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Science


— Energy

Carbon dioxide from the air converted into methanol

The danger posed by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has seen many schemes proposed to remove a proportion it from the air. Rather than simply capture this greenhouse gas and bury it in the ground, though, many experiments have managed to transform CO2 into useful things like carbon nanofibers or even fuels, such as diesel. Unfortunately, the over-arching problem with many of these conversions is the particularly high operating temperatures that require almost counterproductive amounts of energy to produce relatively low yields of fuel. Now researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) claim to have devised a way to take CO2 directly from the air and convert it into methanol using much lower temperatures and in a correspondingly simpler way.

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— Biology

Bedbug genome decoded in hopes of destroying the tiny blood suckers

"Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite." The relevance of that little bedtime rhyme is growing, with every continent except Antarctica having experienced a resurgence of the critters during the past two decades. Combine that with the fact that bedbugs are becoming more and more resistant to insecticides meant to destroy them, and you can see how serious the issue is becoming. Fortunately scientists have just taken a key step in stopping the bitty blood suckers in their tracks – they've decoded the entire bedbug genome.

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— Space

New Horizons sheds light on Pluto's floating hills

NASA has released a new image taken by the New Horizons spacecraft as it sped past the dwarf planet Pluto, displaying the locations of a number of "floating hills" composed of water ice. It is believed that these mobile peaks broke away from the highlands bordering a region known as Sputnik Planum, and subsequently carried with the flow of the nitrogen ice glaciers.

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— Space

Sorry, but there are no giant caverns inside Rosetta comet

A new study spearheaded by researchers from the Rheinische Institut für Umweltforschung an der Universität zu Köln, Germany, has used data collected by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft to establish that the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P) is devoid of any large interior caverns. It had previously been theorized that the relatively low mass of the comet in regard to its volume may have resulted from cavernous hollows within the celestial wanderer.

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— Medical

Genomic signature could lead to new early-detection cancer test

Detecting cancer when it's still in the early stages of development is a difficult task, but an extremely important one, with the chances of effective treatment being much higher the quicker it's caught. Now, a team of researchers from the National Institute of Health (NIH) has identified a signature of tumor DNA that occurs, and is detectable, in five different cancers – a discovery that could lead to a simple early detection blood test.

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— Energy

Sodium battery contains solution to water desalination

Much scientific effort goes into shoring up both our energy and water supplies for the future, but what if both problems could be addressed by the same technology? Researchers at the University of Illinois have come up with a new battery design that not only relies on salt water to store and release electricity, but removes the salt ions from the water in the process.

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— Materials

Shape memory alloys the basis for more efficient refrigerant-free cooling

By preserving our food and keeping our buildings comfortable in hot weather, mechanical cooling systems have been a boon, but with their refrigerant gases and high power consumption they're not exactly environmentally friendly. In an effort to make a greener, more energy efficient cooling system, a team of engineers from Germany's Saarland University is turning to shape memory materials to replace the refrigerant gases used in conventional cooling technologies.

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