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Pennsylvania State University

— Science

Binary star system found right under our noses

By - March 13, 2013 3 Pictures
In a day when we have examined astronomical objects shining forth from a time shortly after the Big Bang, one would think astronomers have a pretty good handle on what is in the immediate vicinity of the Solar System. That's why the recent report of a binary star lying only 6.5 light-years away came as rather a surprise to the astronomical community. The pair, called WISE J1049-5319 A and B, are brown dwarf stars and only two star systems – the triple star Alpha Centauri, and Barnard's Star – lie closer to our Sun. Read More
— Space

Updated model for identifying habitable zones around stars puts Earth on the edge

By - February 3, 2013 1 Picture
Researchers at Penn state have developed a new method for calculating the habitable zone around stars. The computer model based on new greenhouse gas databases provides a tool to better estimate which exoplanets with sufficient atmospheric pressure might be able to maintain liquid water on their surface. The new model indicates that some of the nearly 300 possible Earth-like planets previously identified might be too close to their stars to to be habitable. Read More
— Science

New type of optical fiber could be used in photovoltaic fabrics

By - December 10, 2012 2 Pictures
Imagine forgetting to plug in your smartphone, but then not worrying because your clothes could charge it for you. It sounds surreal, but it may one day be reality. An international team of scientists and engineers led by John Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, have developed a silicon-based optical fiber that acts like a solar cell and offers the promise of fabric that can generate electricity from light. Read More

Can starch fibers solve the bandage conundrum?

Should you rip it off fast or slow? Researchers at Penn State may have found the elusive third, painless option. Professor Greg Ziegler and research assistant Lingyan Kong have developed a process that spins starch into fine strands, creating fibers that could be woven into low-cost toilet paper, napkins and biodegradable bandages that don't need to be ripped off at all. Read More
— Science

Reusable oil-absorbing nanosponges could soak up oil spills

By - April 17, 2012 4 Pictures
Last week we looked at the development of “hydrate-phobic” surfaces that could assist in the containment of oil leaks in deep water. Now, by adding boron to carbon while growing nanotubes, researchers have developed a nanosponge with the ability to absorb oil spilled in water. Remarkably, the material is able to achieve this feat repeatedly and is also electrically conductive and can be manipulated with magnets. Read More
— Electronics

Experimental optical fibers utilize built-in electronics instead of separate chips

By - February 7, 2012 1 Picture
When data is transmitted as pulses of light along a fiber optic cable, chips at either end of that cable must convert the data from and back into an electronic signal - this is what allows an outgoing video image to be converted into light pulses, then back into video at the receiving end, for instance. There are a number of technical challenges in coupling chips to fibers, however. Now, an international team of scientists are developing an alternative ... fiber optics with the electronics built right into the fiber. Read More
— Good Thinking

LED lighting could guide shoppers to products in stores

By - January 27, 2012 1 Picture
It baffles me that some people enjoy shopping. There’s not much that I like about it, but I particularly dislike searching through the aisles, trying in vain to find the product that I’m looking for. While I’m not adverse to asking a store employee for assistance, it seems that in many big box retailers, employees are either non-existent or are already busy with other customers. A new system is in development, however, that would allow customers to find the locations of products via the store’s overhead LED lighting. Read More
— Science

Intelligent absorbent removes radioactive material from water

By - November 1, 2011 1 Picture
Nuclear power plants are located close to sources of water, which is used as a coolant to handle the waste heat discharged by the plants. This means that water contaminated with radioactive material is often one of the problems to arise after a nuclear disaster. Researchers at Australia's Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have now developed what they say is a world-first intelligent absorbent that is capable of removing radioactive material from large amounts of contaminated water, resulting in clean water and concentrated waste that can be stored more efficiently. Read More

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