An interesting report from CNN over the weekend: a tabletop hydrogen fuel cell recharging station could bring hydrogen power to the individual home, allowing portable devices and eventually automobiles to charge up on the universe's most abundant element cleanly from the comfort of home.
If sustainability is key to the new energy economy, a team of University of Pennsylvania researchers has just taken a big step toward the future by developing the first photovoltaic circuit that powers itself. The circuits could eventually be packed into touchscreens and other consumer devices that would run without a battery or any other source of power, as long as they have a beam of sunlight to harvest.
Leaping tall buildings, punching through solid concrete walls and using public phone booths as ersatz changing rooms without anyone noticing are still beyond human capacity, but a development at Cornell University might allow us to walk on walls like Spider Man, or even dance on the ceiling like Lionel Richie.
President Obama made it clear in his State of the Union Address last week that he fears the American economy is on the brink of missing out on a green tech boom that could propel us out of our current financial mess and into the coming century, and it appears his concern is well-placed. China leapfrogged Denmark, Germany, Spain and the U.S. to become the world's largest maker of wind turbines last year, and 2010 is shaping up to be another banner year.
Much as it did for hair styling products and fake tans, spray-on technology now stands to revolutionize everything from locomotives to winemaking to textile design, thanks to a versatile new spray known as "liquid glass." Applied to nearly any surface, an invisible non-toxic layer of silicon just one millionth of a millimeter thick can protect underlying matter from water, bacteria, dirt and even UV radiation.
We know how to convert biomass to biodiesel, but the economics of doing so makes many prevailing methods of doing so expensive and unfeasible, keeping an alternative-fueled future just out of reach. But a collaboration between the DOE and private firm LS9 has found a way to coax a strain of E. coli bacteria to produce biodiesel from biomass without further chemical processes, a breakthrough that could pave the way for cheaper, more abundant biofuels.
Proving there's no science like accidental science, Northwestern researchers looking for materials to facilitate ion exchange have discovered a "Venus flytrap" for radioactive cesium that has the potential filter out 100 percent of the nasty stuff in nuclear waste. Made of gallium, sulfur and antimony compound, the synthetic material is highly selective in what it will seize, but in lab tests it snatched every single cesium ion from a sodium-rich solution designed to mimic the makeup of nuclear leftovers.
When it comes to energy efficiency, there’s still no substitute for millions upon millions of years of evolution. Scientists at UC Berkeley have found a way to hack common tobacco plants to grow synthetic photovoltaic and photochemical cells that can be extracted, dissolved in solution and sprayed onto a glass or plastic substrate to create solar panels. That’s the idea, anyhow.
It's amazing no one thought of it before: nuclear fusion from a levitating tire-sized magnet surrounded by 10-million-degree plasma. But that's exactly what a joint project between MIT and Columbia University are tinkering with over at MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center on the MIT campus.
Just like that, Abu Dhabi's Masdar City has some competition. On Monday, South Korean officials announced a $14.6 billion plan for a new self-sufficient city, high-tech hub of education and commerce that will be home to some of Korea's biggest corporate names and centers of higher learning.