Scientists Discover Unexpected Side Effect to Cleaning Up Urban Air

An imbalance between the trends in two common air pollutants is unexpectedly triggering the creation of a class of airborne organic compounds not usually found in the atmosphere over urban areas of North America, according to a new study from Caltech.

Engineers Model the California Reservoir Network

For the first time, engineers at Caltech have developed an empirical statewide model of the California reservoir network. The model was built from data gathered over a 13-year period that includes the latest drought, allowing researchers to make observations about how 55 of the state's major reservoirs respond to a variety of external conditions as a unified system.

Holographic Imaging Could Be Used to Detect Signs of Life in Space

We may be capable of finding microbes in space—but if we did, could we tell what they were, and that they were alive?

Key to Speeding Up Carbon Sequestration Discovered

Scientists at Caltech and USC have discovered a way to speed up the slow part of the chemical reaction that ultimately helps the earth to safely lock away, or sequester, carbon dioxide into the ocean. Simply adding a common enzyme to the mix, the researchers have found, can make that rate-limiting part of the process go 500 times faster. A paper about the work appears online the week of July 17 ahead of publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Study: Cold Climates and Ocean Carbon Sequestration

We know a lot about how carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can drive climate change, but how about the way that climate change can cause fluctuations in CO2 levels? New research from an international team of scientists reveals one of the mechanisms by which a colder climate was accompanied by depleted atmospheric CO2 during past ice ages.The overall goal of the work is to better understand how and why the earth goes through periodic climate change, which could shed light on how man-made factors could affect the global climate.

New Materials Could Turn Water into the Fuel of the Future

Researchers at Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have—in just two years—nearly doubled the number of materials known to have potential for use in solar fuels.They did so by developing a process that promises to speed the discovery of commercially viable solar fuels that could replace coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

Getting Rid of the Last Bits of Sulfur in Fuel

Scientists led by a team at Caltech have developed a new method for potentially removing nearly all sulfur compounds from gas and diesel fuel.Sulfur compounds in fuels such as gasoline and diesel create air pollution when the fuel is burned. To address that challenge, large-scale oil refinery processes remove the majority of sulfur from fuel down to a government-mandated level. The new technique, however, has the potential to reduce sulfur down to a fraction of that amount, which would further reduce air pollution and extend the lifetime of vehicles' catalytic converters, which control tailpipe emissions.