“Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink” may be a common misquote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but the sentiment is familiar to many people in today’s modern world. Growing urban populations and rapid industrialization are taxing our global water resources, fueling concerns about the longevity of our drinking reservoirs. In fact, estimates say that we need at least 30% more water by 2030 to keep pace with increasing demand. The necessity has not gone unnoticed, however. Governments have been passing or amending laws to protect natural waterways from harmful chemicals, as many of them also serve as sources of drinking water. Unfortunately, keeping rivers and streams free of pollution isn’t enough. In addition to overpopulation, changing climates have led to the overall dwindling of our natural water supplies—something to which residents of the drought-stricken U.S. West Coast can attest. As a result, we must change how we think about water. Not only must we focus on ways to conserve it, we must also consider how to recycle and reuse it.

The current volatility in the oil and gas market has left companies scrambling for ways to maintain their annual earnings and profit margins. Unfortunately, the challenges they’re facing don’t appear to be leaving anytime soon. Thanks to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC) maintaining record-high production to compete with the U.S. shale boom, the price of crude oil has hit corresponding record lows. Consumers may be rejoicing over having to pay less for gasoline, but petroleum firms must make some tough decisions to remain competitive.

Each day, approximately 1 million tons of waste products are produced in our landfills due to the decomposition of organic materials. Methane is the most prevalent compound in the mixture of gases known as landfill gas (LFG), though carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen are present as well. Perhaps most interesting are the many ways in which landfill gas can be used productively to generate electricity, heat appliances or create a variety of other chemical compounds. Instead of having these gases escape off into the air, materials scientists are harnessing the potential energy in LFG to create “green fuels” that benefit both the environment and our lives.

Capacitors are everywhere: they are inside our televisions, phones and almost any other electronic devices we use. Like a battery, capacitors store large amounts of energy in the form of electrical potential energy. Structurally, a charge gradient is established between two plate conductors and then an insulator is sandwiched between […]

The materials that make up our bridges and roads, our computers and stoves often seem invariable, forever locked in their current structures. However, science tells us that materials are always changing “both on a molecular and macroscopic scale” in a process known as material degradation. Moreover, insights from quantum mechanics suggest that the atoms and molecules that construct our macroscopic items are inherently unstable, so even when we can’t see material degradation, it is occurring. Eventually, energy inputs within our material systems result in morphological changes that alter the behavior of materials, which then enables us to visualize material degradation such as erosion, cracking or oxidation.

Earlier this year, my washing machine broke. And when I say broke, I don’t mean it stopped working or made strange noises. I’m talking a burning electrical smell when I tried to run it. This was not completely unsurprising, though. My washer and dryer were pretty old and clearly toward […]