Since 1985, the Shell Eco Marathon has pitched teams of students against each other in an attempt to see who can travel the furthest using the energy from one liter of fuel. It's a simple premise which belies a complex mix of design and engineering challenges. From left-field materials to low-slung, bullet designs, we've taken a look at some of the more interesting competitors from Eco Marathon events around the world.
Graphene may be the poster child of thin film electronics, and silicon the current king of materials for semiconductors, but if scientists from MIT get their way, graphene's humble cousin, coal, could soon be giving them both a run for their money. For the first time, electronic devices have been created from thin films of coal and the research points to a range of uses that this cheap and abundant material could have in electronic devices, solar panels, and batteries.Read More
Carbon boasts the ability to exist in different forms and phases, and now researchers have discovered Q-carbon, a distinct new solid phase of carbon with the potential to make converting carbon into diamonds as easy as making toast (if you make toast with a high powered laser beam). It's early days yet, but researchers are already claiming that Q-carbon is magnetic, electro-conductive, glows in the dark, is relatively inexpensive to make and has stolen the crown of "world's hardest substance" from diamond.
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.Read More
Back in 2011, we reported on BIG's Amager Bakke project: a waste-to-power station near Copenhagen billed as "the world's cleanest power plant." It should certainly be the world's most fun, as it's due to get a ski slope and an art installation which expels a steam ring each time a ton of carbon dioxide is released. The Danish firm recently turned to Kickstarter to fund development of the steam ring generator.Read More
A new kind of conducting fiber developed at the University of Texas at Dallas is being used to develop artificial muscles and capacitors that store more energy when stretched. The fiber, which is composed of carbon nanotube sheets wrapped around a rubber core, may one day also find use in morphing aircraft, stretchy charger cords and exoskeleton limbs, along with connecting cables for a wealth of other devices.Read More
When a new lab was recently being set up at Purdue University in Indiana, a lot of the equipment arrived in boxes full of protective packing "peanuts." Unfortunately, few facilities exist for recycling the little pieces of foam, so they typically end up sitting in (or getting blown around) landfills for several decades. A team of Purdue researchers, however, discovered that they could find use in better-performing lithium-ion batteries. Read More
A new NASA study is predicting the occurrence of severe "megadroughts" across the United States in the second half of this century, that are set to be more extreme and prolonged than any droughts that have taken place in the region for the past 1,000 years. According to the study, one of the key driving forces behind the devastating droughts will be the prolific creation of human-produced greenhouse gasses.Read More
This is science at its best: Decades ago, the only practical use for sawdust was to soak up vomit, but thanks to scientists at a Belgian university who developed a new chemical process, that same sawdust could soon be used to create gasoline and other products normally derived from petroleum.Read More
NASA is developing a laser-based instrument for deployment on the International Space Station that will probe the depths of Earth's forests from space in a bid to reveal more about their role in the planet's carbon cycle. After its completion in 2018, this Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) lidar will join the likes of the Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite in studying Earth's vegetation on a global scale.Read More
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