sustainability trends

BuzzOnEarth is an online publication on environmental sustainability and human wellness, focused on creating positive impact. BoE aims to bridge the knowledge gap and act as a catalyst in accelerating sustainable development.

Introduction

Sustainability is the ability to stay constant and refers to human civilization and biosphere to coexist. With the increase in population all over the world, the demand for each item is increasing day by day and meeting these demands traditionally is not possible. Often meeting demands leads to the extinction of natural resources and harming the nature. Thus, to not continue the trend of exploiting the biosphere and its natural resources, scientists and researchers are finding out ways to stay sustainable by helping the environment and not damaging it.

  1. According to a study in the Nature Sustainability journal, if we shift to plant protein foods like lentils, beans and nuts, much of the remaining land could support ecosystems that absorb CO2. These plant proteins can provide vital nutrients by using a small fraction of the land required to produce meat and dairy.

The Nature Sustainability Journal revealed a study where researchers analyzed and mapped areas of extensive production of animal-sourced food requiring 83 per cent of Earth’s agricultural land, suppresses native vegetation like forests. If we can change what we eat, it can free up space for the ecosystem to regrow, which can absorb much of the CO2 that is still in the atmosphere.

We burn a lot of fossil fuels that emit CO2, which is s a greenhouse gas leading to global warming. When the temperature reaches 2.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industry levels impacts like droughts and rise of sea level does occur. According to scientists, the regrowth of the vegetation can remove nine to 16 years of global fossil-fuel carbon emissions and that the budget for carbon regulations would be double when compared to the actual one.

For mitigating climate change, it was reported by the scientists that meat consumption if taken under control, can help the countries live sustainably. It is essential to restore ecosystems, but it is equally crucial for extensive agriculture as it is culturally and economically beneficial in different regions around the world. So with the utmost consideration, scientists have to find out which places can be restored for balancing ecosystems and halting deforestation could serve the most considerable carbon benefits.

There is a controversy for climate solutions such as planting trees needs physical effort; additionally, low planting encourages uniform tree plantations, deplete dwindling water in dry areas, or limit biodiversity. Also, finding enough land to keep the trees safe from being logged or getting burned can release stored carbon back into the atmosphere.

Areas, where seeds could disperse naturally, growing and multiplying into dense forests, is considered that can work to remove carbon dioxide. Technological fixes like machinery that removes CO2 directly from the atmosphere or power plant exhaust pipes may get adopted. Reducing meat production is a benefit for improving water quality and quantity, biodiversity and wildlife habitat.

  • Latest research from the University of Central Florida shows a way to predict storm surges when it is more likely to occur. Storm surges increase the costal sea levels ten feet or more, destroying communities and businesses along the water.

El Nino, a periodic warming of the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean between South America and Asia, affects weather around the globe. Researchers in a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans have developed models for predicting changes in sea level by linking storm to large scale climate variability. If that can be expected in advance, it will be useful in periods of higher flood risk. The researchers have only taken a step towards the direction but not in a place of using it operationally or making important decisions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Program Office, Climate Observations and Monitoring Program has supported the study.

Built on researches showed that a significant factor in extreme sea-level variability is storm surge. It is a condition when water levels thresholds are higher or lower as compared to familiar situations. Other factors that add up to sea level variability are low-frequency tides and mean sea level. Knowing extreme sea-level variations can help in adopting better plans and mitigate the impacts. Researchers claim that they are trying to work on the models of predicting excessive sea levels variations to improve accuracy.

  • To prevent the emissions of carbon dioxide and the consequences of climate change are alarming. It is a challenge to find feasible ways to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One possible way is photosynthesis by which plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into useful chemicals.

For converting carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuels, Professors Su-II In and researchers from Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) in Korea have developed a photocatalyst. They have considered the concept of Z-scheme charge transfer mechanism, where the interfaces between two variety of materials play an epicentre in chemical processes that resemble the election transfers in natural photosynthesis.

They are reducing titanium nanoparticles with Dicopper Oxide nanoparticles through photo deposition, which is a unique yet simple and not so expensive procedure. The procedure showed stable performance for continuous 42 hours under operation. The photocatalyst is composed of earth-abundant materials which add to its economic viability. The cheaper the energy, the more positive ripple effects would be in the economy, and the study shows a promising way to get nearer to the goal along with going green.

  • An inexpensive and non-toxic nano-fluid is sufficient to recover heavy oil with high viscosity from reservoirs, as per researchers from the University of Houston.

In the Materials Today Physics, it was revealed that nano-fluids made in an ordinary household blender and using sodium helped to recover 80 per cent of extra-heavy oil in a lab test. The work suggests a breakthrough in the use of nano-technology for cost-effective and sustainable ways for the environment to produce oil. The outcome of the molecular structure of the oil is heavy oil, which makes up seventy per cent of global oil reserves. It is needed to meet the increasing energy demands until clean energy is developed.

M.D Anderson, who is the Chair Professor of Physics at UH, is also known as Ren, suggested three mechanisms for the nano-fluids to recover oil from the reservoir:

When the sodium nanoparticles come in association with water in the reservoir generates heat and produces a chemical reaction without having an external and greenhouse gas.

Sodium hydroxide is produced from the nano-fluids and sparks a reaction. Sodium hydroxide is used for alkaline flooding in oil fields and can even foment motion in the oil.

Hydrogen gas is produced in the third reaction, that is used for gas flooding, which is another oil recovery technique.

Sodium is highly reactive with water and is a light element, although useful in enhancing oil recovery, but also complicates the preparation.

  • After a volcanic eruption, they produce clouds of dust and ash and plumes that blacken the sky, shut down air traffic and reaches 25 miles’ height above Earth’s surface.

The University of Colorado Boulder suggests that volcanic eruption ash have an enormous influence on the Earth’s climate. In the Journal, Nature Communications, researchers examine the eruption of Mount Kelut on the Indonesian island in Java 2014. They said that after the volcanic eruption, the ash remained in the air for several months and persisted for a long time.

Lingering Ash

The research members were flying an uncrewed aircraft near the site, and the plane spotted something unusual, more like large particles floating around the atmosphere even after a month after the eruption.

Scientists explained that those massive particles could block sunlight from reaching the ground and can affect the Earth’s climate. These particles don’t play a role in cooling effect but are so heavy that most of them are likely to fall out of volcanic clouds and have a density more than pumice.

Disappearing Molecules

These pumice like particles even seem to shift the chemistry of the whole volcanic plume. Researchers said that volcanic eruptions spew out a large amount of Sulphur dioxide and that those molecules combine with others in the air and convert into sulfuric acid. These reactions occur very fast as the molecules of Sulphur dioxide stick to the particles of ash floating in the air. Ash hasten the transformation of volcanic gases in the atmosphere.

  • For endangered and threatened species, National parks are safe heavens. The Rice University data scientists analyzed that parks and protected areas preserve more than species.

Diversity in wildlife conservation refers to the wide variety of species in an ecosystem. Ecologists, on the other hand, study the abundance and variation of traits such as diet, body size and reproductive rate; and functional diversity. For measuring independent of species diversity and provide an insight into the whole health of an ecosystem, trait diversity is useful.

Daniel Gorczynski and Lydia Beaudrot are rice ecologists and data scientists respectively, and they analyzed the mammal diversity in the rainforest of Costa Rica’s Braulio Carrillo National Park. They found out that between 2007 and 2014 the mammal diversity did not decline despite deforestation. In other areas, it is found that trait diversity is more sensitive to humans than species diversity. Thus, it is well established that national parks can preserve species and more resilient than expected.

Though it is one national park, it is not known if all national parks or protected areas are as resilient as Braulio Carrillo. The situations in other parks are different and we detailed study is needed for other parks.

  • Researchers at Texas A&M University in a new study have described novel plant-based energy storage device is capable of charging electric cars within a few minutes in the future. The machines are lightweight, flexible and cost-effective.

The process of developing biomaterials includes chemical treatments that are hazardous and integrating them into energy storage devices is tricky as it is not easy to control their resulting electrical properties. They even affect the devices’ life cycle and performance. Thus, researchers have designed an environmentally friendly energy storage device with superior electrical performance and manufactured securely, efficiently and at a much lower cost.

Energy storage devices are in the form of either batteries or super-capacitors, and both types are capable of delivering electrical currents when required but have some fundamental differences. Both devices have an internal architecture and store charge on metal plates or electrodes. Super-capacitors are made in different shapes, sizes, and designs depending on the intent of the application. Their electrodes can also be built with other materials.

For making electrodes, the researchers treated purified lignin with a commonly available disinfectant, potassium permanganate. Then, they applied high heat and pressure to initiate an oxidation reaction, resulting in breaking down of potassium permanganate and deposit of manganese dioxide on lignin. After that, they coated the lignin and manganese dioxide mixture on an aluminium plate for the formation of a green electrode. At last, the super-capacitor was assembled by sandwiching a gel electrolyte between the lignin-manganese dioxide-aluminium electrode and another electrode of aluminium and activated charcoal.

The green electrode super-capacitors had stable electrochemical properties and also very light and flexible.

  • One of the fastest-growing food production sectors globally is aquaculture. Continuous growth, economically, ecologically and socially sustainable sites for aquaculture are in use already and has caused the need for new fish farming techniques. Technology that recycles and saves water is recirculating aquaculture systems and expanded in recent years. The management of bioreactors is a big issue, and the technology has not yet achieved viability because of operating cost and high investment.

In the water purification process, bioreactors utilize bacteria and toxins that are excreted by fish. They are microbially converted to nitrate in the harmless nitrification process. Bioreactors are devised for the decomposition of nitrogen compounds but mainly is used for the deterioration of amino acids, carbohydrates and fats. Thus, the impact of bioreactors on water quality is much diverse than expected. Stable and diverse bacterial community is believed to maintain good water quality, in terms of nitrogen compounds and organic matter. 

Bioreactors are useful in trapping solids from water or affecting the gas balance, and different bioreactors have different nitrification efficiencies. For compensating the properties of the rest of the water treatment system of bioreactors, the biological and mechanical solids removal capacity is possible. The best potential water quality and declared for the well-being and growth of the fish, for enabling cost-friendly and environmentally friendly aquaculture is optimizing the entire water treatment system.

  • Flinders University scientists are finding sustainable new ways to convert alga biomass, bio-waste and even beached seaweed into valuable dietary proteins and other products because the exploitation of wild fisheries and marine environments threaten food supplies.

Researchers of the Flinders Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development are finding to extract value from crayfish shells and other marine waste through green fluidic processing machine developed at the University.

With the increase in population growth, the demand for dietary proteins and protein products cannot be met using familiar protein sources. Adequate resources like seafood processing by-products and microalgae can fill the gap for protein derivatives and proteins. The biomaterials are a rich source of proteins along with high nutritional quality; proteins hydrolysates and biopeptides derived from the marine proteins serve useful bioactivities for multiple industries in commercial applications.

If these marine biomaterials are efficiently utilized for protein recovery, it would not only supplement the demand globally and save the natural bio-resources but also address the financial and environmental burden of bio-waste. Thus, greener production and the circular economy would be waiting for us.

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