Tuesday, April 29, 2014

6 Futuristic Construction Materials That Will Change The Way We Build Stuff

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/futuristic-construction-materials-2014-4

Scientists are constantly on the look out for lighter, stronger, and more energy-efficient materials. Here's a glance at some materials that will change the way we build things in the future.

Graphene is extremely thin and strong.

What it is: Graphene is a substance made of pure carbon. The carbon is arranged in a honeycomb pattern in a one-atom thick sheet. Another way to think of graphene: Each time we write with a graphite pencil, we are basically making layers of graphene.

How it's transformative: Graphene has been called a "miracle material" because it's thin, strong, flexible, conducts electricity, and its nearly transparent. Its potential applications are practically limitless. Graphene researchers won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for developing the wonder-material and now you can even make it in your kitchen.

Suggested uses: Solar cells, touchscreens, liquid crystal displays, desalination technology, aerospace materials, more efficient transistors, chemical sensors that can detect explosives


A super water-proof material makes drops bounce.

What it is: A surface textured with extremely tiny cones repels water droplets. The super-hydrophobic surface, created by a team at Brookhaven Laboratory in New York, is unlike other water-resistant materials because it can stand up to conditions of extreme temperature, pressure, and humidity.

How it's transformative: These surfaces not only don't get wet, but would stay cleaner since the water droplets carry dirt with them as they roll off (this mimics the self-cleaning properties of nature). The material would be useful for preventing ice or algae build-up or even as an antibacterial coating.

Suggested uses: Coating boat hulls, car parts, and medical devices, car and plane windshields, steam turbine power generators

water droplet.gif

Aerographite is 75 times lighter than styrofoam.

What it is: Aerographite, created by researchers at the Hamburg University of Technology in 2012, is made from networks of hollow carbon tubes. It's black in color (because it absorbs light rays almost completely), stable at room temperature, and is able to conduct electricity. The material is really strong, but also bendable.

How it's transformative: The material can be compressed into a space 95% its normal area and then pulled back to its original form without being damaged. The stress makes the material even stronger. This is unique since most lightweight materials can be compressed, but can't withstand tension. The material can also withstand a lot of vibration, which means it can be used for airplanes and satellites.

Suggested uses: Lighter batteries for electric cars and bikes, more efficient water and air purification s! ystems, aviation, and satellites.


An ultra-thin material provides protection against high-speed objects.

What it is: A super-thin material created by researchers at Rice University and MIT can stop a fast-moving projectile, such as a bullet, in its path. The material, made from alternating rubber and glassy layers that are each just 20 nanometers thick, is good at dispersing energy. After being pelted with tiny glass beads, the complex polyurethane material not only stopped the bullets, it also sealed them inside, making it appear as if no damage had been done.

How it's transformative: When struck, the material melts into liquid to absorb the energy and then quickly hardens to close the entryway. “There’s no macroscopic damage," project researcher Ned Thomas explained in a statement. "You can still see through it. This would be a great ballistic windshield material."

Suggested uses: Protection for satellites against meteors and other space debris, stronger jet turbine-blades, and stronger, lighter armor for soldiers and police

Bullet-proof material

Live bacteria is used to make self-healing concrete.

What it is: Concrete is a popular building material, but it's vulnerable to cracks. Water and chlori! de from icing salt can seep into pre-existing fissures and make them larger. Overtime, this can become a dangerous (and expensive) problem. Self-healing concrete, developed by scientists at Delft University in the Netherlands, uses live bacteria — mixed into the concrete before it is poured — to seal up those fractures.

How it's transformative: When water gets into the cracks, the bacteria is activated and produces a component in limestone called calcite that fills up the crack completely. Researchers are still conducting outdoor tests to see if the concrete can be put to real use.

Suggested uses: Sidewalks, building foundations, other architectural structures

Self-healing concrete

A bone-like material that's lighter than water, but stronger than some types of steel.

Jens Bauer at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology recently developed a honeycomb- structured material that is less dense than water, but as strong as some forms of steel.

"The novel lightweight construction materials resemble the framework structure of a half-timbered house with horizontal, vertical, and diagonal struts," lead researcher Jens Bauer, said in a statement.

The researchers samples "contained 45 percent to more than 90 percent air, making them extremely lightweight while also withstanding more than 46,000 pounds per square inch of pressure," according to Txchnologist.

How it's transformative: Even though objects made from this material can only be manufactured in the micrometer-range right now, this is the first time scientists were able to produce a material that exceeds "the strength-to-weight ratio of all engineering materials, with a density below 1,000 kg/m3," the authors wrote in a paper.

Suggested uses: Insulation, shock absorbers, filters in the chemical industry


SEE ALSO: Lockheed Martin Says This Desalination Technology Is An Industry Game-Changer

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Resilient Birds In Chernobyl Are Actually Adapting to Radiation

Source: http://gizmodo.com/resilient-birds-in-chernobyl-are-actually-adapting-to-r-1568877425

Resilient Birds In Chernobyl Are Actually Adapting to Radiation

Chernobyl is a scary, seemingly sinister place, where trees don't decay and plants glow. A newly published study, however, shows that not all living things are necessarily doomed in this radioactive wasteland. Some birds in the exclusion zone are actually adapting to the harsh environment.



Mosquitoes bred with suicide genes to combat disease

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/28/brazil-breeds-mosquito-with-suicide-gene-against-dengue-fever/

Aedes aegypti mosquito

With the World Cup just six weeks away, Brazilian authorities have approved the widespread, commercial release of a strain of mosquito that has been genetically reprogrammed to wipe out its own species. These Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are a major carrier of dengue fever, and bed nets are useless against them because they bite during the day. While some have experimented with using lasers and other techniques to mass-kill the disease-carrying bugs, Brazil's preferred solution begins in the lab: Male mosquitoes are given a deliberately flawed gene and then released into the wild so that they can reproduce, at which point the implanted gene rears its head and causes any offspring to die before they reach sexual maturity.

Local trials have already seen a 90 percent reduction in aegypti numbers, according to the biotech company that developed the mutant gene. Critics have raised a number of objections, however, including the fact that other mosquito species also carry dengue fever, so the potentially fatal disease won't necessarily be eradicated by this risky approach. Others have pointed out that there have only been very small trials so far, so we don't know what happens if GM females, rather than males, are accidentally released into the wild (potentially causing allergic reactions in bite victims), or if some mosquitoes somehow inherit the modified gene but don't die from it. Either way, if Mother Nature does have some sort of retribution in store, then Brazil is about to find out.

[Image credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

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Source: Oxitec


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pouring Saltwater Over Graphene Generates Electricity

Source: http://gizmodo.com/pouring-saltwater-over-graphene-generates-electricity-1563379860Pouring Saltwater Over Graphene Generates ElectricitySEXPAND

A team of Chinese scientists did an impossible-sounding thing. They created electricity simply by dragging a droplet of saltwater across a layer of graphene. No big fires, no greenhouse gases, no fuss. They created energy with just a miracle material and one of the most plentiful substances on Earth.

The science behind the effect is actually quite simple. When the droplets of saltwater sat static on the graphene, they carried an equal charge on both sides. But, when moved across the surface of the graphene, the electrons in the saltwater were desorbed on one end of the graphene and absorbed on the other, generating a measurable voltage along the way. The faster the water moves, the higher the voltage it generates—although the total voltage was still pretty low, about 30 millivolts. A standard AA battery, by comparison, produces about 1.5 volts. It helps that graphene is insanely conductive.

IBM's Graphene Circuit: A Genius Reminder of How Far Graphene Has to Go

IBM's mad scientists have created a graphene-based circuit that's 10,000 times more powerful than existing alternatives. This radio… Read…

So that's not much—not yet—but it's something. It's not the voltage that scientists are excited about, though. It's the scale. Current hydroelectric power solutions can only exist on a very large scale. Think Hoover Dam. However, this method for producing hydroelectric power could support nano-sized generators without any byproducts. They do believe the method will scale up, too. That is, if anybody can afford that much graphene. [Nature via Ars Technica]


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A weird black ring appeared in the sky in England and then disappeared

Source: http://sploid.gizmodo.com/a-weird-black-ring-appeared-in-the-sky-in-england-and-t-1563234883/+caseychan

A weird black ring appeared in the sky in England and then disappeared

This is bizarre. A 16-year-old girl saw a giant black ring in the sky above England and captured it on video. After three minutes of floating around like a cloud, the black ring disappeared completely. So far, experts have no idea what it was.



Friday, April 4, 2014

This beautiful newly-discovered species is about to disappear soon

Source: http://sploid.gizmodo.com/this-beautiful-newly-discovered-species-is-about-to-dis-1558049431/+jesusdiaz

This beautiful newly-discovered species is about to disappear soon

"Just described 'microjewel' snail in extinction danger," announces NewScientist. Every time I see a headline like that and I look a the picture, it really makes me sad. Just admire that beautiful, delicate little beast. Which secrets will this soon-to-be-gone species take away with it?



This Sustainable Home In Silicon Valley Is The Perfect Alternative To A McMansion [PHOTOS]

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/sustainable-silicon-valley-home-2014-4

low rise house

To many observers, Silicon Valley is the land of cookie-cutter developments and massive McMansions. But a recently completed home in the area could provide a useful model to change that.

Situated on a half-acre lot in Menlo Park, the "Low/Rise house" is an impressive example of sustainable living. The house uses a number of energy-efficient techniques, including radiant floor heating and hidden solar panels that generate 90% of the home's energy.  

"Given the great advances of technology emerging from Silicon Valley, architectural innovation surprisingly lags behind. The house is intended as a counter proposal to the suburban McMansion, the sprawling suburban developments that represent costly wasted space, resources, and energy," Dan Spiegel, founding partner of San Francisco-based Spiegel Aihara Workshop, said to Business Insider. "The Low/Rise House proposes a more responsive, flexible approach to the single family home."

Spiegel designed the home for his parents, two professors at Stanford. It has some pretty amazing green features. 

The house is made up of two low structures that meet in the center.

A three-story guest tower rises on one end of the property. The owners can use an app to shut off the utilities in the separated structure so that it doesn't use too much power when unoccupied.

Solar panels on the roof generate 90% of the house's energy, but they're purposely hidden from view.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider