Better batteries, reducing food poverty and global ice loss

More efficient power for robots, how data can help food systems and new research on melting ice – our round-up of provoking thoughts, penetrating insights and digital curiosities.

Keeping robots going for longer

Robots could operate more efficiently with batteries that last longer by storing energy in the same way we store fat reserves, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. Science Daily reports that a new type of rechargeable zinc battery, which uses an artificial membrane, can be made smaller and lighter – important characteristics as robots shrink in size. It could double the range of delivery robots, while being more environmentally friendly, the researchers claim.

Read more: How machine learning can speed up diagnosis and treatment

More data, more food?

Technology could also help create a more sustainable food system, the World Bank suggests. Environmental changes are putting pressure on ecosystems and an additional 100 million people are thought to be under threat of food poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital technology can be used to collect and analyse large amounts of data, allowing small-scale, flexible food production systems to navigate the changing landscape, it says. At the same time, consumers would get more information about animal welfare and where their food comes from. For this to happen successfully, policymakers are called on to improve data protection and the governance of data sharing.

Read more: Data privacy during COVID-19: Trust is hard earned, but easily lost

Global ice loss quantified

Some 28 trillion tonnes of ice have melted across the world since 1994, putting populations at risk from rising sea levels and affecting the Earth’s ability to reflect solar radiation back into space, The Guardian reports, citing a group of scientists from UK universities. They blame global warming, triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions, which is also causing disruption to the biological health of vulnerable regions. For example, disappearing glaciers could mean local communities lose fresh water supplies. In the past, researchers have studied specific areas such as the Antarctic, but this is the first time analysis has been carried out across the whole globe.

Read more: We must not sacrifice the environmental crisis just to resolve an economic one

Europeans fall short of emissions target

The world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the equivalent of 2.5 tonnes of CO₂ per person per year to keep global warming below +1.5˚C – but only 5% of European Union households are currently within this limit, new research has found. A study of more than 275,000 households across 26 countries found that the average carbon footprint is equivalent to about eight tonnes of CO₂ per person, researchers from the UK and Norway wrote in The Conversation. Households in the top 1% of polluters in the EU have carbon footprints 22 times larger than the 2.5 tonnes target – with travelling by car one of the largest contributors.

Read more: The electric vehicle revolution could be a benchmark for the circular economy


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