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Self-healing bioplastic – just add water

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A sample of the self-healing polymer

Imagine if things like undersea cables or medical implants could simply heal themselves back together if severed – it would certainly be easier than having to go in and fix them. Well, scientists at Pennsylvania State University are bringing such a possibility closer to reality. They’ve created a moldable polymer that heals itself when exposed to water – and it’s based on squid sucker ring teeth.

Led by Prof. Melik Demirel, the researchers started by studying sucker ring teeth collected from squid in various locations around the world. Although the exact composition of the teeth varied between species, it was found that the same proteins which allow them to self-heal were always present. Read more

Thames Water building Europe’s largest floating solar array

Europe’s biggest-ever floating solar panel array is to be installed on the Queen Elizabeth II reservoir in London. The array will have a peak capacity of 6.3 MW and is expected to generate 5.8 million kWh in its first year, which is enough to power around 1,800 homes.

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The array will comprise over 23,000 photovoltaic panels, and its floating platform will incorporate over 61,000 floats and 177 anchors.

Along with the announcement that Norway is to build Europe’s largest onshore wind power project, the news reflects the ongoing move towards renewable energy. Despite this, the array is not actually being built to contribute towards the UK’s energy demand, but instead towards that of water company Thames Water. Read more

A Climate Analyst Clarifies the Science Behind California’s Water Woes

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A secret service agent in Los Banos, Calif., as President Obama spoke on February 14. Mr. Obama suggested climate change as an explanation for the area’s drought.

There’s no question that residents of California and much of the West face a collision between high water demands driven by growth and outdated policies and a limited and highly variable water supply.

But that reality hasn’t stopped heated arguments from springing up in recent days over the cause or causes of California’s continuing epic drought. Is one of the drivers the growing human influence on the climate? Or is this drought something we’ve seen before, the result of natural variability? Read more

Working Wonders Without Water Out West

In the long rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, where dryland wheat farmers have eked out livings for more than a century, climate change is very much an issue of the present.

The rain gauge is always in the back of the mind for Mike Nichols, a wheat farmer cultivating 20,0000 acres across two counties in south-central Washington state.

It has to be: Nichols doesn’t irrigate, and with less than six inches of precipitation a year, his wheat crop is already on the edge of what’s considered possible for dryland farming. When drought hits or if, as expected, the West gets drier, his operation will be in trouble.

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A wheat field outside of Palouse, Wash. is dusted by a January snow. Most of Washington’s wheat crop is watered only with rain falling from the sky – a future facing many farmers across the West as water supplies dwindle and the climate shifts to drier conditions. Credit: Josh Smith/flickr.

 

“The last eight years have been pretty good,” said Nichols. “But we are putting some [cash] aside, because down the line we know we’re going to go through another drought.”

Although Nichols remains stoic about the potential that climate change could eventually have on his livelihood, his innovative dryland farming methods enable his crops to better handle low moisture conditions.

But there are legions of farmers in the West and Midwest dependent on dwindling aquifers and over-subscribed rivers for irrigation. If today’s drought conditions continue, a whole new generation of growers may join Nichols and return to wholly rain-fed farming. Read more

Much more than water found on the moon

A year ago, the twin impacts of NASA’s LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) spacecraft and a companion rocket stage into the lunar surface revealed the presence of water on the moon. Now new data uncovered by LCROSS and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has revealed that the lunar soil within shadowy craters is rich in useful materials, and that the moon is chemically active and has a water cycle.

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View northeast across the north rim of Cabeus crater

The twin impacts of LCROSS and a companion rocket stage in the moon’s Cabeus crater on October 9, 2009, lifted a plume of material that might not have seen direct sunlight for billions of years nearly 10 miles above the rim of the crater. It was the observations made by instruments aboard LCROSS and LRO of the crater and debris and vapor clouds that revealed the presence of water, mostly in the form of pure water ice grains. Read more