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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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Bright triangle pattern

Squeezing a rock-star material could make it stable enough for solar cells

A promising lead halide perovskite is great at converting sunlight to electricity, but it breaks down at room temperature. Now scientists have discovered how to stabilize it with pressure from a diamond anvil cell.

Cobalt

How better mineral exploration makes better batteries

Finding and extracting deposits of cobalt, lithium, nickel and other materials used in batteries is expensive and environmentally fraught. Geoscientists are now using artificial intelligence to quickly identify new resources, get the most out of those we already know about and improve refining processes. 

Carbon simulation

COVID lockdown causes record drop in carbon emissions for 2020

Carbon dioxide emissions from oil, gas and coal this year are predicted to reach approximately 34 billion tons, a 7 percent drop from fossil emission levels in 2019. Emissions from transport account for the largest share of the global decrease.

Sunlight

Scientists invent ultrafast way to make solar modules greener

High-speed manufacturing could advance the commercialization of perovskite modules, a green alternative to conventional solar panels made of silicon.

Solar panels

Debugging climate action

Programmers write code, find what is not working, and then debug their program. It’s the same with climate change, Microsoft’s chief environment officer said in a conversation hosted as part of Stanford's Global Energy Dialogues.

Carbon capture

Roadmap for carbon capture and storage in California

A new study outlines how capturing and permanently storing carbon dioxide from power plants, oil refineries and other facilities could help California meet its climate goals.

Fire

New approach boosts lithium-ion battery efficiency and puts out fires

Adding polymers and fireproofing to a battery’s current collectors makes it lighter, safer and about 20 percent more efficient.

Charge level

Predicting the slow death of a lithium-ion battery

A new model offers a way to predict the condition of a battery’s internal systems in real-time with far more accuracy than existing tools. In electric cars, the technology could improve driving range estimates and prolong battery life.

Sliced sugarcane

Exploring the sustainability of the Indian sugar industry

Researchers analyzed the interconnected food, water and energy challenges that arise from the sugar industry in India – the second-largest producer of sugar worldwide – and how the political economy drives those challenges.

Masked farmer

COVID-19 opportunities

Researchers hypothesize outcomes of the pandemic’s unprecedented socioeconomic disruption, and outline research priorities for advancing our understanding of humans’ impact on the environment.

Fukushima decomissioning

Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns released particulates with plutonium

A new study reveals particles that were released from nuclear plants damaged in the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami contained small amounts of radioactive plutonium.

Global methane

Global methane emissions soar to record high

The pandemic has tugged carbon emissions down, temporarily. But levels of the powerful heat-trapping gas methane continue to climb, dragging the world further away from a path that skirts the worst effects of global warming.

Energy grid

EVs plus clean energy grids key to reducing climate change and air pollution

Researchers examined the most beneficial vehicle fuel technology for transportation in the US and the trade-off between decarbonization and air pollution mitigation. The results show electric vehicle use must accompany clean energy grids to mitigate both climate change and air pollution.

Delivery drone

Could drones deliver packages more efficiently by hopping on the bus?

A computer science PhD student describes how we might combine the flexibility of drones with the capacity of ground-based vehicles to make e-commerce more traffic-friendly.

Wind turbine and shadow

Simulating wind farm development

Engineers have devised a model to describe how, in the process of establishing wind farms, interactions between developers and landowners affect energy production costs.

Pumpjack

Living near oil and gas wells may increase preterm birth risk

New research shows living near oil and gas development in California is a risk factor for preterm birth, the leading cause of infant death in the United States. About 2.1 million Californians live within one mile of an active oil or gas well.

A collapsed brick wall

A new approach to managing earthquake risk from fracking

Earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing can damage property and endanger lives. Stanford researchers have developed new guidelines for when to slow or halt fracking operations based on local risks.

Gas heater

Water heaters’ methane leaks are high, but fixable

Emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from water heaters are higher than previously estimated, especially for a new type of heater growing in popularity, a new study finds. But simple fixes exist.

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