Photo: UCL Interactive Architecture Lab

Few of us are lucky enough to have a green thumb. The perfect balance of sunlight, climate, and water requires a special, intuitive touch. A little too much water, a little too little, and turns into gunk or withers. A little too much sun, a little too little, and wastes away and shrivels. And, so it goes.

Well, gardening just got a little easier. According to Inhabitat, students at University College London’s Interactive Architecture Lab have designed a nomadic, self-driving, and self-cultivating garden named Hortum machina, B. Like an autonomous car, the mobile garden responds to the environment, in this case, moving towards or away from sunlight, shade, and unhealthy levels of air pollution, as needed. (more…)

12 Years to Limit Climate Change

Twelve. That’s how many years scientists predict are left to further prevent the consequences of climate change, before each half degree leads to worsening conditions, including risks of drought, floods, and extreme heat, according to UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Devastating hurricanes in the U.S., record droughts in Cape Town, and forest fires in the Arctic are already revealing the current effects of global warming, the IPCC report says,  warning that every fraction of additional warming could worsen the impact.

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Wind turbines, the ideal alternative to burning fossil fuels: plentiful, renewable, clean energy. Or is it?

A recent study is forcing us to take a closer look at this green energy alternative, according to ScienceDaily. Extracting energy from large-scale wind farms has the potential to warm the Continental United States by 0.24 degrees Celsius, due to the wind turbine’s redistribution of heat in the atmosphere.

At the end of the day really, all large-scale energy systems have environmental impacts. But, the ability to compare the impacts of renewable energy sources is an important step in planning a future. Extracting energy from the wind causes climatic impacts that are small compared to current projections of 21st century warming, but large compared to the effect of reducing U.S. electricity emissions to zero with solar. (more…)

The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, a partnership between The Electrochemical Society and Toyota Research Institute of North America, a division of Toyota Motor North America, is in its fourth year. The fellowship aims to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels.

2018-2019 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellows


Professor Kimberly See
, California Institute of Technology
ECS Battery Division
“Structural Distortions in Multi-Electron Cathodes for High Capacity Batteries”


Professor Iryna Zenyuk
, University of California, Irvine
ECS Energy Technology Division
“Addressing the Activation Overpotential in Fuel Cell Cathodes”

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Researchers have developed a prototype device that mimics natural photosynthesis to produce ethylene gas using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide.

The novel method, which produces ethylene at room temperature and pressure using benign chemicals, could be scaled up to provide a more eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to the current method of ethylene production.

Ethylene, which is the building block of polyethylene, is an important chemical feedstock produced in large quantities for manufacturing plastics, rubber, and fibers. More than 170 million tons of ethylene were produced worldwide in 2015 alone, and the global demand is expected to exceed 220 million tons by 2020.

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PhotosynthesisResearchers have traced the paths of three water channels in an ancient photosynthetic organism—a strain of cyanobacteria—to provide the first comprehensive, experimental study of how that organism uses and regulates water to create energy.

The finding advances photosynthesis research but also presents an advance in green fuels research.

Photosynthesis is the chemical conversion of sunlight into chemical energy via an electron transport chain essential to nearly all life on our planet. All plants operate by photosynthesis, as do algae and certain varieties of bacteria.

‘Damage trails’

To convert sunlight into a usable form of energy, photosynthetic organisms require water at the “active site” of the Photosystem II protein complex. But the channels through which water arrives at the active site are difficult to measure experimentally. Reactive oxygen species are produced at the active site and travel away from it, in the opposite direction as water, leaving a “damage trail” in their wake.

“We identified the damaged sites in Photosystem II using high-resolution mass spectrometry and found that they reveal several pathways centered on the active site and leading away from it all the way to the surface of the complex,” says lead study author Daniel A. Weisz, a postdoctoral researcher in biology at Washington University in St. Louis.

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In May 2017 during the 231st ECS Meeting, we sat down with 2016-2017 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship winner, Elizabeth Biddinger, to discuss green chemistry, sustainable engineering, and the future of transportation. The conversation was led by Amanda Staller, ECS’s web content specialist.

Biddinger is an assistant professor at the City College of New York, part of the City University of New York system. There, she leads a research group that covers research areas ranging from electrocatalysis to ionic liquids. Her work in switchable electrolytes earned her a spot among the 2016-2017 fellowship winners.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Podbean, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher and Acast.

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Toyota Fellowships Paying Off

ToyotaStarting in 2014, ECS partnered with Toyota Research Institute of North America to establish a fellowship for young researchers working in green energy technology, including efforts to find viable alternative energy sources as a replacement for oil, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and prevent air pollution.

The proposal submission deadline for the 2017-2018 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship is Jan. 31, 2017. As we gear up for the third year of fellowship, ECS is checking in with two of the inaugural winners.

Methane to methanol conversion with Yogesh Surendranath

Yogesh Surendranath, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was one of the inaugural fellowship winners for his work in methane to methanol conversion.

“For a young investigator, this fellowship gives a greater visibility to research efforts and provides a degree of freedom,” Surendranath says. “Junior faculty members, while they are at the time in their careers where they are most likely to take on challenging problems, are at the very same time finding funding challenging. The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship provided us that freedom to tackle new and interesting areas.”

The proposed research that ultimately won Surendranath and his group a $50,000 grant is called, “Methanol Electrosynthesis at Carbon-Supported Molecular Active Sites.”

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ECS Toyota Fellowship
The Electrochemical Society with Toyota North America
2017-2018 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship
for Projects in Green Energy Technology

Proposal Submission Deadline: January 31, 2017

ECS, in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.

Global development of industry and technology in the 20th century, increased production of vehicles and the growing population have resulted in massive consumption of fossil fuels. Today, the automotive industry faces three challenges regarding environmental and energy issues: (1) finding a viable alternative energy source as a replacement for oil, (2) reducing CO2 emissions and (3) preventing air pollution. Although the demand for oil alternatives—such as natural gas, electricity and hydrogen—may grow, each alternative energy source has its disadvantages. Currently, oil remains the main source of automotive fuel; however, further research and development of alternative energies may bring change.

Fellowship Objectives and Content

The purpose of the ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship is to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels. Electrochemical research has already informed the development and improvement of innovative batteries, electrocatalysts, photovoltaics and fuel cells.

Through this fellowship, ECS and TRINA hope to see more innovative and unconventional technologies borne from electrochemical research.

The fellowship will be awarded to a minimum of one candidate annually. Winners will receive a restricted grant of no less than $50,000 to conduct the research outlined in their proposal within one year. Winners will also receive a one-year complimentary ECS membership as well as the opportunity to present and/or publish their research with ECS.

Meet previous winners.

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toyota-collage

From left to right: Elizabeth Biddinger, City College of New York; Joaquin Rodriguez Lopez, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Joshua Snyder, Drexel University

The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship Selection Committee has selected three recipients who will receive a minimum of $50,000 each for fellowships for projects in green energy technology. The winners are Professor Elizabeth Biddinger, City College of New York; Professor Joaquin Rodriguez Lopez, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Professor Joshua Snyder, Drexel University.

The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, a partnership between The Electrochemical Society and Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is in its second year. A diverse applicant pool of more than 100 young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology responded to ECS’s request for proposals.

“Scientists and engineers seek to unveil what is possible and to exploit that knowledge to provide solutions to the myriad of problems facing our world,” says ECS Executive Director Roque Calvo. “We are proud to have the continued support of Toyota in this never ending endeavor to uncover new frontiers and face new challenges.”

The ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship aims to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels.

Global development of industry and technology in the 20th century increased production of vehicles and the growing population have resulted in massive consumption of fossil fuels. Today, the automotive industry faces three challenges regarding environmental and energy issues:

(1) Finding a viable alternative energy source as a replacement for oil
(2) Reducing CO2 emissions
(3) Preventing air pollution

(more…)

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