Sunday, August 28, 2011

drag2share: UCLA engineers create fully stretchable OLED


( -- Engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have created the first fully stretchable organic light-emitting diode (OLED). The researchers devised a way of creating a carbon nanotube and polymer electrode and layering it onto a stretchable light-emitting plastic. Their device is a two-centimeter square with a one-centimeter square area that gives off a blue light. Details of their work were published in July in Advanced Materials. The paper is titled, "Intrinsically Stretchable Polymer Light-Emitting Devices Using Carbon Nanotube-Polymer Composite Electrodes."

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Genius 13-Year-Old Has a Solar Power Breakthrough [EcoModo]


Genius 13-Year-Old Has a Solar Power BreakthroughWhen I was 13 I was smoking cigarettes I'd found on the ground and playing Super Nintendo like it was my life's work. This kid discovered a way to draw 20-50% more power from solar cells. He is way cooler.

7th grader Aidan Dwyer was walking in the woods during the winter, and looking up, he noticed something about the bare branches above him. They didn't appear to be growing randomly. So he took some measurements of the angles of the branches, crunched some numbers, and wouldn't you know it, he found that the ubiquitous Fibonacci Sequence was behind it all. He suspected there was a reason behind this. That trees were using this pattern to gather more light.

So he did an experiment. Using the same number of solar cells, he built two working models. One was a traditional, flat array will all of the panels on a single plane. The other used the Fibonacci Sequence to create the same spiraled pattern he observed in the trees. The results? The little man himself reports:

The tree design made 20% more electricity and collected 2 1/2 more hours of sunlight during the day. But the most interesting results were in December, when the Sun was at its lowest point in the sky. The tree design made 50% more electricity, and the collection time of sunlight was up to 50% longer!"

Genius 13-Year-Old Has a Solar Power BreakthroughDid you hear that? All of the smart-guys in the country who spent their time trying to make solar power more efficient were just outsmarted by a thirteen-year-old and a tree. You can read Aiden's extremely well-written full-report here. Aiden just won the Young Naturalist Award from the American Museum of Natural History. It's kids like this that make me think that just maaaaaybe this country isn't so screwed after all. [American Museum of Natural History via Inhabitat]

You can keep up with Brent Rose, the author of this post, on Google+ or Twitter.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fill Your Biodiesel Gas Tank With Alligator Fat [Science]


Fill Your Biodiesel Gas Tank With Alligator FatIf you're in Florida with your biodiesel car, you absolutely must find a place that dispenses fuel derived from alligator fat. Not only is it eco-friendly, it's a great conversation piece you can whip out at the next cocktail party.

Researchers in Louisiana are the masterminds behind this plan to power your car with fuel derived from alligator fat. The team recognized that alligator fat has a high lipid content which makes it perfect for use as a biodiesel fuel. When the researchers processed a small sample, they discovered the resulting fuel met all the requirements for a high-quality biodiesel. And it's abundant in the southern areas of the US where 15 million pounds of alligator fat are thrown away as a waste product from alligator meat processing. [Popular Science]

You can keep up with Kelly Hodgkins, the author of this post, on Twitter, Google + or Facebook.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Researchers grow crops on super thin film, do away with that pesky soil stuff


Here's the problem with plants: they require dirt which is, well, dirty. Japanese researchers at Mebiol have figured out a way to grow small crops of Earthly flora on clean sheets of hydrogel (commonly found in diapers), called Imec, that measures just tens of microns thick. Roots grow along the membrane, absorbing water through it, but the material is able to block out bacteria and viruses that could harm the plants. Of course, there are downsides. Water is absorbed at a much lower rate through the gel than with traditional soil, so plant size is limited and only the strongest and healthiest varieties can truly thrive on the flexible sheets. By using carefully selected plants and high quality fertilizer though, researchers were able to grow tomatoes, spinach and even melons, and hope to strengthen the film enough to support trees. Not bad for a substance normally used to absorb baby pee. Check out the video after the break.

Continue reading Researchers grow crops on super thin film, do away with that pesky soil stuff

Researchers grow crops on super thin film, do away with that pesky soil stuff originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 17 Aug 2011 13:47:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Scientists to Cure Malaria By Microwaving You (wait, what?) [Health]


Scientists to Cure Malaria By Microwaving You (wait, what?)Malaria kills almost a million people every year and makes another 250 million people very, very sick. Soon we may be able to instantly cure the scourge the same way you heat up your sad, frozen dinner-for-one.

Today, Fast Company is reporting that researchers have found that they may be able to cure malaria by sticking human beings in a human being-sized microwave. Why didn't I think of that? The timing couldn't be better for some out-of-the-box thinking because multi-drug resistant malaria has been popping up all over Africa, Asia, and South America.

In theory, it works like this: malaria parasites have some extra iron in them (due to digesting your precious blood), so by shooting low-level microwaves at you, it heats up the iron in the parasites, making them explode (awesome), but leaving the rest of your tissues intact. If it works, then these walk in microwaves may provide an "instant" cure. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (who has an extra large middle finger for malaria) is sponsoring a second round of research.

According to the World Health Organization (where my lil' brother is working. Go Matt!), 3.3 BILLION people live at risk of contracting malaria, and every 30 seconds a child dies of it. I was under the impression that putting a person in the microwave was a bad idea, but if these folks can figure out how to do it safely and cure malaria, I will gladly hold your Hot Pockets dinner on a plate while I'm being cured. [Fast Company]

Image credit: Shutterstock/Elnur

You can keep up with Brent Rose, the author of this post, on Google+ or Twitter.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Asian Air Pollution Could Be Behind the Halt in Rising Global Temperatures


Smokestacks Salim Virji via Flickr
Yes, you read that correctly.

Coal-derived emissions pouring from smokestacks across Asia are--perhaps counterintuitively--responsible for a pause in global warming in the decade following 1998, but that's no real reason to celebrate. The halt in rising temperatures is a result of the large amounts of sulfur in those emissions, which can have a cooling effect on the planet. But the huge spike in greenhouse gas emissions is still very real, and over time its delayed impacts will be realized when emerging countries rein in pollution.

At least, that's the latest on the global warming front via a paper released Monday by researchers at several universities, including Boston and Harvard Universities in the States and Finland's University of Turku. The halt in rising global temps from 1998 to 2008 is something of a mirage, the researchers say, and the effects of all that carbon that went into the air alongside the sulfur will become apparent in the long term.

The paper, if taken as truth, ties up a loose end for those who believe global warming is a man-made phenomenon. From 1998 to 2008, global temperatures were flat even as the developing world spewed tons upon tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, increasing global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels by at third. Some called this evidence that global temperatures and carbon emissions aren't as directly linked as some might like to think.

But most of those carbon emissions came from coal fueling the explosive growth of Asian economies, and with coal emissions comes sulfur. Sulfur is a key ingredient in the formation of aerosols, which form hazy cloud layers that reflect heat from the sun back into space. These aerosols, the paper argues, are responsible for the halt in rising temperatures.

But the halt in rising temperatures isn't likely to last, the researchers say. When emerging economies begin to take a harder line against pollution, those sulfur emissions will decline as well. And while sulfur can persist in the atmosphere for several years, eventually those aerosols will disperse and global temperatures will begin climbing again, this time with countless more tons of carbon already in the atmosphere.



Massive Undersea Discovery of Rare Earth Elements May Break Chinese Monopoly


Rare-Earths China produces the vast majority of the world's rare-earth oxides. Wikimedia Commons

Rare earth elements have been the focus of a good deal of ink, a lot of anxiety, and a couple of tense international spats over the past year, but a Japanese discovery may make the valuable minerals a lot less rare. Geologists there say they've found huge concentrated deposits of rare earths in the Pacific seabed that could total 100 billion tons--or enough in a single square mile of seafloor to cover nearly half the world's annual demand.

Rare earths--in case you missed last year's high-tech sector fears and China's short-lived unofficial "embargo" that rattled some Japanese and Western industries--are a group of metals that are integral to several cutting-edge technologies, including batteries, green technologies like wind turbines, and next-gen military technologies. They're also used in lots of everyday technologies that are vital to developed economies, things like smartphones and computer monitors.

In short, the world needs rare earths and as developing economies continue their rapid upward climbs the world will need even more of them. Currently China controls 97 percent of the world's usable supplies, and that's been a source of tension as Chinese leaders have scaled back exports to protect industries at home. So the idea that there are perhaps hundreds of billions of tons of untapped rare earths lying in international waters is huge.

But that's just the first of many angles to this story. For instance, how do we get to the minerals? The two sites named by the Japanese researchers are near Tahiti and Hawaii in international waters ranging from 11,500 to 20,000 feet. Deep sea mining of manganese (and copper and nickel) is already underway in the Pacific, and so some of the technology there might be applicable, as might some of hardware being developed by oil and gas explorers seeking to tap deeper and deeper energy reserves.

Next, there are environmental concerns. The fact that these reserves are in international waters could complicate regulation of any undersea mining activities, and ocean floor ecosystems could be disrupted by the dredging of huge swaths of the seabed.

Then there's the question of whether undersea mining of rare earths is commercially viable? It may be that getting to these seabed deposits is so expensive as to be prohibitive. Or the discovery might lead to the development of entire fleets of seafloor mining robots. Whatever the future developments may be, the immediate impact is limited: China's grip on the rare earths market is no less strong today as it was yesterday, and it's not likely to change in the foreseeable future.

[BBC, New Scientist]


Barnacles Destroy Boats, But Getting Rid Of Them Destroys The Sea-Until Now


Before and After Thriving barnacles make boats less efficient but even post-treatment, corrosion can sink ships. Courtesy Jonathan Hughes/SharkDefense Technologies

"Barnacle" has become a term for something tenacious and problematic for a reason--they are determined little buggers that cause lots of damage to marine craft. But dealing with barnacles can create even more problems than it solves.

The Problem:

Biofouling, which occurs when barnacles (or any other clinging species) cover a ship's hull or anchor line. The U.S. Naval Academy estimates that biofouling creates enough hull-drag to increase the Navy's petroleum bill by about $250 million every year. For millennia, copper has been used to keep marine life at bay; the Greeks and Romans used copper nails for this reason. The Navy uses it too, mixing powdered copper into boat paint. But as the paint wears, copper seeps into the water, where it has been shown to harm salmon and oysters. And as the paint thins, the barnacles return.

The Solution:

Medetomidine, a chemical that activates the octopamine receptors (similar to adrenaline receptors) in barnacle larvae, causing them to flee. Barnacle larvae are free-floating and harden only after they have attached to a surface. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden mixed small Plexiglas capsules filled with medetomidine into boat paint, young barnacles were scared away, and the hulls remained pristine. At high levels, medetomidine can lighten the color of fish scales, making them more vulnerable to predators. But the capsules ensure that the chemical is released slowly, so it lasts longer and minimizes environmental damage.


Nissan Rolls Out a System that Lets Your Electric Car Serve as a Backup Battery for Your House


The Nissan Leaf Zero emission vehicle. Backup power storage. Tom Raftery via Wikimedia

The Nissan Leaf can run 70-plus miles on a single charge. Now, it can also power a family home for two days if it needs to. The "Leaf to Home" project Nissan is rolling out in Japan allows the electricity stored in the Leaf's lithium-ion battery to be fed back into a home, running major appliances for up to two days.

The "Leaf to Home" system simply allows for a quick charging port to be mounted on the home's electricity distribution panel to receive energy from the car. Those 24 kilowatt hours stored in a fully energized Leaf can run the average Japanese household for two days, even when the refrigerator, climate control, and other large appliances are running at the same time.

Given that Japanese communities are still dealing with the effects of the disastrous March earthquake and associated tsunami, its not hard to imagine how households might need a source of backup power, or how valuable that backup power might be during a bad situation. Some areas in Japan were left without electricity for days and days in the aftermath--a problem "Leaf to Home" could remedy, at least for a time. Not to mention, in addition to serving as a backup power source the system allows the car to store up power during off-peak electricity generation hours and feed it back into the house during periods of high demand.



Ford teams with SunPower, offers EV owners $10,000 solar charging system


We might not know how much Ford's expecting for the Focus Electric, but it's already put a hefty $10,000 price tag on one of its accessories. The company announced today that it has teamed with SunPower to offer purchasers of the upcoming Focus Electric and C-MAX Energi a 2.5-kilowatt rooftop solar system. That setup will apparently provide "enough renewable energy production to offset the energy used for charging" cars that log 1,000 miles per month (about 30 miles per day) or less. If $10,000 is just a little too rich for your blood, there's always Best Buy's $1,500 budget-friendly charging station. Full PR after the break.

Continue reading Ford teams with SunPower, offers EV owners $10,000 solar charging system

Ford teams with SunPower, offers EV owners $10,000 solar charging system originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 11 Aug 2011 05:04:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Sharp's energy-efficient LED ceiling lights are hip to be square


If you live in Japan and are looking to lower your household electricity bill, you might have to empty your bank account first. Sharp recently introduced its new line of ELM-branded LED ceiling lights and the highly energy-efficient, square-shaped bulbs won't come cheap -- retailing between 35,000 yen (about $456) and 55,000 yen (about $717). Pulling inspiration from the LEDs used in LCD televisions, the company was able to achieve an industry-leading 81.3 lumens per watt for the smallest of its three designs, and an average life of 40,000 hours for the entire lot . The energy-sipping set of overhead bulbs come housed in an insectproof shell, offering over 100-plus ambient light settings, controllable via remote. You can snag these utility-friendly lights on August 27th, just don't complain at the checkout when you see the price -- we warned you. Peep the video explanation after the break.

Continue reading Sharp's energy-efficient LED ceiling lights are hip to be square

Sharp's energy-efficient LED ceiling lights are hip to be square originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 11 Aug 2011 05:36:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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New Drug Can Treat Almost Any Viral Infection by Killing the Body's Infected Cells [Medicine]


New Drug Can Treat Almost Any Viral Infection by Killing the Body's Infected CellsA new broad-spectrum treatment for viruses could be as effective as antibiotics fighting bacteria, MIT researchers report. The method uses cells' own defense systems to induce invaded cells to commit suicide, preventing the spread of the virus. In lab tests, the new drug completely cured mice that had been infected with influenza.

Viruses work by inserting themselves into a cell and hijacking its machinery for its own use. The invaded cell then creates more copies of the virus, which involves creating long strings of double-stranded RNA - which contains the virus' genetic material, like DNA contains ours.

When the virus is done copying itself, its hostage cell usually dies, from the virus bursting through its walls (lysis), changes to the cell's outer membrane, and from apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Human cells have plenty of defenses against viral invasion, including proteins that attach to the double-stranded RNA, preventing the virus from replicating itself after successful invasion.

This new drug therapy combines those dsRNA proteins with a protein that induces apoptosis. It's called a DRACO, Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer.

When one end of the DRACO binds to dsRNA, it signals the other end of the DRACO to induce cell suicide, an MIT News article explains. In this way, the cell is killed before the virus can take over and eventually kill it anyway. If there is no dsRNA, the healthy cells are left alone.

"In theory, it should work against all viruses," said Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory who invented the new technology.

A handful of drugs can target specific viruses by interfering with their replication process, through addition of modified DNA building blocks or the blocking of enzymes the viruses need to stimulate the replication process. But viruses are wily bugs, and they can evolve to resist these treatments.

The DRACO therapy could be effective because it targets the host cell, not just the virus.

Rider and colleagues are testing DRACO against more viruses in mice, according to MIT. Rider hopes to license the technology for trials in larger animals and for eventual human clinical trials, too.

[MIT News]

New Drug Can Treat Almost Any Viral Infection by Killing the Body's Infected CellsPopular Science is your wormhole to the future. Reporting on what's new and what's next in science and technology, we deliver the future now.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Scientist develops virus that targets HIV


In what represents an important step toward curing HIV, a USC scientist has created a virus that hunts down HIV-infected cells.


Connecting the dots: Nanoscale approach to biomaterials


Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine are piecing together the process of tooth enamel biomineralization, which could lead to novel nanoscale approaches to developing biomaterials. The findings are reported online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Philips wins DOE's $10 million L Prize for 60W incandescent killer


Put your pig-tail light bulb aversions aside, because Philips has just won the DOE's $10 million L Prize Competition for the creation of a decidedly non-curlicue 60W equivalent LED lighting solution. The company was named the first winner in the 60W replacement bulb category at a Washington DC event, yesterday. It's taken three years to find a winner that could meet the high standards set forth by the DOE, specifically "ensuring that performance, quality, lifetime, cost, and availability meet expectations for widespread adoption and mass manufacturing." Requirements further stipulated that the 60W incandescent killer use less than 10 watts of power, and provide energy savings of 83 percent. If Americans replaced all of their 60W incandescents with Philips' little winner, the DOE estimates savings of $3.9 billion in a single year. The bulb is expected to hit shelves as soon as early 2012. Full PR after the break.

Philips wins DOE's $10 million L Prize for 60W incandescent killer originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 04 Aug 2011 16:39:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Credit Card-Sized Chip Detects 100% of AIDS Cases [Medicine]


Credit Card-Sized Chip Detects 100% of AIDS CasesIf the global AIDS epidemic will ever be put down, letting people know they're infected to begin will be a huge part of the solution. So how can it be better? Putting an AIDS clinic in a $1 card helps.

The incredible mChip can diagnose both HIV and syphilis in 15 minutes, FastCo Incredible quality number two: it only costs a dollar. Incredible quality number three: it has a one hundred percent detection rate (albeit with a 4-6% chance of a false positive).

The Columbia University researchers who developed the mChip hope to debut it in Rwanda—where it'll also be able to beam test results to remote servers for easy patient organization. Hey, that's incredible quality number four! [Columbia via FastCo]


Two-Way Charger For Nissan Leafs Means Your Home Can be Charged by Your Car [Transport]


Two-Way Charger For Nissan Leafs Means Your Home Can be Charged by Your CarNissan's poky little electric Leaf car will be able to power your home in the case of a blackout, via a new two-way charging system called Leaf to Home, an idea that originated from March's Fukushima disaster.

The country is still being affected by the Fukushima fallout, with areas still going through occasional power shortages. Nissan came up with the brilliant two-way charging plan which could help households during those moments, charging the car overnight when the electricity rates are cheaper, and then during the day, feeding that electricity back to the house from the car's 24 kilowatt/hr battery, which could keep a household running for two days.

While Leaf to Home isn't available to Leaf owners just yet, it's expected the system will be going on sale next year in Japan, with a view of rolling it out to other countries later. [Bloomberg and PC World via Consumer Reports]


Report: data centers accounted for just 1 to 1.5 percent of electricity use last year, Google claims less than 1 percent of that


You'd think, watching companies like Apple break ground on sprawling data centers, that the number of servers powering our untethered lives was on the rise. In a different decade, you might have been right. But not this one. According to a study prepared at the request of The New York Times, the number of servers in use has declined "significantly" since 2005. That's mostly because of the financial crisis of 2008, says lead researcher Jonathan G. Koomey of Stanford University, but we also can't discount the effect of more efficient technologies. What's more, he says, servers worldwide consume less energy than you might have guessed: they accounted for somewhere between 1 and 1.5 percent of global electricity use in 2010. And while Google, the king of cloud computing, has been cagey about revealing just how many servers house its treasure trove of data, the company said that of that 1 to 1.5 percent, it accounted for less than 1 percent -- meaning, just a hundredth of a percent of all the electricity consumed last year. All told, data centers' energy consumption has risen 56 percent since 2005 -- a far cry from the EPAs 2007 prediction that this figure would double by 2010, with annual costs ballooning to $7.4 billion. Then again, this slower-than-expected growth could well be temporary. Though Koomey can't specify to what extent the financial crisis and technological advancements are to blame, he insists, broadly speaking, that we're primarily seeing fallout from the economic slowdown -- a stay of execution, of sorts, for those of us rooting for energy conservation.

Report: data centers accounted for just 1 to 1.5 percent of electricity use last year, Google claims less than 1 percent of that originally appeared on Engadget on Tue , 02 Aug 2011 16:06:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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