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  • richardmitnick 4:24 pm on January 13, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Olives-the source of “liquid gold”-offer more riches to unlock", , Companies are finding promising ways to use the nutrient-filled residue from olive-oil production., Currently only about 0.2% of the world’s residual olive leaves find commercial uses., Global annual production of olive oil totals about 3 million tonnes of which 2 million tonnes are in Europe., Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine, Olive oil is a multibillion-euro global business and Manuel Román is determined to create an even bigger market from the sacred ancient fruit., Olive pulp is rich in iron and proteins and antioxidants., Olive-tree leaves also have significant commercial potential., One of the main obstacles to turning biowaste into new products is creating the demand and building the supply chains to meet it., Only about 25% of an olive is used for the prized oil., Román is co-founder of ISANATUR-a Spanish company that has built a refinery able to turn every part of an olive into a commercial product of some kind., The chemical content of leaves depends on where they grew and how they were handled before processing., Thousands of tonnes of natural products are not being used and we are missing out on the opportunity to eat these healthy compounds., To break into the market for animal-feed additives economic efficiency is key., Two companies have already successfully tested olive pulp ingredients in feed for fish to determine whether they protect salmon from bacterial infections., What is needed is a market willing to use the products - the olive powder and olive water and olive seed., While olive oil has been called ‘liquid gold’ for millennia because of its many health benefits the residue is also packed full of goodness.   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Olives-the source of “liquid gold”-offer more riches to unlock” 

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    1.13.23
    Alex Whiting

    Companies are finding promising ways to use the nutrient-filled residue from olive-oil production.

    1
    Only about 25% of an olive is used for the prized oil. Image credit: Lucio Patone on Unsplash.

    Olive oil is a multibillion-euro global business and Manuel Román is determined to create an even bigger market from the sacred ancient fruit.

    Román is co-founder of ISANATUR-a Spanish company that has built a refinery able to turn every part of an olive into a commercial product of some kind.

    Pulp and pits

    Only about 25% of an olive is used for the prized oil, with the remaining pulp, pits and water ending up in landfills or being turned into fertilizer. The pits can also be used for fuel.

    ‘What is needed is a market willing to use the products – the olive powder, olive water, olive seed,’ said Román, former coordinator of an EU-funded project developing ways to transform the entire residue into commercial goods.

    Global annual production of olive oil totals about 3 million tonnes of which 2 million tonnes are in Europe. The worldwide olive oil market is worth nearly €13 billion, according to Fortune Business Insights.

    While olive oil has been called ‘liquid gold’ for millennia because of its many health benefits the residue is also packed full of goodness.

    Companies in Europe are developing ways to tap into this rich source of ingredients so they can be used in health and beauty products, food supplements and animal feed.

    ‘Thousands of tonnes of natural products are not being used and we are missing out on the opportunity to eat these healthy compounds,’ said Román.

    He was interim coordinator of UP4HEALTH, which began in mid-2020 and is due to continue until end-May 2024. Run from Spain, Europe’s top producer of olive oil, the project brings together participants determined to end olive waste.

    ISANATUR is already selling powder made from olive pulp – which is rich in iron, proteins and antioxidants – for use in snack bars and food supplements.

    The overall potential is enormous. Other products include soluble fibre to boost digestive health, drinks made from olive water and fats that can be used as skin moisturizers.

    Although UP4HEALTH includes several small and medium-sized food and nutraceutical businesses testing the products, it wants to attract large multinational companies that could create enough demand to scale.

    One of the main obstacles to turning biowaste into new products is creating the demand and building the supply chains to meet it.

    Leafy promises

    Olive-tree leaves, which are normally left to rot in groves or burnt for energy, also have significant commercial potential.

    A second EU-funded project coordinated from Spain, OLEAF4VALUE, has brought together scientists, multinational companies and olive farmers to develop uses for leaves in a range of products.

    Olive leaves contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and antimicrobials, which – like olive-oil residue – could be used in food supplements, pharmaceuticals, beauty products and animal feed.

    Currently only about 0.2% of the world’s residual olive leaves find commercial uses, according to OLEAF4VALUE.

    The project wants to increase the level to 15% with the help of Oleícola El Tejar, a Spanish farm cooperative that already handles an equivalent percentage of the world’s supply of olive pulp, pits and leaves.

    The project is working with Mibelle Biochemistry Switzerland, a multinational that designs ingredients for the beauty industry.

    But inroads are also being made into other markets including feed, said José Maria Pinilla, coordinator of OLEAF4VALUE.

    Healthier fish

    Pinilla is project manager at Natac Group, which makes natural ingredients for food supplements, feed and pharmaceuticals.

    Natac works with Norway-based Mowi, the world’s largest producer of farmed salmon.

    The two companies have already successfully tested olive pulp ingredients in feed for fish to determine whether they protect salmon from bacterial infections. Trials so far – conducted at the Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology in Spain – have found they make salmon more resilient to such contagion.

    Now, as part of OLEAF4VALUE, Natac and Mowi are testing ingredients from the leaves to gauge whether they can protect fish from viral infections.

    Trials are under way at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, Norway and should be completed by the end of 2023, according to Pinilla.

    To break into the market for animal-feed additives economic efficiency is key.

    ‘If you want to enter that market, you need to be very, very cost competitive,’ said Pinilla.

    Smarter sorting

    To cut production costs in general, the project is developing a new way to extract the most value from the leaves.

    With this technique, known as “dynamic processing,” each batch of leaves is processed differently according to its chemical content. OLEAF4VALUE researchers are creating a sensor that analyses the chemical composition of each batch.

    The chemical content of leaves depends on where they grew and how they were handled before processing. The content determines the most suitable products for leaves.

    For example, olive leaves contain oleuropein, which is used as a food supplement. Its content in leaves varies from 0.2% to 10%.

    Currently, leaves are all processed in the same way and for the same purposes.

    ‘But if I want to produce a very high-purity oleuropein, it’s obviously much easier to do it with a high-content leaf at the beginning,’ said Pinilla.

    With dynamic processing, only olive leaves with high oleuropein content are used to extract this compound. The rest are processed for different chemicals.

    The project is also developing treatments to modify the chemical content of leaves so they contain higher concentrations of certain chemicals before processing begins.

    Plenty of research is still needed for both the processes and the products. Then the challenge will be to find major buyers.

    But Pinilla is certain about the merits of the whole initiative.

    ‘In theory we could have nothing to throw away,’ he said. ‘We are trying for a zero-waste approach.’

    See the full article here .

    Comments are invited and will be appreciated, especially if the reader finds any errors which I can correct. Use “Reply”.


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  • richardmitnick 2:21 pm on January 12, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Fishing for answers - new technology onboard can help protect oceans", , Digital advances will increase the sustainability of global fisheries and preserve marine ecosystems., , , Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine, , Overfishing is a persistent threat particularly in the Mediterranean and Black Sea., Protecting marine ecosystems around the world is an increasingly pressing issue., Resources are being widely overexploited and there is a real risk that certain species numbers could collapse or ecosystems be irreversibly damaged., The sea is a vital source of food for people and fishing is an economic activity that supports many coastal communities around Europe and the world.   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Fishing for answers – new technology onboard can help protect oceans” 

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    1.10.23
    ALI JONES

    1

    Digital advances will increase the sustainability of global fisheries and preserve marine ecosystems.

    Off the rugged coastline of Iceland, five fishing vessels are part of a project to test a state-of-the-art machine for capturing information about the catch of the day. A first of its kind, the initiative aims to help meet the need for more detailed data on the state of our seas.

    ‘We’re living in a time of technology where everything is being scanned and registered in a database, but as far as I know it’s the first time for wild fish,’ said Axel Freyr Gíslason, head of product development at Skaginn 3X, developer of the scanning machine featuring computers and cameras. The Iceland-based company is part of the EU funded SEASCANN project.

    Protecting marine ecosystems around the world is an increasingly pressing issue, which has been given new impetus by international sustainability and biodiversity goals agreed at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022.

    On the one hand, the sea is a vital source of food for people and fishing is an economic activity that supports many coastal communities around Europe and the world. On the other hand, these resources are being widely overexploited and there is a real risk that certain species numbers could collapse or ecosystems be irreversibly damaged.

    Clearer picture

    Although some progress has been made since the reform of the EU Fisheries Policy in 2013, overfishing is a persistent threat, particularly in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Added to this are concerns about pollution and overall ecosystem health.

    Run-off of chemicals and fertilisers from agricultural land, in particular, has led in certain areas to excessive nutrients in the water. This in turn has resulted in algae overgrowth that depletes oxygen levels and suffocates other marine life.

    Gaining an accurate overview of all the factors that go into building a healthy marine ecosystem is vital. It is also challenging. This is where scientific knowledge has a crucial part to play: high-quality information is key to understanding the state of play and what actions will be the most effective in restoring ocean health.

    The EU is supporting a variety of research projects aimed at harnessing new technologies to increase both the quality and the quantity of information available to scientists and policy makers.

    Broader scope

    Another such project is EcoScope, which started from the principle that every aspect of the marine ecosystem is interconnected. To date, efforts to preserve fish stocks have typically focused on managing species one by one, often placing a catch limit on a particular fish species if its numbers are too low.

    EcoScope aims to establish a more comprehensive approach to fisheries management by tracking the health of the ecosystem as a whole.

    The project involves 18 countries. Its partners include universities, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and tech companies. The EcoScope team is mapping a range of factors that can affect the health of fisheries, including changes to the environment, the status of other species and the impact of human activity.

    The information collated is being made available through a single interoperable online platform that is also open to the general public.

    Citizen reporters

    One aspect of EcoScope seeks to harness the power of citizen science through a smartphone application.

    The EcoScope app will allow people to report on concerns relating to the marine environment. Reports will be transferred directly to local authorities or the relevant port police, with GPS location, pictures and details depending on the incident.

    Overall the information collated and mapped out by the project will provide an important resource to all those involved with the sea.

    ‘I feel very optimistic about the impact this project can have because, for a long time, lack of data has been an excuse for lack of action,’ said Tsikliras. ‘This excuse will not be there anymore.’

    Making fisheries-related data available also supports the objectives of the Horizon Europe Mission to Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030. To meet the Mission’s goals, advanced systems are needed to better monitor, forecast and evaluate the health of the aquatic system as a whole.

    Precision data

    New technology also has a vital role in gathering accurate information at source. SEASCANN’s testing of the first fully automatic grading system off the coast of Iceland is a case in point.

    Fish pass through the SEASCANN machine, which makes a digital record of their size, colour, quality and species. It sends the information in real-time to the onboard crew as well as onshore for analysis by fishery teams and organisations that monitor fishing activities.

    The precision automation offered by SEASCANN is a world away from the conventional time-consuming task of manually sorting through fishing nets and takes fishing traceability to new levels.

    The technology relies on machine learning, developed over several years spent teaching the system to recognise different species. Because the equipment is located on the deck of a boat, battling the elements, other technical challenges had to be addressed.

    ‘Most of the components – the computers, high-definition cameras and other items – are not designed to work in a densely humidified and highly saline atmosphere,’ said Gíslason. ‘We’ve had to think outside the box to find ways to overcome the elements, to develop technology that recognises the fish in all conditions.’

    By investing in new technologies and data tools, projects like SEASCANN and EcoScope hope to give decision makers the knowledge they need to design policies that foster greater ecosystem-based management.

    As a result, these initiatives improve the chances of maintaining the delicate balance between food security and a healthy ocean well into the future.

    Follow the links below to learn more about the EU-funded projects featured in this article.

    EcoScope
    SEASCANN

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:40 am on December 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "EU awards €5 million prize to research team for harnessing the sun to make fuel from water", , , , , Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “EU awards €5 million prize to research team for harnessing the sun to make fuel from water” 

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    12.13.22
    Alex Whiting

    1
    Although sunlight is abundant and free, many of the methods for converting it into fuel are too expensive – or too difficult to scale up – to compete with fossil fuels. Image credit: CHUTTERSNAP via Unsplash.

    A research team led by the University of Tokyo won a €5 million European Union prize this month for coming up with a novel way to make abundant and cheap fuel from sunlight.

    In the scramble to find alternatives to fossil fuels, the EU competition aimed to accelerate development of one of the most promising new technologies – artificial photosynthesis – in a spirit of fostering international collaboration over the most promising clean-energy paths.

    Big potential

    The technology mimics natural photosynthesis in which plants use rays from the sun to transform water into oxygen and carbon dioxide into chemical energy in the form of glucose.

    Artificial photosynthesis uses sunlight to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Oxygen is released into the atmosphere and hydrogen can be used as fuel.

    ‘Artificial photosynthesis has the potential to provide a huge amount of green fuel,’ Professor Kazunari Domen, the winning team’s coordinator, said in an interview after the European Commission announced the award on 5 December in Brussels.

    Composed of scientists from the University of Tokyo and Japanese energy company INPEX, the team was among 22 applicants for the Fuel from the Sun prize and made it on to a shortlist of three finalists before emerging victorious. The two runners-up were from France and Britain.

    The contest took place in the framework of a global initiative called Mission Innovation, which brings together 24 countries and is spurring research activities and investments in a bid to make clean energy universally accessible and affordable. 

    ‘The prize was awarded to the winning team for the high degree of professional engineering and integration,’ said the Commission.

    If artificial photosynthesis can be done cheaply enough, it could replace oil, natural gas and coal for all sorts of vehicles, machines and industries including chemicals that cannot be powered by renewable electricity alone.

    Although sunlight is abundant and free, many of the methods for converting it into fuel are too expensive – or too difficult to scale up – to compete with fossil fuels.

    Engine test

    The winners’ prototype has the potential to be both cheap and easily scalable.

    Contestants had to develop a device that used artificial photosynthesis to create enough fuel to power a small engine. The devices were run outdoors and tested for the amount of fuel they produced, its composition and its ability to power the engine.

    The winning system used photocatalysts in contact with pure water.

    Photocatalysts are ultrafine particles that absorb the sun’s energy and trigger the water to split. The resulting hydrogen was then combined with carbon dioxide to produce methane, which was used to run the engine.  

    2
    A solar fuel (methane) production system constructed at Ispra, Italy for the EIC Horizon Prize ‘Fuel from the Sun: Artificial Photosynthesis’. © Kazunari Domen and Taro Yamada.

    Because photocatalysts are a simple way to convert sunlight into chemical energy, they hold out the hope of making low-cost green hydrogen, said Prof Domen, a professor at the University of Tokyo and Shinshu University.

    Green hydrogen

    The challenge of the contest was to build a fully functional prototype of an artificial photosynthesis-based system that can produce a useable synthetic fuel.

    ‘Our project has so far targeted the production of hydrogen, but thanks to this competition we gained important insights into the synthesis of green fuels like methane that are more favourable for storage and transport,’ Prof Domen said.

    The hydrogen produced in the winning system can be deemed green, he said. 

    Today green hydrogen, made with renewable energy including solar and wind, accounts for less than 1% of total hydrogen produced, according to the International Energy Agency.

    The current cost of producing green hydrogen is so high that the activity is unprofitable without government support, according to Prof Domen.

    His team’s priority now is to find a more effective photocatalyst.

    The winning device achieved about 0.6% efficiency – meaning that around 99% of the energy was lost. To make such a fuel commercially viable, the catalyst will need to deliver at least 5% efficiency, said Prof Domen.

    ‘We have already found several candidate materials which can deliver efficiency of 5% or even 10%,’ he said. ‘So I believe that we can do that in the near future.’

    Market hurdles

    If successful, the team should be able to overcome the remaining barriers to commercialisation within years – rather than decades – in collaboration with industry partners, he said.

    One hurdle that Prof Domen is confident of clearing is regulatory.

    While the combination of hydrogen and oxygen is ‘explosive’, he said, ‘we know how to handle the mixture safely.’

    Another obstacle is developing cheap reactors and improving the separation of the hydrogen from the mix.

    If successful, the final production plants will comprise very thin containers of water and photocatalysts, which are exposed to sunlight.

    About 10 000 plants, each covering 25 square kilometres, would need to be built by 2050 to meet one third of the world’s energy needs, according to Prof Domen.

    Profit prospect

    ‘Many industry people told me that if they can make money, then 10 000 plants is not impossible,’ he said. ‘It really depends on whether they can make money or not.’

    Meanwhile, as his team races to find a more effective photocatalyst, Prof Domen says the Fuel from the Sun prize will help turn sceptics of the method into proponents of it.

    ‘Most people don’t believe photocatalysts would work,’ he said.
    __________________________________________________________________
    Fuel from the Sun finalists

    The two runners-up for the “Fuel from the Sun” prize were the France-based Atomic Energy and Alternative Energies Commission, also known as CEA, and the University of Cambridge in the UK.

    Following are comments made by representatives of two contestants at the 5 December award ceremony:

    CEA

    ‘We are very happy to have been a part of this very exciting project related to the environmental crisis.’

    ‘I would like to congratulate the other contestants and, of course, the winner of the prize. We are really impatient to discover more about the technology you developed and we are, of course, open for collaboration. And we have young researchers that are open to opportunities too in these topics.’

    University of Cambridge

    ‘It really pushed us to develop these technologies much faster than we would have done otherwise.’

    ‘Many congratulations to the Japanese team, a very well-deserved winner. We have all been following their work for many, many years – it’s very impressive. But also the French team many congratulations. We are very pleased to have been in the boat with you and battle for the prize.’

    See the full article here .

    Comments are invited and will be appreciated, especially if the reader finds any errors which I can correct. Use “Reply”.


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  • richardmitnick 11:21 am on December 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Heavy-duty trucks drive clean hydrogen to the next level", , , , Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Heavy-duty trucks drive clean hydrogen to the next level” 

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    12.14.22
    Gareth Willmer

    Greenhouse gas emissions have been declining steadily in the EU in recent years, dropping by over a quarter between 1990 and 2019. However, transport is one sector that has bucked the trend, despite advances in technology.

    1
    Long distances and strict time requirements make the long-haul trucking sector difficult to decarbonize. Credit: Erich Westendarp from Pixabay.

    2
    Trucking World Endorses Toyota’s Hydrogen-Powered Fuel Cells as a Step Toward a Cleaner Planet.

    Long before city dwellers complained about air pollution and carbon emissions, they moaned about mounds of manure lining the streets and attracting clouds of flies. In the 19th century, horse-drawn vehicles were used to move freight long distances. While carbon emissions were practically non-existent, horse manure was a big sticking point.

    It topped the agenda during the first International Urban Planning Conference in New York in 1898. Unfortunately, there was no solution to the horse pollution crisis.

    Eventually, horses were replaced by other modes of transportation made possible by the combustion engine – trading one type of pollution for another.

    From horses to horsepower

    It’s been a long ride from there to here. However, the transport sector continues to create a huge amount of pollution, with road transport accounting for around one-fifth of the EU’s total CO2 emissions.

    Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty vehicles like freight and refuse trucks, as well as buses and coaches, is a priority. This sector, which is responsible for a quarter of the EU’s CO2 emissions from road transport, saw emissions rise by 29% between 1990 and 2019.

    Moreover, emissions from trucks are set to grow as a proportion of the total, said Andrew Flagg, a senior consultant and project manager at Element Energy, part of multinational consultancy firm Environmental Resources Management. This is due to other vehicles being further ahead with low-emission technology, through the likes of traditional electric batteries in cars.

    ‘With decarbonization taking place at quite a pace now for cars and buses, the share of heavy goods vehicles in terms of emissions is going to grow,’ he said. ‘So there’s a particular need to accelerate the decarbonization for those vehicles.’

    But trucks face challenges when it comes to using electric power compared with lighter vehicles. ‘The problem is that this sector is particularly difficult to decarbonize,’ said Flagg.

    The long distances that trucks need to travel, for example, creates issues for how often batteries need charging, how fast they charge, as well as the available charging infrastructure. Truck batteries can also be heavy and large, affecting the amount of transportable cargo and how far they can travel before they need recharging.

    Harnessing hydrogen

    One answer is to use hydrogen power, using a process whereby hydrogen and oxygen gas are fed into a fuel cell to produce electricity. ‘With the higher energy density with hydrogen, you can have fewer batteries on a truck,’ said Flagg. ‘This enables you to travel those longer distances and cope with the heavier payloads.’

    Hydrogen-powered vehicles can also rapidly refuel in minutes. ‘As a fleet operator, you would not want to spend a long time charging a vehicle,’ said Flagg. ‘Hydrogen enables you to refuel much quicker and therefore enables operational flexibility.’

    While the technology has shown promise, it has so far often tended to be deployed in smaller-scale demonstrations of limited truck numbers, said Flagg. The H2Haul project that he leads plans to take things to the next level by deploying a fleet of 16 new heavy-duty hydrogen fuel-cell trucks.

    These will be rolled out in Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland in collaboration with two major European truck manufacturers, IVECO and VDL. The technology’s performance will be assessed by driving the trucks for more than a million kilometres during normal operations.

    The first trucks will be on the road in the coming months, with all expected to be in operation by the end of 2023. Performance data will then be collected and analyzed.

    16 trucks, 6 fueling stations

    ‘H2Haul is groundbreaking in that it’s 16 trucks,’ said Flagg. ‘I would say it’s the next step in terms of getting trucks deployed by European manufacturers, upscaling the number of trucks being developed, and deploying fleets in a range of different countries and operating environments.’

    To demonstrate their viability, H2Haul is also developing six hydrogen fueling stations. Two are already operational in Switzerland, while others are expected in Belgium and France in the coming months, and two in Germany by the end of 2023.

    3
    © Colruyt Group.

    Researchers are now employing a similar approach for waste-collection trucks. The REVIVE project is integrating fuel-cell technology into 14 waste trucks operating in real-world conditions for at least two years at a total of 8 sites in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.

    With waste trucks, hydrogen technology has tended to be deployed by smaller manufacturers so far, said Dimitri Van den Borre, a project manager at Tractebel Engineering in Brussels, Belgium, and project lead for REVIVE. ‘What we need is bigger manufacturers stepping into this market,’ he said.
    ===
    Waste benefits

    Using the technology in refuse trucks is expected to have several advantages. One is that they tend to drive a pre-defined route from a single depot. ‘The vehicles operate within a confined area, and in this early stage of hydrogen rollout such operations are useful because they don’t need a lot of refueling stations,’ said Van den Borre.

    Waste trucks also often run in urban areas with low air quality and are highly visible to the public. This means residents get to experience the benefits for pollution and noise reduction first-hand.

    Furthermore, organic waste from incinerators can be used to generate hydrogen, creating a circular ‘waste-to-wheels’ model. And excess energy can be used to power other vehicles or industrial applications.

    At present, REVIVE has five trucks on the road that have driven over 13 500 kilometres in total so far. However, operational data is limited in the early stages and more extensive results are likely to start emerging from next summer, said Van den Borre.

    Nevertheless, the trucks are performing well. ‘It’s a nicer driving environment and they produce less noise than conventional waste collection trucks,’ he said, adding that drivers have reacted positively so far. ‘I think in general, they are quite happy with the trucks and the technology. On a technological level, everything is fine and the trucks are doing what they should be doing.’
    ===
    Achieving traction

    But a variety of challenges remain at this stage of development. Van den Borre listed the lack of regulation and directives on truck maintenance, as well as the limited current number of hydrogen-equipped truck depots as issues.

    However, the industry has called for a scaling-up, while the EU moved to accelerate hydrogen development in October. Adopting rules to spur alternative refueling infrastructure, MEPs called for hydrogen refueling stations every 100 kilometres by 2028 – ramping up a previous target of one every 150 kilometres by 2031.

    Van den Borre thinks that projects like REVIVE can open the door for bigger initiatives, potentially leading to the market for hydrogen trucks properly taking off within the next decade. But to boost traction for hydrogen-fuel-cell technology in trucks, drivers themselves should not be forgotten, he added.

    ‘It’s not just about dropping the truck and the keys with the driver, but getting them involved in the process,’ he said. ‘You have to find motivated people, engage with them early on and set their expectations right.’

    The H2Haul project received funding from the Clean Hydrogen Partnership. The REVIVE project received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking (now Clean Hydrogen Partnership).

    See the full article here .

    Comments are invited and will be appreciated, especially if the reader finds any errors which I can correct. Use “Reply”.


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  • richardmitnick 12:02 pm on October 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Protecting forests on the front line of the climate-change battle", , , , Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Protecting forests on the front line of the climate-change battle” 


    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    10.13.22
    Sandrine Ceurstemont

    Forests combat global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide but they are depleted by drought. Trees that adapt to climate change conditions could hold some answers.

    1
    Forests remove about a third of the greenhouse-gas emissions caused by human activities. Image Credit: Steven Kamenar via Unsplash.

    Forests help counter global warming, but they are also threatened by it. Many tree species struggled this past summer as much of Europe was hit by heat waves and a severe drought – thought to be the worst in 500 years.

    Even olive trees, known for their ability to resist dry conditions, have suffered. Spain is the world’s leading producer of olive oil but many Spanish farmers expect their olive-oil harvests this year to decline by as much as 50%.

    In this context, Horizon researchers are racing to understand more about how trees respond to drought as part of the fight against climate change.

    Carbon sinks

    Existing forests already remove about a third of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities. A worldwide afforestation programme could do the same for almost a third of the discharges that remain in the atmosphere.

    ‘If you look at the last 10 years or so, there have been a number of events where severe drought has caused large-scale death of trees in forests.’ said Dr Jaideep Joshi, of the Plant-FATE project, which is studying plant traits to protect forests from climate change.

    Planting billions of trees is a relatively inexpensive way to tackle the climate crisis, according to a study about the potential for global forest cover to mitigate climate change [Science (below)].

    But as drought spreads, forests worldwide are at risk. In Europe, 500 000 hectares of forest were wiped out as a result of drought between 1987 and 2016.

    Joshi led the Horizon-funded Plant-FATE project, which broke new ground when it comes to predicting the impact of drought on trees of all kinds.

    Tree resilience

    A major limitation of current models is that they rarely consider trees’ ability to adapt to dry conditions and how resilience may differ between species. That leads to inconsistencies when projecting how forests will respond to future climate scenarios.

    ‘That is where the largest uncertainty currently lies,’ said Dr Joshi. ‘You have this whole ecosystem of mixed species – we have tried to bring this all together in a simple but comprehensive modelling framework.’

    A model acts as a tool for simulating outcomes and he believes his team’s model will be particularly useful when it comes to planning tree-planting programmes. That’s because it can signal the carbon capture and storage potential of different species over the next 50-100 years, when climate conditions will be different to what they are today.

    ‘It could help make the right choices of which species to plant or where to plant them,’ said Dr Joshi. ‘It’s our model’s most promising conservation application.’

    In their model, the Plant-FATE researchers incorporated trees’ ability to adjust to changing climate and looked at a range of timescales.

    In shorter timeframes of weeks to months, for example, trees exposed to drought may shed their leaves to conserve water (because water evaporates through pores on the surface of leaves) in what’s known as a ‘false autumn’.

    New wood

    But over longer timescales, trees can grow new wood with different properties better suited to dry conditions.

    Dr Joshi and his team also took scale into account. For example, some responses occur in specific parts of a tree as roots and leaves, while others take place at the level of an entire species.

    To test their full model, Dr Joshi and his colleagues used data from an Amazon rainforest site containing about 400 species in a 5 000 square-metre area. They found that their model’s predictions closely matched what happened in real life at the site.

    It marks the first time that a vegetation model has performed realistically over different timescales while using very few parameters, according to Dr Joshi, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.

    ‘It gives you the capacity to predict forest performance for unknown conditions,’ he said. ‘That makes it much more useful to predict the response of global forests to future climate scenarios.’

    Tall trees

    While tall trees are often considered to be more vulnerable to dry conditions than shorter ones, much remains to be discovered about why and to what extent a tree’s height affects its resistance to drought.

    Dr Laura Fernández de Uña leads the Horizon-funded DISTRESS project, which is examining how a tree’s ability to transport water changes with height and how that might influence drought responses.

    She and her colleagues stand to shake up some conventional wisdom in the field.

    ‘We see certain differences between individual trees and also between species types,’ said Dr Fernández de Uña, a post-doctoral fellow at public research centre CREAF in Barcelona, Spain.

    2
    Tree mortality in a Western USA conifer forest. © Laura Fernández de Uña, 2020

    Unsurprisingly, research confirms that it’s harder for water to reach the heights of taller trees. Even in normal conditions, gravity is a basic impediment.

    Air bubbles

    During a drought, it is harder for trees to extract water from dry soil and draw it upwards. This increases the risk of water-transporting conduits sucking in air bubbles, which can block the flow (similar to embolisms in human blood vessels). If any bubbles occur, parts of a tree can be denied water and die.

    Furthermore, tall trees in a forest are exposed to more heat and wind and less humidity. ‘The canopy conditions themselves are drier than for a smaller tree in the understory,’ said Dr Fernández de Uña. ‘All this is negative for tall trees during a drought.’

    Nonetheless, past research indicates that tall trees can adapt to heat and water stress or even cope better than small trees. They are able to expand their water-conducting pipes, for example, to get more flow up their long trunks.

    Well rooted

    In addition, larger trees have more roots that reach greater depths, allowing access to water even when levels in the upper ground are low.

    They also tend to have thicker trunks, which allow bigger trees to store more carbohydrates and water.

    For Dr Fernández de Uña, all this shows that – contrary to common assumptions – tall trees have a fighting chance when temperatures soar and water becomes scarce for prolonged periods.

    ‘They are able to adapt and overcome their limitations,’ she said. ‘We need to be more open-minded about how they may respond to drought. If it wasn’t worth it to be tall, then trees wouldn’t grow tall.’

    Science paper:
    Science

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 12:00 pm on September 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Searching the skies for the building blocks of life in the universe", , , , Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine, , Spectroscopy of transiting exoplanets is one of the main techniques in exoplanet astronomy.   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Searching the skies for the building blocks of life in the universe” 

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    9.12.22
    Michael Allen

    The time has come for the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope to take exoplanet astronomy to the outer reaches. European researchers have been doing a lot of groundwork in preparation for this moment.

    _________________________________________
    The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope



    _________________________________________

    1
    This illustration shows an artist’s impression of WASP-39b, a hot, puffy gas-giant planet, could look like, based on available data. Credit: J. Olmsted (STScI)/NASA/ESA/CSA.

    Since its 25 December 2021 launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana and following 30 years in the making, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the Christmas Day gift to astronomers that keeps on giving.

    Like many astronomers in Europe, Pierre-Olivier Lagage, an astrophysicist at the Paris-based French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), has been preparing for Webb for years.

    A joint project with NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), Webb started beaming back its first images of the cosmos in July 2022 after arriving at its vantage point 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth and unfurling its distinctive giant sunshield.

    A worthy successor to the iconic Hubble Space Telescope, the €10 billion Webb has big scientific goals. These include the study of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang, galaxies and star formation, black holes, our own solar system and the search for the building blocks of life in the universe.

    Scientific goldmine

    ‘An exoplanet is a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun,’ Lagage said.

    Lagage is the principal investigator of the H2020-funded ‘Exoplanet Atmosphere New Emission Transmission Spectra Analysis’ or ExoplANETS A project. He and his colleagues developed a data tool to exploit the wealth of existing spectroscopic data from previous missions to study exoplanets.

    From a standing start, exoplanet astronomy has discovered thousands of exoplanets in the past 20 years. Now Webb’s spectroscopy instrumentation offers an unprecedented opportunity to study exoplanets for the chemical signatures of life in their atmosphere.

    Spectroscopy of transiting exoplanets is one of the main techniques in exoplanet astronomy. When an orbiting planet moves in front of its star relative to the observer, the spectrum of light from the star changes as it passes through the planet’s atmosphere.

    When the changes in the light are detected, they indicate the chemical composition of the planet’s atmosphere and whether it is likely to support life or not.

    The Exoplanets A tool uses data analysis to enable astronomers to characterize a broad range of exoplanet atmospheres. Astronomers using Webb are likely to find this useful to help their own observations by indicating which information is likely to be useful, and what is likely to be noise.

    One drawback of spectroscopic observations is that while they are a goldmine of information, the signal is mixed up with a lot of noise. Useless information not related to the exoplanet’s atmosphere can obscure the valuable data in the observation.

    Systematic noise

    This is because the signal created by the planetary atmosphere is tiny compared with the rest of the light coming from the star, according to Lagage. ‘So, you have to develop tools to remove this systematic noise and get the right signal,’ he said.

    The Exoplanets A project goes further. In order to model the atmosphere of an exoplanet, you also need to have a good understanding of its host star. To assist with this, the project created a database of the properties of stars with exoplanets. It was made with archived data from the ESA’s XMM-Newton and Gaia space observatory.

    2
    This image shows the exoplanet HIP 65426 b in different bands of infrared light, as seen from the James Webb Space Telescope. Image Credit: A. Pagan (STScI), A Carter (UCSC)/NASA/ESA/CSA, and the ERS 1386 team.

    Webb’s initial exoplanet observations were of hot gas giant planet WASP-39b, described as a ‘hot Jupiter’. It orbits a Sun-like star 700 light-years away. Last month, using spectroscopy, JWST made the first confirmed observation of carbon dioxide in an exoplanet.

    Caught in a TRAPPIST-1

    The ESCAPE (Exploring Shortcuts for the Characterization of the Atmospheres of Planets similar to Earth) project has also been looking for shortcuts to help characterize the atmospheres of Earth-like exoplanets.

    Martin Turbet, an astrophysicist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and principal investigator on the H2020-funded ESCAPE project, said that this required exploring novel observation techniques, using different ground- and space-based telescopes.

    For example, the astronomers have been developing new methods to calculate the density of the planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool red dwarf star around 40 light years from our solar system.

    Discovered initially in 2000, it was later announced in 2017 that the TRAPPIST-1 star hosts seven small exoplanets, orbiting in tight formation, at least some of which may be habitable.

    To calculate the density of a planet, you need to know its radius and mass. Sizing the planet can be done using spectroscopic observations. Mass can be calculated by observing the effect of the planet’s gravitational pull on its host star.

    Weighing exoplanets

    ‘This is the classical way to measure the weight of a planet,’ said Turbet. ‘But in the case of the TRAPPIST-1 planets, the mass of the planets is so small that the classical technique doesn’t work.’

    However, the TRAPPIST-1 system is peculiar because the seven planets all orbit very close to each other and exert strong gravitational forces on each other, he said.

    This effects their orbits and means that they don’t pass, or transit, in front of their host star at fixed time points.

    Measuring the deviations in these transit timings enabled the researchers to assess the strength of the gravitational forces between the planets and evaluate their masses, said Turbet.

    Thanks to this this technique, they say they are now able to make the most accurate predictions so far of the water content of the seven known planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system.

    The observations, and mass, density and water content calculations were made using ground-based telescopes – such as the SPECULOOS telescope at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile, space-telescopes, and novel theoretical work.

    Turbet said that the JWST and the planned Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) could be able to detect potential signs of life, known as biomarkers, in exoplanet atmospheres.

    He cautioned, however, that these ‘cannot be used as definitive proof that there is life on the planet’. This is because recent work has shown that biomarkers, such as oxygen, can be formed without life.

    Reflected starlight

    Turbet and his colleagues have also been investigating a newer spectroscopy technique, known as reflected light spectroscopy. Rather than analyzing how a star’s light changes as a planet passes in front of it, this method looks at how light from the star is reflected by the planet’s atmosphere.

    The models of water content and planetary atmospheres will also assist observations from the JWST, Turbet said. They will enable astronomers to plan their observations to maximize the collection of data of genuine interest.

    That being said, exoplanet research isn’t just about looking for alien life. Exoplanets could also provide us with information on the history of Earth and how its atmosphere developed, according to Lagage.

    ‘What I am most interested in is the atmosphere of super-Earth and Earth-sized exoplanets,’ he said.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 3:51 pm on August 19, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Big lessons about biodiversity loss from a little French river", As more places are dry for longer this could compromise the ability of creatures to move between parts of the river which could ultimately lead to a decrease in biodiversity as well as extinction., , , Drying is something likely to happen to more waterways as global warming intensifies., Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine, If a river’s dry patches increase and expand for longer periods of time these oases in the river where life weathers the drying may disappear., If you have big droughts you will lose all the refuges where species might survive during a drying event., Leaf build-up in a drying event could result in creatures downstream going hungry and the river processing less carbon., River floods are among the most damaging extreme climate events in Europe., There are a number of points during its course at which the Albarine river runs dry., When drought-hit areas eventually get rain it tends to be heavier and harder to absorb leading to floods which is one of the most catastrophic effects of climate change in European cities.   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Big lessons about biodiversity loss from a little French river” 

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    8.18.22
    Sarah Wild

    1
    The Po, one of Italy’s key rivers, is running at historic lows because of an extreme European drought. Credit: © DELBO ANDREA, Shutterstock.

    Even while drought is bringing many of Europe’s rivers to record lows and damaging biodiversity, the threat of catastrophic flooding following a dry spell lurks in the background.

    Some of Europe’s most famous rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Po, have been making headline news thanks to summer droughts. With water levels plummeting to record lows and the rivers drying out, many kinds of economic activities from shipping to farming have been disrupted.

    But one little river in Europe that has avoided the media spotlight may offer valuable lessons about the worsening effects of global warming. It is the Albarine, located in south-eastern France and it is the focus of an EU-backed research project about the effects of drought on river ecosystems.

    Worldwide, rivers are under stress from climate change. The research will help conservationists to understand the ways drought leads to the loss of biodiversity and respond appropriately.

    Rising near the sleepy French town of Brénod near the Jura mountains, the Albarine flows almost 60 kilometres before its crystal-clear waters join the larger Ain River northeast of Lyon. However, there are a number of points during its course at which the Albarine river runs dry. This is something likely to happen to more waterways as global warming intensifies.

    Extreme event

    ‘Drying is an event and drought is an extreme event,’ said Romain Sarremejane, a freshwater ecologist and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) post-doctoral research fellow at the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment.

    ‘You need to understand drying to understand drought. The issue might be in the future that, if you have big droughts you will lose all the refuges where species might survive during a drying event.’

    Sarremejane is part of the MetaDryNet research project, which is assessing how drying affects organisms in the Albarine and their ability to consume carbon-rich organic matter. At its lush headwaters near Brénod, many leaves fall into the Albarine – and this leaf litter provides food and nutrients along the river’s length.

    Drying everywhere

    Insects and other creatures nibble at them, and ‘little by little they decompose as you go downstream and then it’s very small particles that end up in the sea,’ Sarremejane said. ‘But when there is drying everywhere in the network, you have these leaves that accumulate in the dry riverbed and are not processed.’

    This leaf build-up could result in creatures downstream going hungry and the river processing less carbon.

    Sarremejane and his colleagues set out to investigate what happens in the Albarine’s dry patches. They sampled 20 sites, each about 100 metres long, to see how much organic matter passed through, how quickly it decomposed, how much carbon and methane each site emitted, and the diversity of invertebrates, bacteria and fungi present.

    Half the sites were in areas where the river sometimes runs dry and the rest were in places where the river flows all year long.

    As more places are dry for longer, this could also compromise the ability of creatures to move between parts of the river –– which could ultimately lead to a decrease in biodiversity as well as extinction.

    About 60% of rivers worldwide are intermittent –– which means that they are dry for at least one day a year –– and that share is set to rise, according to Sarremejane. Many such waterways usually flow for six to eight months of the year and then dry during the summer.

    Intermittency

    ‘This intermittency is becoming more and more common, and extending in time and space,’ he said.

    2
    The Albarine river in Saint-Rambert-en-Bugey, France. © Chabe01, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

    If a river’s dry patches increase and expand for longer periods of time these oases in the river where life weathers the drying may disappear too. ‘There is a big tipping point at which you might lose a lot of diversity,’ he said.

    His future research will focus on how extreme weather events affect communities of creatures and their diversity in Europe’s rivers, and whether it is possible to quantify these tipping points.

    Heavy rain

    For all the difficulties triggered by droughts, rain itself poses challenges. When drought-hit areas eventually get rain it tends to be heavier and harder to absorb leading to floods which is one of the most catastrophic effects of climate change in European cities.

    Benjamin Renard, principal investigator on the Hydrologic Extremes at the Global Scale (HEGS) project, is trying to understand what more precipitation means for river systems and whether it leads to more flooding.

    River floods are among the most damaging extreme climate events in Europe, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA). If carbon emissions continue to increase, climate change could triple the direct damages from river floods.

    In cities, more rain leads to flooding in the streets, but with rivers it’s not so simple.

    ‘You have river catchments, which act as a strong filter, so many things could happen,’ Renard said. ‘Flooding is not a direct translation of what’s happening in terms of precipitation.’

    He and his collaborators created a statistical framework to assess the probability of rivers in an area flooding. Using data from about 2 000 rain-gauge and hydrometric stations, which measure river flow, their framework can determine the likelihood of a flood in a given region. The data, taken from stations around the world, spans the last hundred years.

    ‘The data sets we use for both precipitation and floods are from every single continent except Antarctica,’ he said.

    The framework links climate variables – such as temperature, atmospheric pressure and wind speed – to the probability of extreme weather events including heavy rainfall or flooding.

    Heavier precipitation

    ‘We confirmed, indeed, that precipitation was getting heavier worldwide, but for floods the signal is much more complicated,’ Renard said. ‘You have some geographic areas where you don’t see much change, some areas where you see increasing floods, and some where you see decreasing floods.’

    Renard plans to use the framework for seasonal forecasting or even for different extreme weather events.

    ‘There is nothing in the framework that is specific to flooding,’ he said. Researchers could configure the framework to other events such as heat waves, droughts and wildfires.

    In any case, deploying it for seasonal forecasting would form part of a useful early-warning system. This would allow people to prepare, for example, for nearby river floods and help prevent the loss of life and destruction of property.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 10:28 am on June 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Hydrogen heads home to challenge oil and gas as local energy supply", A Hydrogen Valley is a medium-sized area where clean hydrogen is produced locally and consumed by homes; vehicles and industry., , Central to this is an electrolysis plant that produces hydrogen from energy supplied by two newly built solar-power plants., , Gas production is winding down., Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine, Hydrogen is carving out its place in the world of renewable energy., Most usually stored as a gas this zero-emission energy carrier is used to fuel everyday applications such as in transport; heating and industry., Renewable diversification, Shifts in the soil from drilling for gas are causing minor earthquakes., The European Union has an eventual target of 100 of hydrogen valleys., The idea behind hydrogen valleys is to create a self-sufficient hydrogen ecosystem from start to finish., The Northern Netherlands region is setting out to become a so-called “Hydrogen Valley”., The strategy is to provide a regional economic impetus while also fighting the main driver of climate change-the burning of fossil fuels.   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Hydrogen heads home to challenge oil and gas as local energy supply” 


    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    22 June 2022
    Tom Cassauwers

    1
    Hydrogen is now finding its place in the world of renewable energy. © Juan Roballo, Shutterstock.

    Hydrogen is carving out its place in the world of renewable energy. Regional developments like hydrogen valleys and hydrogen islands are serving as blueprints for larger ecosystems to produce and consume this versatile fuel locally.

    The Northern Netherlands region used to be prime gas country. One of the largest gas fields in the world was found underfoot in Groningen province. Gas extraction from the territory helped bankroll the Netherlands for decades. But times are changing.

    “Gas production is winding down,” said Jochem Durenkamp, hydrogen project manager at New Energy Coalition. ‘Which would mean the north would lose many jobs. Hydrogen turned out to be a perfect replacement.’

    With gas extraction and related jobs coming to an end, these northern regions are seeking alternatives. Furthermore, shifts in the soil from drilling for gas are causing minor earthquakes, with 72 registered in 2021 alone. This has significant economic repercussions, particularly when it damages houses in the area. As much as €1.2 billion has been paid out in compensation for earthquake damage since 1991.

    The Northern Netherlands region is setting out to become a so-called “Hydrogen Valley”. The HEAVENN project, coordinated by the New Energy Coalition, is at the helm. The region is tapping European support to develop the infrastructure necessary to adopt green hydrogen as a locally produced energy supply.

    The European Union has an eventual target of 100 of these hydrogen valleys. Currently there are 23 in Europe at various stages of development, with the ambition to double this total by 2025. Dozens of projects have commenced all over Europe and in 20 countries worldwide, in a rapidly evolving clean energy investment trend worth billions. Follow the link for a map of hydrogen valleys.

    The strategy is to provide a regional economic impetus while also fighting the main driver of climate change-the burning of fossil fuels. Eventually, when enough regions emerge, they will join up to create a wide-scale hydrogen-based economy founded on a clean, secure energy supply.

    Green hydrogen

    The Northern Netherlands is in an ideal position to take advantage of the hydrogen opportunity. Located close to the rapidly expanding offshore wind farms of the North Sea, it has a direct line of renewable energy to manufacture green hydrogen. On top of that, the previous gas exploitation in the region has created a body of knowledge and skills that easily transfers to the production, distribution, storage and consumption of hydrogen in the local economy.

    The idea behind hydrogen valleys is to create a self-sufficient hydrogen ecosystem from start to finish. In the case of HEAVENN, that begins by identifying sites where the electrolysis process can be used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen by use of electricity.

    A Hydrogen Valley is a medium-sized area where clean hydrogen is produced locally and consumed by homes, vehicles and industry. The goal is to initiate a hydrogen economy at the community level. Eventually the regional hydrogen valleys will join up to create wider economic zones powered by hydrogen.

    When this electricity is derived from renewable sources, like offshore wind in the case of HEAVENN, the hydrogen is considered to be a green energy source. Most usually stored as a gas this zero-emission energy carrier is used to fuel everyday applications such as in transport, heating and industry.

    HEAVENN, for example, invests in projects for hydrogen-based mobility with a number of hydrogen filling points for every kind of hydrogen powered vehicle – from cars to trucks and buses. Hydrogen will also be used to power a datacentre and to heat residential neighbourhoods.

    Building energy ecosystems is not easy. ‘The project includes thirty partners,’ said Durenkamp. ‘It’s a big challenge to coordinate what they do, but building this ecosystem is key for hydrogen.’

    Beyond the partners, the local community is also an important player. ‘It’s very important that inhabitants are consulted,” said Durenkamp. “Where before, energy was extracted from underground, it’s now very visible in the landscape with wind turbines, solar panels and large electrolysis facilities. Whenever something is done in the project, it’s done together with the local inhabitants.”

    Clean energy islands

    Another region unlocking hydrogen’s potential is the Spanish island of Mallorca, which styles itself as a “Hydrogen Island”.

    ‘The idea of the project came when CEMEX, a cement manufacturer, announced it would close its plant on Mallorca,’ said María Jaén Caparrós. She acts as coordinator of hydrogen innovation at Enagás, the Transmission System Operator of the national gas grid in Spain. ‘With hydrogen, we want to re-industrialise the island and decarbonise the Balearic region.’

    Known as GREEN HYSLAND, the project will create an ecosystem of hydrogen producers and users across the Mediterranean island. Achieving this will cut down on expensive energy imports and eliminate harmful emissions.

    Central to this is an electrolysis plant that produces hydrogen from energy supplied by two newly built solar-power plants. This hydrogen is then used in a range of different applications in the locality. For example, the public transport company of the city of Palma de Mallorca is rolling out hydrogen-powered buses. Another use-case is to power the island’s vital ferry port and even to provide energy for a hotel. But community energy needs community support.

    Renewable diversification

    “It’s key to have the support of society,” said Jaén Caparrós. “Hydrogen is something new for the Balearic Islands. This project will not only promote reindustrialisation based on renewables, but will also provide knowledge, research and innovation. It is a milestone that the Balearic Islands must take advantage of, in order to promote the diversification of the production model with new, stable and quality jobs.”

    The second related objective of GREEN HYSLAND is to reduce the emissions from the use of natural gas. They will inject part of the hydrogen into the gas grid, according to Jaén Caparrós. They are compatible sources of energy. “We will build a hydrogen pipeline to transport it to the injection point,” he said, “Which we will use to partly decarbonise the natural gas grid.” They plan to commence this phase by the end of 2022.

    In this way, hydrogen can be mixed into the existing gas infrastructure used to heat homes, hotels and industry or generate electricity. The resulting blend of gas and green hydrogen has a lower emissions footprint than just using gas by itself, a step toward complete decarbonization.

    Hydrogen blueprints

    GREEN HYSLAND even joined up with parties from outside of Europe. ‘We are 30 partners from 11 countries including Morocco and Chile,’ said Jaén Caparrós. ‘They also want to develop green hydrogen ecosystems, and hydrogen valleys have an added value if we can connect with regions inside and outside of Europe,’ she said.

    ‘Hydrogen valleys create new jobs, re-industrialise and create new economic activities,’ said Jaén Caparrós. ‘And on top of that they decarbonise. It serves the entire society.’

    Once this infrastructure-building and experimentation phase is complete, the lessons learned will also need to scale up. Both HEAVENN and GREEN HYSLAND want to share what they learn. ‘We want to be a blueprint for other regions across the world,’ concluded Durenkamp. ‘If this project is a success, we want to share it.’
    Research in this article was funded by the EU.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 9:19 am on June 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Robot dogs take a walk on the wired side", , , Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine, Legged robots are already becoming integrated into our economy and society today., Legged robots are already used for industrial inspections and other observation tasks., , Robots are learning to walk and work., Robots could be very helpful to humanity., Robots with improved locomotive abilities can help in search and rescue operations and space exploration., The LeMo project’s dog-like robot is one of the first to have learned to walk through reinforcement learning.   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Robot dogs take a walk on the wired side” 


    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    01 June 2022
    Tom Cassauwers

    1
    The LeMo project’s dog-like robot is one of the first to have learned to walk through reinforcement learning. © ETH Zürich.

    Robots are learning to walk and work. While robot dogs are not yet man’s best friend, real autonomy and reasoning will make them useful companions in industry, search & rescue and even space exploration. But you must walk before you can run and machines are learning lessons from biology for better walking robots.

    The first chords of the 1960s Motown song Do You Love Me, by the Contours sound on the speakers as the robots start to dance. Several models, including a bipedal humanoid version, and a four-legged dog-like contraption, are seen dancing with each other. They shuffle, do pirouettes and swing.

    Released by the US robotics company Boston Dynamics, the viral video of robots with legs dancing created a stir at the end of 2020. Reactions ranged from people suggesting it was made using CGI, to fear that the robots were going to take over the world. Yet for all the impressive engineering, the video also showed the limitations that legged robots face. Whereas for humans dancing is quite easy, for robots it’s incredibly hard, and the three-minute video meant that every movement of the robots had to be manually scripted in detail.

    ‘Today robots are still relatively stupid,’ said Marco Hutter, professor at ETH Zürich and expert in robotics. ‘A lot of the Boston Dynamics videos are hand-crafted movements for specific environments. They need human supervision. In terms of real autonomy and reasoning, we’re still far away from humans, animals or what we expect from science-fiction.’

    Yet these sorts of robots could be very helpful to humanity. They could help us when disasters strike, they could improve industrial operations and logistics and they could even help us explore outer space. But for that to happen we need to make legged robots better at basic tasks like walking and teach them how to do so without supervision.

    Virtual learning

    The ERC-project LeMo is one of the investigations launched by European researchers to make robots move more autonomously. Their core premise is that legged locomotion isn’t what it could be, and that machine learning techniques could improve it. LeMo is specifically focused on so-called reinforcement learning.

    ‘Reinforcement learning uses a simulation to generate massive data for training a neural network control policy,’ explained Hutter, who is also the project leader of LeMo. ‘The better the robot walks in the simulation, the higher reward it gets. If the robot falls over, or slips, it gets punished.’

    The robot they use in the project is a 50 kilogram, dog-like, four-legged robot. On top of it are several sensors and cameras that allow it to detect its environment. This part has become pretty standard for legged robots, yet the advancement LeMo produces lies in the software. Instead of using a model-based approach, where the researchers program rules into the system, like ‘when there’s a rock on the ground, lift up your feet higher’, they ‘train’ an AI-system in a simulation.

    Here the robot’s system walks over and over through a virtual terrain simulation, and every time it performs well it receives a reward. Every time it fails it receives a punishment. By repeating this process millions of times, the robot learns how to walk through trial-and-error.

    2
    Robots with improved locomotive abilities can help in search and rescue operations and space exploration. © ETH Zürich.

    ‘LeMo is one of the first times reinforcement learning has been used on legged robots,’ said Hutter. ‘Because of this, the robot can now walk across challenging terrain, like slippery ground and inclined steps. We practically never fall anymore.’

    Using this technology, the ETH Zürich team recently won a $2 million Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contest in which teams were challenged to deploy a fleet of robots to explore challenging underground areas by themselves.

    ‘Legged robots are already used for industrial inspections and other observation tasks,’ said Hutter. ‘But there are also applications like search & rescue and even space exploration, where we need better locomotion. Using techniques like reinforcement learning we can accomplish this.’

    Natural inspiration

    Another ERC-project, called M-Runners, is working on how to build legged robots that work in outer space. Today when we launch robots to places like the moon or Mars, they are generally wheeled robots. These need to land, and ride on, relatively flat pieces of terrain.

    ‘But the interesting things for geologists aren’t generally located in the flatlands,’ said professor Alin Albu-Schäffer, of the TU Munich and the German Aerospace Center. ‘They are found in places like canyons, where rovers cannot easily go.’

    Which is why there’s a strong interest in sending legged robots up into space. But before we can do that, more research needs to happen on making them work better. M-Runner here takes inspiration from nature.

    ‘Our hypothesis is that biology is more energy efficient,’ said Albu-Schäffer. ‘Our muscles and tendons have some elasticity. Animals, like a horse galloping, use this elasticity to store and release energy. Traditional robots on the other hand are rigid, and don’t do that.’

    This means that legged robots are not as efficient as they could be. But really understanding these processes, and transferring them to robots, is quite a challenge. It requires a deep understanding of biology, but also of the mathematics behind how movements are made and repeated.

    The complex system of the limb, with a high amount of interdependent parts like muscles, tendons and bones, working together very closely to repeat movements like walking or running. ‘Modelling this mathematically is a scientifically unsolved question,’ said Albu-Schäffer.

    Which is what the M-Runner project is trying to solve, and transfer to robots, a quest that’s heavily interdisciplinary. ‘We work on biomechanics and biological systems,’ said Albu-Schäffer. ‘But also neuroscience, mathematics and physics. In turn we build tools that apply this to the actual robots.’

    So far the project has already built a prototype robot, a dog-sized variant, on which the researchers are testing different types of running and gaits. The eventual goal is to apply this theoretical research into a role such as space exploration. ‘We also think about low gravity in simulations,’ says Albu-Schäffer. ‘The robot here can do more spectacular jumps and stride farther.’

    Beyond this research, legged robots are already becoming integrated into our economy and society today. ‘These machines are already in use,’ said Hutter. ‘It’s not a household item yet. But in industrial contexts it’s getting more popular, and in China even household use-cases are being investigated.’

    But their mass market appeal relies on these robots becoming better at walking and acting in the real world. Which is why more research is needed. ‘Legged robots aren’t just about Boston Dynamics,’ said Albu-Schäffer. ‘In Europe cutting edge-research is also being done, and we’re seeing real advances in the technology.’

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 8:39 am on June 3, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Deforestation cuts through community as well as biodiversity", , , , , Deforestation contributes to climate change by releasing significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere., Deforestation in the Gran Chaco forest in South America can be the end of the world for indigenous people who call it home., , , Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine, Indigenous people that live in the Gran Chaco rely on the forest for food and materials. It is also fundamental to their culture., The Gran Chaco is semi-arid or dry., The second largest forest in South America after the Amazon rainforest is the Gran Chaco.   

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Deforestation cuts through community as well as biodiversity” 

    From “Horizon” The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    30 May 2022
    Sandrine Ceurstemont

    1
    Deforestation in South America is devastating to local communities. © Xico Putini, Shutterstock.

    Deforestation in the Gran Chaco forest in South America can be the end of the world for indigenous people who call it home. Researchers have been investigating different aspects of its human impact.

    The second largest forest in South America after the Amazon rainforest is the Gran Chaco. Home to 9 million people and thousands of species, it is under intense pressure from deforestation.

    Stretching across Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, it has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Since 1985, more than 140 000 square kilometres, about one fifth of the entire forest, has been cut down.

    Occupying a vast region to the east of the Andes, unlike the Amazon rainforest, the Gran Chaco is semi-arid or dry. The population living there includes about 35 different groups of indigenous people. Hunter-gatherers by tradition, their livelihoods are closely entwined with the forest’s future.

    Dr Valentina Bonifacio has been working as a researcher in the Gran Chaco forest for the past 15 years, and has experienced its rapid deforestation first-hand. Densely-wooded areas have been cleared and turned into agricultural land to grow highly-profitable soybean crops, and expanses of pastureland have given way to cattle raised for beef production.

    ‘I really saw the Chaco disappearing and it’s very scary to see how quickly a territory can change,’ said Dr Bonifacio, associate professor at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in Italy. ‘If it continues to be deforested at the same rate, very soon the Chaco is not going to be a forest anymore.’

    Deforestation contributes to climate change by releasing significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and threatens plant and animal survival. Several species in the Chaco, such as the South American jaguar and the screaming hairy armadillo, are disappearing. Deforestation also impacts the local communities that call the forest home.

    2
    The Gran Chaco’s dry thorn forests, cactus stands, palm savannas and a 100s of native species of animals are threatened by rampant deforestation. © Michele Graziano Ceddia 2017.

    Human impact

    In the lanloss project, Dr Bonifacio is supervising Dr Tamar Blickstein who is investigating what the loss of the forest means to people living in the region.

    Small-scale farmers often experience feelings of grief as large commercial farms take over and droughts and extreme rainfall caused by clearing forested land makes it harder for them to carry on growing crops. Indigenous people are also impacted by the threat deforestation poses to their kinship networks embedded in the forest.

    During fieldwork later this year, Dr Blickstein plans to use satellite maps of deforestation as a form of storytelling. One of her goals is to show these maps to people from different communities, such as indigenous people, small-hold farmers and settlers who are experiencing deforestation, to see how they react to it and to gather their opinions.

    “I really saw the Chaco disappearing and it’s very scary to see how quickly a territory can change. If it continues to be deforested at the same rate, very soon the Chaco is not going to be a forest anymore.”
    Dr Valentina Bonifacio, lanloss

    She might also use satellite images on a website to illustrate people’s stories related to deforestation. ‘I think it would be an interesting outcome to have people’s subjective voices meshed in a storytelling process with these satellite data visuals to illuminate data that is quite abstract and quantitative,’ she said. ‘It would give it a human face and a human voice.’

    Previous research has typically focused on specific populations rather than examining different social groups together. Dr Blickstein hopes that her work will contribute to increasing awareness about deforestation in the Chaco and even help empower locals.

    ‘Interpreting (satellite) data with communities in the field means that they learn how to use these maps and this kind of data,’ said Dr Bonifacio. ‘It might turn out to be useful to them.’

    Power struggles

    Indigenous people that live in the Gran Chaco rely on the forest for food and materials. It is also fundamental to their culture.

    ‘To them the loss of the forest is nothing less than the end of the world,’ said Dr Graziano Ceddia, assistant professor at the Centre for Development and Environment of the University of Bern in Switzerland.

    Agricultural expansion drives deforestation, but the attitudes and aspirations of the different people involved is less clear. In the INCLUDE project, Dr Ceddia and his colleagues focused on better understanding the governance structures that underpin deforestation in the Chaco Salteño, a part of the forest located in the province of Salta in north-western Argentina.

    Bringing to light the perspectives of indigenous people and small-scale farmers living in the region affected by capital-intensive agriculturalisation was equally important. Their views and needs are often ignored when land-use decisions are made and they typically miss out on economic gains. ‘We wanted to give a voice to both of these marginalised groups who are paying most of the consequences of deforestation,’ said Dr Ceddia.

    Over the course of three years, Dr Ceddia and his colleagues talked to many different people in the region who have an interest in deforestation, such as academics, public administration and non-governmental organisations (NGO) employees, farmers and indigenous people.

    “To (indigenous people), the loss of the forest is nothing less than the end of the world.”
    Dr Graziano Ceddia, INCLUDE

    Overall, they found that large-scale producers were in a better position to influence government policies related to deforestation compared to other groups. They also found that deforestation was perceived differently by different groups of people. Large-scale producers, for example, typically associated forested areas with poverty and agricultural expansion with development. On the other hand, farmers and indigenous people referred to forests as their homes and their lives.

    Furthermore, Dr Ceddia and his colleagues found that land-use scenarios based on the views of indigenous people and farmers were more sustainable and environmentally just. Local farmers’ organisations, for example, have helped develop a switch to modes of production that are less damaging to remaining forests.

    Conversely, while looking more generally at tropical areas from Latin America to Southeast Asia, Dr Ceddia showed how cropland expansion, which contributes significantly to carbon emissions and biodiversity loss, is driven by investors. They choose to grow flex-crops such as oil palm, soy and sugar cane, since they have multiple uses, for example as food, fuel and animal feed. This means they are more likely to generate a profit compared to crops with a single use, often at the expense of the local people and the environment.

    ‘Agriculture is not necessarily oriented to the production of food but simply as a branch of investment which has to generate a certain return on invested capital,’ said Dr Ceddia.

    Enabling change

    Although research can provide information about the impact of deforestation, Dr Ceddia thinks that social activism is important to bring about change. He and his team found that laws to protect the forest were implemented more stringently in provinces of the Chaco in Argentina where indigenous people and small-scale farmers organised protests against deforestation.

    At the same time, in provinces where large-scale producers were better organised to protect their interests, deforestation laws were less strictly implemented. ‘I think what is important for change is grassroot movements and people acting on the ground,’ said Dr Ceddia. ‘It brings hope to see that there are some scientists who are also taking action and becoming activists.’

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

     
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