As climate change challenges continue to crop up around fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, identifying renewable fuel materials and developing processes that produce environmentally friendly, cost-competitive biofuels are becoming increasingly important. 

MSU scientists are at the forefront of biofuels research and have made Michigan a leader in producing biofuels from cellulose and hemicellulose, the complex sugars that make grasses, plant stems and stalks, and leaves rigid.

Stephen SchwartzNew report on climate change explores the reasons

Planet Earth has warmed much less than expected during the industrial era based on current best estimates of Earth’s “climate sensitivity”—the amount of global temperature increase expected in response to a given rise in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2). In a study to be published in the Journal of Climate, a publication of the American Meteorological Society (the early online release of the paper is available starting 19 January 2010; the link is given below), Stephen Schwartz, of Brookhaven National Laboratory, and colleagues examine the reasons for this discrepancy.

by David Chandler

If we plan to keep using fossil fuels, we need to figure out how to sequester the resulting carbon dioxide. New tools from MIT could help evaluate where to do it — and how to keep it contained.

To meet our immediate energy needs without exacerbating climate change, most experts agree, we’ll need to find a way to store the carbon dioxide given off by the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. But no full-scale storage systems exist, and the plans to create them have many unknowns.

BYU engineering students recently toyed with a new power source for tiny vehicles: the small candles commonly used atop birthday cakes.

Their “Candle-Powered Car Competition” limited competitors to only 10 candles for fuel and challenged them to create a vehicle that could travel 100 feet in 15 minutes. The event was organized by the BYU chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

by David Chandler

New message beamed to the stars commemorates Earth’s first attempt to reach out to intelligent aliens

Alien beings on faraway planets may not have noticed, but it’s been 35 years since human beings made the first deliberate effort to send them a message.

In 1974, astronomers Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, both working at Cornell University, used the world’s biggest and most powerful radio telescope to transmit a one-of-a-kind three-minute message. It consisted of 1,679 bits — ones and zeroes — and was cleverly designed to produce a simple image revealing something about humans’ size and shape, our solar system, the dish that sent the message, and even the biochemistry of our bodies.

When children need kidney dialysis because of disease or congenital defects, doctors are forced to adapt adult-size dialysis equipment. No FDA-approved kidney replacement devices exist that are specifically designed for children.

To address this problem, physicians and researchers from Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Georgia Institute of Technology have teamed up to develop a kidney replacement device capable of treating children.
Over the past five years, the three institutions have further solidified a cohesive relationship aimed at medical discovery, quality-care improvement and health care innovation.

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