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Pollution

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U.S. News & World Report

MIT researchers have found that in the U.S., “fires started by people account for a majority of premature deaths related to inhalation of tiny smoke particles,” writes Cara Murez for U.S. News & World Report. “Fires not only threaten human lives, infrastructure and ecosystems, but they are also a major cause for concern in terms of air quality,” says Therese Carter PhD ’22. 

Fortune

Prof. Kripa Varanasi and Vishnu Jayaprakash PhD ’21, MS ’19 have launched AgZen, a company that is trying to reduce pesticide use through the development of additives that allow more pesticide droplets to stick to plants, reports Ian Mount for Fortune. “Globally, farms are spending about $60 billion a year on these pesticides, and our goal is to try to get them to cut that down while still not compromising on pest control,” says Jayaprakash.

The Verge

The Verge reporter Justine Calma writes that a new study by MIT researchers finds that while wind energy has measurably improved air quality, only 32% of those benefits reached low-income communities. “The research shows that to squeeze out the greatest health benefits, wind farms need to intentionally replace coal and gas power plants,” writes Calma. “And to clean up the most polluted places — particularly those with more residents of color and low-income households — those communities need to be in focus when deploying new renewable energy projects.”

HealthDay News

A new study by MIT researchers finds that increased usage of wind power is improving air quality in parts of the U.S., however only a third of the health benefits are being seen in disadvantaged communities, reports Alan Mozes for HealthDay. "Going forward," explains Prof. Noelle Selin, "more targeted policies are needed to reduce the disparities at the same time, for example by directly targeting [fossil fuel] sources that influence certain marginalized communities."

The Hill

Increased usage of wind energy has led to health benefits, but does not affect all communities equally, reports Saul Elbein for The Hill. The researchers found that in order to increase the benefits of wind energy, “the electricity industry would have to spin down the most polluting plants at times of high wind-supply — rather than their most expensive ones,” writes Elbein.

Popular Science

SeedLabs is working with a team including the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative to test out “microbes’ capabilities in space, potentially providing important advancements for both pollution reduction on earth as well as uses for astronauts during future lunar and Maritain explorations,” reports Andrew Paul for Popular Science.

Fast Company

The MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative is working with SeedLabs, the environmental division of Seed Health, to study how microbes perform in space. “Along with testing how the microbes perform in a zero-gravity, high UV radiation-environment, the experiment could also be the starting point to exploring a future in which astronauts have a system to recycle their plastic waste and turn it into new materials,” reports Kristin Toussaint for Fast Company.  

Scientific American

Researchers at MIT have developed a silk-based biodegradable substitute for microplastics, reports Ysabelle Kempe for Scientific American. “This type of research is urgent for companies that face tightening regulations on deliberate use of microplastics,” writes Kempe.

Salon

Researchers at MIT have developed a silk-based substitute that could be used to replace microplastics, reports Matthew Rozsa for Salon. Prof. Benedetto Marelli and postodoctoral associate Muchun Liu explain that they have demonstrated that “silk protein can be used as a technological material in agricultural products and cosmetics – it can protect and control the release of active ingredients, and it can be biodegraded.”

New York Times

Researchers at MIT have found that due to the ongoing circulation of dust, sea salt, and organic matter produced by vegetation, even eliminating all human-caused pollution would still leave half of the world’s population exposed to particulate levels deemed unsafe by the World Health Organization, writes David Wallace-Wells for The New York Times. “When pollution combines with extreme heat, researchers have found, overall mortality risk can grow by more than 20 percent.”

The Conversation

Writing for The Conversation, John Reilly, co-director emeritus of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, outlines a roadmap for how the U.S. can meet the Biden administration’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions 50% by 2030 below 2005 levels. “By exploiting declining costs of zero- and low-carbon energy sources in a more aggressive and focused way, the U.S. can meet its target within eight years,” writes Reilly, “all while substantially reducing its dependence on fossil fuels, including high-priced gasoline, and cutting back the air pollution, climate and health impacts resulting from their combustion.”

Forbes

Forbes contributor Jeff Kart writes that a new study by MIT researchers finds that yeast, an abundant waste product from breweries, can filter out even trace amounts of lead. The researchers demonstrated that in just five minutes “a single gram of the inactive, dried yeast cells can remove up to 12 milligrams of lead in aqueous solutions with initial lead concentrations below 1 part per million.”

Forbes

Prof. Jessika Trancik speaks with Forbes contributor Peter Cohan about the carbon emissions associated with gas, hybrid and electric vehicles, and the site she and her research group developed to allow consumers to compare personal vehicles against climate change mitigation targets. “In most locations, compared to [gas-powered vehicles], EVs produce emissions savings greater than 30%,” says Trancik. "Most savings are greater depending on the geographic location, the electricity supply, and the vehicle model.”

Mashable

Mashable reporter Emmett Smith spotlights how MIT researchers have developed a new technique to clear dust from solar panels without using water. The new method uses “electrostatic repulsion, where an electrode that glides above the panel electrically charges dust particles and subsequently repels them.”

Popular Science

MIT engineers have developed a new contactless method to clean solar panels that could save billions of gallons of water, reports Anuradha Varanasi for Popular Science. “I was amazed at the sheer amount of pure water that is required for cleaning solar panels,” says Prof. Kripa Varanasi. “The water footprint of the solar industry is only going to grow in the future. We need to figure out how to make solar farms more sustainable.”