New twist on old chemical process could boost energy efficiency

June 7, 2012

Chemical reactions on the surface of metal oxides, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are important for applications such as solar cells that convert the sun's energy to electricity. Now University of Washington scientists have found that a previously unappreciated aspect of those reactions could be key in developing more efficient energy systems.

Such systems could include, for example, solar cells that would produce more electricity from the sun's rays, or hydrogen fuel cells efficient enough for use in automobiles, said James Mayer, a UW chemistry professor.

Vertical sustainability: Moveable 'green walls' coming to Gould Hall

June 5, 2012

A project under way at the College of Built Environments gives driven-up-the-wall new meaning.

Nancy Rottle, an associate professor of landscape architecture, and seven students from four different disciplines — aided by professionals on and off campus — are mounting the Biodiversity Green Wall, Edible Green Screen + Water Harvesting Demonstration Project on the southeast side of Gould Hall.

“This work will potentially show the capacity of building skins to ecologically contribute to the urban environment, “ said Rottle, who directs the Green Futures Research and Design Lab. “We want to use the project as a billboard for new sustainable practices, and to discover to what extent green walls and screens can help promote biodiversity, produce food and reduce energy use. By harvesting water to irrigate the green wall, the project will reduce potable consumption and may lessen storm water impacts.”

Glaciology graduate student to discuss science behind SIFF film 'Chasing Ice'

May 22, 2012

Kristin Poinar, a UW graduate student in glaciology, will join director Jeff Orlowski following two screenings of the movie “Chasing Ice” to talk about the science behind melting glaciers. The documentary features stark video of vanishing glaciers, shot over years using time lapse cameras deployed in the Arctic. Inspired by National Geographic photographer James Balog, the film aims to shine a spotlight on the effects of climate change.

UW students rev up for green car competition

April 19, 2012

They didn't have much time or experience but it was an opportunity they could not let get away.

So, students at the University of Washington and supportive professors found an old basement in the Mechanical Engineering Annex that had a garage door. Since then the race has been on to turn that space into an automotive laboratory where UW students hope to take the national lead in new car technology.

Dirty to Digital: UW introduces ‘intelligent’ kiosks for composting, recycling, garbage

April 19, 2012


Solar-powered. Wireless. Data-driven. You might not think of these terms when describing waste collection, but this traditionally low-tech field is about to become less dirty and more digital thanks to a new program at UW.

As part of a just-launched pilot, a number of the existing outdoor garbage and recycling cans on Red Square have been replaced with high-tech, automated kiosks that collect more types of materials. The kiosks will be officially launched during a small ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m., Friday, April 20, during Earth Day festivities.

Bright Idea: A Blanket Endorsement

April 2012

When loggers have finished harvesting a forest or farmers have harvested a field, they gather the remaining scraps in big slash piles and burn them. The practice generates large amounts of carbon dioxide and smoke while wasting valuable organic matter. Carbon Cultures, a startup launched by University of Washington students after they won a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, has devised an innovative way to turn those slash piles into a commercial product called biochar, a type of charcoal that increases soil fertility.