09, September 2017

1.Scientists make fuel from oxygen in air

Source: The Hindu

Scientists have found a way to produce methanol — an important chemical often used as fuel in vehicles — using oxygen in the air, an advance that may lead to cleaner, greener industrial processes worldwide.

Significance:

  • It could become an alternative to petrol. It is also believed the new system of creating methanol could be used to create chemicals and plastics.
  • The discovery promises to be not only cheaper, but much more environmentally friendly, as it both reduces energy consumption and conserves dwindling stocks of natural gas.
  • It also opens up the prospect for the first time of easily converting natural gas into methanol at the site where it is extracted, so that it can be piped as a liquid in normal atmospheric conditions. At the moment methane has to be condensed into liquid natural gas and shipped in pressurised containers.

How it is produced?

  • Methanol was produced using nanoparticles of gold to initiate a chemical reaction between methane, oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. It can be done in one stage and at temperatures no higher than 50C (122F).
  • Traditionally, methanol is created by converting methane into hydrogen and carbon monoxide at high temperatures, then reassembling them in a different order in a second highly pressurised process. The current two-stage ‘steam reforming’ process is very energy intensive, as it requires a lot of fuel to achieve high temperatures.

2.Sun and sea water powers vegetable farms in Jordan

Source: The Hindu

A new project named “Sahara Forest Project” has been launched in Jordan. It aims to turn Jordan’s sand dunes into farming land to produce food using sun and sea water.

130 tonnes of food

  • In the first stage, the project aims to produce up to 130 tonnes of organic vegetables per year from an area the size of four football pitches.
  • It will use solar panels to provide power and include outdoor planting space, two saltwater-cooled greenhouses, a water desalination unit and salt ponds for salt production.
  • The project, whose funders include Norway and the European Union, is to be expanded from three hectares to around 200 hectares of desert.
  • “It is impressive to see how technology can be used in such a sustainable way to produce agricultural goods in a quite tough climate
  • “Jordan has a lot of sunlight, it has a lot of desert, it has sea water, it has carbon dioxide. That is what we need to produce food, water and renewable energy.”

3.Pluto mountains named after Tenzing Norgay, Edmund Hillary

Source: The Hindu

Two mountain ranges on Pluto have been named after Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary respectively by the International Astronomical Union, which for the first time, has officially approved the naming of 14 features on the icy dwarf planet.

These are the first geological features on the planet to be named following the close flyby by the New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015.

Who are Tenzing Montes and Hillary Montes?

Tenzing Montes and Hillary Montes are mountain ranges honouring Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) and Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008), the Indian/Nepali Sherpa and New Zealand mountaineer who were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest and return safely.

Background:

  • NASA’s New Horizons team proposed the names to the IAU following the first reconnaissance of Pluto and its moons by the New Horizons spacecraft.
  • The names pay homage to the underworld mythology, pioneering space missions, historic pioneers who crossed new horizons in exploration, and scientists and engineers associated with Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.
  • This is the first set of official names of surface features on Pluto to be approved by the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the internationally recognised authority for naming celestial bodies and their surface features.



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