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Stanford Earth Matters

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A collapsed brick wall

A new approach to managing earthquake risk from fracking

Earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing can damage property and endanger lives. Stanford researchers have developed new guidelines for when to slow or halt fracking operations based on local risks.

Gas heater

Water heaters’ methane leaks are high, but fixable

Emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from water heaters are higher than previously estimated, especially for a new type of heater growing in popularity, a new study finds. But simple fixes exist.

Cascade of yellow light illustration

Machine learning could speed the arrival of ultra-fast-charging electric cars

Using artificial intelligence, a Stanford-led research team has slashed battery testing times – a key barrier to longer-lasting, faster-charging batteries for electric vehicles – by nearly fifteenfold.

Hoover Dam

Hydropower dams threaten fish habitats worldwide

New research maps the impacts of past and future hydropower development on fish habitats – and points to where restoration efforts may do the most good.

water abstract

Microbial DNA can reveal water’s underground origins

Stanford researchers have sequenced microbial communities in samples of reservoir fluids to identify where water traveled through underground networks and pathways.

2019 text

Editor's picks: Top 10 Stanford Earth Matters stories of 2019

In a roundup that spans energy, geology, geophysics and Earth systems, here are some of the most interesting, high-impact and popular research stories from 2019.

Emissions

Global carbon emissions growth slows, but hits record high

Coal use is down dramatically in the United States and the European Union, and renewable energy is gaining traction. But rising natural gas and oil use in 2019 increased the world’s carbon dioxide emissions modestly for a third straight year.

smoke from power plant

Tracking power plant emissions in real time

Stanford scientists have developed a precise way to measure U.S. power plant emissions 24/7. The new tool will enable grid operators and big electricity consumers to reduce their carbon footprint in real time.

gas meters.shutterstock

Q&A: Shortages amidst abundance: The paradox of natural gas

Many Americans are ambivalent about natural gas, which produces less carbon dioxide than oil or coal but results in emission of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas in the short term. Stanford experts weigh in on the subtleties of the issue. 

Abstract of colorful smoke

New catalyst can turn carbon dioxide into fuels

A new process shows promise in turning the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide back into usable fuels, and yields four times as much fuel as previous approaches.

Three smokestacks

Are we underestimating the benefits of investing in renewable energy?

Scientists have estimated the emissions intensity of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants from a major electricity distributor and highlighted key consequences – essential information for policymakers shaping decisions to reduce electricity system emissions.

Aerial view of solar panels.

A much cheaper catalyst can generate hydrogen in a commercial device

Replacing today’s expensive catalysts could bring down the cost of producing the gas for fuel, fertilizer and clean energy storage.

Bubbles

Under pressure: Viewing how hydrogen transforms

Researchers have determined how hydrogen molecules are packed at extremely high pressures. Their work solves the long-standing mystery of the structure of the dense form of hydrogen, called phase IV. 

Electricity

Scientists finally find superconductivity in exactly the place they've been looking for decades

The Hubbard model, used to understand electron behavior in numerous quantum materials, now shows us its stripes, and superconductivity too, in simulations for cuprate superconductors.

Smoke

How much does air pollution cost the U.S.?

Damages from air pollution have fallen dramatically in the U.S. in recent years, shows new research. But how different sectors of the economy have contributed to that decline is highly uneven.

Clouds

Catalyst opens way to sustainable fuels from carbon dioxide

A new way to convert carbon dioxide into the building block for sustainable liquid fuels was very efficient in tests and did not have the reaction that destroys the conventional device.

Drone at a methane leak test site

New ways to find natural gas leaks quickly

Finding natural gas leaks more quickly and at lower cost could reduce methane emissions. Ten promising technologies mounted on drones, trucks and airplanes were tested last year. The results are in.

Smoke stack

Plastics, fuels and chemical feedstocks from CO2? They’re working on it.

SUNCAT researchers discovered a way to improve a key step in these conversions, and explore what it would take to turn the climate-changing gas into valuable products on an industrial scale.

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