2022 Hackaday Prize: Make Your World More Disaster Resistant, More Engaged

Following along with the 2022 Hackaday Prize theme on building a better world by doing what we all do best – hacking together solutions – the fourth round of the Prize focuses on making our local communities more resilient against and sensitive to severe weather and environmental disasters. Whether it’s an early warning system for wildfires or a distributed communication network that will keep working even when the cell phone service goes down, we’re challenging you to help make your world safer by reacting sooner and better. Get your project entered now!

Sensing

We love systems that help us monitor our environments, and not just for idle curiosity or citizen science. Sometimes it’s critical. We’ve seen monitors aimed at giving you a personal particulate air quality indicator, especially helpful for people with respiratory problems when downstream of a forest fire.

But even better is networking these together to generate an air quality map, or to log long-run trends over time and space. CanAirIO, for instance, has both a fixed and mobile unit that can help map out CO2 and particulate matter quality. Or maybe it’s not wildfires that invade your airspace, but rather pollution from car use. We’ve seen projects like that before too, and anything along these lines would make a great entry into this challenge round. Could you predict local air quality? Continue reading “2022 Hackaday Prize: Make Your World More Disaster Resistant, More Engaged”

Sea Level Rise From Melting Ice Sheets Could Soon Be Locked In

Where today we talk broadly of climate change and it’s various effects, the conversation was once simpler. We called it “global warming” and fretted about cooking outside in the summer and the sea level rise that would claim so many of our favorite cities.

Scientists are now concerned that sea level rises could be locked in, as ice sheets and glaciers pass “tipping points” beyond which their loss cannot be stopped. Research is ongoing to determine how best we can avoid these points of no return.

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How The Hunga Tonga Volcano Eruption Was Felt Around The World

On the 14th of January, 2022, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano began a gigantic eruption that would go on to peak in ferocity the next day. The uninhabited island volcano would quickly make headlines as the country of Tonga was cut off the world and tsunamis bore out from the eurption zone.

In a volcanic event of this size, the effects can be felt around the world. With modern instruments, they can be properly understood too. Let’s take a look at how the effects of the Hunga Tonga eruption were captured and measured across the globe.

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Water beading up on a feather

PFAS: The Organofluorines Your Biochemist Warned You About

Sometimes it begins to feel like a tradition that a certain substance or group of substances become highly popular due to certain highly desirable chemical or physical properties, only for these chemicals then to go on to turn out to form a hazard to the biosphere, human life, or both. In the case of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) it’s no different. Upon the discovery that a subgroup of these – the fluorosurfactants – have the ability to reduce water surface tension significantly more than other surfactants, they began to be used everywhere.

Today, fluorosurfactants are being used in everything from stain repellents to paint, make-up, and foam used by firefighters. In a recent study of 231 cosmetic products bought in the US and Canada (Whitehead et al., 2021), it was found that all of them contained PFAS, even when not listed on the packaging. The problematic part here is that PFASs are very stable, do not decay after disposal, and bioaccumulate in the body where they may have endocrine-disrupting effects.

Some areas have now at least partially banned PFAS, but the evidence for this is so far mixed. Let’s review what we do know at this point, and which alternatives we have to continuing to use these substances. Continue reading “PFAS: The Organofluorines Your Biochemist Warned You About”

Microplastics Are Everywhere: Land, Sea And Air

Plastics took off in the 20th century, with the new class of materials finding all manner of applications that metal, wood and paper simply couldn’t deliver on. Every field from electronics to the packaging of food found that plastics could play a role.

Now, over 150 years since the development of Parkesine in 1867, we’re now realizing that plastics come with more than a few drawbacks. They don’t break down well in nature, and now microplastics are beginning to appear all over the Earth, even in places where humans rarely tread. It seems they may even spread via the air, so let’s take a look at this growing problem and what can be done about it.

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Carbon Sequestration As A Service Doesn’t Quite Add Up

Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. While most attempts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions focus on reducing the amount of CO2 output, there are other alternatives. Carbon capture and sequestration has been an active area of research for quite some time. Being able to take carbon dioxide straight out of the air and store it in a stable manner would allow us to reduce levels in the atmosphere and could make a big difference when it comes to climate change.

A recent project by a company called Climeworks is claiming to be doing just that, and are running it as a subscription service. The company has just opened up its latest plant in Iceland, and hopes to literally suck greenhouses gases out of the air. Today, we’ll examine whether or not this technology is a viable tool in the fight against climate change.

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Clean Air And A Gentle Breeze In Your Hoodie

Hoodies are great, and rightfully a hacker’s favorite attire: they shield you from the people around you, keep your focus on the screen in front of you, and are a decent enough backup solution when you forgot your balaclava. More than that, they are also comfortable, unless of course it is summer time. But don’t worry, [elkroketto] has built a solution to provide the regular hoodie wearer with a constant breeze around his face, although his Clean Air Bubble is primarily tackling an even bigger problem: air pollution.

Wanting to block out any environmental factors from the air he breathes, [elkroketto] got himself a thrift store hoodie to cut holes in the back, and attach two radial fans that suck in the air through air filtering cloths. A 3D printed air channel is then connected to each fan, and attached on the inside of the hood, blowing the filtered air straight into his face. Salvaging a broken drill’s battery pack as power supply and adding a 3D printed clip-in case for the step-up converter, the fans should provide him a good 5 hours of fresh air. Of course, one could also add a solar charging rig if that’s not enough.

Keep in mind though, while a wearable air filter might sound particularly useful in current times, [elkroketto] specifically points out that this is not for medical use and won’t filter out any airborne diseases.