We can fit everything we knew before today about Criegee biradicals inside the period at the end of this sentence, but from what we understand they are pretty amazing. At least, that’s the word from a team of researchers form the U. of Manchester, the U. of Bristol, and Sandia National Labs, who have just detected these invisible chemical intermediates for the first time. Apparently they can not only oxidize pollutants from combustion, cleaning up the atmosphere as they go, but they also contribute to cloud formation, helping to cool the planet.
German researchers have turned an optical tweezer device into the world’s first “nano-ear” capable of detecting sounds six orders of magnitude below the threshold of human hearing. Using an optically trapped gold nanoparticle as their listening device, the team says they can now detect sounds made at the bacterial level or use their device to tune (or perhaps to test?) the minuscule MEMS machines of the future.
If cleaning carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was easy, we’d already be doing it. But carbon capture has proven to be a tough technology to feasibly roll out on a grand scale, and that means all the things we do that produce carbon dioxide emissions--which seems to be just about everything these days--are still roughly as bad for the planet as they were several years ago.
The largest battery in the world has arrived, and you likely won’t be surprised where it landed: Hebei Province, China. The State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) and electric car maker BYD--the company that most recently made big headlines a few years back when Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway took a 10 percent stake--have teamed to create a massive battery array capable of storing 36 megawatt-hours of electricity.
First they were thought to be impossible on Earth, then when they were grown in the lab they were thought to be so novel that they earned their discoverer a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Now, it turns out the quasicrystals--unusually structured crystals that break several rules of crystalline symmetry and exhibit strange physical properties--unearthed in Russia’s Koryak mountains a couple of years ago are probably from outer space.
I'll start you guys off with a quote here: In talking about Sony's new battery technology, which uses old cellulose product like newspapers and cardboard to generate electricity, the BBC says: "Their work builds on a previous project in which they used fruit juice to power a Walkman music player." Thank you, crazy Sony recycling-engineers.
It’s long been known that the stone monoliths that make up the mysterious Stonehenge site in the UK traveled a great distance to get there, but up to this point the exact origin of the stones was unknown. Now, a team of British geologists have found the exact site from which the innermost circle of bluestone rocks were quarried.
Tracking down radiation hotspots is tricky and time consuming because it’s hard to see where the problem areas are. Radiation doesn’t spread itself evenly over an area, and as such it can be hard to find the spots within a contaminated area that require cleanup and differentiate them from the places that do not (typically this is done by walking around waving a handheld meter around, a process that is really, really slow). To simplify the task, Toshiba has developed what it’s calling a Portable Gamma Camera that mashes up gamma ray data with image data to create visual radiation heat maps on the fly.
Researchers from Fukushima University in Japan are enlisting the help of some locals to monitor radiation near the damaged nuclear power facility in their prefecture. To get a better read on what kind of radiation levels exist in the forests around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, scientists plan to fit the area’s native wild monkeys with collars containing radiation meters and GPS transponders.
For years, battery designers have been looking for the next big thing in energy storage technology that could replace the lithium-ion batteries currently found in everything from laptops to smartphones to cars. It turns out they may have simply needed to rethink the existing li-ion battery. Northwestern University researchers have re-engineered a lithium-ion battery that can hold ten times the charge of current batteries on the market, and can charge ten times faster.
Today in relatively obscure but nonetheless meaningful scientific pursuits: two researchers at the Max-Planck Institute claim to have turned hydrogen into metal. That may seem unremarkable, but the fact is hydrogen--being an alkali metal--should exhibit the qualities of a metal under the right circumstances. Yet no one has ever coaxed the universe’s most abundant element into showing metallic qualities until now. Perhaps.
The James Dyson Award winners for 2011 have been announced, and the grand prize winner is a piece of clever biomimicry that sits so perfectly in our wheelhouse that we couldn’t resist the urge to write about it. Edward Linacre of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne has tapped the Namib beetle--a desert dwelling species that survives in the most arid conditions on Earth--to create an irrigation system that can pull liquid moisture straight out of dry desert air.
At the University of Nottingham, a team of researchers is spearheading an ambitious project that could pull synthetic biology out of its niche and into the mainstream. With help from researchers elsewhere in the U.K., the U.S., Israel, and Spain, the team is trying to create a “reprogrammable cell” that can act as the in vivo cell equivalent to a computer’s operating system.
When Roy Buol stepped into the mayor’s office of the city of Dubuque in 2005, he did so with a handful of imperatives. There were the needs of his citizens, who throughout his campaign had voiced concerns on issues like public transit, green space, water quality, and recycling. There was the need to live up to his campaign message, which centered on engaging citizens as partners in the administration of the city. And then there were his private concerns about the larger world.
Among the many factors keeping wind power projects from getting their legs is the annoying and sometimes dangerous tendency for moving wind turbines to mimic aircraft on an air traffic controller’s radar screen. The problem has led to the stalling of some wind projects and criticism of others, criticism that isn’t helping the larger roll out of renewable energy resources.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.