One potential clean energy future requires an economical, efficient, and relatively simple way to generate copious amounts of hydrogen for use in fuel-cells and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Often achieved by using electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, the ideal method would be to mine hydrogen from water using electricity generated directly from sunlight without the addition of any external power source. Hematite – the mineral form of iron – used in conjunction with silicon has shown some promise in this area, but low conversion efficiencies have slowed research. Now scientists have discovered a way to make great improvements, giving hope to using two of the most abundant elements on earth to efficiently produce hydrogen.
If you had to grasp a tiny delicate object such as a blood vessel, doing
so with traditional tweezers would be a very painstaking process – just
a little too much pressure, and the object could be crushed. Instead,
scientists from Iowa State University have developed miniature coiling
tentacles for doing the job. They're even capable of holding an ant
without harming it.
Owls are exceptional predators. In addition to their impressive vision and hearing capabilities, they are also able to fly almost silently. This stealthy flight is thanks to the structure of their wings, which researchers have analyzed and mimicked to develop a prototype coating that they claim could significantly reduce the noise generated by wind turbines, computer fans and airplanes.
If you're one of those people who just can't find the time to fit everything you want to do into a day, then mark June 30 on your calendar. On that Tuesday you'll have a little extra time on your hands because, at precisely 23:59:59 GMT, the world's clocks will add a second to the day, making it 24 hours and one second long.
It's now fairly common to hear about batteries being used to store power
generated by solar cells. A group of Indian scientists, however, have
eliminated the middleman. They've created a battery that incorporates a
titanium nitride-based photoanode in place of a conventional anode,
allowing the battery to charge itself using solar or artificial light.
It has been a long-held belief in scientific circles that many creatures navigate across land, through water, and through the skies using the Earth’s magnetic field for guidance. Now scientists and engineers working at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) have finally discovered the organic mechanism responsible for this in an animal. Looking just like a microscopic TV antenna, the structure has been found in the brain of a tiny roundworm that uses it to work out which way to burrow through the soil. This breakthrough may help scientists discover how other species with internal compasses use the magnetic field of our planet to pilot their course.
Researchers have discovered an unlikely source of renewable energy, the naturally-occurring cycle that is water evaporation. Scientists at New York's Columbia University replicated this process in the laboratory and harnessed its energy to power tiny machines, one of which was a moving, miniature car. The team says the technology could potentially to be scaled up to one day draw power from huge resting bodies of water such as bays and reservoirs.
A new conductive, transparent, and stretchable nanomaterial that folds
up like an accordion could one day be applied to the development of
flexible electronics and wearable sensors, as well as stretchable
displays. The researchers at North Carolina State University who created
this "nano-accordion" structure caution that it is early days yet, but
they hope to find ways to improve its conductivity and eventually scale
it up for commercial or industrial use.
Using nanometer-size metamaterials, researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology have developed a technique to print images that uses the manipulation of light, rather than the application of ink, to produce colors. This "no-ink" printing method has been demonstrated by producing a Missouri S&T athletic logo just 50 micrometers wide.
A few months ago, we reported on the development of a material that uses the same technique employed by gecko feet to allow its adhesion to be turned on and off at will. This allows fragile components, like those used in the manufacture of semiconductors, to be carefully picked up and put down without suction or residue-leaving adhesives. Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) have developed a gripper, also inspired by the gecko and also tunable, that they claim is much simpler, making it easy and cheap to mass produce.