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Harvard University Researchers introduce “Bionic Leaf” that will turn Sunlight into Liquid Fuel

Tapping sunlight to convert it into liquid fuels would reduce the vast areas of land usually used for producing plants that generate biofuels

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An Agricultural field in Argentina. Image source: Wikipedia
  • “Bionic leaf 2.0” is a cost-effective alternative energy source
  • The process includes tapping sunlight to convert it into liquid fuels 
  • This will reduce the need to grow crops like sugarcane and corn that are normally cultivated for biofuels

To combat climate change, a new clean technology “Bionic leaf 2.0”, has been introduced by the researchers at Harvard University in the academic journal Science, on Thursday, June 2.

The study in the recent publication of the journal discusses how “Bionic leaf 2.0” aims to make use of solar panels for splitting molecules of water into oxygen and hydrogen. On separation of the water compounds, hydrogen is moved into a chamber for consumption by bacteria. A specialised metal catalyst and carbon dioxide in the chamber then helps generate a liquid fuel. “The method is an artificial version of photosynthesis in plants,” say scientists.

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Another efficient way of farming. Aquaponics- A Deep Water Culture hydroponics system where plant grow directly into the effluent rich water without a soil medium. Image source: Wikipedia
Another efficient way of farming. Aquaponics- A Deep Water Culture hydroponics system where plant grow directly into the effluent rich water without a soil medium. Image source: Wikipedia

Tapping sunlight to convert it into liquid fuels would reduce the vast areas of land usually used for producing plants that generate biofuels. According to a study by the University of Virginia, about 4 per cent of the world’s farmland is currently under crops for fuel rather than crops for food.

Crops like sugarcane and corn are normally cultivated for biofuels. “Tens of thousands of small-scale farmers across Africa, Asia, and Latin America have been displaced by plantations growing crops to make biofuels,” a Barcelona-based land rights group GRAIN was quoted saying.

“This [new energy source] is not competing with food for agricultural land,” said Harvard University Professor of Energy Daniel Nocera to Thomson Reuters. The land-area requirement to install such solar panels is about one-tenth the size of what would be needed for sugar cane. It would further help reduce emission of greenhouse gases and eventually reduce global warming levels.

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“Bionic leaf 2.0” converts solar energy into liquid fuel with 10 percent efficiency, far higher than the 1 percent efficiency seen in the fastest-growing plants that use a similar process, Nocera added.

Despite the fact that growing biofuels or extracting fossil fuels are cheaper than producing renewable energy, it is believed that the technology has potentials of replacing oil wells or plantations for fuel.

Nocera is also optimistic that “Bionic leaf 2.0” would appeal to investors as a cost-effective alternative energy source if the government decides on pricing carbon dioxide emissions. He adds that a carbon tax to boost US gas prices equalling that of European levels might impel investments in the new technology. However, that is yet to be on the cards.

-by Maariyah (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @MaariyahSid

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Here’s Why Work From Home May Not be Beneficial for the Planet

Working from home may not be as good to planet as thought

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work from home
The majority of studies on the subject analysed by the University of Sussex researchers in the UK agreed that working-from-home reduced commuter travel and energy use - by as much as 80 per cent in some cases. Pixabay

A mass move to working-from-home accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic might not be beneficial to Mother Earth as energy savings were offset by increased travel for recreation or other purposes, together with additional energy use in the home, says a new study.

The majority of studies on the subject analysed by the University of Sussex researchers in the UK agreed that working-from-home reduced commuter travel and energy use – by as much as 80 per cent in some cases.

But, according to the researchers, small number of studies found that telecommuting increased energy use or had a negligible impact, since the energy savings were offset by increased travel for recreation or other purposes.

work from home
Unless workers and employers fully commit to working from the home model, many of the potential energy savings could be lost. Pixabay

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“While most studies conclude that teleworking can contribute energy savings, the more rigorous studies and those with a broader scope present more ambiguous findings,” said study researcher Andrew Hook, Professor at the University of Sussex.

“Where studies include additional impacts, such as non-work travel or office and home energy use, the potential energy savings appear more limited – with some studies suggesting that, in the context of growing distances between the workplace and home, part-week teleworking could lead to a net increase in energy consumption,” Hook explained.

“While the lockdown has clearly reduced energy consumption, only some of those savings will be achieved in more normal patterns of teleworking,” said study researcher Steven Sorrell.

“To assess whether teleworking is really sustainable, we need to look beyond the direct impact on commuting and investigate how it changes a whole range of daily activities,” Sorrell added.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, provides a systematic review of current knowledge of the energy impacts of teleworking, synthesising the results of 39 empirical studies from the US, Europe, Thailand, Malaysia and Iran published between 1995 and 2019.

According to the researchers, even the mass migration of workers to home working might have only a small impact on overall energy usage.

work from home
A mass move to working-from-home accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic might not be beneficial to Mother Earth as energy savings were offset by increased travel for recreation or other purposes, together with additional energy use in the home. Pixabay

One study noted that even if all US information workers teleworked for four days a week, the drop in national energy consumption would be significantly less effective than a 20 per cent improvement in car fuel efficiency.

The study also warns that technological advances could erode some of the energy savings due to the short lifetime and rapid replacement of Information and communications technology (ICTs), their increasingly complex supply chains, their dependence on rare earth elements and the development of energy-intensive processes such as cloud storage and video streaming.

The authors added that modern-day work patterns are becoming increasingly complex, diversified and personalised, making it harder to track whether teleworking is definitively contributing energy savings.

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“Unless workers and employers fully commit to working from the home model, many of the potential energy savings could be lost,” the researchers noted.

The research was conducted by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS), a UK-based research centre, which tracks changes in energy demand. (IANS)

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Know About the Various Fasting Methods for Weight Loss

Fasting for weight loss: Know the pros and cons

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Weight loss
Fasting can have various health benefits and can help you out with your weight loss. Pixabay

Across India, fasting is generally linked with religious beliefs, and people fast before or during traditional rituals. On the other hand, fasting also has many health benefits and some of its pitfalls.

Many times, people ignore their bodily conditions and choose to fast. For instance, women who are breastfeeding or are pregnant must not fast. Also, people with Type 1 Diabetes who are on medication and people who have had a history with an eating disorder should consult a health specialist before altering a dietary pattern.

Fast can be done in various patterns: the ’16:8′ pattern involves 14 to 16 hours of fasting and eating between the 8 hours. Another fasting method is 5:2, that is fasting for alternate two days in a week.

Weight loss
A good diet can not only help you lose weight but it can also boost immunity. Pixabay

There are various types of fasting methods that you can follow considering your health condition, as says Shikha Mahajan, holistic nutritionist and founder of Diet Podium:

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting or IF includes reducing calorie intake for an interval of time so that the person fasts for the other hours. This kind of fasting allows restricting the calorie intake and results in weight loss. Time-Restricted Fasting is also similar to IF.

Water Fasting

Water fasting is a way of fasting where the individual only takes water and the intake of food is restricted for a duration of time. This kind of fasting should only be preferred under medical supervision. Sometimes doctors prescribe this kind of fasting to cure various health issues. There is a major drawback of this fasting. Since it is very difficult for a body to survive only on water. Therefore, it can cause many adverse effects on the body.

Weight loss
Water fasting can help you lose weight but should only be preferred under medical supervision. Pixabay

Fasting Mimicking Diet

This is the diet that tricks the body to think it is fasting. The individual is allowed to eat but only the diet which includes plant-based food, low in carbs and calories, and high in fat.

Here are some pros of fasting. Fasting helps to boost immunity. It naturally increases energy and will help you to feel more alert and focused throughout the day. It helps you attain a leaner, harder physique as fasting kills body fat dead.

There are cons of fasting too. The desire to binge after fasting is the biggest problem people face with fasting. Sometimes people tend to overeat during the non-fasting duration. This can lead to health issues like hormonal imbalances, increase in stress and migraines.

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Occasional lightheadedness is the major problem faced during fasting, To negate this con, you can start with shorter fasting periods first. Always remember fasting or changing your dietary pattern can make a big change to your body functioning, its metabolism and psyche.

Before opting for any kind of fast, consult a health expert and consider your health background. (IANS)

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Hydrate and Prepare Yourself for Summers

Avoid dehydration and water loss this summer

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Summers
Avoiding excessive water loss and dehydration is essential especially in the summers. Pixabay

Come April, and the summer heat is only going to get more intense. Avoiding excessive water loss and dehydration is essential especially in the summers , says an expert.

“The human body is made up of 60 percent of water and as the temperature warms up this water loss can increase many folds. There is loss of not only water but also electrolytes from the body due excessive sweating. It may lead to fatigue, weakness, sunken eyes, decreased urine or dark colored urine, muscle pains, etc. In severe cases it may lead to heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn, or heat rash,” said Dr R K Bhel, Director, Internal Medicine, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Mohali.

It is crucial to drink plenty of fluids during hot and humid months. Fluids can be in form of plain water, fruit juices, coconut water or the good old nimboo paani or lemonade.

Summers
It is very crucial to stay hydrated during the hot summers. Pixabay

Hence, it becomes important to maintain water and electrolyte balance through proper hydration. As our water reserves go down, our body automatically sends a signal to the brain making us feel thirsty.

It is also a wise idea to stay indoors specially during the peak summer afternoons to minimize sweat loss.

In case of severe dehydration, one must go for Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) as it contains sodium, glucose, potassium and chloride which helps in maintaining the electrolyte balance in the body, he suggests.

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Also including fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, melons, lettuce, tomatoes, etc can help you keeping hydrated as they contain high water content.

Staying away from alcohol, coffee and excessive sugary drinks is a good idea as these make you dehydrated due to their diuretic action. (IANS)