Tech phoenix: how electric-vehicle manufacturer Nikola Corporation is rising from the ashes
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by James McKenzie
1d ago
Nikola Corporation is a US electric-vehicle company that once – briefly – had a market capitalization even greater than that of Ford. It was founded in 2014 by Trevor Milton, who served as chief executive and then executive chairperson when the company went public in 2020. In December 2023, however, Milton was jailed for four years after being found guilty on three counts of criminal fraud for lying about “nearly all aspects of the business”, as US federal investigators put it. Milton’s firm had also been slammed for excessive hype and fake promotional videos – one of which showed its prototyp ..read more
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Baltimore bridge collapse: engineers explain how failures can be avoided
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by Hamish Johnston
2w ago
Earlier this year, the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the US collapsed after being struck by a large container ship. Six people were killed in the disaster and many around the world were left wondering how such an important piece of infrastructure could collapse in such a catastrophic way. We investigate in this episode of the Physics World Weekly podcast, which features Erin Bell and Martin Wosnick. They are both engineers at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and they are in conversation with Physics World’s Margaret Harris. Bell specializes in the structural design and dynamics of bridges a ..read more
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Early Earth’s magnetic field strength was similar to today’s
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by Isabelle Dumé
2w ago
Ancient organisms preserved in the Earth’s oldest fossils may have experienced a planetary magnetic field similar to the one we observe today. This finding, from a team of researchers at the University of Oxford, UK and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, suggests that the planet’s magnetic field was relatively strong 3.7 billion years ago – a fact with important consequences for early microbial Earthlings. “Our finding is interesting because the Sun was generating a much more intense solar wind in the Earth’s early history,” explains team leader Claire Nichols of Oxford’s Dep ..read more
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Sucking up crude oil with laser-treated cork
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by No Author
1M ago
New research suggests that laser-treated cork could be used to tackle crude oil spills. In a study published in Applied Physics Letters, researchers from China and Israel found that femtosecond laser processing alters the surface structure of cork so that it heats rapidly in sunlight and absorbs oil. Oil spills are ecological disasters that wreak havoc on marine ecosystems, with devastating, long lasting effects on marine animals and their habitats. Oil spill cleanup also presents a major technical challenge. There’s a lack of effective strategies for clearing water contaminated with high-visc ..read more
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Astronomy conference travel is on par with Africa’s per-capita carbon footprint
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by No Author
1M ago
Travel to more than 350 astronomy meetings in 2019 resulted in the emission of 42 500 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s the conclusion of the first-ever study to examine the carbon emissions from travel to meetings by an entire field. The carbon cost amounts to about one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per participant per meeting – roughly Africa’s average per capita carbon footprint in 2019 (1.2 tCO2e) (PNAS Nexus 3 pgae143). Carried out by a team led by Andrea Gokus at Washington University in St. Louis in the US, the study examined 362 meetings in 2019 that were open to anyone in ..read more
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Degradation of commercial lithium-ion cells beyond 80% capacity
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by No Author
1M ago
The true useful life of Li-ion batteries is not well defined. Current operational cutoffs are often at 80% capacity retention, a holdover from the early electric vehicle industry that may not be applicable to other applications such as energy storage for the grid. Thus, there is little data in the open literature about systematic cycling of Li ion batteries beyond the traditional 80% cutoff. In this webinar, we detail our ongoing study of battery-cycle aging at varied ambient temperature, discharge rate, and state-of-charge range for three different positive electrode chemistries: lithium iro ..read more
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Environmental sustainability: exploring the challenges for the medical physics community
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by Hamish Johnston
1M ago
This episode of the Physics World Weekly podcast explores how the medical physics community is embracing environmental sustainability. Our guests are the medical physicists Rob Chuter of the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in the UK and Kari Tanderup of Aarhus University in Denmark. They chat with Physics World’s Tami Freeman about the environmental impact of healthcare provision – and how the community can reduce its carbon footprint without having negative impacts on health outcomes. This podcast was created in collaboration with IPEM, the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. IPE ..read more
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Why we still need a CERN for climate change
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by No Author
1M ago
It was a scorcher last year. Land and sea temperatures were up to 0.2 °C higher every single month in the second half of 2023, with these warm anomalies continuing into 2024. We know the world is warming, but the sudden heat spike had not been predicted. As NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt wrote in Nature recently: “It’s humbling and a bit worrying to admit that no year has confounded climate scientists’ predictive capabilities more than 2023 has.” As Schmidt went on to explain, a spell of record-breaking warmth had been deemed “unlikely” despite 2023 being an El Niño year, where the relat ..read more
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Frugal approach to computer modelling can reduce carbon emissions
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by Hamish Johnston
3M ago
As computing power continues to grow, theoretical physicists have been able to do larger and more complicated simulations. Running these models consumes a growing amount of energy, and for the time being, this results in more greenhouse-gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Indeed, doing an intensive supercomputer simulation can result in emissions that are on par with taking a long-haul flight. In this episode of the Physics World Weekly podcast, Alejandro Gaita and Gerliz Gutiérrez  of Spain’s University of Valencia tell Physics World’s Margaret Harris how the physics communi ..read more
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How a technique for recycling rare-earth permanent magnets could transform the green economy
Physics World | Environment and Energy
by James McKenzie
3M ago
Growth prospects Rare-earth permanent magnets are vital for the “green economy”, but with more than 99% scrapped, the potential market for HyProMag’s recycled magnets stretches from wind turbines and computer hard drives to motors in electric cars. (Courtesy (from left): Shutterstock/pedrosala; iStock/madsci; iStock/Aranga87) I recently went on a trade mission to Canada funded by Innovate UK, where I met Allan Walton – a materials scientist who co-founded a company called HyProMag. Spun off from the University of Birmingham in 2018, HyProMag has developed a technique for recycling rare-earth m ..read more
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