Meet your gadget’s next power supply: you

February 13, 2018 by  
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No power outlet? No problem. Juicing up your gadgets may soon be as easy as lifting your finger. Scientists from the University at Buffalo and the Institute of Semiconductors at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a tiny metallic tab, known as a a triboelectric nanogenerator, that can generate electricity from simple bodily movements,” said Qiaoqiang Gan, associate professor of electrical engineering in the University of Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “No one likes being tethered to a power outlet or lugging around a portable charger. The human body is an abundant source of energy. We thought: ‘Why not harness it to produce our own power?’” Triboelectric charging, also known as the triboelectric effect, occurs when certain materials become electrically charged after rubbing against a different material. Most everyday static electricity, for instance, is triboelectricity, Gan said. As described in a study that was published online January 31 in the journal Nano Energy , the 1.5-by-1-centimeter tab comprises two thin layers of gold separated by a sliver of polydimethylsiloxane, the same silicon-based polymer found in contact lenses and Silly Putty. Stretching the layers of gold sparks friction with the PDMS. Relatd: 6 human-powered gadgets to improve your life “This causes electrons to flow back and forth between the gold layers. The more friction, the greater the amount of power is produced,” said Yun Xu, professor of IoP at CAS, one of the study’s authors. So far, researchers have been able to deliver a maximum voltage of 124 volts, a maximum current of 10 microamps and a maximum power density of 0.22 millwatts per square centimeter—not enough to charge a smartphone just yet, but a promising start nonetheless. Because the tab is easy to fabricate in a cost-effective way, Gan and his team plan to experiment with larger pieces of gold to generate more electricity. The scientists are also working on developing a portable battery to store energy produced by the tab. Their eventual goal? To create a power source for a raft of wearable self-powered electronic devices, Gan said. + University at Buffalo Lead photo by Unsplash

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Meet your gadget’s next power supply: you

Chernobyl’s abandoned dogs create their own exclusion zone community

February 6, 2018 by  
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If you ever happen to visit Chernobyl , you might run across one of the around 300 stray dogs that reside there. After the 1986 disaster, residents weren’t allowed to bring their pets away with them, and many dogs were left behind. Today, their descendants still roam the area, and while their life isn’t easy, The Guardian reports they are “a playful example of global kindness and cooperation.” Around 300 stray dogs reside in the 2,600 square kilometer – or around 1,004 square mile – exclusion zone at Chernobyl in Ukraine . The Chernobyl Prayer, an oral history of the time, talks about “dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages.” Soldiers went in to shoot the abandoned animals ; The Guardian reports some heartbroken families pinned notes on their doors asking the squads not to kill their pets. Related: China is building a giant solar plant at Chernobyl Some dogs did survive, and it’s their descendants who live there today. Their lives are short and hard – with “increased levels of radiation in their fur” and a diminished life expectancy. Many of the animals don’t live past six years old, according to The Guardian. But here’s where the hope comes in: guards have created small huts for dogs residing near checkpoints. United States nonprofit organization Clean Futures Fund put up three veterinary clinics nearby – one is inside the plant. They’re vaccinating and neutering the dogs, and handle emergencies. You can read more about their work and donate here . Chernobyl tour company Solo East Travel guide Nadezhda Starodub told The Guardian visitors love the animals, and she does, too. There are no rules against touching them, and she just asks visitors to use the same common sense they would around strays. The dogs have come to serve as unofficial Chernobyl mascots. Via The Guardian Images courtesy of Solo East Travel

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Chernobyl’s abandoned dogs create their own exclusion zone community

An enormous amount of mercury is buried beneath the melting Arctic permafrost

February 6, 2018 by  
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Scientists have learned that a massive amount of mercury is currently encased within the Arctic permafrost — which could have significant ramifications for ecological and human health beyond the far North. “This discovery is a game-changer,” Paul Schuster, study lead author and hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder  told AGU . “We’ve quantified a pool of mercury that had not been done previously, and the results have profound implications for better understanding the global mercury cycle.” Of particular concern is the permafrost -enclosed mercury’s relationship to a warming climate. Schuster said, “There would be no environmental problem if everything remained frozen, but we know the Earth is getting warmer.” In a study published in  Geophysical Research Letters , a journal of the American Geophysical Union , scientists recorded mercury concentrations within permafrost cores in Alaska and extrapolated how much of it is estimated to have been trapped in northern permafrost since the last Ice Age. The researchers found that permafrost soils of the north contain the largest store of mercury on the planet, nearly twice as much as all other soils, the ocean, and the atmosphere combined. The mercury originally became trapped within the permafrost when atmospheric mercury bonded to organic material in the soil, then became frozen, stuck until melting. Related: Scientists puzzle over mysterious disappearance of mercury from Utah’s Great Salt Lake The release of large quantities of the element, which can negatively impact the reproductive and neurological health of animals , becomes more likely as the permafrost thaws. One concern is that it could contaminate waterways, where it could be absorbed by microorganisms and converted into methylmercury, a dangerously toxic form. While such a massive surge of mercury could affect ecosystems far south of the Arctic, its effects would be felt acutely by local communities. “Rural communities in Alaska and other northern areas have a subsistence lifestyle, making them vulnerable to methylmercury contaminating their food supply,” Edda Mutter, science director for the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, told AGU . “Food sources are important to the spiritual and cultural health of the natives, so this study has major health and economic implications for this region of the world.” To better understand the risks, the research team plans to produce another study that models the potential impact of the mercury’s release on the global mercury cycle and ecological health. Via AGU Images via  Schuster et al./GRL/AGU and Depositphotos

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An enormous amount of mercury is buried beneath the melting Arctic permafrost

The zero-electricity Gentlewasher does the laundry in five minutes flat

November 29, 2017 by  
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We’ve all been there – you need to wash just a few clothing items but you don’t have nearly enough for a full load of laundry . The gentlewasher offers a solution, washing clothes in five minutes with less water than washing machines and zero electricity . The hand-powered device can wash up to 12 T-shirts or eight dresses at a time, and it uses around 4.7 gallons of water – compare that to 13 gallons for an Energy Star washing machine, or 40 gallons for an older model washing machine. Need to wash delicates in a hurry? The gentlewasher makes hand-washing clothes a breeze. It’s easy to use: attach a water hose, put in clothes and a teaspoon of detergent, and start turning. After a two-minute wash cycle and two-minute rinse cycle, the garments are ready to hang-dry. The ergonomic handle ensures you won’t get too tired during the process. Related: 14-year-old girl invents pedal-powered washing machine from bike parts The gentlewasher lives up to its name, and it can actually prolong the life of your garments with the help of patented honeycomb holes that create a protective water layer so garments won’t come into contact with the drum. The company says that their product is the most sustainable and gentlest washing device for apparel ever. The company, based in the Netherlands, says results are “as good as a front-loading machine.” The gentlewasher is designed for clothes that should be washed by hand, but it can be used for all types of garments. It’s especially useful for people on the road – such as those traveling in an RV or camping. And it could even come in handy in between laundry loads or for cutting down trips to the laundromat for those living in tiny city apartments. The company says their mission is to “develop an affordable washing device for people around the world,” as five billion people worldwide still don’t have access to washing machines and must spend hours washing clothes. You can buy a gentlewasher online for $269. + gentlewasher Images courtesy of gentlewasher

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The zero-electricity Gentlewasher does the laundry in five minutes flat

BIG and WeWork reveal plans for interactive WeGrow kindergarten in New York City

November 29, 2017 by  
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International startup WeWork is expanding beyond its co-working roots with a public  kindergarten in New York City called WeGrow. The innovative school will be designed in collaboration  BIG Architects  and will provide an environment for education in an interactive space that focuses on introspection, exploration, and discovery. WeGrow will be a public elementary school for kids ages three to nine that aims to function as an environment where youngsters can experience hands-on and experiential learning. The first images of the space show wooden play areas, large grey pods for climbing and sitting, and several modular classrooms and treehouses that facilitate interaction. Related: 10 brilliant communal designs helping people work and live together WeWork claims that the new kindergarten will “focus as much on the growth of our children’s spirits as we will their minds.” References to various natural phenomena, as well as an element of futurism, permeate the new WeGrow concept, set to open its first location in Chelsea next autumn. “The design starts from the premise of a school universe at the level of the child: a field of super-elliptic objects forms a learning landscape that’s dense and rational – yet free and fluid,” said the firm. + BIG Architects Via Dezeen

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BIG and WeWork reveal plans for interactive WeGrow kindergarten in New York City

Scientists may have just found the chemical "missing link" for the origins of life on Earth

November 7, 2017 by  
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In attempting to recreate the conditions of Earth circa billions of years ago, a research team may have uncovered a key “missing link” in our knowledge of the origin of life on Earth. The discovery of diamidophosphate (DAP), a compound that may have been present in early Earth, is an exciting step forward in understanding how early life emerged from various ingredients and conditions. “It reminds me of the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, who waves a wand and ‘poof,’ ‘poof,’ ‘poof,’ everything simple is transformed into something more complex and interesting,” said Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy , senior author of the study published in  Nature Chemistry  and chemist at the Scripps Research Institute in California. The key to DAP’s “magic” is its ability to facilitate a process called phosphorylation, an essential process in the function of chemicals from neurotransmitters to proteins , and the linking of a particular compound with a phosphate. This process is very common in biochemistry and enables proteins, neurotransmitters and countless other chemicals to function within organic systems. To determine DAP’s fitness to facilitate the origins of life, the team checked DAP’s ability to phosphorylate with several crucial organic compounds. These included RNA, which is essential for the decoding and messaging of genetic information as well as protein synthesis, fatty acids, which make up cell membranes, and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Related: Researchers shocked to discover protein that conducts electricity All of the tested organic chemicals, when mixed with water and an additional chemical thought to be found on early Earth, successfully reacted with the DAP. While scientists lack the ability to truly know what early Earth was like, or whether the origin of life involved DAP, these experiments show one feasible path through which life could have developed. Via Newsweek Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Scientists may have just found the chemical "missing link" for the origins of life on Earth

The rise and fall of an American utility

August 5, 2017 by  
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A utility CEO faces the crisis of his life: transform a 33-year-old electric utility and succeed in the fast-changing U.S. energy landscape.

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The rise and fall of an American utility

Ride the Chair of Death on world’s highest cliff drop swing

August 4, 2017 by  
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Picture it: you jump off a cliff edge 360 feet in the air and plummet past the rocky cliff face until the tension catches, and then you careen across the canyon on the world’s craziest swing . If that sounds like your idea of a good time, then you need to check out the Shotover Canyon Swing in New Zealand – the world’s highest cliff drop. Riders hook onto a 650-foot cable before launching off the cliff. As you fall, you can reach speeds up to 90 mph until your free-fall is arrested by the cable. If stepping off the cliff side isn’t enough for you, you can also choose to ride a bicycle off the cliff, shoot off on a slide, or be tipped over in a plastic chair, known as the “chair of death.” Related: Amazing Tiny Treehouse Boasts the World’s Wildest Swing 8,350 Feet Above Sea Level! Once you master the art of the world’s highest cliff drop, you can add in the “Canyon Fox” option, where you are tethered to two lines 600 feet above the canyon floor. You launch yourself off a sloped ramp, falling until the tether catches you and tosses you across the canyon on a massive zip line . The entire experience, including Swing and Fox ride, will cost you a cool $299 and possibly 10 years off your life. + Canyon Swing Via Thrillist

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Ride the Chair of Death on world’s highest cliff drop swing

Self-inflating HEXA raft automatically deploys upon contact with water

January 2, 2017 by  
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At sea, situations often emerge where crew and passengers have to quickly evacuate the vessel, causing panic, and jeopardizing safety and organization. To help simplify such scenarios, designers Yoo JiIn and Lee Ji Sang created HEXA, a six-sided life raft that automatically activates upon contact with water. In order to be deployed, HEXA requires only that it be dropped in the water where it automatically self-inflates into a life-saving device. Six inflatable sections allow people to climb onto the raft. In addition to the efficiency of its design, the device also sends a RFID signal that can help rescue teams pin point its location. Related: The SeaKettle is a Raft + Water Purifier That Could Save Your Life Various survival supplies like food, drinkable water, flares and lifejackets are available inside the center of the pod, providing survivors with all the essential things which will allow them to survive while waiting to be rescued. Via Yanko Design

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Self-inflating HEXA raft automatically deploys upon contact with water

The world’s oldest panda in captivity dead at 38

October 18, 2016 by  
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Last Sunday, the world’s oldest panda in captivity passed away. Jia Jia spent her final day at Hong Kong ’s Ocean Park, which was home for the last 17 years of her life. At 38, she had far surpassed the natural life expectancy for pandas , becoming a kind of national celebrity and making her death that much harder for locals to bear. Jia Jia first came to Hong Kong in 1999. She and her mate An An, now 30 years old, created a widespread sensation upon their arrival. An An is currently the second oldest male panda in captivity. Pandas typically do not live past the age of 20 in the wild, and maybe a few years more than that when under human care. Ocean Park officials say her longevity is a testament to the devoted care she received there. Related: World’s oldest panda celebrates with cake and bamboo. Happy Birthday Jia Jia! Like any human who lived long enough to be 114 (Jia Jia’s age in human years), she began to succumb to physical maladies typical in old age. High blood pressure, arthritis, and cataracts were among the ailments that plagued her in her final years. Jia Jia had also suddenly lost weight and her appetite, prompting veterinarians to make the decision to ease her suffering and euthanize her early this week. Ocean Park chairman Leo Kung said, “(She) was a member of our family who spent 17 wonderful years with the Hong Kong people, and she will be deeply missed.” Rest in peace, Jia Jia. Via CNN Images via Wikimedia , Pixabay

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