Publications

2017
Storing Energy When Freshwater meets Saltwater. 2017.Abstract
underwater

Researchers from Penn State have created a new technology that produces generous amounts of electrical power where seawater and freshwater combine at the coast.

The difference in salt concentration has the potential to generate enough energy to meet up to 40% of global electricity demands. Though methods currently exist to capture this energy, the two most successful methods, pressure retarded osmosis (PRO) and reverse electrodialysis (RED), have thus come up short.

The most common system (PRO), selectively allows water to transport through a semi-permeable membrane, while rejecting salt. The osmotic pressure created from this process is then converted into energy by turning turbines.

The second technology, RED, uses an electrochemical gradient to develop voltages across ion-exchange membranes. This energy is created when chloride or sodium ions are kept from crossing ion-exchange membranes as a result of selective ion transport. Ion-exchange membranes don't require water to flow through them, so they don't foul as easily as the membranes used in PRO; however, the problem with RED is that it doesn't have the ability to produce large amounts of power.
A Solution to Ghana’s Agricultural Wastewater Problem. 2017.Abstract
ghanaag

The water supply in Ghana is becoming vulnerable enough that it could threaten the country’s 25 million people.

Ahmed Abuhussein, an Environmental Engineering graduate student spent 5 months in Ghana to address institutional, social and technical gaps in applying treated wastewater in agriculture. With 66% of Ghana's withdrawn water earmarked for agriculture (which makes up almost half of the country's GDP) the use of treated wastewater could have a significant impact. Currently, 81% of the country's wastewater is not being treated and of the 9% being collected, less than 6% is 'appropriately' treated. Abuhussein conducted field work at a local waste stabilization pond and interviewed local authorities, industries and non-for-profit organizations in the country.

Abuhussein wants to look towards a project that combines technical and monetary aspects that will address the quality of the water and its end use, because the treatment will be different. He has said many small farms use non-treated wastewater, simply extracting what flows through the open gutters on their property.

An Interesting Energy Supply: The Human Body?. 2017.Abstract

health

Implantable devices in the human body (i.e. pacemakers) have saved countless lives. However, there are many risks that come with having implantable devices in the human body. For example, pacemakers need batteries to operate, and batteries need replacement every so often. This means more surgeries, let alone the possibility that a battery could leak, releasing toxic materials into a patient.

Enter research from UCLA and the University of Connecticut. They have designed a new bio-friendly energy storage system called a biological super capacitor, which operates using charged particles, or ions, from fluids in the human body. The device is harmless to the body's biological systems, and it could lead to longer-lasting cardiac pacemakers and other implantable medical devices.

The researchers propose storing energy in those devices without a battery. The super capacitor they invented charges using electrolytes from biological fluids like blood serum and urine, and it would work with another device called an energy harvester, which converts heat and motion from the human body into electricity. That electricity is then captured by the super capacitor.

Modern pacemakers are typically about 6-8 millimeters thick, and about the same diameter as a 50-cent coin; about half of that space is usually occupied by the battery. The new super capacitor is only 1 micrometer thick, meaning that it could improve implantable devices' energy efficiency. It also can maintain its performance for a long time, bend and twist inside the body without any mechanical damage, and store more charge than the energy lithium film batteries of comparable size that are currently used in pacemakers.

 

Worldwide Deforestation Increasing Malaria Outbreaks. 2017.Abstract

deforestation

 

According to a report by the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, nearly 130 million hectares of trees have been lost due to deforestation since 1990.

A study of 67 less-developed malaria-endemic nations titled, "Anthropogenic forest loss and malaria prevalence: a comparative examination of the causes and disease consequences of deforestation in developing nations," published in AIMS Environmental Science, led by Lehigh University sociologist Dr. Kelly Austin, finds a link between deforestation and increasing malaria rates across developing nations.

Malaria is an infectious disease tied to environmental conditions, as mosquitoes represent the disease vector. Deforestation, is not a natural phenomenon, but rather results predominantly from human activities, or anthropogenically. The study builds upon evidence that patterns in climate change, deforestation, and other human-induced changes to the natural environment are amplifying malaria transmission.

The analytic research strategy used also allowed the authors to look at the causes of deforestation, in order to have a broader focus on the upstream or human-induced causes of land-use change that impact malaria vulnerabilities.

Results of the study suggest that rural population growth and specialization in agriculture are two key influences on forest loss in developing nations.

 

The "Ideal" Look of a Leader. 2017.Abstract

leader

According to a study performed by academics from the University of Exeter Business School and the Bradford University School of Management, business leaders should dress like those they lead, not designer-clad mangers that we often see in TV or films.

The study wanted to find out if and how people judged their leadership qualities of their bosses based on their appearance. The results showed everyone had a completely different view of what a leader looked like. The conclusion was that it showed people unknowingly draw on their own-self-image because nobody has a clear idea of what a leader should actually look like, or what personality they should express. When people described themselves and compared it with how they described leaders, their 'ideal' or 'excellent' leader was a mirror image of themselves.

Interviewees in the study had been on leadership development programs or described themselves as leaders. Interviews lasted up to an hour and a half and included questioning on their career history.

 

China’s Energy Future. 2017.Abstract

coal

The growth in China over the past 3 decades has elevated it to a global superpower. However, its economic miracle has also attracted attention for the wrong reasons: the country is now the world's largest energy consumer, oil importer, and CO₂ emitter. Nevertheless, this is no longer a fair reflection of the country's energy situation.

China is now the world's largest user of green energy, accounting for 17% of global investment in the industry. It installed an average of more than one wind turbine every hour of every day in 2015. By 2030 it is hoped that cleaner energy will help reduce China's CO₂ emissions by 54% from 2010 levels.

Compared with other countries, China still has a long way to go. Britain, for instance, recently managed a day without coal for the first time in more than 130 years, while other countries have drastically cut their carbon footprint.

 

Creating New Jobs from the Use of Waste Paper. 2017.Abstract

waste

Recent research indicates industry specific jobs could soon be getting a big boost from waste paper that makes its way to anything from tennis rackets and cars. The research was published in Green Chemistry, the peer-reviewed journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

About 50 million tons of lignin piles up each year as waste from the U.S. paper and pulping industry. Additional lignin could come from bio-refineries that use plants to produce ethanol, yielding another 100-200 million tons of lignin waste each year. Yet only about 2% of the lignin waste is currently recycled into new products.

The research team has had several successes in making fuel and bio-products from lignin. But even the biofuel making process leaves a large stockpile of waste. That led them to consider the possibility of making carbon fiber material. While carbon fiber is not new, known for high strength, low weight and a heat tolerance. It is, however, expensive to produce.

The researchers noted that lignin is a complex molecule, but when the high-density, high molecular weight portion is separated from the rest, it has a uniform structure that allows the formation of high quality carbon fiber. While still improving and fine-tuning the quality, carbon fiber could be used for windmills, sport materials and even bicycles and cars.

How Does Consumer Sharing Effect Businesses?. 2017.Abstract

productshare

Consumer sharing is an expanding economic force globally. Consumers today share everything from bicycles, cars, and agricultural equipment. Coupled with technology, consumer sharing can happen with even a simple swipe of a finger on a phone.

Many of these type of transactions involve renters paying a fee to product owners through an online platform, reaping several inherent benefits to this consumer-to-consumer system: profits for the product owner; lower costs for the user; benefits to the environment. How does this type of business practice affect manufacturers?

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis' Olin Business School have shown that the rising trend of product sharing can help all parties involved. There have been discussions that found some companies were worried their customers were sharing products, so some of them might not buy the product anymore. When should companies facilitate sharing, and when should they not?

To answer those questions, researchers from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics used an analytical framework to explore the effects of consumer-to-consumer product sharing. The researchers analyzed a firm's best strategic responses, in terms of pricing and quality decisions, to the consumer's product-sharing behavior. They find that peer-to-peer sharing can be a win-win situation, with consumers being better off and firms making higher profits, especially for high-cost products such as cars or other major assets.

 

The World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Constructed. 2017.Abstract

windpower

Earlier this week, The Netherlands opened what is now the world’s largest offshore wind farm. 150 new turbines are now in use for clean energy in the North Sea. The wind farm is located 53 miles off of the northern coast, and will meet the energy needs of about 1.5 million people.

The 2.8-billion-euro ($3 billion) project will contribute about 13% of the country's total renewable energy supply, and about 25% of its wind power. It will also help reduce emissions of carbon-dioxide emissions, among the so-called greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, by 1.25 million tons.

The Netherlands remain dependent on fossil fuels, which still make up about 95% of its energy supply, according to a 2016 report from the ministry of economic affairs. But the Dutch government has committed to ensuring that some 14% of its energy comes from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2020, and 16% by 2023, with the aim of being a carbon neutral by 2050.

 

Restoring Soil through Conservative Remedies. 2017.Abstract

soil

In conservative agriculture, there are alternative methods to restoring soil back to health. Just like our bodies need rest when they are tired or hungry, soil acts the same way. How do farmers know that? Fields don’t produce the same amount of yield, or diseases infect plants. The soil can lack nutrients needed to grow good crops. It may be more prone to erosion or have other physical problems.

Giving a field rest means the field is empty for a season or more. While this field does not provide income for the grower, continued fertilization is expensive. A bare field also runs the risk of erosion.

Research performed by Lars Munkholm at Aarhus University studied the impact of conservation agriculture techniques over a span of 11 years on two different farms. They combined the use of these techniques:

  • Creating very little soil disturbance
  • Ensuring permanent organic soil cover
  • Diversifying the crops grown on the farmland

The fields they studied are in Denmark, and have sandy loam soils. An ideal soil for farming is usually a type of loam, with a good mixture of sand, silt, and clay particles. But sandy loam soils have less clay to hold the soil together. The typical Danish farmer needs to successfully grow food and feed on these soils, making this study important for the nation's agribusiness industry.

This study found that in fields with less tillage, leaving crop residue on the soil was a good solution. In addition, growing permanent cover crops kept roots growing in the soil. This broke up soil clumps and made room for air and water. It also created a beneficial environment for soil microbes, fungi, and other organisms.

 

Storing Solar Energy Using Sulfur. 2017.Abstract

solarsulfur

Recently, researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) plan to develop an innovative sulfur-based storage system for solar power. Large-scale chemical storage of solar power and its overnight use as a fuel are to be achieved by means of a closed sulfur-sulfuric acid cycle. Long-term, this might be the basis of an economically efficient renewable energy source capable of providing base-load power.

It is planned to develop prototypes of the key components, such as the solar absorber, sulfuric acid evaporator, sulfur trioxide decomposer, and sulfur burner and to test them. In addition, the materials required for heat absorption, transfer, and storage and for the catalysts of the chemical reactions are planned to be tested for efficiency and long-term stability.

The concept envisaged for solar power tower facilities is characterized by the use of an inexpensive heat storage medium. Use of the stored energy in a burner makes these power plants capable of providing base-load power.

 

Saving Crops from Plant Disease. 2017.Abstract

drone

Recent research has found that drones could detect plant disease before any visible signs show, allowing farmers to stop infections in their tracks. Often, plant disease happens before it can be detected by the eye, such as when leaf discoloration happens. While these stresses are invisible to the naked eye, cameras using special filters could detect these subtle changes.

Researchers in the Department of Life Sciences and Computing are teaming with Agrii (an agriculture services company) to create cameras mounted on drones. Cameras that can automatically detect early disease stages, and notify farmers before the disease damages crops. Detecting plant disease, and spraying early in the right location would help farmers use fungicides effectively and targeting their use to best effect.

The drones will be equipped with multispectral cameras, using special filters to capture reflected light from selected regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Capturing reflected light using several lenses and different filters simultaneously allows scientists to look at how objects reflect parts of the electromagnetic spectrum differently. Plants that are susceptible to plant disease typically display a 'spectral signature' that distinguishes them from healthy plants.

 

Charisma: Not a Necessary Attribute in Effective Leadership. 2017.Abstract

leadership

According to new research led by Michigan State University business scholars, being considered an effective leader doesn’t necessarily have to include being charismatic.

Five studies were conducted, and it was found that bosses who were supportive and set clear expectations (not necessarily transformational leaders with grand visions) were able to effectively motivate their employees.

The study was published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and is one of the first to examine how a leader's mindset affects his or her own behavior and, consequentially, employee motivation. The research suggest bosses can modify their mindset to produce a certain outcome from workers, whether that's innovation or a more conservative work focus aimed at meeting basic obligations and preventing errors.

 

Tapping the Energy Potential in Ocean Tides. 2017.Abstract

waveenergy

 

There is a major project study being launched by the oceanographers at Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences to study tidal turbulence in Wales. The potential of ocean energy is a largely an untapped renewable energy resource, and the potential of the global market for marine energy is estimated to be worth around £76 billion between 2016 and 2050.

Grants totaling £230k have been awarded to Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences in order to access this source of energy. The aim is to help improve the design and operation of tidal energy capture devices.

The new projects link the Bangor team with oceanographic instrument manufacturer Nortek and marine renewable energy survey company Partrac. This team of specialists sets out to greatly improve the assessment of risks associated with turbulence and so help reduce development costs, leading to cheaper energy from the tides. The findings from these projects will be integrated into Nortek's innovative product development.

Using Cover Crops to Adapt to Climate Change. 2017.Abstract

covercropLong praised for the ability to fix erosion, fix atmospheric nitrogen, and improve soil health, cover crops might be able to play an important role in reducing the effects of climate change on agriculture.

According to a Penn State’s Jason Kaye, professor of soil biogeochemistry in the College of Agricultural Sciences, cover crops have the climate-change mitigation potential, comparable to other practices like no-till. Kaye contends that cover cropping can be an adaptive management tool to maintain yields and minimize nitrogen losses as the climate warms.

Collaborating with Miguel Quemada in the Department of Agriculture Production at the Technical University of Madrid in Spain, Kaye reviewed cover-cropping initiatives in Pennsylvania and central Spain. He said that lessons learned from cover cropping in those contrasting regions show that the strategy has merit in a warming world.

The researchers concluded that cover-crop effects on greenhouse-gas fluxes typically mitigate warming by 100-150 grams of carbon per square meter per year, which is comparable to, and perhaps higher than, mitigation from transitioning to no-till. The key ways that cover crops mitigate climate change from greenhouse-gas fluxes are by increasing soil carbon sequestration and reducing fertilizer use after legume cover crops.

Despite the benefits, Kaye is not necessarily advocating that cover crops be planted primarily for the purposes of climate-change mitigation or adaptation. Instead, he thinks the most important conclusion from his analysis is that there appear to be few compromises between traditional benefits of cover cropping and the benefits for climate change.

 

Avoiding Staff Burnout through “Meaningful Work”. 2017.Abstract

business

Contrary to previous studies, a new study has found that the strategy to boost staff performance and morale by manipulating desire for meaningful work often achieve the opposite.

According to a new paper in the journal Human Resource Management Review, the previous thought that important and meaningful work is the single most-valued feature of employment for most of us, brings a range of benefits for individuals and employers. Managers have recognized this and employ a range of techniques to harness this natural motivation, such as encouraging us to adopt organizational values, supporting good causes, and linking work to a wider purpose. But when employees view these strategies as self-serving, they then fall flat and can actually have negative consequences.

Professor Catherine Bailey in the School of Business, Management and Economics at the University of Sussex, says that the mismanagement of meaningfulness in the workplace is giving rise to what she describes as “existential labor.”

Professor Bailey and colleagues at Greenwich, Berlin and LSE identify two forms of 'acting' that employees use when they perceive organizational efforts to manage the meaningfulness of their work.

Surface existential acting is when an employee acts in line with expectations at work even if their true values and beliefs are different.

Deep existential acting occurs when an employee attempts to alter their own sense of what is meaningful in order to more closely align with their employer. The paper gives the example of a call center worker who finds meaning in helping vulnerable or worried customers, yet is expected to handle as many calls as possible in a day. That person sets out to deliberately change their perception of the situation so that they instead find meaning in helping the maximum number of people in a day, even if that means sacrificing time spent on each one.

Drilling for Clean Energy. 2017.Abstract

iceland

 

By using the most recent, technologically advanced equipment, engineers have begun to drill into the earth’s surface to harness endless geothermal energy.

For over 100 years, humans have used geothermal energy to produce electricity, now the goal is to generate an even more powerful source of clean electricity using the heat of volcanic areas. Whether it can become controlled has yet to be confirmed.

Hjalti Páll Ingólfsson, from the Geothermal Research Group (GEORG) in Iceland works on on the DEEPEGS project, under which a team of geothermal researchers recently drilled the world's deepest well in an active volcanic area — the HS Orka geothermal field in Iceland — reaching a depth of 4,659 meters. They hope to tap into the limitless supply of geothermal energy by accessing searing hot water under such extreme pressure that it's in a supercritical state, which has properties of both a gas and a liquid.

“Drilling into a volcanic system, we can expect much more heat,” explained Ingólfsson. However, there are also risks to drilling into volcanic areas. “We can expect magma, which we actually did get in another well.” In addition to magma, which the engineers need to make sure they avoid, volcanic rock contains many faults and cracks, which can cause the drill to get stuck, slowing down the drilling process and increasing the difficulty.

Harvesting Energy from Waste Heat. 2017.Abstract

wasteheat

 

A new thermal infrared device could one day make it possible to collect waste heat at infrared wavelengths and turn it into reusable energy. This new technology may improve thermophotovoltaics, which is a type of solar cell that uses infrared light (heat) rather than the visible light absorbed by traditional solar cells.

The new device is based on synthetic materials that exhibit exotic properties not available from natural materials. The researchers used a metamaterial engineered to absorb and emit infrared wavelengths with very high efficiency. This in combination with electronically controlled movement, the researchers created the first metamaterial device with infrared emission properties that can be quickly changed on a pixel-by-pixel basis.

The researchers report that their infrared emitter can achieve a range of infrared intensities and can display patterns at speeds of up to 110 kHz, or more than 100,000 times per second. Scaling up the technology could allow it to be used to create dynamic infrared patterns for friend or foe identification during combat.

 

The Benefits and Costs of Sharing Social Responsibility for Businesses. 2017.Abstract

wallet

 

When businesses share social responsibility with customers, it is generally viewed as a win-win. More patronage from socially responsible customers and larger benefits to society.

However, a study forthcoming in the INFORMS journal of Marketing Science questions the idea. The study finds that when a firm shares social responsibility with customers by asking them to "pay what you want," promising a certain percentage of revenues to be donated to charity, consumers respond to whether firms give, but very little to how much they give. A firm only needs to donate very little for customers to open up their wallet - a win for firms, but not for charities and society.

The study "Signaling Virtue: Charitable Behavior under Consumer Elective Pricing," by researchers Minah Jung of NYU, Leif Nelson of University of California at Berkeley, and Uri and Ayelet Gneezy both from University of California at San Diego examine consumer behavior under the broad umbrella of "shared social responsibility.”

In summary, the study found that customers are very sensitive to whether a portion of their payment goes to charity, but seemingly insensitive to how much goes to charity has critical implications for the design of shared social responsibility programs.

 

Engineering Molds to Produce Energy Instead of Toxins. 2017.Abstract

fungi

 

While molds have important implications for human health, energy production, and agriculture, they also yield toxic molecules that can contaminate a food supply. Recently it has been discovered that an organelle within fungal cells called the endoplasmic reticulum acts as a cellular factory for synthesizing diverse natural products called sesquiterpenes in fungal cells. Some sesquiterpenes are toxins that pose a health risk to humans, while others are potential precursors to alternative fuels.

Molds, or filamentous fungi, produce a diversity of natural molecules with unique byproducts. Many of those byproducts have been used as pharmaceuticals and antibiotics, and some may be promising alternatives to fossil fuels. Despite the importance of these molecules in medicine and agriculture, it has not been clear which cellular compartments are involved in synthesizing natural products in fungal cells.

Some scientists have proposed a sesquiterpene called bisabolene could be a precursor for a viable alternative to biodiesel fuels. By understanding how these molecules are synthesized in fungal cells, it may be possible to engineer this biochemical pathway to generate valuable products instead of undesirable toxins.

 

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