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Super-low loss quantum energy transport could revolutionize sunlight to energy conversion

By - August 24, 2015

The use of sunlight as an energy source is achieved in a number of ways, from conversion to electricity via photovoltaic (PV) panels, concentrated heat to drive steam turbines, and even hydrogen generation via artificial photosynthesis. Unfortunately, much of the light energy in PV and photosynthesis systems is lost as heat due to the thermodynamic inefficiencies inherent in the process of converting the incoming energy from one form to another. Now scientists working at the University of Bayreuth claim to have created a super-efficient light-energy transport conduit that exhibits almost zero loss, and shows promise as the missing link in the sunlight to energy conversion process.

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We may not be running out of helium after all

By - August 23, 2015

Helium is the second most abundant element in the Universe, but it's relatively rare on Earth – so much so that some have called for a ban on party balloons to ward off a worldwide shortage. However, a team of scientists led by Diveena Danabalan of Durham University conducted a new study that indicates that there may be vast new sources of the gas in the western mountain regions of North America.

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Tomatoes taste better after a nice hot bath

By - August 23, 2015

Store bought tomatoes are notorious for having an insipid taste, so a team of scientists led by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working on new methods to ensure that future supermarket tomatoes have more flavor. The research suggests this can be achieved by a simple, inexpensive alteration to conventional processing – a hot bath.

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Vomiting machine projects better understanding of how stomach bugs spread

By - August 21, 2015 2 Pictures

Norovirus is a nasty bug that brings about inflammation in the stomach and intestines leading to pain, nausea, diarrhea and sometimes even death. It affects around 20 million people per year in the US, but despite its rampant nature, questions remain over how exactly it is transmitted. To shed further light on how one of the world's most common pathogens spreads between humans, scientists have built a vomiting machine to study its behaviour when projected into the air.

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New record energy efficiency for artificial photosynthesis

By - August 20, 2015

As the world moves towards developing new avenues of renewable energy, the efficiencies of producing fuels such as hydrogen must increase to the point that they rival or exceed those of conventional energy sources to make them a viable alternative. Now researchers at Monash University in Melbourne claim to have created a solar-powered device that produces hydrogen at a world-record 22 percent efficiency, which is a significant step towards making cheap, efficient hydrogen production a reality.

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Sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere to create carbon nanofibers

By - August 20, 2015 2 Pictures

Carbon nanofibers hold tremendous potential. They may one day be put to use in tougher bulletproof vests, artificial muscles or rebuilding damaged hearts, just to name a few possibilities. But could the greatest gift these little wonders offer humanity be not what they bring into the world but what they take out of it? Scientists have developed a technique that could take the mounting carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and transform it into carbon nanofibers, resulting in raw materials for use in anything from sports gear to commercial airliners.

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Hydrophobic nanostructures stay dry for months underwater

By - August 19, 2015 8 Pictures

By mimicking naturally-occurring nanostructures found in things like water striders, spiders and lotus leaves, scientists have created hydrophobic surfaces that could prove invaluable for everything from pipes to boats and submarines. Now researchers at Northwestern University have deduced the optimal texture roughness required to achieve this property and keep surfaces dry underwater for months at a time.

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Smart light lets you control your environment

By - August 19, 2015 3 Pictures

What if the light in the room could sense you waving your hand as you enter? And what if it responded by introducing minute light changes that instructed your smart coffee machine to switch on? Researchers at Dartmouth College have developed a sensing system called LiSense that aims to make the light around us "smart." Not only does it use light to sense people’s movements, but it also allows them to control devices in their environment with simple gestures, using light to transmit information.

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Sensor detects sound direction and cuts background noise

By - August 19, 2015 2 Pictures

Although the ability tends to wane as we get older, the human auditory system is pretty good at filtering out background noise and making a single voice able to be understood above the general hubbub of a crowded room. But electronic devices, such as smartphones, aren't quite as gifted, which is why getting Siri or Google Now to understand you in crowded environments can be an exercise in futility. But now researchers have developed a prototype sensor that’s not only able to figure out the direction of a particular sound, but can also extract it from background noise.

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