2014 Paris Motor Show highlights

Science

A moth in the NCSU flight-assessment rig

We've been hearing a lot about the development of tiny flying sensor-equipped robots, that could be sent into areas such as disaster sites to seek out survivors or survey the damage. However, why go to the trouble of designing those robots from scratch, when there are already ready-made insects that are about the right size? That's the thinking behind research being conducted at North Carolina State University, which is aimed at converting moths into "biobots."  Read More

Store-bought rubber bands like these become electrically-conductive when infused with grap...

Graphene is a cutting-edge wonder material, used in applications ranging from solar cells to supercapacitors. Rubber bands, on the other hand ... well, they're not so high-tech. By combining the one with the other, however, scientists have created ultra-cheap body motion sensors that could make a big difference in the field of health care.  Read More

Researchers have developed a high-performance electrode material for supercapacitors from ...

Using waste hemp fibers as the starting material, researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have developed a high-performance electrode material for supercapacitors at one thousandth the cost of the more commonly used graphene. The advance could lead to supercapacitors that are both cheaper and able to operate under harsh environmental conditions.  Read More

Adding certain salts to the anodes of lithium-based batteries has been found to increase t...

Salt has long been used to preserve meat, and now researchers at Cornell University have found that adding certain salts to the anodes of lithium-based batteries can also increase their useful life by a very large factor, solving long-standing problems associated with cell degradation. The advance can be adapted to other metal-based chemistries, including the lighter and more energy dense lithium-sulfur cells and, according to the researchers, might see commercial applications in as little as three years.  Read More

Combining the high efficiency and low cost of perovskite with the simplicity of spray-on c...

Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the UK have created a spray-on solar cell that uses perovskite as the light-absorbing layer. Although the cell's efficiency is only a modest 11 percent, it can be manufactured very cheaply, paving the way for significant reductions in the cost of large-scale solar panel production.  Read More

Confocal microscope image of the artificial neural tissue developed at Tufts University

One approach to studying the brain rather than working on the whole thing at once is to examine small bits of it. With that in mind, researchers at the Tissue Engineering Resource Center at Tufts University, Boston have developed a three-dimensional brain-like tissue that is structurally similar to living rat brain tissue, functions enough like it for experimental purposes, and one that scientists have been able to keep alive for up to two months.  Read More

Scientists at PNNL have developed a new liquid alloy electrode that can improve the perfor...

A new battery electrode designed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) combines liquid-state cesium and sodium to dramatically improve on the efficiency, safety and useful life of sodium-beta batteries (NBBs). If the technology is scaled up successfully, the advance could help build a smart electric grid that makes better use of renewables such as solar and wind.  Read More

Using a US$40 needle, the scientists created a 3D microscope capable of creating images wi...

Beginning with a US$40 needle, researchers from the University of Utah have designed a microscope with the ability to generate miniaturized 3D images. The low-cost device is capable of producing images around 70 times smaller than the width of a human hair, a development that could offer new insights into how particular proteins in the brain function.  Read More

Male medflies that are genetically altered using the RIDL technique don't produce viable f...

Mediterranean fruit flies are responsible for extensive damage to fruit and vegetable crops, not only in the Mediterranean region but also in Australia, North and South America. While existing methods of controlling them include the use of insecticides and sterilization, the University of East Anglia and biotech company Oxitec are pioneering what they claim is a greener and less expensive approach – they're genetically modifying male fruit flies to produce only male viable offspring.  Read More

An illustration shows how the polymer could clean up smokestack emissions – although its r...

Hydrogen may hold promise as an alternative to fossil fuels, but there's still a huge petrol-producing infrastructure in place, and not many service stations offer hydrogen refills yet. That's why some scientists are exploring a bridging technology known as the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) process, for converting fossil fuels into hydrogen. Along with hydrogen, though, carbon dioxide is also a byproduct of the IGCC process, which must be dealt with. Fortunately, scientists from the University of Liverpool have developed a polymer that soaks up that CO2 for use in other applications.  Read More

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