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Toward Carbon-Free Energy

Heavy reliance on coal in huge countries like China and India threatens the whole world's climate, says this Special Report, and the utmost ingenuity will be needed to miimize adverse effects of that dependence

15 min read
A 420,000-year climate record

A compelling way of viewing human progress, of equal appeal to those with roots in 19th century liberalism and those inclined to Marx’s “scientific” socialism, is to see it as a triumphal march toward a purely hydrogen energy economy—or, if you prefer, a carbon-free economy. This is just how a collection of scholars looked at the world when they were assembled a few years ago by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to produce a special issue of Daedalus magazine on the global environment.

Setting the stage for the special issue, its editor Jesse Ausubel, director of the program for the human environment at Rockefeller University in New York City, reminded readers that it is the conversion of hydrogen in hydrocarbon fuels that accounts for most of their energy yield. Since hydrogen produces about four times as much energy per quantity H oxidized as per unit C, wrote Ausubel, “Wood weighs in heavily [with] ten effective Cs for each H. Coal approaches parity with one or two Cs per H, while oil improves to two H per C, and a molecule of natural gas (methane) is a carbon-trim CH4.”

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Colorful chip with wires coming out of it surrounded by large metal plates.

Engineers probe the performance of noisy bits that, when working together, may solve some problems better than quantum computers.

Lang Zeng/Beihang University

A large universal quantum computer is still an engineering dream, but machines designed to leverage quantum effects to solve specific classes of problems—such as D-wave’s computers—are alive and well. But an unlikely rival could challenge these specialized machines: computers built from purposely noisy parts.

This week at the IEEE International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM 2022), engineers unveiled several advances that bring a large-scale probabilistic computer closer to reality than ever before.

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NYU Spearheads Project to Help Chemical Industry Go Green

NYU leads multi-year project to reduce carbon emissions in chemical manufacturing

5 min read
Renewable energy
NYU Tandon School of Engineering

A team at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering is playing a key role in forging a collaboration involving over a dozen US universities and national laboratories aimed at sparking — literally — a fundamental change in how the US chemical industry operates.

The goal is to address the most daunting task looming over the industry: how to make industrial chemistry — especially petrochemistry — greener and more sustainable, partly to meet the escalating demands of greenhouse emission regulations. The nascent, multi-institutional effort will be called “Decarbonizing Chemical Manufacturing Using Sustainable Electrification," or DC-MUSE.

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