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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

pg-1-biofuels-by-aw_thumbnail.jpgCredit to Wendy Wang in the Cornell Daily Sun

As corn becomes an increasingly popular ethanol source, the spotlight falls on the biofuels field as its researchers study how to convert crops like switchgrass and woody plants into energy. This is evident at Riley-Robb Hall, where the east wing is being converted into a new biofuels research laboratory. Prof. Larry Walker, biological and environmental engineering, is spearheading the large-scale project, slated for completion next January.

Walker received a $10 million grant from Empire State Development Cor­poration, with $6 million going towards the east wing renovation and the other $4 million to equip the new laboratory with incubators, fermentors and other machinery necessary to allow Cornell to convert cellulosic material, like switchgrass and other perennial grasses, into ethanol,from start to finish.

“We can do what we call pretreatment of the materials to make this material more amenable to enzymatic biodegradation,” said Walker. “We have the capability of generating the enzymes needed to convert the biomass into fermentable sugars. We will then have the capability of taking the fermentable sugars to ethanol, butanol and other biofuels.”

Walker emphasized the importance of ethanol as one of the few renewable energy sources that can directly replace gasoline and the fact that by 2025, about 80 percent of ethanol production will come not from corn, but from cellulose materials, those primarily studied at the current biofuels lab on campus.

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solar-energy.jpgCredit to Jasmine Marcus in the Cornell Daily Sun

On Dec. 4, U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-22nd District) announced that Cornell will be one of five universities joining New York State’s Solar Energy Consortium, which he helped create.

The consortium, according to a press release, is “a not-for-profit solar consortium driven by industry, in collaboration with public, private, academic, environmental, labor and economic development partners – with the goal of creating fully integrated solar-powered systems.”

The consortium, whose members include Clarkson University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the State University of New York, Binghamton and The State University of New York at New Paltz, will be based in Kingston, N.Y., and is expected to generate thousands of jobs over the next few years.

According to Prof. George G. Malliaras, materials science and engineering, director of the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility, solar energy is “a green technology that harvests energy from the sun.”

Solar energy is produced by solar cells, which are also known as photovoltaic devices. The cells are flat structures that absorb the solar energy in sunlight to produce electrical energy. This electricity can be used directly in homes and businesses to power a variety of appliances.

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coral.jpgCredit to Susan Lang from the Cornell Chronicle:

If world leaders do not immediately engage in a race against time to save the Earth’s coral reefs, these vital ecosystems will not survive the global warming and acidification predicted for later this century. That is the conclusion of a group of marine scientists from around the world in a major new study published in the journal Science on Dec. 13.

“It’s vital that the public understands that the lack of sustainability in the world’s carbon emissions is causing the rapid loss of coral reefs, the world’s most biodiverse marine ecosystem,” said Drew Harvell, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and head of the Coral Disease Research Team, which is part of the international Coral Reef Targeted Research (CRTR) group that wrote the new study.

The rise of carbon dioxide emissions and the resultant climate warming from the burning of fossil fuels are making oceans warmer and more acidic, said co-author Harvell, which is triggering widespread coral disease and stifling coral growth toward “a tipping point for functional collapse.”

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Adopted from the Cornell Daily Sun:

The Sustainable Endowments Institute released the 2008 College Sustainability Report Card on Wednesday, assessing the sustainability of 200 of the nation’s wealthiest universities. Cornell received an overall grade of a B, an improvement from the 2007 Report Card, which gave the University a B-.

The Report Card is considered to be “the only independent sustainability evaluation of campus operations and endowment investments.” It evaluates sustainability in eight categories: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, transportation, endowment transparency, investment priorities and shareholder engagement. The universities surveyed all have endowments ranging from $230 million to $35 billion.

According to Mark Orlowski, founder and executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, the 2008 Report Card surveyed twice as many universities as last year’s. It also assessed universities on a greater number of “indicators,” levels of activity within each general category. The most noticeable difference, however, was the inclusion of the transportation category, which was absent from the first report.

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Adopted from the Cornell Daily Sun:

The City of Ithaca has a history of being passionate about living sustainably, as evidenced by the presence of various environmental groups and rallying around issues such as Redbud Woods and recently, the Cayuga Lake Cooling Project.

Cornell is adding to the efforts by creating the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future to integrate research efforts dealing with sustainability across and beyond the Cornell community. The need for the center arose in part as a response to President David Skorton’s signing of the President’s Climate Commitment to a climate-neutral campus last year.

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From the Cornell Chronicle:

Issues of sustainability facing the world as well as the university are the drivers behind the new Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future, still in early stages but quickly gaining momentum.

Leading the effort, which will bring together expertise in education and research from across campus to work toward common sustainability goals, will be interim director Frank DiSalvo, the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science, Cornell Provost Biddy Martin recently announced.

The Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future has emerged from several committee reports, including from former Cornell President Jeffrey Lehman’s “Call to Engagement” and the provost’s Task Force on Sustainability in the Age of Development. Since then, several other groups submitted reports on different aspects of sustainability needs; the most recent one is Cornell’s first campuswide Green Report, available at http://www.sustainablecampus.cornell.edu/.

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A recent Cornell research project concluded that pollution deserves a place alongside heart disease and cancer on the list of leading causes of death worldwide. Contamination of water, air and soil leads to 40 percent of the planet’s death toll, according to a study conducted by Prof. David Pimentel, ecology and evolutionary Biology.

“In the United States alone, 76,000 people are in the hospital each year, with 5,000 deaths, just due to pollution of air, food or water. Cancers are increasing in the U.S., and AIDS is on the rise,” Pimentel said.

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