Day: October 17, 2020

[Action requise] Votre essai a expiré – Sam 17 octobre 2020


J’ai essayé plusieurs générateurs de flux RSS et celui qui fonctionnait le mieux, en plus d’être le plus simple, était C’est formidable à quel point l’outil peut être utile pour quelqu’un qui ne sait pas coder. ( IFTTT, Zapier, etc.), c’est le premier qui est complètement simple et qui fonctionne hors de la boîte.

Isaac Halvorson iOS developer

Isaac Halvorson

Développeur iOS hisaac

Elon Musk ‘guesses’ SpaceX could send its next-gen Starship to Mars as soon as 2024

If you want to go to Mars, timing is everything, and Elon Musk no longer thinks SpaceX will make it to the red planet when the next window of opportunity opens up in 2022. 

The world’s leading fan of leaving this world had previously hoped to send a robotic mission to Mars in 2022, followed by a crewed trip a couple of years later. During an interview at the Mars Society virtual convention on Friday, Musk said he now thinks his next-generation Starship spacecraft could be ready as soon as 2023, in time for a launch window in 2024.

The orbits of Earth and Mars around the sun bring the two planets closest to each other roughly every two years. That’s why we saw three robotic missions to our neighboring world, including NASA’s Perseverance rover, launch within weeks of each other in July. 

“I think we’ve got a fighting chance,” Musk said of making the 2024 Mars transport window. 

To get there, though, Musk says his team will need to pick up its pace of innovation and he isn’t afraid to break a few things along the way.

“We’ll probably lose a few ships,” he said when asked about the development process for Starship, which is designed to eventually take dozens of people at a time to Mars.

So far, early Starship prototypes have made short, low-altitude “hops” from the SpaceX test facility in Texas. Musk hopes the early models will make it to orbit for the first time next year.  He added that the company could demonstrate refueling capability in orbit in 2022 and begin making trips to the moon shortly after that.

The company’s founder and chief engineer cautioned that he has no secret dates for achieving these milestones. 

“These are just guesses,” Musk told Mars Society President Robert Zubrin over Zoom. 

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SpaceX Starship prototype takes first ‘hop’


As for who’ll get to go to Mars, Musk said that once there are a million people who both want to go to the red planet and can afford it, that should be enough to sustain a city. So in other words, it seems the first martians are likely to be wealthy earthlings. 

Once on Mars, Musk said, the first order of business will be setting up a propellant plant. He also mentioned the idea of sending robotic droids to the surface that people could control remotely from Earth. 

Naturally, Musk also has designs on more than Mars. He mentioned the idea of using Starship or other craft to visit the suddenly exciting atmosphere of Venus, large asteroids, the moons of Jupiter and even the Kuiper Belt and furthest reaches of the solar system.

“We need to make the leap of going to another planet first,” he said.   

Forecasters say drought more likely than blizzards this winter

Don’t expect much of a winter wallop this year, except for the pain of worsening drought, U.S. government forecasters said Thursday.

Two-thirds of the United States should get a warmer than normal winter, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted. Only Washington, northern Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and northwestern Minnesota, will get a colder than normal winter, forecasters said.

The forecast for winter rain and snow splits the nation in three stripes. NOAA sees the entire south from southern California to North Carolina getting a dry winter. Forecasters see wetter weather for the northernmost states: Oregon and Washington to Michigan and dipping down to Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and other parts of the Ohio Valley. The rest of the nation will likely be closer to normal, NOAA said.

For the already dry Southwest and areas across the South, this could be a “big punch,” said NOAA drought expert David Miskus. About 45 percent of the nation is in drought, the highest level in more than seven years.

Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said he doesn’t see much relief for central and southern California, where wildfires have been raging.

What’s driving the mostly warmer and drier winter forecast is La Nina, the cooling of parts of the central Pacific that alter weather patterns worldwide, Halpert said.

For the East, big snowstorms or blizzards aren’t usually associated with La Nina. That’s more likely with its warming ocean counterpart, El Nino, he said. But he added that extreme events are not something meteorologists can see in seasonal forecasts.

Halpert also said he doesn’t expect the dreaded polar vortex to be much of a factor this year, except maybe in the Northern Plains and Great Lakes.

The vortex is the gigantic circular upper-air pattern that pens the cold close to the North Pole. When it weakens, the cold wanders away from the pole and brings bone-chilling weather to northern and eastern parts of the U.S.

While Halpert doesn’t see that happening much this winter, an expert in the polar vortex does.

Judah Cohen, a winter weather specialist for the private firm Atmospheric Environmental Research, sees a harsher winter for the Northeast than NOAA does. He bases much of his forecasting on what’s been happening in the Arctic and Siberian snow cover in October. His research shows that the more snow on the ground in Siberia in October, the harsher the winter in the eastern United States as the polar vortex weakens and wanders south.

Snow cover in Siberia was low in early October, but it is catching up fast and looks to be heavier than normal by the end of the month, he said.

The government predictions are about increased or decreased odds in what the entire three months of weather look like, not an individual day or storm, so don’t plan any event on a seasonal outlook, cautioned Greg Postel, a storm specialist at The Weather Channel. But he said La Nina is the strongest indicator among several for what drives winter weather. La Nina does bring a milder than average winter to the southeast, but it also makes the central U.S. “susceptible to Arctic blasts,” he said.

La Nina also dominates the forecast by AccuWeather. That private company is forecasting mainly dry in the South, wet and snowy in the Pacific Northwest, bouts of snow and rain from Minneapolis through the Great Lakes region, big swings in the heartland and mild weather in the mid-Atlantic. The company predicts a few heavy snow events in the Midwest and Great Lakes, but less than average snow for the Northeast.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Live coverage: SpaceX rolls out Falcon 9 rocket for another Starlink launch

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will launch SpaceX’s 14th batch of approximately 60 Starlink broadband satellites. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

Spaceflight Now members can watch a live view of the Falcon 9 rocket on launch pad 39A.

A La Niña winter is on the way for the US

The global average temperature for September was a new record.
Enlarge / The global average temperature for September was a new record.

September apparently wasn’t feeling like doing anything unusual, so it ended up being the warmest September on record for the globe. That’s been something of a trend this year, with each month landing in its respective top three. It has become increasingly clear that 2020 will likely be the second warmest year on record, if it isn’t the first.

Unlike in August, the contiguous US didn’t set a record in September, though it was still above the 20th century average. A high-pressure ridge dominated over the West Coast again, leading to even more warm and dry weather for much of the Western US. But a trough set up over the Central US in mid-September, bringing cooler air southward.

Two more hurricanes—Sally and Beta—led to above-average rainfall in the Southeast. Total precipitation for the contiguous US was a touch above average as a result, but the average as usual masks local differences. Drought conditions have expanded and worsened over much of the West, and there has been little relief for wildfire conditions.

Speaking of those hurricanes, they brought the number of named storms making landfall in the contiguous US to nine for the year. That tied 1916 for the most on record, but Hurricane Delta’s landfall in Louisiana has since added to 2020’s dizzying tally.

September also saw the number of billion-dollar-plus disasters in the US climb to 16—tying 2011 and 2017 for the most in a year since the start of this (inflation-adjusted) metric in 1980.

What next?

NOAA released its winter outlook on Thursday. These long-range outlooks are based on a combination of observed trends, important slow-changing patterns, and model simulations. NOAA typically discusses the next-month and next-three-months outlook, but this round includes the December-January-February seasonal window.

If you caught last month’s update, this will look pretty familiar. The biggest factor in play is the La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which are likely to persist at least until spring. La Niñas tend to have a pretty defined impact on US winter weather, though the variability of weather doesn’t disappear. But the cold surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific generally promote a shift in the US storm track that leads to more cold and wet weather across the northern tier of the country, with warmer and drier weather across the south.

Why we don’t know exactly what happened during a near-collision in space

LeoLabs, which uses its own ground-based radars to track spaceborne objects, put the odds of collision at 10% or greater. That’s high, but not uncommon, LeoLabs CEO Daniel Ceperley told CNN Business on Thursday.

But the US military, which uses data from the world’s largest network of radars and telescopes, said that its space traffic control team detected a “nearly zero percent probability of collision.”

In response, LeoLabs’s Ceperley said in a statement Friday morning: “We obviously have a great deal of respect for the [US military’s] 18th Space Control Squadron and their estimates. Nobody is disputing that these objects came close to one another.”

Meanwhile, Moriba Jah, an astrodynamicist at the University of Texas at Austin who has long been trying to raise public awareness about the abundance of junk in Earth’s orbit at constant risk of colliding, said the ordeal was only the latest piece of evidence that the world needs an internationally collaborative effort to track space traffic.

His data, an amalgamation of all publicly available real-time space traffic information, show dozens of potential collisions happening at any given moment. Jah suggested the Soviet satellite and discarded rocket booster were expected to come within 72 meters of each other. However, he couldn’t say for sure whether a collision was even “likely.”

Objects in space are tracked with telescopes and radar operated by governments and private companies. But all those organizations around the globe are hesitant to share their data with each other. So, when there is a chance that two things in space might collide, experts have an extremely difficult time hashing out exactly how high the risks are. LeoLabs does not share its data publicly.

Ceperley told CNN Business Thursday that the company decided to raise public awareness about this particular event because the two objects are both large, and because they’re in an area of orbit that’s still relatively clean compared to nearby orbits. The company is also trying to raise more general awareness about the debris problem, he said, to encourage the private sector to develop means of cleaning it up.

“Multiple times a week we’re seeing dead satellites come within 100 meters of each other, moving at tremendous speeds,” Ceperley said.

What happened Thursday

The Soviet satellite, which launched to space in 1989 and was used for navigation, weighs nearly 2,000 pounds and is 55 feet long, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The rocket booster, part of a Chinese Long March launch vehicle that likely launched in 2009, is about 20 feet long. Neither of the objects are still in use.

If the rocket and satellite did collide, it would have been the first time in more than a decade that two objects spontaneously collided in space — a situation space traffic experts have hoped desperately to avoid.

The last collision, in 2009, saw a dead Russian military satellite ram into an active communications satellite operated by US-based telecommunications firm Iridium. That event produced a massive cloud of debris, most of which is too small to track from the ground. And the wreckage is still in orbit, posing a constant threat to nearby satellites.

There are also already hundreds of thousands — possibly millions — of objects whirling around in orbit uncontrolled, including tiny pieces of debris, spent rocket boosters, dead satellites and detritus from military anti-satellite missile demonstrations. The junk is heavily concentrated in areas of orbit closest to the Earth’s surface. And, though it doesn’t pose much of a risk to humans on the ground, it does threaten hoards of active satellites that provide all sorts of services, including tracking the weather, studying the Earth’s climate, and providing telecom services. The debris also threatens the International Space Station, where crews of astronauts have lived since 2000, and which has had to adjust its own orbit three times this year due to space debris.
Space is becoming too crowded, Rocket Lab CEO warns

McDowell explained on Twitter that a new collision would be “very bad.” The Soviet satellite and Chinese rocket booster could have led to a 10% to 20% increase in the amount of debris in space, and each new piece of debris boosts the odds that more collisions will keep happening.

It could even set off a disastrous chain reaction, leaving space littered with an impenetrable field of garbage that brings new rocket launches and space exploration to a grinding halt.

Part of the problem is that outer space remains largely unregulated. The last widely agreed-upon international treaty guiding the use of outer space hasn’t been updated in five decades, which has mostly left the space industry to police itself.

The rise in popularity of megaconstellations — epitomized by the Starlink internet constellation that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is building — has sparked a new wave of discussion about the risks of congestion in orbit. Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck told CNN Business last month that growing congestion in space is already making it more difficult for his company’s rockets to find a clear path to orbit to deliver new satellites.

Elon Musk says SpaceX’s 1st Starship trip to Mars could fly in 4 years

SpaceX is almost ready to start building a permanent human settlement on Mars with its massive Starship rocket.

The private spaceflight company is on track to launch its first uncrewed mission to Mars in as little as four years from now, SpaceX’s founder and CEO Elon Musk said Friday (Oct. 16) at the International Mars Society Convention

“I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window,” Musk said in a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. You can watch a replay of the talk here.

That window Musk referred to is a launch opportunity that arises every 26 months for mission to Mars. NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates all launched missions to mars in July of this year. The next window opens in 2022 with Musk referring to the 2024 Mars launch opportunity. 

The mission will launch to the Red Planet on a SpaceX Starship vehicle, a reusable rocket-and-spacecraft combo that is currently under development at the company’s South Texas facility. SpaceX is also planning to use Starship for missions to the moon starting in 2022, as well as point-to-point trips around the Earth.

Related: Starship and Super Heavy: SpaceX’s Mars-colonizing vehicles in images

Musk has long said that humans need to establish a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars to ensure “the continuance of consciousness as we know it” — just in case planet Earth is left uninhabitable by a something like a nuclear war or an asteroid strike. 

But SpaceX doesn’t have any plans to actually build a Mars base. As a transportation company, its only goal is to ferry cargo (and humans) to and from the Red Planet, facilitating the development of someone else’s Mars base.

“SpaceX is taking on the biggest single challenge, which is the transportation system. There’s all sorts of other systems that are going to be needed,” Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin said during the convention. 

“My personal hope is that we’re gonna see Starship in the stratosphere before this year’s out, and if Elon is right, reach orbit next year or the year after,” Zubrin added. “This will change people’s minds as to what is possible. And then, you know, we’ll have NASA seeking to fund the remaining pieces of the puzzle or entrepreneurs stepping forward to develop remaining pieces of the puzzle.”

This SpaceX infographic shows how the company aims to use its Starship interstellar spacecraft to transport humans and cargo to and from the Red Planet.  (Image credit: SpaceX)

If Musk’s projections are correct — he is known for offering overly ambitious timelines — SpaceX’s first Mars mission would launch in the same year that NASA astronauts return to the moon under the Artemis program. SpaceX is also planning to fly space tourists on a Starship mission around the moon in 2023. NASA has also picked SpaceX as one of three commercial teams to develop moon landers for the Artemis program.

Musk said Friday that if it weren’t for the orbital mechanics that call for Mars launches every 26 months, SpaceX “would maybe have a shot of sending or trying send something to Mars in three years,” Musk said, adding that Earth and Mars won’t be in the best position. “But the window is four years away, because of them being in different parts of the solar system.”

Musk unveiled plans for SpaceX’s Starship plans in 2016. The project aims to launch a 165-foot (50 meters) spacecraft atop a massive booster for deep-space missions to the moon, Mars and elsewhere. Both the Starship and its Super Heavy booster will be reusable. 

This year, SpaceX launched two test flights of Starship prototypes, called SN5 and SN6, from its Boca Chica test site in Texas. Those flights reached an altitude of 500 feet (150 meters). 

SpaceX is currently preparing another Starship prototype, called SN8, for a 12-mile-high (20 kilometers) test flight in the near future. 

Email Hanneke Weitering at or follow her on Twitter @hannekescience. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Snow lovers hope La Niña delivers on cooler, wetter winter across western Washington

A man skis on a road in the Ballard neighborhood after a large storm blanketed the city with snow on February 9, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Seattle almost reached its yearly amount of snowfall in a day. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Western Washington is likely to experience a cooler, wetter winter this year because of a La Niña weather pattern, according to new long-term projections from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While more precipitation and cooler temperatures are the perfect conditions for snow, NOAA says it can’t project seasonal snowfall accumulations that far in advance. Snow forecasts are usually not predictable more than a week out, it explains in the new data.

That doesn’t mean we can’t dream about it, or cross our fingers and hope instead for a heat wave. The National Weather Service issued a poll on Twitter on Thursday asking Pacific Northwesterners how they feel about snow this winter.

Just over 2,000 people voted and 56.5% said they want a ton of snow, with another 25.4% voting for just a bit of snow. That leaves 18% hoping for the more typical clouds and rain, and maybe some sun breaks this season.

For now, if you’re a snow lover, you’re likely already paying close attention to what’s happening in the Cascade Mountains. Snow began falling in earnest at Stevens Pass last weekend, with another hit on Wednesday.

Stevens Pass plans to open on Dec. 4 this season, with some safety precautions. CEO of Vail Resorts, Rob Katz, outlined those precautions here. They include mandatory face coverings and reservations, in order to maintain the proper capacity to ensure good physical distancing.

Snoqualmie Pass is also resuming operations this season, but it’s unclear when. It had to pause its seasons pass sales in September to re-evaluate volume. The resorts plans to resume those sales sometime in October. Meanwhile, it has also published a list of COVID-19 precautions here, which also includes mandatory face coverings.

NOAA’s next winter outlook will post on November 19, 2020. For a full explanation of the entire United States’ climate outlook, NOAA has posted this handy video:

Two high-speed pieces of space junk narrowly missed a big collision

A dead Soviet satellite and an abandoned Chinese rocket body have crashed into each other rapidly in space this week, but were far from a catastrophic accident on Thursday night.

Leo Labs, a company that uses radar Track satellites and debris In space, Said On Tuesday it said it was monitoring a “very high-risk” conjunction – an intersection of two objects’ orbits around Earth.

The company used its radar array to monitor every two objects when it crossed the overhead three or four times a day from Friday.

Data indicate that two large pieces of space junk are missing from each other 8 to 43 meters (26 to 141 feet) Thursday night at 8:56 p.m.

On Wednesday, when the estimated miss distance was just 12 meters (19 feet), Leo Labs calculated a 10 percent chance of hitting objects.

It may seem trivial, but NASA normally moves the International Space Station when the orbiting laboratory is only 0.001 percent (1 in 100,000) more likely to encounter iding with an object.

Since both the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body were not working, no one could move them out of each other. The astronomer said that if they were ide, an explosion equivalent to the explosion of 14 metric tons of TNT would send rockets of debris in all directions. Jonathan McDowell.

10 minutes after the fusion, when the rocket body flew over Leo Labs radar, there was only one object – the company tweeted that “there were no signs of debris”.

“Bullet Dodge,” McDowell Said On Twitter. “But space debris is still a big problem.”

The collision may not have endangered anyone on Earth, as the satellites are 991 kilometers (616 miles) from Earth and cross the Antarctic Ocean over the Veddel Sea. But as a result thousands of spacecraft fragments were dangerous in Earth’s orbit.

Experts at Aerospace Corporation have calculated very few collisions: 1 in just 23 billion by Thursday morning, with objects estimated to miss 70 meters (230 feet) from each other.

“The space-wreck community is constantly alerting us to these close policies, and we are not lying or lying about it,” Ted Mulhapt, who oversees The Aerospace Corporation’s space-wreck analysis, told Business Insider.

“Any of them is a low probability event, because the space is still very large. But when you take these items and combine them, sooner or later you’ll see the rewards. It’s time for us to go through another big collision with our models.”

Space collisions make clouds of dangerous high-speed debris

Nearly 130 million bits of space junk Currently orbiting the Earth, from abandoned satellites, detached spaceship and other missions. Those debris travel at about 10 times the speed of a bullet, which is fast enough to cause deadly damage to important equipment no matter how small the pieces.

Such a hit can kill astronauts on a spaceship.

The problem is exacerbated when collisions between space junk pieces cause objects to disintegrate into smaller pieces.

“Every time there is a big conflict, it’s a big change in LEO [low-Earth orbit] Environment, ”Dan Sepperley, CEO of Leo Labs Previously told Business Insider.

Two events in 2007 and 2009 increased the size of large debris in low Earth orbit 70 percent.

The first was the China test of an anti-satellite missile, in which China fired one of its own weather satellites. Two years later, an American spacecraft accidentally hit a Russian.

“Because of that, there’s a debris belt now,” Sepperley said.

India conducted its own satellite missile test in 2019, and that explosion created a prediction 6,500 ruins Larger than the eraser.

The satellite fired by India has a mass of less than one metric ton.

Combined, the Soviet satellite and the Chinese rocket body that cared for each other weighed nearly three metric tons (2,800 kilograms). Depending on those large volumes, the collision could create a significant cloud of hazardous debris.

High-risk satellite combinations are becoming more common

This is not the first time Leo Labs has warned the world about the possibility of a high-risk satellite merger. In January, the company calculated Collision between Dead Space Telescope and old US Air Force satellite.

Objects did not crash, but Seperley said the two satellites were “canceled, so basically no one was keeping an eye on them.”

The U.S. Air Force, which tracks satellites for the government, did not inform NASA about the potential collision, the space agency told Business Insider at the time.

Expert warnings about space junk grew even more urgent from that miss.

“We have recently determined the number of combinations,” Dan Oltrog, an astronomer, told Business Insider, which researched orbital debris at Analytical Graphics, Inc.

Oltrose uses a software system that has been collecting and estimating conjunction data for the past 15 years. In recent times in orbital encounters, he says, “seems to be well-connected with the newly launched large-star cluster spacecraft.”

The largest constellations he represents are Internet satellite clusters, which companies like SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb plan to launch. In total, the companies plan to launch more than 100,000 satellites by the end of the decade. Since May 2019, SpaceX has already launched nearly 800 new satellites into Earth orbit.

The catastrophe of wreckage can reduce our access to space

If the space-junk problem is exacerbated, the chain of collisions will get out of control and surround the Earth in an impassable field of debris. Donald J. Snyder, who worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and calculated in a 1978 paper.

“It’s a long-term impact that will last for decades and centuries,” Mulhapt said Told Business Insider In January. “Anything that does a lot of debris increases that risk.”

The number of objects in Earth’s orbit could already have a Kessler-like effect – a risk described last week by Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck.

“It will have a huge impact on the launch side,” he said Told CNN Business, Rockets “should try and weave between these [satellite] Constellations. “

This article was originally published Business Insider.

More from Business Insider:

New Process Turns Plastic Waste Into Hydrogen And Carbon Nanotubes


Published on October 16th, 2020 |
by Steve Hanley

October 16th, 2020 by  

Perhaps nothing exposes the extent to which convenience and poor economic policies can combine to make the Earth uninhabitable than the story of plastics. Over the past several decades, plastic waste has been found in the snow atop the highest mountains and in the deepest parts of the ocean. Microplastics are in our food and inside our bodies. Just this week, a study in California found that 13.3 quadrillion microfibers — defined as those less than 5 millimeters in length — are released into the state’s environment every year, mostly from washing clothes made with plastic based cloth and thread.

To put that in some perspective, that is 130,000 times more microfibers than the number of stars in the Milky Way, according to a report by The Guardian. They get flushed out in the rinse cycle and then dumped into rivers and oceans, where they get ingested by plants and animals that make up the food chain for humans. A recent study found more than 70% of fish caught in the open oceans have microplastics in their stomachs. The economic failure is a financial system that imposes no cost upon the manufacturers who produce plastics. Recently, reports have surfaced that the oil industry is hoping to offset declines in fuel consumption by ramping up plastic production for consumption in Africa.

Credit: Nature

Can nothing save us from the scourge of plastics? Surely the industry has shown no morality or sense of decency in its onslaught against the environment. Anything to make a buck and the consequences be damned. A group of researchers in the UK, China, and Saudi Arabia — almost none of whom would be allowed into the United States by the current maladministration — think they have discovered a partial solution. Here’s an excerpt from the abstract to the study, which was published October 12 in the journal Nature Catalysis.

“Here we report a straightforward rapid method for the catalytic deconstruction of various plastic feedstocks into hydrogen and high-value carbons. We use microwaves together with abundant and inexpensive iron-based catalysts as microwave susceptors to initiate the catalytic deconstruction process. The one-step process typically takes 30–90 seconds to transform a sample of mechanically pulverized commercial plastic into hydrogen and (predominantly) multiwalled carbon nanotubes. A high hydrogen yield of 55.6 mmol g−1plastic is achieved, with over 97% of the theoretical mass of hydrogen being extracted from the deconstructed plastic. The approach is demonstrated on widely used, real-world plastic waste. This proof-of-concept advance highlights the potential of plastic waste itself as a valuable energy feedstock for the production of hydrogen and high-value carbon materials.”

A report by Phys.Org says the experimental process involved pulverizing the plastic samples and then using microwaves with aluminum oxide and iron oxide serving as catalysts. The microwaves allow for heating the catalysts without heating the plastics. Instead, the plastics were heated incidentally by the catalysts — an approach that prevents unwanted side reactions and makes the process more efficient.

The carbon nanotubes produced in the lab were of sufficient quality for use in other applications. The researchers note that there are currently other large-scale applications that involve the use of microwaves in commercial venues, which suggests they could be used for recycling plastics as well. They acknowledge that they have not yet tested their approach to recycling plastics at a larger scale but believe the disaster that lies in the world’s future if plastic pollution is not brought under control will drive efforts like theirs to succeed.

Certainly, the threat to the environment is real and it is enormous. The Center for International Environmental Law has issued a new report that should send a shudder down your spine. It says demand for plastics is accelerating, especially in developing nations. If the “business as usual” scenario plays out at anticipated, by 2050, plastics — from extracting the oil and gas they are made from, to manufacturing them, to distributing them, to disposing of them — will contribute 2.8 million gigatons of carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere each year, equivalent to the emissions from 615 coal fired generating plants.

Finding a way to replace conventional plastics with substitutes that are biodegradable or can be broken down by microbes would be a good start on the path to ending the scourge, but sensible economic policies that place the cost of disposal on manufacturers would go a long way toward ending an avalanche of plastics entering the Earth’s environment today. Less plastic in the world would mean less plastic to be converted back into useful byproducts like the microwave and catalyst process. All such post production remediation costs money. Why shouldn’t the companies who create the problem pay to clean up their own mess? 


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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.