Bio-friendly energy storage device draws electrical power from the human body

May 23, 2017 by  
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Humans are constantly on the go, so doesn’t it make sense to harness some of that kinetic energy ? Scientists from UCLA and the University of Connecticut asked themselves that question, which eventually led to them developing an energy-storing device that can draw electrical power from the human body. The biological supercapacitor is a protein-based battery-like device capable of extracting energy from the human body. A supercapacitor is a term used to describe a high-performance electrochemical capacitor (ECs), which is similar to batteries but has a much higher power density. Supercapacitors have faster char-discharge rates, lower internal resistance, higher power density and better cycling ability than batteries. Once energy is obtained by the newly-developed energy storage device, it is then released inside an electrical circuit which looks similar to an implantable medical device. According to the paper Ultrathin Graphene – Protein Supercapacitors for Miniaturized Bioelectronics , which was published earlier this month, the supercapacitor utilizes a “harvester” that operates by using the body’s heat and movements to capture electrical charges from ions, which are found in human body fluids including blood and urine. Bleeping Computer reports , “As electrodes, the harvester uses a carbon nanomaterial called graphene, layered with modified human proteins. The electrodes collect energy from the human body , relay it to the harvester, which then stores it for later use.” Graphene sheets can be drawn as thin as a few atoms, which means the incredibly thin supercapacitors could potentially serve as alternatives to batteries. Related: Researchers close in on world’s first 100% self-charging lithium-ion battery Most importantly, the supercapacitors are bio-friendly , as they are made with natural materials. Graphene is composed of carbon, whereas current implantable medical devices are powered by classic batteries that contain toxic materials. Because the new device is thinner than a human hair, it is more flexible than traditional batteries, as well. This technology could have far-reaching implications for the medical industry. Researchers believe that an implantable medical device using a supercapacitor could last a lifetime. In result, patients wouldn’t need to go through operations at regular intervals to replace batteries – one of the main complications with implantable medical devices. In addition to being used with pacemakers, the new energy device could be paired with devices that stimulate other organs, such as the brain, stomach and/or bladder. + UCLA Via Bleeping Computer Images via Islam Mosa/University of Connecticut and Maher El-Kady/UCLA , Pixabay

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Bio-friendly energy storage device draws electrical power from the human body

90-million-year-old embryo from ‘exceedingly rare’ Gigantoraptor discovered

May 10, 2017 by  
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Twenty-five years ago, a mysterious egg was discovered. For a good portion of that time, the unknown specimen that failed to hatch has been studied by paleontologists of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Finally, the dinosaur embryo has been identified and given a scientific name, and researchers say the discovery is more profound than they once thought. The study, published on May 9 in the journal Nature Communications , was co-led by researcher Darla Zelenitsky, an assistant professor of paleontology. She told Live Science in an email, “This is the first embryo known for a giant oviraptorosaur, dinosaurs that are exceedingly rare.” Additionally, it is the second known giant oviraptorosaur (B. sinensis) on record. 15 inches in length (38 centimeters), the embryo would have developed into a gigantic bird-like dinosaur with a toothless beak and a crest on top of its head. Another name for the dinosaur is Gigantoraptor, as it was a beast that stood as tall as 16 ft (5 meters). Reportedly, the two-legged dinosaurs look like modern-day cassowaries – large, flightless birds that live in Australia. Researchers believe B. sinensis measured up to 26 feet long from its snout to the end of its tail and weighed up to 6,600 lbs (3,000 kg) by the age of 11. This means it would have been 9 lbs by the time it hatched. The fossilized embryo was discovered by a Chinese farmer in Henan Province in 1992. One year later, it was exported to the U.S. by The Stone Co., a Colorado firm that sells fossils and rocks. After word spread that the embryo had been discovered, National Geographic featured it on a magazine cover in 1996. Related: World’s largest dinosaur footprint found in Australia’s “Jurassic Park” Enthralled by the discovery, people began calling the dinosaur embryo “Baby Louie.” The embryo representing a new species was eventually repatriated to China (2013) and put on display at the Henan Geological Museum. There, researchers flocked to study the intriguing discovery. After years of speculation and research, the 90-million-year-old embryo has finally been identified. + Nature Communications Via Live Science

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90-million-year-old embryo from ‘exceedingly rare’ Gigantoraptor discovered

Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

May 10, 2017 by  
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5.5 million people died prematurely because of air pollution back in 2013 – and half of those people lived in India or China. Air pollution continues to plague people around the world today, but now researchers from KU Leuven and the University of Antwerp have found a way to transform that dirty air into energy . They designed an air purifying device able to fit in a person’s hand that only needs light to work. The groundbreaking device houses two small chambers divided by a membrane. In one chamber air is purified; in the other hydrogen gas is generated. Nanomaterials in the device act as catalysts to both break down pollution and produce the gas. Scientist Sammy Verbruggen of both institutions, who’s lead author on a study published recently about the device in ChemSusChem , said the hydrogen gas can be stored and used as fuel in the future. Related: 9-year-old girl sues Indian government for climate change inaction According to KU Leuven, the processes underlying the device are akin to the workings of solar panels: “The difference here is that electricity is not generated directly, but rather that air is purified while the generated power is stored as hydrogen gas.” The higher the concentration of pollutants in the air, the stronger the electrical currents, according to the researchers, which means cities like Los Angeles, Beijing, and Delhi could really benefit from the technology . Verbruggen emphasized to Mic their device is just first proof of the concept, but could open up options in the future. Verbruggen told Mic, “There’s still a lot of work to do to make this applicable to daily life. It’s not like we discovered the holy grail yet. But this is a new field of opportunities.” The scientists are working to scale up their device and improve their materials to draw on sunlight more efficiently to set off the reactions. Via Mic and KU Leuven Images © UAntwerpen and KU Leuven and via Pixabay

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Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

Scientists warn thawing soil could suddenly unleash deadly pathogens unseen in centuries

May 8, 2017 by  
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Humans have fought viruses for centuries. We struck a temporary winning blow with the discovery of penicillin, but now we’re watching bacteria develop antibiotic resistance . But what if we were exposed to viruses that have been dormant for millennia? As climate change melts permafrost , the frozen soil could suddenly release ancient, deadly bacteria and viruses that humanity hasn’t had to deal with for thousands of years. 2016 saw a case of an illness trapped inside ice being released to harm people . A 12-year-old boy died and around 20 people were hospitalized with anthrax in August 2016 in the Siberian tundra. Researchers think the anthrax came from a reindeer that died more than 75 years ago and was trapped under permafrost, but when that permafrost thawed in a 2016 heat wave, the anthrax was released. And researchers fear this may not be the last time such an event occurs. Related: Dramatic disintegration of Canada permafrost threatens huge carbon release Jean-Michel Claverie, an evolutionary biologist at France’s Aix-Marseille University, told the BBC, “Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark. Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past.” Over a million reindeer perished due to anthrax in the early 20th century. Most of their carcasses rest near the surface in 7,000 burial grounds in Russia. But even more than the anthrax, researchers fear other diseases that might be lurking in the permafrost. Scientists found pieces of RNA from the Spanish flu in bodies buried in the Alaskan tundra in mass graves. They think the bubonic plague and smallpox could hide in Siberian permafrost. But some bacteria won’t come back to life. So some people argue we should be more concerned about threats we know for sure climate change will unleash. Claverie says there’s a non-zero probability dormant microbes could come back to life and harm us. He told the BBC, “How likely that is is not known, but it’s a possibility. It could be bacteria that are curable with antibiotics, or resistant bacteria, or a virus. If the pathogen hasn’t been in contact with humans for a long time, then our immune system would not be prepared.” Via the BBC Images via NPS Climate Change Response on Flickr and Pixabay

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Scientists warn thawing soil could suddenly unleash deadly pathogens unseen in centuries

Dutch scientists zero in on pothole cure

May 5, 2017 by  
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Potholes plague roads around the world. These pits are annoying for drivers, but even worse, those that haven’t been well maintained may cause as much as a third of all deaths on highways. So scientists in the Netherlands are investigating materials able to repair themselves, and have zeroed in on asphalt and concrete . Many roads are laid with asphalt. The material is porous, which is both a blessing and a curse: the pores absorb noise but also lead to cracks and potholes. Materials scientist Erik Schlangen , chair of Experimental MicroMechanics at Delft University of Technology , is working on self-healing asphalt. He mixed steel fibers with asphalt to make the material conductive, and then when a large induction machine is run over the asphalt, heat helps close any cracks. The Verge pointed out since the machine is necessary, the asphalt isn’t entirely self-healing, but it does allow for easier repairs. Related: INFOGRAPHIC: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Need to Improve Self-healing asphalt is undergoing testing on 12 roads in the Netherlands; one has been open since 2010 and all are in excellent condition. Regular asphalt roads tend to stay in good condition for seven to 10 years, however, so Schlangen said in upcoming years the difference will be clearer. He said self-healing asphalt could be 25 percent more expensive than typical asphalt, but could last twice as long. One estimate put the Netherlands’ savings with the self-healing asphalt roads at 90 million Euros every single year. And asphalt isn’t the only material with which scientists are innovating. Schlangen’s team is also looking at adding bacteria to concrete to make it self-healing as well. Bacteria produce calcium carbonate to fill in cracks. Schlangen said these bacteria can live for over 200 years in nature, so they’ll last for the lifetime of concrete. They also don’t harm humans. The scientists have applied the material to some structures and are working to improve it. Via The Verge Images via Pixabay and Alan Stanton on Flickr

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Energy-generating ‘artificial plants’ turn greenhouse gases into clean air

April 27, 2017 by  
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Groundbreaking research from scientists at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Florida State University could help in the fight against climate change . The researchers were able to trigger photosynthesis in metal-organic frameworks (MOF) with a little help from blue light , and the process turned carbon dioxide (CO2) into solar fuel . UCF assistant professor Fernando Uribe-Romo described the find as a breakthrough. Scientists have been seeking such a breakthrough for years. The trick is getting visible light to set off the chemical reaction; ultraviolet rays can do it but only comprise four percent of the light hitting Earth from the sun. Most materials that can absorb visible light to set off the reaction are too expensive or rare. The Florida scientists, however, found they could use the common nontoxic metal titanium added with organic molecules that can be designed to absorb certain colors of light. Uribe-Romo set them up to absorb blue light. Related: MIT Scientists Create Artificial Solar Leaf That Can Power Homes The team tested the MOF inside a photoreactor – or glowing blue cylinder lined with LED lights to mimic blue wavelengths shining from the sun – and the resulting chemical reaction turned CO2 into solar fuel. Uribe-Romo said, “The idea would be to set up stations that capture large amounts of CO2, like next to a power plant . The gas would be sucked into the station, go through the process, and recycle the greenhouse gases while producing energy that would be put back into the power plant.” He said it may even be possible for the material to be put in rooftop shingles to both clean the air and generate energy usable for homeowners. He aims to keep working with the synthetic material and see if different wavelengths of visible light can set off the reaction. The Journal of Materials Chemistry A published the find online earlier this month. Via The Independent and EurekAlert! Images via UCF: Bernard Wilchusky and University of Central Florida

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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

World’s first full-size IBC bifacial solar module takes in light from both sides

April 13, 2017 by  
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What if both sides of a solar panel could take in light? That’s the idea pursued by researchers at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS), National University of Singapore , and Germany’s International Solar Energy Research Center Konstanz . They’ve succeeded in developing and fabricating the first full-size interdigitated back contact (IBC) bifacial solar module in the world. The groundbreaking module could last longer and generate more power than the conventional variety. The team’s new bifacial solar module could offer better, more efficient solar energy in the near future. It can absorb light on both its front and back sides. Their prototype was made with bifacial ZEBRA IBC solar cells, which have an efficiency of up to 22 percent. According to SERIS CEO Armin Aberle, these IBC cells are known for reliability and durability. Related: New bifacial solar module takes advantage of direct and reflected sunlight Double- glass insulation enclosing the module means its warranty could be longer than most solar modules: 30 years or even more. And since the cells are bifacial – the researchers report a bifaciality of 75 percent – the module can produce up to 30 percent more power . SERIS’ PV Module Cluster Director Wang Yan said, “With SERIS’ new module design, panels with 350 watts front-side power can be made with 60 23 percent efficient screen-printed IBC cells. Considering an additional 20 percent of power via the panel’s transparent rear surface, each 60-cell IBC bifacial module will produce a stunning 400 watts of power in the real world.” The revolutionary solar module will be displayed at the upcoming International Photovoltaic Power Generation Conference & Exhibition from April 19 to 21 in Shanghai, China. Aberle said, “The module technology offers world-class front side power while providing free extra power from the rear side.” He said the next step is transferring the technology to industrial partners, and the product could be on the market in around two years. Via Phys.org Images via Solar Research Institute of Singapore

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World’s first full-size IBC bifacial solar module takes in light from both sides

Scientists capture first ever image of dark matter web that connects galaxies

April 12, 2017 by  
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For the first time ever, scientists have captured an image of a dark matter bridge, confirming the theory that galaxies are held together by a cosmic web. Until now, the massive dark matter web was hidden to us, but using a series of individual images to create a composite, researchers have identified the elusive cosmic connector. Dark matter makes up about a quarter of the universe, but it is difficult for us to detect it because it doesn’t reflect or shine light. But using a technique called weak gravitational lensing, researchers were able to identify distortions of distant galaxies as they are influenced by a large, unseen mass, such as dark matter. Related: Newly discovered ‘ghost galaxy’ full of dark matter is as big as the Milky Way The scientists looked at more than 23,000 galaxy pairs to create a composite image that shows the dark matter web for the first time. Researchers published their findings in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . “By using this technique, we’re not only able to see that these dark matter filaments in the universe exist, we’re able to see the extent to which these filaments connect galaxies together,” said Seth D. Epps, one of the scientists, along with Michael J. Hudson, who completed the research. via Phys.org images via Epps and Hudson, The weak-lensing masses of filaments between luminous red galaxies

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Scientists capture first ever image of dark matter web that connects galaxies

Drones weave moth-inspired pavilion from carbon fiber threads

April 12, 2017 by  
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The buildings of the future could be built with the help of drones . The unmanned aerial vehicles were put to the test in the University of Stuttgart’s latest robotically constructed pavilion, the cantilevering ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2016-17. Inspired by leaf miner moths, the biomimetic pavilion is lightweight yet incredibly strong and is made from 184 kilometers of resin-impregnated glass and carbon fiber. Created as part of a series of digitally fabricated pavilions, the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2016-17 explores the potential of fiber composite materials in architecture and scalable fabrication processes. Spanning twelve meters in length, the cantilevering research pavilion has a surface area of approximately 40 square meters that weighs 1,000 kilograms. Its woven design draws inspiration from the silk “hammocks” spun by the larvae of leaf miner moths. The pavilion was constructed with two different types of robots : flying drones and stationary machines. Two stationary machines were set up on the far points of the pavilion and were equipped with industrial robotic arms strong enough to wind the carbon fiber threads. The drones were used to pass the fiber between the two stationary machines. The two types of robots communicated without the need for human intervention using an integrated sensor interface that collected real-time data. Related: Robots weave an insect-inspired carbon-fiber forest in London “The pavilion’s overall geometry demonstrates the possibilities for fabricating structural morphologies through multi-stage volumetric fibre winding, reducing unnecessary formwork through an integrated bending-active composite frame, and increasing the possible scale and span of construction through integrating robotic and autonomous lightweight UAV fabrication processes,” wrote the interdisciplinary team. “The prototypical pavilion is a proof-of-concept for a scalable fabrication processes of long-span, fibre composite structural elements, suitable for architectural applications.” + University of Stuttgart ICD Photographs by Burggraf / Reichert

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