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Gizmorama - November 20, 2017

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Can planetary air conditioning help in solving the global warming crisis or is it just too risky?

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Artificially cooling Earth is a 'highly risky strategy,' researchers warn --*

Some scientists and policy officials have proposed artificial cooling as a solution to global warming. But a new study suggests any such efforts would present serious risks.

One of the most popular forms of geoengineering is the manipulation of clouds, using aerosols to promote cloud formation and cloud brightening. Higher concentrations of clouds -- and brighter clouds -- can help reflect sunlight and reduce warming.

The introduction of large amounts of aerosols into the atmosphere by volcanic eruptions has in the past triggered periods of global cooling.

But new analysis at the University of Exeter showed such geoengineering efforts could have unintended consequences. An influx of aerosols in the atmosphere in the Northern Hemisphere, for example, would be likely to encourage extreme droughts in the Southern Hemisphere.

Earth's climate is governed by a variety of global patterns, and changes in one part of the globe can trigger significant changes in another.

In a new paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications, scientists argue that geoengineering projects should be strictly regulated and limited in size.

"Our results confirm that regional solar geoengineering is a highly risky strategy which could simultaneously benefit one region to the detriment of another," Exeter climate scientist Anthony Jones said in a news release. "It is vital that policymakers take solar geoengineering seriously and act swiftly to install effective regulation."

Jones and his colleagues at Exeter designed complex atmosphere-ocean models to better understand how sizable aerosol injections might affect atmospheric patterns. They found aerosol injections could limit ocean warming and reduce North Atlantic tropical cyclone frequency, but could also induce severe droughts across the Southern Hemisphere.

"This research shows how a global temperature target such as 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius needs to be combined with information on a more regional scale to properly assess the full range of climate impacts," Exeter professor Jim Haywood said.

*-- New graphene filter turns whiskey clear --*

Scientists have created a new graphene-oxide membrane capable of turning whiskey clear.

Previous graphene-oxide filters proved impermeable to all but water, limiting their potential. But researchers at the University of Manchester found they could let other solvents through by making the graphene-oxide membrane extremely thin.

During the membrane's assembly, pinholes become interwoven with graphene nanochannels, forming an atomic-scale sieve.

Researchers showed the new sieve could be used in organic solvent nanofiltration technology. OSN technology removes organic compounds from a solvent.

To showcase their new technology, scientists used the sieve to successfully remove organic dye particles as small as a nanometer from a methanol solvent.

They also turned whiskey clear.

"Just for a fun, we even filtered whisky and cognac through the graphene-oxide membrane. The membrane allowed the alcohol to pass through but removed the larger molecules, which gives the amber color," Rahul Nair, professor at Manchester's National Graphene Institute, said in a news release. "The clear whisky smells similar to the original whisky but we are not allowed to drink it in the lab, however it was a funny Friday night experiment!"

The membrane can be fine-tuned to filter out different-sized small particles while still allowing a fast flow-rate of larger molecules. The sieve's efficiency could help reduce the energy demands of filtration technologies.

"The developed membranes are not only useful for filtering alcohol, but the precise sieve size and high flux open new opportunity to separate molecules from different organic solvents for chemical and pharmaceutical industries," said researcher Yang Su. "This development is particularly important because most of the existing polymer-based membranes are unstable in organic solvents whereas the developed graphene-oxide membrane is highly stable."

Until now, graphene sieves have only been used for desalination and water filtration. The latest research, published this week in the journal Nature Materials, further expands the 2D material's already impressive repertoire.


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