Genetically Engineered Stomach Microbe Converts Seaweed into Ethanol

January 19, 2012

Seaweed may well be an ideal plant to turn into biofuel. It grows in much of the two thirds of the planet that is underwater, so it wouldn't crowd out food crops the way corn for ethanol does. Because it draws its own nutrients and water from the sea, it requires no fertilizer or irrigation. Most importantly for would-be biofuel-makers, it contains no lignin—a strong strand of complex sugars that stiffens plant stalks and poses a big obstacle to turning land-based plants such as switchgrass into biofuel.

UW students to design ultra-efficient hybrid powered by biodiesel

January 24, 2012

The engineering students of today will soon be designing the cars of tomorrow. In an effort to draw the best and brightest minds to the automotive field, the U.S. DOE has a long history of sponsoring advanced vehicle design competitions to foster innovation and skill development in the fields of vehicle design and engineering. In fact, the department has sponsored this type of competition for 23 years, during which time approximately 16,500 students have participated, with the vast majority of them finding work in the automotive sector.

Commentary in Nature: Can economy bear what oil prices have in store?

January 26, 2012

Stop wrangling over global warming and instead reduce fossil-fuel use for the sake of the global economy.

That’s the message from two scientists, one from the University of Washington and one from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who say in the current issue of the journal Nature (Jan. 26) that the economic pain of a flattening oil supply will trump the environment as a reason to curb the use of fossil fuels.

Injecting sulfate particles into stratosphere won’t fully offset climate change

January 25, 2012

As the reality and the impact of climate warming have become clearer in the last decade, researchers have looked for possible engineering solutions – such as removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or directing the sun’s heat away from Earth – to help offset rising temperatures.

New University of Washington research demonstrates that one suggested method, injecting sulfate particles into the stratosphere, would likely achieve only part of the desired effect, and could carry serious, if unintended, consequences.

USDOT awards $3.5 million for UW-based regional transportation center

January 25, 2012

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a grant of $3.5 million to a multi-university, regional transportation center led by the University of Washington. The newly established Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium, or PacTrans, will focus on safe and sustainable transportation in environments ranging from busy urban centers to remote mountainous terrain.

“PacTrans will focus on developing sustainable solutions for the diverse transportation needs of the Pacific Northwest,” said director Yinhai Wang, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Biofuels: A Poplar Idea

December 13, 2011

Poplar trees grow big and fast. They make great privacy screens, and poplar wood is used to make chopsticks and even the backs of stringed instruments like the viola. Now imagine this: within the next few years, the jet you take from Seattle to New York may be running on poplar-based jet fuel.

From crate to plate

December 22, 2011

Recipes that come boxed with fresh ingredients ready to cook? How about a monthlong incentive program inspiring a commitment to fresh local food? What would it take?

The class was Introduction to Interaction Design, Art 381, and the assignment Tad Hirsch gave his students was straightforward: Design a way to improve access to fresh local food on the UW campus.