This activity addresses climate change impacts that affect all states that are part of the Colorado River Basin and are dependent on its water. Students examine available data, the possible consequences of changes to various user groups, and suggest solutions to adapt to these changes.
In this lab activity students generate their own biomass gases by heating wood pellets or wood splints in a test tube. They collect the resulting gases and use the gas to roast a marshmallow. Students also evaluate which biomass fuel is the best by their own criteria or by examining the volume of gas produced by each type of fuel.
This interactive diagram from the National Academy of Sciences shows how we rely on a variety of primary energy sources (solar, nuclear, hydro, wind, geothermal, natural gas, coal, biomass, oil) to supply energy to four end-use sectors (residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation). It also focuses on lost or degraded energy.
This is a long-term inquiry activity in which students investigate locations they believe harbor cellulose-digesting microbes, collect samples, isolate them on selective media, and screen them for cellulase activity. These novel microbes may be useful for the production of cellulosic ethanol. In the process they learn about plating techniques, serial dilutions, symbiotic relationships and enzyme specificity. Two methods are provided, one focusing on isolation of pure microbial strains, the other focusing on finding symbiotic communities of microbes.
This is a hands-on inquiry activity using zip-lock plastic bags that allows students to observe the process of fermentation and the challenge of producing ethanol from cellulosic sources. Students are asked to predict outcomes and check their observations with their predictions. Teachers can easily adapt to materials and specific classroom issues.
In this video, students explore the work of Jay Keasling, a synthetic biologist experimenting with ways to produce a cleaner-burning fuel from biological matter, using genetically modified microorganisms.
This video is one of a series of videos from the Switch Energy project. It describes three types of geothermal sources -- rare ones in which high temperatures are naturally concentrated near the surface, deep wells that require fracturing the rock and then circulating water to bring heat to the surface, and low temperature sources that use constant temperatures just below the surface to heat or cool a building. The latter two are more widely available but cost-prohibitive today.
This video is from the Energy 101 video series. It explains the process for converting micro-algae into fuel and makes the case that algae-based biofuels hold enormous potential for helping reduce our dependence on imported oil.