In 1973 when Motorola engineer Martin Cooper created the first mobile phone prototype it weighed around 1.1 kilos (iPhone 6 weighs 129 grams) and had enough power for 20 minutes of talk time before requiring a ten-hour recharge. But back in the day that wasn’t an issue because most people weren’t strong enough to keep the brick-like handset hoisted to their ear for much longer.
Today, the problem we face is not developing forearms of steel to handle our phones, but how to keep them powered up with so many apps ticking away in the background. It turns out it is easier than you think. Forgotten your charger? Never fear. Chuck on a t-shirt, fire up the camp stove or grab your suitcase.
Roast some marshmallows
Ahhh, there’s nothing quite like the great outdoors. The hours of serenity provide the perfect time for quiet reflection as you feel yourself become at one with nature. But wouldn’t it be better if you’re phone wasn’t dead and you could share your favourite s’more recipes on Facebook? Now you can, thanks to a camping stove that converts heat from the flames into electricity.
Turn up the volume
A few years ago music lovers at the Glastonbury festival in the UK got to try out a new t-shirt that powered up their mobile phones while they pulled their moves. Made of a special material called piezoelectric film, the t-shirt turns vibrations from the music into an electrical charge.
Tee off like Tiger
Finally, golfers can be rewarded for playing poorly. Fitted to the handgrip of the club, the smart device harnesses the kinetic energy generated by the golfer repeatedly swinging the club. Depending on how good your game is, you could generate up to two hours of charge.
Run like Forrest
Keeping on the kinetic energy theme, so-called green gyms are using the energy burnt off by gym users to generate electricity. One gym in Berlin has installed special plug-ins to the machines that allow people to charge their phones with the energy they produce while working out.
Pack your suitcase
Designer Jung Inyoung has come up with the concept of a rolling suitcase that provides power to devices using kinetic energy. There are two gears on the bag’s wheels that collect energy as you stroll around the airport. You can plug your phone into the suitcase to charge it.
We have been working on new battery technologies for a number of years, including flexible batteries which can be integrated into fabrics and clothing. Read more about our wearable electronics work.
CSIRO through the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) is undertaking a comprehensive study of methane seeps in the Surat basin.
By Tsuey Cham
Our scientists are taking to the sky above the Surat basin in south-west Queensland to answer a big question – is coal seam gas (CSG) green?
Not literally green, of course: CSG is invisible to the naked eye. What we’re actually looking to determine is the CSG industry’s greenhouse gas footprint. The industry is set to increase production in Australia in coming years, so it’s important to be able to adequately monitor current and future CSG developments and provide information that will help limit any potential environmental impact.
One way to determine the CSG industry’s greenhouse gas footprint is by measuring methane seeps. Methane seeps occur naturally from underground, as well as in soils, swamps and rivers. Another key component is measuring fugitive methane – methane that leaks from CSG well heads, pipes and other infrastructure. Initial findings show that fugitive methane emissions are lower in Australia than the US.
In south-west Queensland, the Surat basin is where CSG activities are in full swing, with its network of production wells, pipelines, access tracks and warning signs. With CSG development in the basin increasing over the next few years, we are trying to establish the amount – and source – of methane emissions now, so that we can set a baseline for future monitoring.
To do this, our scientist are using airborne sensors aboard helicopters to measure natural methane emissions. With this data in hand, they then calibrate and validate it with land-based sensors to identify how much methane naturally occurs from the ground.
Findings from this research will provide a methane emissions data set that can be used to compare against changes in methane emission as CSG production increases; and will add to the bigger picture of assessing the industry’s whole-of-life-cycle greenhouse gas footprint.
As the price of producing solar panels starts to fall and people are finding smarter, thinner and more flexible materials to create them, it seems like no place is safe from these sun sucking devices. Even the humble garden gnome is getting in on the act. To celebrate the arrival of spring and the advent of slightly warmer weather, we thought we’d share some of the more unusual places we’ve seen solar panels popping up.
Batmobile lawn mowers
If your dream is to own a batmobile, but you can’t afford it, then this might be the next best thing – a solar powered mower by Husqvarna. But at around $2k it might be cheaper to buy a goat.
If checking Facebook at the beach is that important to you a US-based designer is intricately stitching panels together in the form of a bikini so you can charge your iPhone on the beach.
In the UK, The Sol Cinema is a unique mobile cinema powered by the sun. It accommodates eight people and features a library of short videos, many with environment themes.
Last year the Chanel runway show at Paris Fashion Week featured a catwalk that looked like it was made from solar panels. Unfortunately it was more power dressing that power generating as the panels were fake, but it looked fancy.
Nivea broke new ground for advertisers last year when they launched a concept video featuring a solar panel in a magazine which you could use to charge your phone.
CSIRO is also working on new applications for solar panels and recently launched a printer that can print cells the size of an A3 sheet of paper. Read about some of the potential applications of this technology on the ABC news website.
It’s no secret that mining is important to Australia, but that doesn’t necessarily make it popular with society at large.
We wanted to have a better understanding of what Australians think about mining, so in 2013/14 we conducted an online survey of 5,121 Australians.
The survey results have now been published as Australian attitudes toward mining: Citizen Survey – 2014 Results
Surveying community attitudes helps us to understand the impacts and benefits of mining, and how the relationship between the mining industry, government and society affects what Australia’s citizens think about it, and how much they accept the mining industry. It gives us insight into what needs to happen before mining has a ‘social licence to operate’ in Australia.
We’ve gone beyond basic descriptions of attitudes towards the extractive industries, and looked at the relationship between mining and society in a more constructive and sophisticated way.
We wanted to know what goes into influencing trust in the mining industries, and the government, over mining developments. What, for example, is the relationship between good governance and social acceptance of the extractive industries? What are the key issues for a productive dialogue between the extractive industries and other stakeholders?
Some of the important findings from the survey are that:
- People view mining as central and significant to Australia’s economy and standard of living. They see it as a ‘necessary’ industry for Australia, which is important to Australia’s future prosperity
- Australians generally understand what it means to have a significant mining industry. Overall, they think that at present the benefits of mining outweigh its impacts.
- The more the benefits of mining outweigh the costs, the higher the level of acceptance. If this balance is perceived to move toward the negative impacts of mining, acceptance of mining will be eroded.
- Australians trust and accept the industry more when they believe the industry is listening to them and will respond to their concerns, when benefits from mining are shared equitably, and when the legislative and regulatory frameworks in place make them confident that industry will do the right thing.
- Governments and industry need to work with communities to earn and maintain the ‘social licence to operate’ and develop effective, constructive, mutually beneficial relationships.
As heads of state gather in New York for tomorrow’s United Nations climate summit, a new report on the state of the world’s carbon budget tells them that greenhouse emissions hit a new record last year, and are still growing.
It shows that global emissions from burning fossil fuels and cement production reached a new record of 36 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2013, and are predicted to grow by a further 2.5% in 2014, bringing the total CO2 emissions from all sources to more than 40 billion tonnes. This is about 65% more fossil-fuel emission than in 1990, when international negotiations to reduce emissions to address climate change began.
Meanwhile, deforestation now accounts for just 8% of total emissions, a fraction that has been declining for several decades.
The growth of global emissions since 2009 has been slower than in the prior period of 2000-08. However, projections based on forecast growth in global gross domestic product (GDP) and continuance of improving trends in carbon intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) suggest a continuation of rapid emissions growth over the coming five years.
Global emissions continue to track the most carbon-intensive range among more than a thousand scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). If continued, this situation would lead to global average temperatures between 3.2C and 5.4C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
There have been other striking changes in emissions profiles since climate negotiations began. In 1990, about two-thirds of CO2 emissions came from developed countries including the United States, Japan, Russia and the European Union (EU) nations. Today, only one-third of world emissions are from these countries; the rest come from the emerging economies and less-developed countries that account for 80% of the global population, suggesting a large potential further emissions growth.
Continuation of current trends over the next five years alone will lead to a new world order on greenhouse gas emissions, with China emitting as much as the United States, Europe and India together.
Country emission profiles
There are several ways to explore countries’ respective contributions to climate change. These include current emissions, per capita emissions, and cumulative emissions since the industrial revolution.
The largest emitters in 2013 were China, the United States, the 28 EU countries (considered as a single bloc), and India. Together, they account for 58% of global emissions and 80% of the emissions growth in 2013 (with the majority the growth coming from China, whereas the EU cut its emissions overall).
Here’s how the major emitters fared in 2013.
Emissions grew at 4.2%, the lowest level since the 2008 global financial crisis, because of weaker economic growth and improvements in the carbon intensity of the economy. Per capita emissions in China (7.2 tonnes of CO2 per person) overtook those in Europe (6.8 tonnes per person).
A large part of China’s high per capita emissions is due to industries that provide services and products to the developed world, not for China’s domestic use. China’s cumulative emissions are still only 11% of the total since pre-industrial times.
Emissions increased by 2.9% because of a rebound in coal consumption, reversing a declining trend in emissions since 2008. Emissions are projected to remain steady until 2019 in the absence of more stringent climate policies, with improvements in the energy and carbon intensity of the economy being offset by growth in GDP and population. The United States remains the biggest contributor of cumulative emissions with 26% of the total.
Emissions fell by 1.8% on the back of a weak economy, although reductions in some countries were offset by a return to coal led by Poland, Germany and Finland. However, the long-term decrease in EU emissions does not factor in the emissions linked to imported goods and services. When accounting for these “consumption” emissions, EU emissions have merely stabilised, rather than decreased.
Emissions grew by 5.1%, driven by robust economic growth and an increase in the carbon intensity of the economy. Per capita emissions were still well below the global average, at 1.9 tonnes of CO2 per person, although India’s total emissions are projected to overtake those in the EU by 2019 (albeit for a population nearly three times as large). Cumulative emissions account for only 3% of the total.
Emissions from fossil fuels declined in 2013, largely driven by a 5% decline of emissions in the electricity sector over the previous year (as shown by the Australian National Greenhouse Gas Accounts). Fossil fuel emissions per person remain high at 14.6 tonnes of CO2.
Is it too late to tame the climate?
Despite this apparently imminent event, economic models can still come up with scenarios in which global warming is kept within 2C by 2100, while both population and per capita wealth continue to grow. Are these models playing tricks on us?
Most models invoke two things that will be crucial to stabilising the climate at safer levels. The first is immediate global action to develop carbon markets, with prices rapidly growing to over US$100 per tonne of CO2.
The second is the deployment of “negative emissions” technologies during the second half of this century, which will be needed to mop up the overshoot of emissions between now and mid-century. This will involve removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it in safe places such as saline aquifers.
These technologies are largely unavailable at present. The most likely candidate is the production of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, a combination of existing technologies with high costs and with environmental and socio-economic implications that are untested at the required scales.
There are no easy pathways to climate stabilization, and certainly no magic bullets. It is still open to us to choose whether we halt our CO2 emissions completely this century – as required for a safe, stable climate – or try instead to adapt to significantly greater impacts of climate change.
What we have no choice about is the fact that the longer emissions continue to grow at rates of 2% per year or more, the harder it will be to tame our climate.
Pep Canadell received support from the Australian Climate Change Science Program.
Michael Raupach has previously received funding from the Australian Climate Change Science Program, but does not do so now.
If you type the word ‘fraccing’ into Google you will immediately see how complex a topic it is.
The process of hydraulic fracturing involves pumping fluid underground at high pressure to fracture rock and release trapped gas.
We thought we’d shed some light on the technique with five top facts and a new video which explains what coal seam gas is, how it is extracted and what some of the challenges are.
Top 5 facts about hydraulic fracturing:
- Hydraulic fracturing typically takes place a few hundred metres below ground for coal seam gas and up to 4000 metres for shale gas
- The technique has been around since the 1940s
- In Australia it is used in 100% of shale gas developments and 20-40% of coal seam gas wells
- Typically 5 to 30 megalitres of water is used when fraccing a shale gaswell (US figures), and 0.5 to 3 megalitresfor coal seam gas wells
- The fluid used in fraccing is approximately 99% water & sand, and 1% chemical additives.
To get a better understanding of coal seam gas and hydraulic fracturing visit our website www.csiro.au/unconventionalgas
In Australia we generate 75% of our electricity from coal. This creates a lot of CO2 emissions, with increasing concerns about global warming and climate change.
Dr Paul Feron wants to be able to use the coal without releasing carbon dioxide. He leads a multi-disciplinary team developing cost-effective methods to capture and store CO2.
Paul’s team has built and operated capture pilot plants illustrating that the technology can be retrofitted to coal-fired power plants as well as smelters, kilns and steel works.
He is focused on reducing the cost of the capture process, so that the technology can be taken up widely – not just in Australia, but also in developing countries which depend on coal for their energy supply . So that we can meet the world’s need for energy without adding to CO2 emissions. Hear Paul talk about his work.
Next week the National Carbon Capture and Storage conference is happening at Cockle Bay in Sydney from August 31 to September 3 – visit the website for more information.