Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Self-cleaning

A high-magnification photo of a sand grain containing titanium dioxide in the form of ruti...

Last week that giant multinational of aluminum production Alcoa announced its new "smog-eating" architectural panels - in other words cladding stuck to a building's exterior that can remove pollutants from the surrounding air. The aluminum panels, branded Reynobond with EcoClean technology, have a titanium dioxide coating which breaks down pollutants in direct sunlight.  Read More

A scanning electron micrograph of a cross-section of the MIT nanotextured glass (Photo: Hy...

Glass has a unique look - despite its clarity you can tell there is a material there by the way it reflects light, and that it isn't plastic or crystal. Glass, however, carries problems, like glare, fogging, and collects dirt. A group of MIT researchers has found a new way to create arrays of conical micron-scale surface nanotextures to produce glass that is self-cleaning, non-glare, and non-fogging. The researchers believe the nanotextured surface can be made at low enough cost to be applied to optical devices, the screens of smartphones and televisions, solar panels, car windshields and even windows in buildings.  Read More

Researchers have developed a coating for fabric, that could be used to clean clothing simp...

For some time now, we’ve been hearing about the benefits of drying our laundry outside on the clothesline. We save money and energy by not running the dryer, the sunlight kills germs, and we don’t run the risk of generating harmful dryer emissions. In the future, however, we might also end up washing our clothes by hanging them outside – scientists in China have successfully used sunlight to remove orange dye stains from cotton fabric, that was treated with a special coating.  Read More

Scientists have created an inexpensive, robust, liquid-repellent surface material, inspire...

Who doesn't like carnivorous plants? They eat pesky bugs, they look like something out of Flash Gordon, and now it turns out that one of them has inspired a new type of liquid-repellent surface. The inspirational flora is the pitcher plant, which is shaped like - well, like a water pitcher, or perhaps a wide-end-up trumpet. When insects step onto its slippery inner surface, they lose their footing and fall down into a pool of collected rainwater in its base, where they are digested. Scientists from Harvard University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have copied the structure of that inner surface and come up with a material that resists not only most liquids, but also ice and bacteria, and it does so under a wide range of conditions.  Read More

Solar power plant at Nellis Air Force Base

Deserts are the obvious locations for solar power plants. The land is cheap and the sunshine is plentiful. Unfortunately so too is the dust, dirt and wind that leads to dirty solar panels that can take a big hit in efficiency. Sending a guy around with a squeegee in the sweltering heat doesn’t sound like the best job in the world and self-cleaning systems that rely on water aren’t always an option in areas where clean water is hard to come by. Another solution is self-dusting solar panels that are cleaned by an electric charge provided by the solar panels themselves. The self-dusting solar panels are based on technology developed for another dry and dusty environment – Mars.  Read More

A new ultra-water-repellent surface mimics the minute hairs found on spider bodies

In recent years the lotus leaf has been the go-to surface for scientists looking to develop high-tech water repelling surfaces. Now engineering researchers have created what they say is a “nearly perfect hydrophobic interface” by borrowing from another of nature’s wonders - spiders. By reproducing the shape and patterns of the minute hairs that grow on the bodies of spiders, the researchers have created what may be the most water-phobic surface yet... a development that could lead to everything from self-cleaning surfaces to faster boats.  Read More

The Tower Skin concept covers outdated buildings in an eco-friendly cocoon

There’s no doubt fashion is fleeting. What might be the height of fashion today is almost certainly the fashion faux pas of tomorrow. Thankfully, clothes and hairstyles are easy to change and we’re not getting around in leg warmers and new romantic bouffants anymore – well most of us aren’t. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to change the look of a building. What was the pinnacle of architectural design in the '60s is often the eyesore of the skyline today. The Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) proposes a simple, cost effective, easily constructed skin that promises to transform dated structures into sustainable and stunning buildings.  Read More

Window washers may need to look for alternative employment thanks to the new nano-material...

While attempting to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease researchers have discovered a new nanomaterial that can repel dust and water and could provide a self-cleaning coating for windows or solar panels. Unlike similar dust-busting materials that take inspiration from the surface of the lotus leaf, the new material is actually made up of molecules of peptides that “grow” to resemble small forests of grass. The coating also acts as a super-capacitor, thereby having implications for electric cars in that it could provide an energy boost to batteries.  Read More

Drops of water overcome adhesion and fly off a dewy lotus leaf as mechanical vibrations dr...

The ancient lotus leaf has natural properties that scientists believe could prove beneficial in today's modern world. Already Gizmag has featured articles about the lotus leaf surface, including a self-cleaning cup and a transparent coating for space suits. Recently, though, in an effort to improve the efficiency of modern engineering systems, such as power plants and some electronic equipment that must be cooled by removing heat through water evaporation and condensation, engineers at Duke University have been studying the lotus leaf. Using an ultra high-speed camera, a powerful microscope and an audio speaker, scientists were able to observe water as it condensed on the leaf's surface, and more importantly, how the water condensate disappeared.  Read More

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