From landfill to jet fuel: the plastic panacea?

Last week British Airways announced that the world’s first sustainable aviation fuel plant will be built in Thurrock, Essex. The airline claims that 575,000 tonnes of plastic waste, otherwise destined for landfill or incineration, will be converted into 120,000 tonnes of liquid fuel each year. According to BA, that’s enough to power the annual flights from London City Airport, twice over. The concept of converting landfill waste into jet fuel sounds like something out of a science fiction film, but in fact, relies on two long-standing techniques.

Landfill to jet fuel

From landfill to jet fuel: could plastic pyrolysis reduce our reliance on fossil fuels? Photo credit: (L) David Dodge, (R) Flickr user Eddie.

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Science Snap (#25): Vesuvius, Andy Warhol

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

Vesuvius by Andy Warhol. 1985. Credit: Gaetano Anzisi

Quite simply, volcanoes are inspiring. I’ve yet to meet someone who disagrees. The majestic volcanic landscape has thus been an inspiration to many an artist and author, whether intentional or not. Furthermore, artwork itself can be a valuable tool to help decipher and understand eruptions and their effects on the climate.

Pictured here is Vesuvius erupting in all its glory and is one of my favourite pieces of “volcanic arc”. Andy Warhol made a few variations on this theme so have a google, take a look around and enjoy (there are not many pictures available on creative commons though so can’t be included here!)

 

 

Science Snap (#24): The psychedelic Zambezi flood plain

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

Zambezi River, Zambia. credit: ESA

Zambezi River, Zambia. credit: ESA

This colourful image shows the Zambezi River’s floodplain in Zambia. The image was created from three acquisitions from Envisat’s radar instrument that were merged together. Each acquisition was assigned a colour and when combined show changes in the floodplain between each satellite acquisition.

The white patch of pixels in the upper right quadrant marks the city of Mongu and appears white as few changes occur between each satellite image. In light green and running up the center of the image you can track the main channel of the Zambezi river. However, one image was taken during the wet season when the water levels rise up to the edge of the town. The range of colours in the image attest to the dramatic changes in water level of the Zambezi between wet and dry seasons.

Original ESA article can be found here.

Science snap (#23): Pacaya Volcano

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

Pacaya

NASA satellite image of the erupting Pacaya volcano, Guatemala. Credit: NASA

Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala, is almost continuously erupting, making it one of Guatemala’s most active volcanoes and a popular tourist destination. The volcano last erupted on March 2, 2014, shown in the image here taken by the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite. Although the volcano has been kicking off since January, in March Pacaya erupted with small explosions and diffuse ash plumes, causing the opening of a new lava vent. The brown plume is clearly seen in the image and is travelling west, extending beneath the contrasting white clouds.

The Pacaya volcano is a part of the Central American Volcanic Arc, a chain of volcanoes stretching from the northwest to the southeast along the Pacific coast of Central America, formed by the tectonic subduction of the Cocos Tectonic Plate beneath the Caribbean Plate.

 

Source: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=83278

 

 

Science Snap (#22) Landslide in Washington state

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

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Aerial photo showing the aftermath of the landslide that buried the town of Oso in WA, USA.
Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS
U.S. Geological Survey/photo by Air Support Unit , King County Sheriff’s Office

This week, the world has been shocked by images of devastation after a huge landslide buried the town of Oso, north of Seattle, in Washington state, USA. At 11:00 PDT on Saturday 22nd March 2014, a 500m-wide section of mud and rock became detached from a hillside above the 180 population town, and hurtled down the slope at high speed. Deposits from the landslip are up to 6m deep and cover over a square mile. At the time of writing, there are 25 confirmed fatalities and 90 people remain unaccounted for. Continue reading

Tolbachik – a mineralogist’s paradise

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

Tolbachik is a basaltic volcanic massif lying at the southern end of the Kliuchevskoi group in Kamchatka, Russia. It comprises two overlapping cones: Plosky Tolbachik, a Holocene shield volcano extending to 3 km in diameter; and the older (Pleistocene) Ostry Tolbachik, a sharp-topped stratovolcano reaching some 3,700 m in height.

Tolbachik

Lava flows on the summit of  Plosky Tolbachik. Photo credit: Lena Melekhova

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Science Snap (#21): Diatoms

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

When you start looking at things at a microscopic level, everything starts to look a little alien.  Minerals assemblages can look like the landscapes of far off planets and microbes can look like their inhabitants.  One such type of alien looking microscopic life form are diatoms.

Diatom images showing the variability in their beautiful morphology. Photo credit: Kate Hendry

Diatom images showing the variability in their beautiful morphology. Photo credit: Kate Hendry

Diatoms are type of algae and their colonies generate the strangest of shapes; think of them as nature’s 3D spirographs. Their cell walls are composed of silica and they can be found in many aquatic environments, from the oceans to freshwaters. Diatoms can be used to inform scientists about the environment in which they grew and how this may have been altered due to climate change. But for me, it’s just interesting to see the huge variability in their morphology.

Diatom found on a sample of limestone left in situ in a blue hole in the Bahamas. Photo Credit: KT Cooper

Diatom found on a sample of limestone from a blue hole in the Bahamas. Photo Credit: KT Cooper

 

Science Snap #21: Nash Point, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

SSNashView

Dramatic view of Nash Point on a Winter’s Day. Photo credit: Sorcha McMahon.

Nash Point is a picturesque headland along the coastline of the Vale of Glamorgan, consisting of near-vertical cliffs of limestone and mudstone. Strata are of Blue Lias age, and at low tide the exposed shore platform reveals indicative fossils including tiny ammonites. Continue reading

PhD interview preparation

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

The following post is written primarily for those who are applying for a PhD project where the funding is supplied by a research council, such as NERC. All PhD interviews are all different, and this post definitely won’t cover everything, but it should help you prepare for most eventualities.

If in doubt, go smart - but don't worry, you can spend the next three years wearing jeans and a hoody. Credit: Alex France

If in doubt, go smart – but don’t worry, you can spend the next three years wearing jeans and a hoody. Photo credit: Alex France

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