theoretical Group at the Deutsches Elektron Synchrotron laboratory in Hamburg, Germany, in 1984 before joining UCLA’s faculty in 1989.

He has served on numerous editorial and advisory boards in both the United States and Europe.

- From UCLA Today

May 28, 2013

Environmental Research Advocates is proud to have played a role in the introduction of David Fransen, Consul General of Canada in Los Angeles, to Paul Weiss, California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).  This relationship has resulted in the establishment of annual Canada Fulbright Chairs at CNSI.  The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 with the mission to enable academic exchange and public diplomacy between countries. Fulbright Canada, which recently celebrated its 20th year, aims “to enhance mutual understanding between the people of Canada and the people of the United States of America by providing support to outstanding individuals. These individuals conduct research, lecture, or enroll in formal academic programs in the other country” (Fulbright Canada Mandate).

Canadian Fulbright Scholars discussed nanotechnology applications in the renewable energy and biomedical fields on May 14, 2013 in Westwood, CA.

Ted Sargent and Shana O. Kelley, recipients of the 2012-13 Canadian Fulbright Scholar Awards, presented their research on nanotechnology to a group of students, professors and scientists at the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA. Their groundbreaking work involves the application of nanotechnology to developing solar energy and biomedical technologies.

Ted Sargent, a Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, holds the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at CNSI UCLA, focusing his research on inorganic colloidal Quantum Dot solar cells. Quantum dots are nanotechnology-produced semiconductors, and are a potential replacement for the silicon semiconductors that are generally used in photovoltaic cells. Incorporating Quantum Dots in solar cell synthesis poses potential advantages to renewable energy production; Silicon semiconductors convert light into electricity, but use a limited energy range of photons.  Dr. Sargent described his work developing tandem Quantum Dot solar cells, which are able to process a broader range of photon wavelengths – and even infrared light – into electricity, so less potential energy is wasted in the process. Dr. Sargent also works extensively with colloidal Quantum Dot solar cells, which are three-dimensional (as opposed to standard planar ones), and can convert photon energy with up to 7% energy transfer efficiency.  This research is a promising development in renewable energy technology as energy consumers search for more efficient and affordable solar panels.

The topic of the lecture switched from renewable energy to biomedical research when Shana O. Kelley, the special Fulbright Canada Fellow at CNSI UCLA , took the stage. Also a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto, Dr. Kelley presented her research on applying ultra sensitive molecular detectors to medical equipment. By using electro-chemical bio-sensing enabled by nanotechnology, Dr. Kelley hopes to create faster, cost-effective, and reliable diagnostic methods.

CNSI is a multi-disciplinary research program with locations at both UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Its mission is “to encourage university collaboration with industry and to enable the rapid commercialization of discoveries in nanoscience and nannotechnology.” Research at CNSI applies to four main areas: Energy, Environment, Health-Medicine, and Information Technology.  

Congratulations to Paul Weiss and to David Fransen for their combined vision in the creation of two Fulbright chair positions at CNSI UCLA.  We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank both Paul and David for their continued friendship and inspiration.

 

May 8, 2013

John Hoagland, who was an ERA Science Advisory Board Member and the chairman of the J-Net Group and Ecology Communications, passed away on Wednesday May 1 surrounded by family at his home in Cape Cod. He will always be remembered for his passion for the environment, commitment to the church, and his loving devotion to his family.

Hoagland graduated from Yale University in the spring of 1951, where he pursued his interests in both poetry and singing as a member of the prestigious A capella group the Whiffenpoofs and the Glee Club. While at Yale, he met Sally Ray, who would become his beloved wife of 48 years. After spending 10 years with the Central Intelligence Agency, he began work as a research and marketing consultant, before taking over managing positions for the Christian Scientist Church’s television and newspaper media ventures. Hoagland went on to found Ecology Communications, an award winning producer and distributer of environmental programs for cable television, government and industry.

Following Sally’s passing, Hoagland married Netty Douglass, with whom he shared a loving relationship characterized by their love for the church, the environment and their family. Hoagland is survived by Netty, four children and nine grandchildren. 

We at Environmental Research Advocates extend our sympathies to the family, and join them in celebrating this great man’s life.

April 25, 2013

Conservation International's Founder, CEO and an Environmental Research Advocates Board Member, Peter Seiligmann, honored Disney and its commitment to conservation by presenting Disney Chairman Robert Iger with the Global Conservation Leadership Award.

CI's mission statement says it all: " Every person on Earth deserves a healthy environment and the fundamental benefits that nature provides. But our planet is experiencing an unprecedented drawdown of these resources, and it is only by protecting nature and its gifts – a stable climate, fresh water, healthy oceans and reliable food – that we can ensure a better life for everyone, everywhere."

 

Image: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Wirelmage

April 22, 2013

Each year, Earth Day -- April 22 -- marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. 

The idea came from Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. Inspired by the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara and the student anti-war movement, he realized the potential to put environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media. He persuaded Pete McCloskey, a  Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. "It was a gamble," Gaylord recalled, "but it worked."

As 1990 approached,  Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role as Earth Day founder.

Earth Day 2010 brought 225,000 people to the National Mall for a Climate Rally, and, among other things, launched an international, 1-million tree planting initiative with Avatar director James Cameron.

The fight for a clean environment continues in a climate of increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more manifest every day. ERA science fully supports Earth Day and honors the great activists who have shined a spotlight on the environment. We invite you to visit the Earth Day Network at www.earthday.org, to see what they have planned for Earth Day 2013.

April 16, 2013

The Earth Institute and International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) present a panel discussion, "Adapting to a Changing Climate: Managing Our Cities & Food Supply," with Lisa Goddard, Director, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI); Sergej Mahnovski, Director, Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability; and Adam Sobel, Professor of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University.

The panel, moderated by Steve Cohen, Executive Director of The Earth Institute, Columbia University, will explore how science is enhancing society's ability to understand and manage the impacts of climate variability and change. We will look at predictions, projections, tools and programs from disasters relief, agricultural, and urban perspectives, as well as investigate what stakeholders can do to improve the process of using science to influence decisions.

Originally scheduled for the night that Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, this panel will discuss how lessons from Sandy can be applied to protect and strengthen resiliency across the globe. Originally scheduled for the night that Hurricane Sandy hit NYC, this panel will discuss how lessons from Sandy can be applied to protect and strengthen resiliency across the globe.

Source: The Earth Institute Columbia University

 

April 15, 2013

ERA Science friend, Paul Weiss, and UCLA researchers have developed a new highly transparent solar cell that is an advance toward giving windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see outside. Their study appears in the journal ACS Nano.

The UCLA team describes a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye. They made the device from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current.

"These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications," said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).

Yang added that there has been intense world-wide interest in so-called polymer solar cells. "Our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are lightweight and flexible," he said. "More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost."

Polymer solar cells have attracted great attention due to their advantages over competing solar cell technologies. Scientists have also been intensely investigating PSCs for their potential in making unique advances for broader applications. Several such applications would be enabled by high-performance visibly transparent photovoltaic (PV) devices, including building-integrated photovoltaics and integrated PV chargers for portable electronics.

Previously, many attempts have been made toward demonstrating visibly transparent or semitransparent PSCs. However, these demonstrations often result in low visible light transparency and/or low device efficiency because suitable polymeric PV materials and efficient transparent conductors were not well deployed in device design and fabrication.

A team of UCLA researchers from the California NanoSystems Institute, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and UCLA's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have demonstrated high-performance, solution-processed, visibly transparent polymer solar cells through the incorporation of near-infrared light-sensitive polymer and using silver nanowire composite films as the top transparent electrode. The near-infrared photoactive polymer absorbs more near-infrared light but is less sensitive to visible light, balancing solar cell performance and transparency in the visible wavelength region.

Another breakthrough is the transparent conductor made of a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which was able to replace the opaque metal electrode used in the past. This composite electrode also allows the solar cells to be fabricated economically by solution processing. With this combination, 4% power-conversion efficiency for solution-processed and visibly transparent polymer solar cells has been achieved.

"We are excited by this new invention on transparent solar cells, which applied our recent advances in transparent conducting windows (also published in ACS Nano) to fabricate these devices," said Paul S.Weiss, CNSI director and Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences.

Study authors also include Weiss; materials science and engineering postdoctoral researcher Rui Zhu; Ph.D. candidates Chun-Chao Chen, Letian Dou, Choong-Heui Chung, Tze-Bin Song and Steve Hawks; Gang Li, who is former vice president of engineering for Solarmer Energy, Inc., a startup from UCLA; and CNSI postdoctoral researcher Yue Bing Zheng.

 

Transparent solar cells. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles)

April 10, 2013

President Barack Obama greets Fermi Award recipients Dr. Burton Richter, right, and his wife Laurose, and Dr. Mildred S. Dresselhaus, third from right, and her husband Gene, in the Oval Office, May 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The best science is as much about service as it is about discovery.  And that’s especially true for two of our Nation’s most accomplished researchers, who were honored Monday for devoting their lives not only to doing great science but also to teaching and mentoring, public service, and inspiring others.

The two awardees, Drs. Mildred Dresselhaus and Burton Richter--after visiting with President Obama in the Oval Office--were joined by distinguished guests at the Ronald Reagan International Center as Secretary of Energy Steven Chu honored them as winners of the Enrico Fermi Award.

A Presidential award, the Fermi Award is one of the oldest and most prestigious science and technology honors bestowed by the U.S. Government. It is administered by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science to honor individuals who have given unstintingly over their careers to advance energy science, and to inspire future scientists to follow their example.

Dr. Dresselhaus made many discoveries that deepened our fundamental understanding in condensed matter systems. She has also served in a variety of scientific leadership roles, including as the Director of the DOE Office of Science and President of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In addition, Dr. Dresselhaus has devoted great energy to mentoring students, raising community awareness about science, and promoting progress on gender equity. She is widely respected as a mentor and spokesperson for women in science.

Dr. Richter has done pioneering work in the development and use of accelerator technologies that have contributed to several Nobel Prizes—including the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics that he shared with Dr. Samuel C.C. Ting for the discovery of a new kind of heavy elementary particle. Dr. Richter also provided visionary leadership at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (today’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) from 1984 to 1999, where he helped lead advances that not only yielded new discoveries in particle physics but also laid the foundation for major new strides in photon science. Since then, Dr. Richter has served as a leader in many other positions involving public policy and science and technology.

Drs. Richter and Dresselhaus both opened new scientific and technical horizons. But, equally important, they have been generous with their scientific knowledge and their wisdom. We are proud to salute them, winners of the Enrico Fermi Presidential Award.

 
Source: The White House: Office of Science and Technology Policy