Courtesy Purdue University

Purdue University, with researchers from Michigan State University and San Jose State University, is using a $2 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study the potential pathogen threats associated with “environmentally friendly” low-flow water systems. Though conservation efforts have led to reduced flow rates—average systems are down to 0.5 gallons per minute from 4 gallons per minute in 1994—plumbing pipes remain the same diameter. As a result, water waiting to be used can become stagnant. The research team believes that this creates an optimal environment for disease-causing bacteria to grow. "Building designers, managers, and health officials need better information and models to predict health risks in plumbing systems found in all sorts of buildings, from schools, to homes, to healthcare facilities," assistant professor in environmental and ecological engineering and Purdue's Lyles School of Civil Engineering, Andrew Whelton, told During this three-year project the team hopes to address the potential health hazards of the low-flow systems and make recommendations for improved design and engineering to reduce pathogen growth. []

Researchers from the University of Bath in the U.K. have developed a renewable plastic using pine needles. [New Atlas]

A recent study from the University of California San Diego examines the strength of human hair. Results could lead to the development of new materials for body armor. [UC San Diego]

The British government recently approved spending £2 billion (about $2.5 billion) on a controversial 1.8-mile tunnel that will go underneath the landscape surrounding that famous Neolithic monument, Stonehenge. [The Huffington Post]

British scientists have tied the tightest knot ever tied, with eight crossings at 192 atoms long. Previously, the tightest knot ever was three or five crossings. [The New York Times]

Courtesy Blank Studio Design + Architecture

Phoenix-based Blank Studio Design + Architecture has conceptualized a car-free urban canopy to help cool city landscapes. The crisscross canopy, made of lightweight and durable sisal, diffuses sunlight and is attached to a frame flexible enough to move with the wind. [PSFK]

Satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe is using artificial intelligence and crowdsourcing to more quickly and accurately analyze images. This new software could be particularly useful for natural disaster first-responders and insurance companies. [Fast Company]