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With the average American household owning 24 electronic de- vices, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) estimates we are annually producing nearly 3 million tons of e-waste. Tube-type TVs and computer monitors contain lead, while cell phones harbor toxic mercury, cadmium, arsenic and brominated flame retardants, all of which can leach from landfills into groundwater.


Alternatives include selling old phones or trading them in at a store, and buying a new phone only when necessary. For $10, Staples will re- cycle any brand of computer monitor, desktop and laptop computer, fax machine, printer or scanner. Dell products are accepted at no charge. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers information about local e-waste recycling and regulations regarding handling of electronic equipment at Tinyurl.com/EPAeWasteTips. For a global perspective, see the United Nations Environment Programme 2010 update at Tinyurl.com/UNeWasteReport.


Hot Stuff New Technology Increases Solar Efficiency


There is huge potential in solar power, but our current methods of capturing the sun’s energy are limited as widely used silicon solar cells approach their theoreti- cal limit of 33.7 percent efficiency. Now a Princeton University research team has applied nanotechnology


principles to incorporate a design that significantly increases their efficacy. Led by Stephen Chou, the team has made two dramatic improvements: reduc- ing reflectivity and more effectively capturing the light that isn’t reflected. The new solar cell is much thinner and less reflective, capturing many more light waves via a minute mesh and bouncing off only about 4 percent of direct sunlight. The new design is capable of capturing a large amount of sunlight even when it’s cloudy, pro- ducing an 81 percent increase in efficiency even under indirect lighting conditions.


Source: OpticsInfoBase.org


Lost Ecosystem Hawaiian Coral Reef Under Siege


In the tropical paradise of Hawaiian waters, a milky growth has been spreading rapidly across the coral reefs along Kauai’s north shore. Marine biologist Terry Lilley, the foremost expert on the outbreak, says it now affects up to 40 percent of the coral in Anini Bay, and conditions in nearby areas are as bad or worse.


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The growth, identified by U.S. Geological Survey scientists as both a bacteria that grows through photosynthesis and a fungus, is killing all the coral it strikes and is spreading its infection at the rate of one to three inches a week. “This bacteria has been killing some of these 50-to-100-year-old corals in less than eight weeks,” Lilley told the Los Angeles Times, noting that the entire reef system ap- pears to be losing its immune system.


Some feel the cause is high levels of fecal and related bacteria from the town of Hanalei, which has no sewer system and where homes are connected to cess- pools and septic systems. Because no definitive link has been shown, government action has been limited.


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