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Our failure to curb our carbon emissions is threatening to cause catastrophic climate change within our lifetimes. But what if we could recycle CO2 emitted by power stations and turn it into fuels and valuable chemicals? A new analysis suggests this may be possible within a decade.
Despite progress in renewable energy development, our present trajectory seems unlikely to prevent the 2°C rise in temperature that most experts say would have a disastrous impact on all life on Earth.
That’s prompting a growing number of people to look for alternatives, and one of the leading candidates is carbon capture and storage technology. Chemicals are used to extract CO2 from the exhaust of power stations, and the gas is then piped to a storage location (normally deep underground in depleted oil or gas reservoirs), preventing it from reaching the atmosphere.
But new analysis from researchers at the University of Toronto suggests this method could be a waste of a valuable resource. A new paper in the journal Joule argues that technology that uses electricity and water to reduce CO2 into simple hydrocarbon fuels or small molecules that can act as feedstock for more valuable chemicals could be economically viable in the next five to ten years.

There’s an obvious precedent for using atmospheric CO2 to make fuels and other useful chemicals, the very process that created fossil fuels in the first place.
Similar to how a plant takes carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water to make sugars for itself, we are interested in using technology to take energy from the sun or other renewable sources to convert CO2 into small building block molecules which can then be upgraded using traditional means of chemistry for commercial use Phil De Luna a PhD candidate and one of the paper’s lead authors, said in a statement.
Turning captured CO2 back into fuels and chemicals rather than burying it underground doesn’t just present a way to monetize what is currently being treated as a waste product. The researchers point out that it could actually help solve the energy storage problem caused by increasing reliance on intermittent renewable sources like solar and wind.
If renewable energy sources are used to power the conversion of CO2 into fuels, the result is effectively carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels. These can be stored for use when renewables alone aren’t able to meet demand or used to power vehicles, and importantly, they can take advantage of our preexisting infrastructure of pipes and storage tanks designed for fossil fuels.

The problem is making this process efficient, though. The main advantage of the complex hydrocarbons we currently use as fuel is their high energy density, but this means converting CO2 into these chemicals is incredibly energy intensive.
In their analysis, the researchers worked out that it will be more energy efficient (and therefore economical) to create smaller, less complex molecules like carbon monoxide, methane, and ethylene that can then be used as building blocks to make complex fuels and chemicals using more established and efficient processes.
Even producing these simple chemicals from CO2 is not economically feasible today, but the researchers say this is likely to change in the next few years. They say companies like Opus-12, Mitsui Chemicals, Carbon Recycling International, Dioxide Materials, and Carbon Electrocatalytic Recycling Toronto are all making good progress toward commercialization. And the approach will only get cheaper as the price of renewable energy continues to fall.
There are also a number of potentially disruptive technologies yet to make it out of the lab that could turbo–charge the approach, the researchers added. There has been considerable progress on photocatalytic approaches that use direct sunlight rather than electricity to power the conversion process. That would remove the need for any kind of electricity infrastructure, making the approach far more flexible and portable.
Scientists have also started experimenting with bio-hybrid approaches that exploit biological enzymes or genetically modified bacteria to convert the products of CO2 conversion into much more complex chemicals.

The researchers admit that their analysis is optimistic, and there are still considerable technical and practical barriers to overcome. Not least, their vision assumes there will be fundamental discoveries of new materials and catalysts that boost the efficiency of the process.
But given the grim outlook when it comes to tackling climate change, some blue sky thinking is probably called for.
This is still technology for the future postdoctoral fellow and co-lead author Oleksandr Bushuyev said in the statement. But it’s theoretically possible and feasible, and we’re excited about its scale–up and implementation. If we continue to work at this, it’s a matter of time before we have power plants where CO2 is emitted, captured, and converted.
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Single crystalline epitaxy of all inorganic lead-free halide perovskite paves the way for high-performance electronics
Halide perovskites have attracted tremendous interest due to their fascinating optoelectronic properties. Driven by the concerns of toxicity derived from lead and instability caused by organic components, researchers have turned to all-inorganic lead-free halide perovskites.
However, compared to hybrid lead perovskite, lead-free compositions usually demonstrate poor crystallinity, low ordering, and high defects that suppress the performance of optoelectronic devices.

In a recent article featured as the inside front cover of Advanced Materials Interfaces (Unlocking the Single-Domain Epitaxy of Halide Perovskites), a research team composed of scientists from Michigan State University and University of Michigan have deployed a new approach to grow all inorganic lead-free halide perovskites.
Epitaxial growth has long since revolutionized the study of many electronic materials including silicon, oxide perovskites, and III-V semiconductors Richard Lunt an Associate Professor at Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, Michigan State University who has supervised the project, tells Nanowerk.
There is very little known about the epitaxial growth of halide perovskites, but these exciting materials hold enormous potential. This has motivated us to explore this entirely new research area.
Inspired by the research on oxide perovskite and III-V semiconductor, Lunt’s research group has successfully developed a reactive co-deposition method to grow single domain epitaxy of all inorganic lead-free halide perovskite with monolayer control.
Moreover, they are able to precisely control the phase of the epitaxial halide perovskite by adjusting the stoichiometry and therefore modulate the optoelectronic properties.
Based on the precise manipulation of phase and monolayer thickness, the team has fabricated the first epitaxial multilayer quantum well system incorporating a halide perovskite. Such a demonstration could lead to their application in various advanced electronics including lasers, photodetectors, and transistors.

A key factor for epitaxial growth is to control the lattice misfit between the substrates and epitaxy says Lili Wang, a Research Associate in Lunt’s lab who has led the experimental part of this work.
In our current research, we use low-cost alkali metal halide salts as substrates. Previously, we had developed a method to control the lattice misfit by alloying different types of alkali metal halide salts.
By deploying this alloy approach, the researchers can achieve near-zero lattice misfit and adjust the lattice constant of their substrates. This provides a lot of flexibility on the selection of substrates.
For the sake of fabricating devices, they further developed an epitaxial lift-off method to transfer the epitaxial film to any substrate of interest.
The solar cell device fabricated with the transferred single crystalline film as the absorber layers demonstrated both higher photocurrent and photovoltage than the control devices fabricated with amorphous films thanks to the improved crystallinity and film ordering achieved by epitaxial growth.
Their devices suggested that the power conversion efficiency of devices fabricated with this halide perovskite composition is likely to exceed at least 10%.
More importantly, after transferring we are able to reuse the substrates for the next round of epitaxial growth. It can further reduce the cost of this method Wang emphasizes.
Lunt concludes, We believe halide perovskite have the potential to revolutionize various fields including solar photovoltaics and many other high end optoelectronics.

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Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas believe they have made a breakthrough in the development of lithium sulfur batteries that could drastically lengthen battery life.
Writing in Nature Nanotechnology, the team used molybdenum to create a sulfur-carbon nanotube material that provided more conductivity on one electrode, and a nanomaterial coating to create stability for the other.
Common lithium-ion batteries only have a certain capacity said Dr. Kyeongjae "K.J." Cho professor of materials science and engineering at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science who led the research.
Lithium-sulfur batteries are less expensive to make, weigh less, store almost twice the energy of lithium-ion batteries and are better for the environment but sulfur is a poor electrical conductor and can become unstable over just several charge-and-recharge cycles as the electrodes break down.

A lithium-sulfur battery is what most of the research community thinks is the next generation of battery said Cho, It has a capacity of about three to five times higher than lithium-ion batteries, meaning if you are used to a phone lasting for three hours, you can use it for nine to 15 hours with a lithium-sulfur battery.
Cho and fellow researchers discovered that molybdenum creates a material that adjusts the thickness of the coating when combined with two atoms of sulfur. This improved the stability of the electrodes and compensated for poor conductivity of sulfur, allowing for greater power density and making lithium-sulfur batteries more commercially viable.
This was what everyone was looking for, for a long time Cho said.
That's the breakthrough. We are taking this to the next step and will fully stabilize the material, and bring it to actual, practical commercial technology.
The research was funded by the Korea Institute of Energy Technology Evaluation and Planning (KETEP) and the US National Research Foundation of Creative Materials Discovery Program.
Startups such as OXIS Energy are already shipping lithium sufur batteries.
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Physicists at the University of Warwick have today, Thursday 19th April 2018, published new research in the fournal Science today 19th April 2018 (via the Journal's First Release pages) that could literally squeeze more power out of solar cells by physically deforming each of the crystals in the semiconductors used by photovoltaic cells.
The paper entitled the Flexo-Photovoltaic Effect was written by Professor Marin Alexe, Ming-Min Yang, and Dong Jik Kim who are all based in the University of Warwick's Department of Physics.
The Warwick researchers looked at the physical constraints on the current design of most commercial solar cells which place an absolute limit on their efficiency.

Most commercial solar cells are formed of two layers creating at their boundary a junction between two kinds of semiconductors, p-type with positive charge carriers (holes which can be filled by electrons) and n-type with negative charge carriers (electrons).
When light is absorbed, the junction of the two semiconductors sustains an internal field splitting the photo-excited carriers in opposite directions, generating a current and voltage across the junction. Without such junctions the energy cannot be harvested and the photo-exited carriers will simply quickly recombine eliminating any electrical charge.
That junction between the two semiconductors is fundamental to getting power out of such a solar cell but it comes with an efficiency limit. This Shockley-Queisser Limit means that of all the power contained in sunlight falling on an ideal solar cell in ideal conditions only a maximum of 33.7% can ever be turned into electricity.
There is however another way that some materials can collect charges produced by the photons of the sun or from elsewhere.
The bulk photovoltaic effect occurs in certain semiconductors and insulators where their lack of perfect symmetry around their central point (their non-centrosymmetric structure) allows generation of voltage that can be actually larger than the band gap of that material (the band gap being the gap between the valence band highest range of electron energies in which electrons are normally present at absolute zero temperature and the conduction band where electricity can flow).
Unfortunately the materials that are known to exhibit the anomalous photovoltaic effect have very low power generation efficiencies, and are never used in practical power-generation systems.

The Warwick team wondered if it was possible to take the semiconductors that are effective in commercial solar cells and manipulate or push them in some way so that they too could be forced into a non-centrosymmetric structure and possibly therefore also benefit from the bulk photovoltaic effect.
For this paper they decided to try literally pushing such semiconductors into shape using conductive tips from atomic force microscopy devices to a "nano-indenter" which they then used to squeeze and deform individual crystals of Strontium Titanate (SrTiO3), Titanium Dioxide (TiO2), and Silicon (Si).
They found that all three could be deformed in this way to also give them a non-centrosymmetric structure and that they were indeed then able to give the bulk photovoltaic effect.
Professor Marin Alexe from the University of Warwick said:
Extending the range of materials that can benefit from the bulk photovoltaic effect has several advantages: it is not necessary to form any kind of junction; any semiconductor with better light absorption can be selected for solar cells, and finally, the ultimate thermodynamic limit of the power conversion efficiency, so-called Shockley-Queisser Limit, can be overcome. There are engineering challenges but it should be possible to create solar cells where a field of simple glass based tips (a hundred million per cm2) could be held in tension to sufficiently de-form each semiconductor crystal. If such future engineering could add even a single percentage point of efficiency it would be of immense commercial value to solar cell manufacturers and power suppliers.
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China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is determined to rebalance its energy mix, and incorporate more clean energy. That determination is reflected in the money it put into renewable energy last year, dwarfing spending by the next biggest investor, the US.
Last year nearly half of the world’s new renewable energy investment of $279.8 billion came from China according to a report published April 5 by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the sustainable energy finance center run by the United Nations Environment Program and the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
China’s investment in renewable energy, excluding large hydro projects, rose 30% compared with 2016, and was more than three times of that of the US, whose investment in the sector dropped 6% from 2016 to $40.5 billion last year.
China first overtook the US in new renewable energy investment in 2009, but the gap between the two only amounted to $14 billion at that time.
Together, the “big three” developing economies, China, India, and Brazil, accounted for a record 63% of global investment in renewable energy in 2017, noted the report. Developing countries first surpassed developed country investment in renewables in 2015, but fell back in 2016.

More than two-thirds of China’s total investment in clean energy went into solar, adding some 53GW of capacity, an amount capable of powering more than 38 million homes. That was followed by wind, on which China spent nearly one-third of its investments.
China has been aggressively adopting renewable energy in recent years to deal with its airpocalypse-like pollution.
It became the world’s largest solar-energy producer in 2016, boosting its photovoltaic capacity to some 78 GW, in some cases turning defunct coal mines into the world’s largest floating solar farms.
Some projects, however, are creating worries over a growing subsidy burden, noted the report.
Overall, renewable energies now make up around 20 percent of China’s energy consumption, while coal accounts for over 60 percent.
Still, around 26% of the country’s total electricity production came from renewables, which is better than the 12% figure for the world as a whole.
This shows where we are heading, but the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go noted Nils Stieglitz president of the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, in the report.
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From American Chemical Society comes the encouraging news of a report from ACS Central Science that describes a new material that can remove heavy metals and provide clean drinking water in seconds.
Among the myriad consequences of climate change and general industrial pollution, one is perhaps the most terrifying: lack of clean drinking water. If you live with access to drinkable tap water, you should realize just how lucky you are. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) an estimated 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water.
The new material described in the report is a so-called Metal Organic Framework (MOF) Polydopamine Composite.
It’s an organic chemical metal structure known to pull things like water and gases from air. However, this also proves to be a promising material to remove heavy metals selectively from water.

Extract from the report:
Drinking water contamination with heavy metals, particularly lead, is a persistent problem worldwide with grave public health consequences. Existing purification methods often cannot address this problem quickly and economically. Here we report a cheap, water stable metal–organic framework/polymer composite, Fe-BTC/PDA, that exhibits rapid, selective removal of large quantities of heavy metals, such as Pb2+ [lead] and Hg2+ [mercury], from real world water samples. In this work, Fe-BTC is treated with dopamine, which undergoes a spontaneous polymerization to polydopamine (PDA) within its pores via the Fe3+ [iron] open metal sites. The PDA, pinned on the internal MOF surface, gains extrinsic porosity, resulting in a composite that binds up to 1634 mg of Hg2+ and 394 mg of Pb2+ per gram of composite and removes more than 99.8% of these ions from a 1 ppm solution, yielding drinkable levels in seconds. Further, the composite properties are well-maintained in river and seawater samples spiked with only trace amounts of lead, illustrating unprecedented selectivity. Remarkably, no significant uptake of competing metal ions is observed even when interferents, such as Na+ [sodium], are present at concentrations up to 14 000 times that of Pb2+. The material is further shown to be resistant to fouling when tested in high concentrations of common organic interferents, like humic acid, and is fully regenerable over many cycles.
In short: this metal-polymer sponge-like material can sweep up lead and mercury pollutants from any source of water with extreme efficiency, and can even be cleaned and reused over and over again.

To put that 1 parts per million in seconds into context, consider the current US Environmental Protection Agency limit of lead in drinking water of 2 parts per billion (2 ppb being 500 times less than 1 ppm), this material does the job!
But didn’t we stop using leaded gasoline long ago? Yes, but lead is difficult to get rid of, and it still originates from paints, ceramic glazes, jewelry, toys and in pipes etc. And the mercury coming from coal-burning power plants and other sources is very persistent.
Heavy metals such as lead and mercury are known to damage the nervous system, and the body is not able to excrete it, so concentrations add up. Solutions like these new materials are crucial to clean up the mess.
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Solar cells convert light to electricity. Image sensors also convert light to electricity. If you could do them both at the same time in the same chip, you’d have the makings of a self-powered camera.
Engineers at University of Michigan have recently come up with just that, an image sensor that does both things well enough to capture 15 images per second powered only by the daylight falling on it.
With such an energy harvesting imager integrated with and powering a tiny processor and wireless transceiver you could “put a small camera, almost invisible, anywhere,” says Euisik Yoon the professor of electrical engineering and computer science at University of Michigan who led its development.
They reported their results this week in IEEE Electron Device Letters.

Earlier attempts at self-powered image sensors have mostly gone one of two ways.
One is to fill some of the sensor area with photovoltaics. This straightforward approach can work, but it greatly reduces the amount of light available for producing an image.
The other is to have the imager’s pixels alternate between acting as a photodetector and acting as a photovoltaic cell. This too works, but at the cost of complexity and at least half the potential images.
The solution Yoon and post-doctoral researcher Sung-Yun Park came up with has neither drawback.
Noting that a number of photons zip through a pixel’s photodetector diode without causing charge to accumulate, they buried a second diode beneath the photodetector to act as a photovoltaic and scoop up those strays. “It’s not really recycling; it’s more like collecting waste,” says Yoon. “It’s almost free energy.”
Because the photovoltaic is beneath the sensor, nearly all the pixel area can go to sensing the image. And because it’s using stray photons that the imaging sensor missed, it’s constantly collecting them to convert to electricity.

Though the prototype imager was constructed using standard CMOS process technology, its pixels require both a different structure and different electrical characteristics from those on a standard imager. Most obviously, the new pixel contains a p-n junction, an extra diode essentially, beneath the image sensing diode. Second, typical pixels use electrons as the main charge carrier.
But to get both the photovoltaic and sensing diodes working simultaneously, Yoon and his team had to build their device so that it collects positively charged holes, electronic vacancies in the silicon, instead. Holes move less quickly than electrons in silicon, but not so slowly that it interferes with image capture.
The resulting chip, with its 5 micrometer-wide pixels, was capable of the highest power harvesting density (998 picowatts per lux per square millimeter) of any energy harvesting image sensor yet. On a sunny, 60,000-lux day that’s enough power for 15 frames per second. Normal daylight conditions (20,000-30,000 lux) reduce that to 7.5 frames per second. Thirty frames per second is considered video rate, but that’s not always necessary.
Concerned only with getting a proof-of-concept chip, we didn’t optimize the power consumption of the sensor itself says Park.
So there is definitely room to improve the frame rate or reduce the lighting conditions needed toward what’s typical indoors.
Yoon and Park have plenty of experience at that, having developed many ultralow power technologies for image sensors such as circuits that automatically adapt the frame rate to the available illumination and microwatt-scale feature detection systems.
If the project continues, they’ll work to integrate everything needed for a self-powered wireless cameras.
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Saudi Arabia has a plan to wean its economy off oil. In the biggest sign of what the future of the Gulf state would look like, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Japanese multinational Softbank to build 200 GW of solar power by 2030 at a cost of $200 billion.
These are eye-popping numbers. If built, that solar-power plant will be about 200 times the size of the biggest solar plant operating today. It would more than triple Saudi Arabia’s capacity to produce electricity, from about 77 GW today.
With current technology, solar panels capable of generating 200 GW would likely cover 5,000 sq km, an area larger than the the world’s largest cities.
And, yet, these are not unrealistic figures. Based on data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the global solar industry produced about 100 GW worth of solar panels last year, and production capacity is ramping up quickly.

But memorandums like the one signed by Bin Salman often don’t turn into reality. I’ve probably made more binding agreements to grab a coffee Jenny Chase a solar analyst with BNEF, joked on Twitter.
Still, the prince stands to damage his reputation if he doesn’t at least ramp up Saudi Arabia’s solar-power contribution.
Though the country has talked about investing in clean energy for quite some time, it was only in 2017 that it began taking bids to build solar-power plants.
And if any country could build a solar plant of this scale, it’s Saudi Arabia: the country gets plenty of sun, has vast areas of empty desert, and possibly has the financial power to pull it off.

To come up with the estimated size, we calculated the area covered by one of the world’s largest solar power plant: the 1 GW Kurnool Ultra Mega Solar Park in India, which began operations in 2017.
Officially, it covers an area of approximately 24 sq km. The massive Saudi solar power plant then would cover an area of about 5,000 sq km.
It’s worth noting that the estimated area is based on current efficiency of solar panels, which will almost certainly increase in the next decade and thus the area is likely to be smaller (though it’s impossible to predict how much smaller).
Also, the 200 GW of solar capacity is likely to be built across Saudi Arabia, rather than being concentrated in one area, but where’s the fun in that?
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Human destruction of nature is rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food, water and security to billions of people, according to the most comprehensive biodiversity study in more than a decade.
Such is the rate of decline that the risks posed by biodiversity loss should be considered on the same scale as those of climate change, noted the authors of the UN-backed report, which was released in Medellin, Colombia on Friday.
Among the standout findings are that exploitable fisheries in the world’s most populous region, the Asia-Pacific, are on course to decline to zero by 2048; that freshwater availability in the Americas has halved since the 1950s and that 42% of land species in Europe have declined in the past decade.
Underscoring the grim trends, this report was released in the week that the decimation of French bird populations was revealed, as well as the death of the last male northern white rhinoceros, leaving the species only two females from extinction.
The time for action was yesterday or the day before said Robert Watson the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) which compiled the research. Governments recognise we have a problem. Now we need action, but unfortunately the action we have now is not at the level we need.
We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature or risk not only the future we want but even the lives we currently lead he added.

Divided into four regional reports, the study of studies has been written by more than 550 experts from over 100 countries and taken three years to complete. Approved by the governments of 129 members nations, the IPBES reports aim to provide a knowledge base for global action on biodiversity in much the same way that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is used by policymakers to set carbon emission targets...
Conversion of forests to croplands and wetlands to shrimp farms has fed a human population that has more than doubled since the 1960s, but at a devastating cost to other species, such as pollinating insects and oxygen-producing plants, on which our climate, economy and well-being depend.
In the Americas, more than 95% of high-grass prairies have been transformed into farms, along with 72% of dry forests and 88% of the Atlantic forests, notes the report.
The Amazon rainforest is still mostly intact, but it is rapidly diminishing and degrading along with an even faster disappearing cerrado (tropical savannah). Between 2003 to 2013, the area under cultivation in Brazil’s northeast agricultural frontier more than doubled to 2.5m hectares, according to the report.
The world has lost over 130m hectares of rainforests since 1990 and we lose dozens of species every day, pushing the Earth’s ecological system to its limit said Achim Steiner administrator of the UN Development Programme. Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it supports are not only the foundation for our life on Earth, but critical to the livelihoods and well-being of people everywhere.

The rate of decline is moreover accelerating. In the Americas, which has about 40% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, the regional population is gobbling up resources at twice the rate of the global average. Despite having 13% of the people on the planet, it is using a quarter of the resources, said Jake Rice, a co-chair of the Americas assessment.
Since the start of colonisation by Europeans 500 years ago, he said 30% of biodiversity has been lost in the region. This will rise to 40% in the next 10 years unless policies and behaviours are transformed.
It will take fundamental change in how we live as individuals, communities and corporations he said. We keep making choices to borrow from the future to live well today. We need a different way of thinking about economics with a higher accountability of the costs in the future to the benefits we take today Rice said.
It’s because of us added Mark Rounsevell co-chair of the European assessment. We are responsible for all of the declines of biodiversity. We need to decouple economic growth from degradation of nature. We need to measure wealth beyond economic indicators. GDP only goes so far.
The authors stressed the close connection between climate change and biodiversity loss, which are adversely affecting each other. By 2050, they believe climate change could replace land-conversion as the main driver of extinction.
In many regions, the report says current biodiversity trends are jeopardising UN global development goals to provide food, water, clothing and housing. They also weaken natural defences against extreme weather events, which will become more common due to climate change.
Although the number of conservation areas has increased, most governments are failing to achieve the biodiversity targets set at the 2010 UN conference in Aichi, Japan. In the Americas, only 20% of key biodiversity areas are protected.
The authors urged an end to subsidies for agriculture and energy that are encouraging unsustainable production. The European Union’s support for fishing was among those cited for criticism. Watson also urged people to switch to a more sustainable diet (less beef, more chicken and vegetables) and to waste less food, water and energy.

There are glimmers of hope. In northern Asia, forest cover has increased by more than 22% as a result of tree-planting programs, mostly in China. But this was from a very low base and with far fewer species than in the past. In Africa, there has been a partial recovery of some species, though there is still a long way to go.
Watson, a former chair of the IPCC and a leading figure in the largely successful campaign to reduce the gases that were causing a hole in the ozone layer, said the biodiversity report was the most comprehensive since 2005 and the first of its type that involved not just scientists, but governments and other stakeholders.
Despite the grim outlook, he said there was cause for hope. The report outlines several different future paths, depending on the policies adopted by governments and the choices made by consumers. None completely halt biodiversity loss, but the worst-case scenarios can be avoided with greater conservation efforts. The missing link is to involve policymakers across government and to accept that biodiversity affects every area of the economy.
Currently, these concerns are widely accepted by foreign and environment ministries; the challenge is to move the debate to incorporate this in other areas of government, such as agriculture, energy and water. Businesses and individual consumers also need to play a more responsible role, said Watson.
We don’t make recommendations because governments don’t like being told what to do. So, instead, we give them options he said.
The IPBES report will be used to inform decision-makers at a major UN conference later this year. Signatories to the Convention for Biodiversity will meet in Sharm El-Sheikh in November to discuss ways to raise targets and strengthen compliance. But there have been more than 140 scientific reports since 1977, almost all of which have warned of deterioration of the climate or natural world. Without more pressure from civil society, media and voters, governments have been reluctant to sacrifice short-term economic goals to meet the longer-term environmental challenge to human wellbeing.
Biodiversity is under serious threat in many regions of the world and it is time for policymakers to take action at national, regional and global levels said José Graziano da Silva director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization...
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Research led by the University of Luxembourg investigated the manufacturing process of solar cells.
The researchers proved that assumptions on chemical processes that were commonplace among researchers and producers for the past 20 years are, in fact, inaccurate.
The physicists published their findings in the renowned scientific journal Nature Communications.

Optimising the efficiency of solar panels
Photovoltaic solar panels convert sunlight into electrical power. The panels absorb the incoming light which excites electrons sending them off in a predefined direction in order to generate an electric current that can drive motors or light a bulb. This works through the interaction of several layers of semiconductors and metals in the solar panel.
The cells are manufactured in a complex process where several chemical elements are deposited on a glass substrate, typically by evaporation. Thereby, a solar cell "grows", layer by layer.
In the past, scientists discovered by accident that the efficiency of one type of solar cell technology improves vastly if they add sodium to the light absorbing layer.
At the same time, they observed that the sodium impacts the growth of this layer and the interaction of the other chemical elements, namely it inhibits the mixing of gallium and indium. This leads to less homogenous layers and thus impairs the results.
Therefore, in the past, scientists and manufacturers believed that the ideal way to produce a solar cell was to only add the sodium after the growth process was concluded.

The role of sodium in the manufacturing process
By using a different approach, researchers from the Physics and Materials Science Research Unit at the University of Luxembourg along with four internationals partners, now were able to show that the truth is more nuanced.
While conventionally the light-absorbing layer is made up of thousands of individual grains, the research group chose a more demanding fabrication strategy and grew the layer as a single grain.
Essentially, in this work we show that if the absorber is made of only one grain, adding a small amount of sodium helps to homogenise the distribution of the elements said Diego Colombara now Marie Curie Research Fellow at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory and the principal investigator of the study.
This is very surprising, because more than 20 years of previous research have consistently shown the opposite effect on absorbers made of many grains.
The conclusion of the researchers is that sodium has a dual effect: it homogenises the elements inside each grain but it slows down homogenisation in the interplay between grains.
This gives us the opportunity to rethink how we produce solar cells. In the future, these insights might lead to improvements in the manufacturing process concluded Dr. Phillip Dale the head of the research group at the Laboratory for Energy Materials at the University of Luxembourg and an Attract fellow of the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR).
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