MIT engineers just unveiled living, glowing plants

December 13, 2017 by  
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Glowing plants might sound like the stuff of science fiction – but a team of MIT researchers just grew a crop of watercress that emits emit dim light for almost four hours. Postdoctoral researcher Seon-Yeong Kwak led a team of engineers and scientists to instill the plants with the same enzyme that makes fireflies sparkle. MIT chemical engineering professor Michael Strano said, “The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp – a lamp that you don’t have to plug in. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself.” Plant lamps or even tree street lights could brighten our world in the future thanks to recent research on glowing plants. The plants are illuminated by luciferase – the same enzyme that helps fireflies shine. Luciferase acts on the molecule luciferin to give off light. The team put these three components into nanoparticle carriers to get them to the correct part of a plant. The scientists showed they can also turn off the light by adding nanoparticles with a luciferase inhibitor, so they think they could eventually create plants that stop emitting light in response to conditions like sunlight. Related: 5 Bioluminescent Species that Light Up the World Past experiments to create light-emitting plants attempted to genetically engineer plants to express the gene for luciferase, according to MIT . But it’s a process that takes a lot of work for very dim light – and it’s often limited to just one plant type. The new MIT process can work on any kind of plant; so far the scientists have demonstrated it with watercress, kale, arugula, and spinach. They hope to be able to spray or paint the nanoparticles on leaves with future iterations, so trees or large plants could serve as light sources. The journal Nano Letters published the research online in November. Scientists from the University of California, Riverside and the University of California, Berkeley contributed to the work. + Nano Letters + MIT News Images via Seon-Yeong Kwak

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MIT engineers just unveiled living, glowing plants

Elon Musk shows first glimpse of the Boring Company tunnel beneath LA

November 1, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk just gave us a peek into the future with a new picture of The Boring Company’s tunnel under Los Angeles . He shared the picture snapped recently on social media, and it seems the project started less than a year ago is well underway. In an image that looks straight out of science fiction, Musk shared a glimpse of what The Boring Company has been up to in Los Angeles. They’ve been anything but idle: the startup has built a tunnel for transportation beneath the city notorious for traffic woes. Musk shared the picture of the tunnel on Twitter on October 28, and said it had been taken the day before. Related: Elon Musk’s Boring Company receives green light to dig a two-mile test tunnel Picture of The Boring Company LA tunnel taken yesterday pic.twitter.com/TfdVKyXFsJ — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2017 Musk said on Twitter the tunnel is 500-feet-long right now, and in three to four months, will be two miles long, “and hopefully stretch the whole 405 N-S corridor from LAX to the 101 in a year or so.” Musk provided more detail on his Instagram, according to Twitter user Kilian/0strich, who shared a screenshot of Musk’s Instagram comment saying, “First route will go roughly parallel to the 405 from LAX to the 101, with on/offramps every mile or so. It will work like a fast freeway, where electric skates carrying vehicles and people pods on the main artery travel at up to 150mph, and the skates switch to side tunnels to exit and enter. This is a big difference compared to subways that stop at every stop, whether you’re getting off or not.” The Boring Company explains on their Frequently Asked Questions page that an electric skate is a “fast plate on wheels propelled by an electric motor.” The zero-emissions, autonomous vehicles can transport goods or automobiles – and if a vacuum shell is added, can become a Hyperloop pod. + The Boring Company Images via The Boring Company and Depositphotos

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Elon Musk shows first glimpse of the Boring Company tunnel beneath LA

Solar Impulse co-founder aims to make electric aviation a reality with new company

April 19, 2017 by  
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Electric high-speed trains have been zipping passengers across Europe and Asia for decades. Now the era of affordable electric cars is beginning with the introduction of the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3. But what about aviation? Could the friendly skies one day join electric trains and cars as an alternative to fossil-fueled transportation, which is polluting the air and contributing to climate change?  Solar Impulse ’s co-founder André Borschberg is aiming to make electric propulsion in the aviation industry a reality with a new company he co-founded, H55 . “Electric air transport will undoubtedly disrupt the aviation industry,” said Borschberg. “15 years ago, when I started with Solar Impulse, electric propulsion was anecdotal. Today it is a major development path of every large aeronautical organisation as well as attracting many start-ups and new players. What is science fiction today will be the reality of tomorrow.” Related: Solar Impulse successfully completes solar-powered flight around the world The Switzerland-based venture will focus on the entire propulsion chain — from the energy source to thrust and power to pilot interface and control systems. H55 has already successfully completed more than 50 hours of flight testing with its electric demonstrator aircraft, aEro1. Borschberg piloted eight of the 17 legs of Solar Impulse 2’s around-the-world flight, including flying for five days and five nights non-stop over the Pacific Ocean — the longest flight ever recorded in a single-pilot airplane. Solar Impulse 2 departed Abu Dhabi in March 2015, returning there in July 2016 after flying around the world (including a nine-month delay for technical repairs). + H55 Images via H55

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Scientists use Martian dust to 3D print tools

April 19, 2017 by  
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Food and transportation aren’t the only aspects of a mission to Mars scientists must consider. Limited cargo space means to obtain tools or similar items, astronauts may need to make use of resources available on the red planet – like dirt. Four Northwestern University researchers were recently able to utilize a Martian dust simulant to 3D print building blocks and tools . NASA started looking into space 3D printers back in 2013 to manufacture repair parts or tools. Now Northwestern scientists have used lunar and Martian dust simulants approved by NASA to 3D print tools in a process the university described as simple, scalable, and sustainable. Related: 6 space farming projects that could save the human race The researchers drew on a technique they call a 3D-painting process; engineer Ramille Shah said using 3D paints “really open up the ability to print different functional or structural objects to make habitats beyond Earth.” They’ve created a 3D ink and printing method they’ve used to print 3D graphene and hyperelastic “bone.” They made their 3D paints for this project with simple solvents, biopolymer, and the dusts, which are similar to real Martian and lunar dust in terms of composition and particle size and shape. The structures they printed are more than 90 percent dust by weight. The 3D-printed material is flexible, tough, and elastic, kind of like rubber. It can be shaped, folded, cut, or rolled. In addition to tools the team 3D-printed interlocking bricks Shah said are like LEGOS . According to Northwestern, “…this work highlights the potential to use a single 3D printer on another planet to create structures from all kinds of materials.” The journal Nature Scientific Reports published the research online in late March. Shah and another Northwestern professor, who was not a co-author on this paper, are working together on ways to fire the 3D-painted objects in a furnace to make them harder – more like ceramic. Via Treehugger and Northwestern University Images via Northwestern University and Wikimedia Commons

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Scientists use Martian dust to 3D print tools

Petey Ulatans cubic landscapes reimagine the world full of sharp angles

August 8, 2016 by  
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Ulatan’s artistic interpretation of the world as a cube is not the same treatment as taking other round objects and making them cubic, such as the cube-shaped watermelons grown in Japan. Rather, his vision reflects something closer to science fiction, where Earth’s corners face inward to create exceptionally geometric valleys that defy gravity. Ulatan, who unveiled his cubist world in a series of curious images on Instagram , bends a number of familiar scenes at 90-degree angles, making for some very interesting—and head turning—possibilities. Related: Artist uses spider webs to create spellbinding cubes of eerie art The squared-off world of Ulatan’s creations takes everything we know about the Earth’s physical attributes and turns them, well, sideways. A sailboat can now not only glide along the water’s surface, but can also take a 90-degree turn up or down. Smoke flowing up from a factory’s stacks might spew from two different planes, intersecting at a sharp angle. A relaxing day by the lake may require folks to crane their neck in order to get a view across the water, as the vantage point reaches straight down from a drop-off. Ulatan’s cubic world doesn’t need to explain its bizarre physics or impossible gravity . It doesn’t require an explanation of how its shape came to be. Rather, his series of manipulated images serves a more esoteric purpose, which is to inspire people to look at the world in a different way. + Petey Ulatan’s website + Petey Ulatan on Instagram Via Architectural Digest Images via Petey Ulatan

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Petey Ulatans cubic landscapes reimagine the world full of sharp angles

BMW’s crazy shape-shifting future car is straight out of a science fiction movie

March 7, 2016 by  
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New photos of Disneyland’s Star Wars park unveiled

February 23, 2016 by  
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New 3D cartoon Planet Blue uses laughter and adventure to help kids save the planet

February 23, 2016 by  
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No, the Zika Virus wasn’t caused by genetically engineered mosquitoes

February 10, 2016 by  
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The World Health Organization and other global health groups have responded to rumors that the recent outbreak of Zika virus stemmed from the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Brazil. Experts are dismissing the notion, saying there is no evidence to support that GM mosquitoes had anything to do with the rampant spread of the virus, which causes birth defects. Although the rumor has all the sensationalism of a science fiction thriller, the facts simply don’t add up. Read the rest of No, the Zika Virus wasn’t caused by genetically engineered mosquitoes

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100 million roses grown for Valentine’s Day produce 9,000 metric tons of CO2

February 10, 2016 by  
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Roses may be red, but they’re definitely not green according to research from Scientific American . As millions of partners exchange bunches of red roses in the run up to Valentine’s Day , they may want to consider that the traditional flower of love has an environmental impact worse than most other crops. In fact, according to environmental flower site Flowerpetal.com , the 100 million roses grown for a typical Valentine’s Day in the US produce some 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Read the rest of 100 million roses grown for Valentine’s Day produce 9,000 metric tons of CO2

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