Discovered: This common pesticide is most definitely killing the bees, a greener way to make plastics, a new type of electricity powered alternative fuel and getting to space on a few drops of fuel.  

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  • This very common pesticide is very bad for the bee population. For the third time, science has confirmed that a widely used neonicotinoid insecticide is what's causing all that scary mass-spontaneous bee death. Colonies that had been sprayed by pesticides were on average 8 to 12 percent smaller and produced 85 percent fewer queen bees.  "This last finding is particularly important because queen production translates directly to the establishment of new nests following the winter die-off. Thus, 85% fewer queens could mean 85% fewer nests in the coming year," explains the research. Scary, yes. But also a bit uplifting, because now we know a bit more about this mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder and what to do about it. [American Association for the Advancement of Science]
  • A greener way to make plastics. The bad for environment plastics manufacturing business may have just gotten a teeny-bit greener, with a new material that eliminates the (expensive) energy-intensive gas-separation process. As of now, to separate the chemicals involved in making plastics, refineries "crack" crude oil at very high 600 degree temperatures. "Cryogenic distillation at low temperatures and high pressures is among the most energy-intensive separations carried out at large scale in the chemical industry, and an environmental problem because of its contributions to global climate change," explains researcher Jeffrey Long. A new material would make that part a little bit better. "If you can do the separation at higher temperatures, you can save that energy. This material is really good at doing these particular separations," he continued.  [UC Berkeley]
  • A new type of electricity powered alternative fuel. Considering certain cars already run on electricity, this sounds redundant, at first. But, this fuel, which uses CO2 eliminates the battery part of electric vehicles, creating a more compact way of storing the energy. "The current way to store electricity is with lithium ion batteries, in which the density is low, but when you store it in liquid fuel, the density could actually be very high," explains researcher James Liao. But how to turn that electricity into fuel? "We use electricity to generate formic acid and then use the formic acid to power the CO2 fixation in bacteria in the dark to produce isobutanol and higher alcohols," he continues. [UCLA]
  • A more fuel efficient space vehicle. Going to the moon generally takes a whole lot of gas to get all the way up there. But researchers have started developing a satellite that can go past Earth's orbit with "just a few drops" of fuel. To do this, science has replaced their combustible fuel motors with the very futuristic sounding "ionic" fuel, which is just a solution made up of charged particles. The way the particles work, the motor propels the satellite, explains the report. "We calculated that in order to reach lunar orbit, a 1-kg nanosatellite with our motor would travel for about six months and consume 100 milliliters of fuel," explains researcher Muriel Richard. [EPFL Swiss Space Center]