News, Renewable Energy, Technology

Stanford scientists split water with device that runs on an ordinary AAA battery

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Researchers from Stanford have found a way to split water into oxygen and hydrogen using very little energy; the hydrogen they obtain could be used to power fuel cells in zero-emissions vehicles. I’m quite excited for cars that run on hydrogen, which are set to hit the market in 2015; but while they are always presented as “zero emission cars”, many of the hydrogen cars will actually use hydrogen obtained with natural gas – which is still a fossil fuel and still has considerable emissions. Hopefully, that will only be a temporary stage, and pretty soon, manufacturers will move on to greener, more sustainable solutions – like this project from Stanford University….

Nanotechnology, News, Technology

Programmed to Fold: RNA Origami

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A team of researchers from the Aarhus University in Denmark and CalTech has developed an origami-inspired method of organizing molecules on the nanoscale. The team has modeled RNA, DNA’s close cousin into complicated shapes using the technique. Together with DNA, RNA comprises the nucleic acids, which, along with proteins, constitute the three major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life. DNA origami is not a novel technique, but RNA origami is, and the process of creating the two is fundamentally different. While with DNA, you chemically synthesize it and then arrange it into any shape you want, with RNA, you have to fold up its components as you synthesize them -…

Design, News, Technology

Ultra-white beetle could inspire next generation of paper and paints

Image via Cambridge University.

The physical properties of the ultra-white scales on certain species of beetle could inspire researchers to make better, whiter paper, plastics or paint, using far less material. The Cyphochilus beetle, native to South-East Asia, is whiter than paper or even milk teeth. The whiteness of its body is caused by a thin layer of a highly reflective natural photonic solid in its scales. A new team investigation the beetle and its scales found that the white scales are able to scatter light more efficiently than any other known biological mechanism, which is how they are able to achieve such a whiteness. In nature, there are several animals which are very white;…

Inventions, Technology

Graphene rubber bands: flexible, low-cost body sensors

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Graphene, the wonder material shows its potential once again: now, using graphene and rubber bands, engineers have created a flexible sensor which has significant medical value and can be made cheaply. You really should know about graphene by now – we’ve written dozens of articles about it just in the past couple of years; but if you don’t, here’s your get out of jail card: graphene  is pure carbon in the form of a very thin, nearly transparent sheet, just 1 atom thick. It’s so thin, that for practical purposes, you can almost consider it a 2D material. Now, there’s a lot of hype around graphene, and for good reason: it…

Inventions, News

Engineers create the first unstealable bike

Image via Yerka.

Depending on where you live, bike stealing can be a distant threat or a constant worry, but in most parts of the world, people would rather be safe than sorry, tying their bikes to trees or fences or whatever they could find. But that may very well change in the near future: three engineers from Chile have developed a bike which they claim is impossible to steal. The Yerka Project is a currently a prototype which runs around and shows the frame of the bike unlatching so that, along with the seat post, the bike frame itself can close around a stationary object. Basically, the frame of the bike itself…

Inventions, News, Technology

UK project brings us closer to Mach5 air travel

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If you thought research in airplanes only applies to the military, you’re wrong. While most of the money spent for airplane research does go to the military, a smaller chunk of it goes to space research, and another part goes to private air travel. Now, a company from the UK has almost developed an engine that would make the legendary Concorde look like a slowpoke – promising airplanes that could travel 5 times faster than the speed of sound. The planes they are proposing look weird, to say the least. They’re very futuristic; they have no windows, have much smaller wings than you’d expect, and a really strange engine. But…

Health & Medicine, Technology

Chicago Twitter bot helps officials find dirty restaurants

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I just love it when technology can help solve social problems – especially in cases where you wouldn’t expect it to, like for example in Chicago, where a Twitter bot is helping authorities find dirty restaurants. If you’ve eaten out, and after that you feel a bit sick, like say you have an indigestion or a bad stomach – who are you gonna tell ? There are many city hotlines or authorities you can tell, but most people don’t use them. Most people just complain online, and what better place to complain than on Twitter? So, in a recent project, the city of Chicago sought food poisoning cases by setting…

Inventions, News, Technology

Robot successfully hitchhikes 6000 km across Canada

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Canada’s most famous (and from what I can find, only) beer-cooler turned hitchhiking robot has finally completed its 6,000-kilometre journey across Canada, blazing rides from Halifax reaching Victoria late Saturday; and he did it with style: I’m on a boat. Well, a ferry to be exact. Victoria, I’m on my way. #hitchBOT @BCFerries pic.twitter.com/SPewf9rIq1 — hitchBOT (@hitchBOT) August 16, 2014 In case you’re not aware, hitchBOT is a chatty, social media-savvy robot, about the size of a six-year-old child, which was made using pool noodles, an old beer cooler bucket, Wellington boots, rubber gloves, solar panels and a computerized “brain.” He was created in order to “explore topics in human-robot-interaction and to test…

Chemistry, Health & Medicine, News, Research

Killing cancer with salt: chlorine payload brings destruction to cancer cells

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A group of international researchers have demonstrated a novel technique for destroying cancer cells. By inserting a chloride payload that penetrates the cancer cell’s sodium membrane, the cells become flushed with salt causing a self-destruction response. …

Chemistry, Materials, News

Copper foam turns CO2 into useful chemicals

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Brown University researchers reported the development of a copper foam which could turn CO2 into useful chemicals such as formic acid – a preservative and antibacterial agent in livestock feed. As CO2 emissions continue to grow, scientists are trying to find potential uses to it. The problem with carbon dioxide is that it is extremely stable, so breaking it and making useful industrial chemicals is no easy feat. The catalyst they made from copper foam has “vastly different properties” from catalysts made with smooth copper in reactions involving carbon dioxide: “Copper has been studied for a long time as an electrocatalyst for CO2 reduction, and it’s the only metal shown…