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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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Charge level

Predicting the slow death of a lithium-ion battery

A new model offers a way to predict the condition of a battery’s internal systems in real-time with far more accuracy than existing tools. In electric cars, the technology could improve driving range estimates and prolong battery life.

Sliced sugarcane

Exploring the sustainability of the Indian sugar industry

Researchers analyzed the interconnected food, water and energy challenges that arise from the sugar industry in India – the second-largest producer of sugar worldwide – and how the political economy drives those challenges.

Masked farmer

COVID-19 opportunities

Researchers hypothesize outcomes of the pandemic’s unprecedented socioeconomic disruption, and outline research priorities for advancing our understanding of humans’ impact on the environment.

Fukushima decomissioning

Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns released particulates with plutonium

A new study reveals particles that were released from nuclear plants damaged in the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami contained small amounts of radioactive plutonium.

Global methane

Global methane emissions soar to record high

The pandemic has tugged carbon emissions down, temporarily. But levels of the powerful heat-trapping gas methane continue to climb, dragging the world further away from a path that skirts the worst effects of global warming.

Energy grid

EVs plus clean energy grids key to reducing climate change and air pollution

Researchers examined the most beneficial vehicle fuel technology for transportation in the US and the trade-off between decarbonization and air pollution mitigation. The results show electric vehicle use must accompany clean energy grids to mitigate both climate change and air pollution.

Delivery drone

Could drones deliver packages more efficiently by hopping on the bus?

A computer science PhD student describes how we might combine the flexibility of drones with the capacity of ground-based vehicles to make e-commerce more traffic-friendly.

Wind turbine and shadow

Simulating wind farm development

Engineers have devised a model to describe how, in the process of establishing wind farms, interactions between developers and landowners affect energy production costs.

Pumpjack

Living near oil and gas wells may increase preterm birth risk

New research shows living near oil and gas development in California is a risk factor for preterm birth, the leading cause of infant death in the United States. About 2.1 million Californians live within one mile of an active oil or gas well.

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.

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