Maastricht Economic and social Research and  training centre on Innovation and Technology

Breaking silos, nudging communities: The SITE4Society adventure
UNU-MERIT's Site4Society (S4S) aims to foster home-grown social innovation. It starts from the premise that knowledge need not be cold or aloof, but can in fact serve various social challenges. In the case of S4S, we address the clear lack of networks between academics from different disciplines and between social scientists and the rest of the world ? on the SDGs in particular. So the main aim is to break open silos and start unconventional conversations through interactive workshops.

For our second S4S event held last week we hosted speakers from across the local innovation system, including Brightlands (an institution supported by the Limburg government to nurture start-ups), (getting to be a start-up), DSM corporate sustainability division (a Dutch multinational present in 50 countries), GoodGood (a social enterprise), LOCOtuinen (a cooperative), Bandito Espresso (a social enterprise) and Maastricht University (an academic institution!). Find out more about this initiative by clicking the link below.

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  • Evaporating water could power almost 70% of the US electrical grid
    Researchers from Columbia University have found that energy harvested from the evaporation of water in US lakes and reservoirs could power nearly 70% of the nation's electricity demands, generating 325 gigawatts of electricity.

    In 2015 the team made headlines when they engineered a system to harvest electricity from evaporating water, thanks to bacterial spores. Sticking Bacillus subtilis spores onto thin strips of tape the researchers made an 'evaporation engine' to leverage the organisms' natural response to changes in humidity: shrinkage and expansion.

    When things get dry due to evaporation, the spores curl, which causes the tape to contract – but as the tape shortens, a small rig closes tiny window shutters, increasing the humidity in the bacterial chamber, meaning the cycle can repeat. Attaching the engine to pistons enabled a small car to be powered, and could light up an electric LED.

    Now, the same researchers have run calculations on what could be achieved if you scaled up the same kind of system over lakes and reservoirs throughout the US. If you were able to install floating spore-fuelled power generators using the principles of the evaporation engine over lakes and reservoirs larger than 0.1 square kilometres 325 gigawatts of electricity-generating capacity could be generated.

    The researchers estimate the same system could actually save some 95 trillion litres of water lost to evaporation every year – approximately a fifth of what Americans consume annually.

    Science Alert / Nature Communications    September 27, 2017