Earth Day: Researchers enabling cleaner energy & climate preservation

April 20, 2023 | 6 minute read
Andrew Bell
Content Manager, Oracle
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Our world needs transformation. Now is the time for the public and private sectors to take accountability while investing in the innovative solutions that can help address the ongoing environmental crisis.

Throughout April, Earthday.org commemorates Earth Day with marches, rallies, volunteer events and more. The theme for 2023 is ‘Invest in our planet’, which highlights the importance of dedicating our time, resources and energy to addressing climate change and other environmental issues.

Here at Oracle for Research, we’ve proudly offered cloud credits and technical and scientific collaboration to the researchers that are making a true difference to the climate crisis. To celebrate Earth Day, we’re highlighting some of the Oracle for Research customers forging ahead in the domain of environmental research, creating technology that enables cleaner energy and the preservation of our world.

 

Royal Holloway & Oracle refine carbon storage to fight climate change

It's now common knowledge that the excessive amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is trapping radiation from the sun, furthering the greenhouse effect and global warming. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a process where CO2 is captured, usually from industrial facilities, and isolated from the atmosphere. CCS technologies show a lot of promise in reducing carbon emissions and are expected to play a crucial part in meeting future global energy and climate goals.

Ryan Payton recently completed his PhD at Royal Holloway, University of London and is currently a Senior Research Advocate at Oracle for Research. Ryan’s research involved developing a workflow for the preliminary pore scale analysis of potential reservoir sandstones to determine if they can be considered for use as carbon storage reservoirs.

This project directly benefits the reservoir characterization, digital image analysis and CCS communities, since the workflow can be applied to a range of subsurface and microstructural characterization problems. This can be used as a preliminary investigation technique to provide a quick and relatively inexpensive assessment of a reservoir. This workflow should benefit key decision makers, helping to inform where carbon could be stored around the world.

Receiving an Oracle for Research grant gave Ryan’s team the freedom to test their workflows on a range of different hardware configurations. The team took advantage of substantial OCI GPU resources to accelerate their geophysical property calculations through proprietary software packages. With these resources, they cut down their run times significantly, taking mere hours instead of days or sometimes weeks. The support provided by the OCI team also made transitioning from on-premises facilities to the cloud a straightforward process.

 

University of Reading relaunches Fruitwatch.org to continue monitoring UK climate change

Recent research suggests that plants in the UK are flowering too early to achieve healthy pollination. This discrepancy could have devastating consequences – with less pollen and nectar available, insects in the UK may go hungry, hurting their chances of a sustained population. A lack of pollination also means flowers will reproduce less than in recent decades.

To help study this phenomenon further, Oracle for Research teamed up with University of Reading researchers to launch FruitWatch.org in early 2022. This project enjoyed widespread media coverage, being featured in publications like The Guardian. Hosted on Oracle Cloud and compatible with both desktop and mobile devices, this website is an APEX autonomous database application that enables UK citizens to report when and how their fruit trees are flowering.

The team at Reading is comparing these flowering dates to local pollinator records to help them understand whether fruit tree flowering and bee flight dates are in sync across the country, enabling a new, UK-wide assessment of pollination trends. We’re pleased to report that the website captured over 6,000 records in 2022 alone, with every country in the UK taking part.

Dr. Deepa Senapathi, an ecologist at the University of Reading, one of the lead scientists in the FruitWatch project, said, "We had an overwhelmingly positive response to our project last year, which has already contributed to our understanding of the impact of climate change on British fruit, and we are hoping more people will be encouraged to take part in 2023."

The scheme restarted in February 2023 and the team continues to monitor changes and trends in fruit tree flowering dates. This data will be essential in helping scientists develop an understanding of the role climate change has on flowering fruit trees and the ecosystem they help sustain.

Professor James Chong at the University of York investigates anaerobic digestion, a promising sustainable energy source.

Many countries have committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050; this will mean reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and investing in green energy sources to cut emissions and foster a circular economy.

One lesser known but readily available form of green technology is anaerobic digestion (AD). AD is the natural process of breaking down organic materials under anaerobic conditions facilitated by microorganisms. This process produces biogas, which is a renewable energy source. AD enables us to recycle highly abundant waste, such as food and agriculture waste and sewage, into biogas and valuable products like fertilizer.

The microorganisms present in AD are responsible for the production of biogas, so it is necessary to understand which organisms are present in the community and the role they fill. Currently, although we can identify many of the microorganisms that facilitate this process, we are unable to grow or manipulate many of these in the lab. This limits our understanding of how these organisms interact.

Professor James Chong at the University of York will use his Oracle Cloud credits to identify many of the microorganisms present in an AD community, how they interact and what role they fill. The team will also mix organisms to make their own complex synthetic AD community so that they can work out which organisms are essential for stability. Once the researchers have a stable synthetic community, they will use this to improve biogas production and the efficiency of the AD process.

UC Berkeley investigates air pollutants’ impact on SoCal communities

Asthma now ranks as one of the most costly chronic diseases, accounting for over $50 billion annually in direct medical expenditures in the U.S. At the same time, evidence shows that nitrogen oxides (NOX) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) can exacerbate asthma symptoms and generate substantial economic costs. With these factors in mind, Dr. Jason Su’s research team at University of California, Berkeley, decided to investigate whether or not port and locomotion operations directly impact the health of vulnerable communities along their distribution routes.

The team created 4,841 receptors at the residential land use weighted census tract (CT) centroids across the Southern California (SoCal) region. They then estimated monthly pollutant concentrations of NOX and PM2.5 from port and locomotive operations in SoCal through a Stochastic Time-Inverted Lagrangian Transport (STILT) modeling framework. STILT is widely used to simulate the transport of pollution and greenhouse gases through the atmosphere.

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) was instrumental to running this STILT model – UC Berkeley researchers used a Virtual Machine (VM) on Oracle Cloud in DenseIO2.24. Their research found that sub-acute respiratory symptoms are statistically associated with air pollution from port crafts and railway locomotives, with per 10 µg m-3 increases in PM2.5 concentrations being associated with a 10.86% increase in rescue inhaler use. The team hope that upcoming publications from this project will provide the insights policy makers need to reduce air pollution exposure for disadvantaged communities.

Here at Oracle for Research, we’re proud to be assisting with sustainability tech that could play a major part in the ongoing climate crisis, especially on Earth Day. Are you a researcher looking to harness the power of OCI for your own environmental research and analysis? Apply for a project award and let us help you make the discoveries that preserve our world.

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Oracle for Research offers products, capabilities, and resources purpose-built for research to simplify the research process and accelerate discovery around humanity’s most urgent needs. Through our research-first, partner-centric approach, we make computing paradigms more powerful and user-friendly, data easy and accessible, and community resources invaluable and actionable. We help researchers in academic, commercial, and federal settings, across all research disciplines, explore novel ways to achieve ground-breaking results to make the world a better place.

Andrew Bell

Content Manager, Oracle

Communication is Andrew’s first passion, having had his academic research and writing published internationally on multiple occasions. Andrew developed his marketing acumen at Switch Automation, Alveo and CACI International, where he delivered a range of technical sales content in a variety of formats and planned, project managed and executed on diverse marketing campaigns. Andrew has nurtured a creative outlook, having edited corporate videos at award-winning film studios in London and produced, shot and edited videos at Switch.


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