Imperial College London

7 optimistic environmental stories from this year

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A glass globe nestled in grass

This year, we saw large strides in combating one of the greatest issues of our time – climate change.

New Imperial research and pioneering initiatives have bolstered our ability to fight back against climate change and bring about a more hopeful future. And all of this has dovetailed in the new Sustainability Strategy for the College.

So how is Imperial putting us on better footing for tackling climate change? Here, find seven instances where human spirit and innovative science have come together to change the world for the better. 

A zero-pollution future

The Earth from spaceAnnouncing a set of major initiatives to fight climate change, Imperial is set to become a pioneer in research, education, and innovation to help society ‘transition to zero pollution’. The programme, which will tackle global pollution through major new research programmes, includes researchers from across the College from a wide range of disciplines.

 This effort to move towards sustainability is further underpinned by the College’s socially responsible investment policy, which is tailored towards ensuring Imperial’s investments closely align with major international accords such as the UN Principles of Responsible Investment. The entirety of Imperial’s new strategy is geared towards inspiring fundamental changes in sustainability with the hopes of building towards a more environmentally responsible future.

Read more: Imperial to lead transition to zero pollution

The fight against air pollution

Cars in trafficWith air pollution becoming increasingly more prevalent and affecting larger populations, Imperial is set to become to world’s leading centre of air pollution research. Professor Frank Kelly, the leader of the London Air Quality Network, alongside his Environmental Research Group, joined the College’s School of Public Health, where they now occupy a custom-built research lab in White City.

This new initiative builds upon the group’s previous experience of developing major air pollution and emissions models for London to drive research into reducing air pollution and its effect on human health. With multidisciplinary collaborations within the College, the research group aims to tackle not just the obvious effects of air pollution, but the less well-known ones as well, such as economic costs and environmental impact.

Read more: New global centre of air pollution research as Frank Kelly group joins Imperial

The zero-carbon revolution

Two scientists working in a laboratoryIn a collaboration with the Mayor of London, Imperial is to establish a world- leading centre for climate change innovation. This centre will help research, nurture talent, and drive growth in clean technology.

The Centre for Climate Change Innovation will support innovation across several key themes which include cleaning up the air, sustainable food, green buildings, clean transport and manufacturing a low carbon future.

Lighting the way

A hand holding a lightbulb up against a sunsetA collaborative effort between researchers from Imperial, Soochow University in China, and the University of Cambridge, has resulted in the discovery that new materials being developed for next-generation solar panels can also be used for harvesting indoor light to power smart devices.

By efficiently absorbing ambient lighting in homes and other indoor settings, these materials can transform light into electricity efficiently and charge smartphones, tablets, and other smart devices. The researchers have already identified areas in which this technology can be further improved to the point where they will surpass current solar-powered technologies in the near future. The novel nature of this discovery has opened new avenues of research, with the team already working to identify similar materials to sustainably power our devices.

Read more: New green materials could power smart devices using ambient light

Meeting climate targets

Smoke from cooling towers rising into the airIn a recent study conducted by a research team at Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering, it was found that, worldwide, there has been an 8.6 percent growth in the capture and storage of carbon over the past 20 years. This puts the world on a trajectory to meet many climate change mitigation scenarios.

The research team has noted that the rate at which carbon is stored is vital in how successful it is in mitigating the effects of climate change, as the faster carbon is stored, the slower global warming progresses. While they remain optimistic, the researchers also point out that for climate change to be successfully slowed down, many other factors must come into play, such as using cleaner energy and green fuel alternatives.

Read more: World can likely capture and store enough carbon dioxide to meet climate targets

A greener fuel source

Green liquid poured from fuel tankResearchers at Imperial’s Livingston Group have developed a new ultra-thin membrane which is both cost-effective and efficient at extracting biofuel, paving the way for a more sustainable alternative to fossil fuels in transport.

This new membrane-based extraction system uses less than 25 percent of the energy used in current biofuel extraction, while producing over ten times the yield at 99.5 percent purity. As biofuels are critical to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change, technology such as this will only become more important with time.

Read more: New membrane could pave way for cheap, efficiently made biofuels

Rescuing mental health

Cartoon depicting an individual having sad thoughtsWith climate change rapidly becoming a topic of daily conversation, a multidisciplinary team of researchers, designers, policy experts, and educators at Imperial have come together to tackle some of the most pressing issues of our new age: how can we protect our mental health in these times of uncertainty?

The new collaborative effort between the Institute of Global Health Innovation and the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment is dedicated to examining the direct effect of climate change on mental health and working towards finding solutions to these increasingly common challenges. The team, known as Climate Cares, will work closely with the School of Public Health, Centre for Environmental Policy and Societal Engagement team to design interventions to support the mental health of affected demographics across the UK.

Read more: Project to transform understanding of effects of climate change on mental health


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Reporter

Jay Balamurugan

Jay Balamurugan
Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication

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Lung-disease, China, Pollution, Mental-health, Equality, Health-policy, Energy, Global-health, Climate-change, Artificial-intelligence, Diversity, Education, White-City-Campus, Campus-developments, Public-health, Nature, Environment
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