September 30, 2012

Ancient stinging nettles reveal Bronze Age trade connections

A piece of nettle cloth retrieved from Denmark's richest known Bronze Age burial mound Lusehøj may actually derive from Austria, new findings suggest. The cloth thus tells a surprising story about long-distance Bronze Age trade connections around 800 BC. The findings have just been published in Nature's online journal Scientific Reports.

2,800 years ago, one of Denmark's richest and most powerful men died. His body was burned. And the bereaved wrapped his bones in a cloth made from stinging nettle and put them in a stately bronze container, which also functioned as urn.

View The Jaguar F-Type, McLaren P1, BMW Concept... 360-Degreee Mode

Fighting for our affections in Paris was the lovely Jaguar F-Type, a V6- and V8-powered sports car in the tradition of the Jaguar E-type.

If you're not already in love with it — use your mouse to view the F-Type in our Jalopnik 360-mode. Having fun? Here are more cars you can spin in 360 degrees.

French Student Team Rhône-Alpes Wins the 2012 Solar Decathlon Europe With Canopea House!

Big news out of Madrid, Spain: French university Team Rhône-Alpes has won the 2012 European Solar Decathlon with their stunning solar Canopea House! Leading the Solar Decathlon competition since winning the Architecture and Operations prizes, this compact home is topped with a 10,7 kW array of photovoltaic panels that produce enough energy to run all of the electricity on both floors and charge up a mini electric vehicle at the same time! The Canopea house was designed for modularity and was specifically engineered for stacking into 'nanotowers' for higher density housing, addressing the need for sustainable urban housing in the alpine corridor.

Blocking key protein could halt age-related decline in immune system, study finds

The older we get, the weaker our immune systems tend to become, leaving us vulnerable to infectious diseases and cancer and eroding our ability to benefit from vaccination. Now Stanford University School of Medicine scientists have found that blocking the action of a single protein whose levels in our immune cells creep steadily upward with age can restore those cells’ response to a vaccine.

This discovery holds important long-term therapeutic ramifications, said Jorg Goronzy, MD, PhD, professor of rheumatology and immunology and the senior author of a study published online Sept. 30 in Nature Medicine. It might someday be possible, he said, to pharmacologically counter aging’s effects on our immune systems.

Alessandro Pessoli

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012 - FEBRUARY 10, 2013

Alessandro Pessoli's evocative drawings, paintings, and sculptures place expressive, often melancholy figures in indeterminate spaces and dreamlike narratives. Fluidly moving across media and shifting between two- and three-dimensional forms, Pessoli renders his seemingly restless and exaggerated characters in a manner that is rich in historical references to art, cinema, and theater.

The Sultan's Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art

September 21, 2012 through March 10, 2013

Ottoman art reflects the wealth, abundance, and influence of an empire which spanned seven centuries and, at its height, three continents. The Sultan’s Garden chronicles how stylized tulips, carnations, hyacinths, honeysuckles, roses, and rosebuds came to embellish nearly all media produced by the Ottoman court beginning in the mid-16th century.  These instantly recognizable elements became the brand of the empire, and synonymous with its power.  Incredibly, the development of this design identity can be attributed to a single artist, Kara Memi, working in the royal arts workshop of Istanbul. The Sultan’s Garden unveils the influence of Ottoman floral style and traces its continuing impact through the textile arts—some of the most luxurious and technically complex productions of the empire.


One-Time Pad
29.September 2012 - 13.Januar 2013
MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main

Tesla Motors Launces Revolutionary Supercharger Enabling Convenient Long Distance Driving


Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA) today unveiled its highly anticipated Supercharger network. Constructed in secret, Tesla revealed the locations of the first six Supercharger stations, which will allow the Model S to travel long distances with ultra fast charging throughout California, parts of Nevada and Arizona.

The technology at the heart of the Supercharger was developed internally and leverages the economies of scale of existing charging technology already used by the Model S, enabling Tesla to create the Supercharger device at minimal cost. The electricity used by the Supercharger comes from a solar carport system provided by SolarCity, which results in almost zero marginal energy cost after installation. Combining these two factors, Tesla is able to provide Model S owners1 free long distance travel indefinitely.

High-Arctic Heat Tops 1,800-Year High, Says Study

Modern Spike Outmatches Naturally Driven ‘Medieval Warm Period'

Summers on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard are now warmer than at any other time in the last 1,800 years, including during medieval times when parts of the northern hemisphere were as hot as, or hotter, than today, according to a new study in the journal Geology.

“The Medieval Warm Period was not as uniformly warm as we once thought--we can start calling it the Medieval Period again,” said the study’s lead author, William D’Andrea, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “Our record indicates that recent summer temperatures on Svalbard are greater than even the warmest periods at that time.”

journal reference (only the abstract is free): Geology>>

The Colors of Fall: Are Autumn Reds and Golds Passing Us By?

Climate change, land-use change, introduced pests and diseases altering fall foliage

The falling leaves drift by the window, the autumn leaves of red and gold ...

It was 1947 when Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to the popular song "Autumn Leaves." Sixty-five years ago, Mercer likely didn't think the reds and golds of fall might someday fade.

But that's what's beginning to happen in U.S. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Autumn colors were different there a century, or even a half-century, ago, and they will likely continue to change, says ecologist David Foster, principal investigator at the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in Massachusetts.

NSF and Mozilla Announce Winning Big Ideas for New Applications on a Faster, Smarter Internet of the Future

Mozilla Ignite names brainstorming round winners and opens development rounds

Today, an open innovation challenge called Mozilla Ignite announced eight winning ideas for innovative applications that offer a glimpse of what the Internet's future might look like--and what the lives of Americans may look like as well.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and hosted by Mozilla, the challenge called for stellar application, or "app," ideas from anywhere in the world that would advance national priorities such as health care, public safety, clean energy and transportation. This brainstorming round received more than 300 submissions examined by 38 expert judges, who awarded the eight winning teams prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

Mercedes-Benz introduces production version of SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive super sports car

At the Paris Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz introduced the production of the SLS AMG Coupé Electric Drive (earlier post). The battery-electric supercar goes on sale in 2013. The price in Germany (incl. 19% VAT) will be €416,500 (US$535,898). (The new, conventional V8 SLS AMG Roadster going on sale next month carries a price in Germany, including VAT, of €213,010 (US$274,074).)

Australia to join international climate coalition to protect human health, agriculture and ecosystems

Australia today announced it will join the Climate and Clean Air Coalition - an alliance of over two dozen nations, intergovernmental organisations, the private sector, and civil society, committed to rapid action to reduce short-lived but highly potent pollution caused by methane, black carbon (soot), tropospheric ozone (smog) and hydrofluorocarbons.

"Australia is signing on with other nations, including the United States, who are supporting action to reduce these pollutants," said Greg Combet, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

Climate Coalition / GCCC:  TWITTER >>

NY Climate Coalition:  TWITTER >>

Fueling the Fleet, Navy Looks to the Seas

Refueling U.S. Navy vessels, at sea and underway, is a costly endeavor in terms of logistics, time, fiscal constraints and threats to national security and sailors at sea.

In Fiscal Year 2011, the U.S. Navy Military Sea Lift Command, the primary supplier of fuel and oil to the U.S. Navy fleet, delivered nearly 600 million gallons of fuel to Navy vessels underway, operating 15 fleet replenishment oilers around the globe.

From Seawater to CO2

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory FACEBOOK >>

DARPA Researchers Build Dissolvable Medical Electronics

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) researchers are building a system of dissolvable, biocompatible electronics that could be put to use in implantable medical treatments.

Made of ultrathin sheets of silicon and magnesium encapsulated in silk, the components combine to become a water-soluble material that will dissolve in a matter of days, hours, or minutes.

September 29, 2012

'Nemesis' breaks electric car land speed record

Modified Lotus Exige reaches speed of 151mph at Elvington airfield in North Yorkshire

A battery-powered car designed to "smash the boring, Noddy stereotype of the green car" broke the UK electric land speed record on Thursday.

The Nemesis, a Lotus Exige modified by utility company Ecotricity, reached an average speed of 151mph near York today. It was driven by 21-year-old Nick Ponting, who started racing go-karts at the age of 12, and first broke the record by hitting 148mph earlier today at Elvington airfield in North Yorkshire.

The previous record, of 137mph, was set by the grandson of racing legend Sir Malcolm Campbell, Don Wales, driving a Bluebird Electric in 2000. Wales attempted to break his own record in August 2011 but failed after the car hit a pothole on a beach in Wales.

Lack of sleep in teenagers linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes

Lack of sleep leads to insulin resistance in teens, notes a new study, Sleep Duration and Insulin Resistance in Healthy Black and White Adolescents from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The research was recently published in the journal Sleep. But increasing the amount of sleep that teenagers get could improve their insulin resistance and prevent the future onset of diabetes.

Also, locally in the Sacramento and Davis regional area, the University of California, Davis studies how the omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil and flax seed oil can help to control low blood sugar and excess insulin that happens after a meal in some people.

Overcoming the Limitations of Antibodies

After 9/11, there were several new forms of terrorist attacks. Among them, envelopes with white powder were sent to banks, political, and government buildings within the United States which caused the deaths of five individuals. The white powder was found to be anthrax, a bacteria called bacillus anthracis which causes a serious infectious disease. Inhalation of anthrax spores infects the body through the lungs. Anthrax releases several toxic substances and an infection of the lungs if left untreated is usually fatal.

The most crucial factor in identifying anthrax is to identify the diseases’ protein. This is currently done using antibodies. However, the production of antibodies is costly and the process is complicated. In addition, it is easily affected by environmental factors such as humidity and temperature. This makes it hard to preserve its effectiveness. This is also the reason why pregnancy test kits, which also use antibodies, are vacuum packed.

NREL study: Hybrid delivery vans show nearly 20 percent higher fuel economy

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE)’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently completed a performance evaluation report that showed significant fuel economy benefits of hybrid electric delivery vans compared to similar conventional vans.

“During the on-road portion of our study, the hybrid vans demonstrated a 13 to 20 percent higher fuel economy than the conventional vans,” said NREL Project Engineer Michael Lammert. “During dynamometer testing, three standard drive cycles were chosen to represent the range of delivery routes. The hybrids showed a 13 to 36 percent improvement in fuel economy and up to a 45 percent improvement in ton-miles-per-gallon. This wide range in fuel economy is largely dependent on drive cycle.”

Nanomaterials: Smarter production of a promising water splitter

A method is now available to produce non-aggregating semiconducting particles in water

Conversion of water into hydrogen is a fundamental reaction powered by light, but the lack of suitable artificial drivers, or photocatalysts, for this reaction has hampered its commercial development. Platinum-decorated semiconductor nanoparticles are expected to fill this gap; however, production of these tiny particles typically requires high-temperature metal deposition or ultraviolet irradiation techniques in organic solvents. When synthesized in water, as a benign alternative, the particles tend to form clumps during metal deposition.

Catalysis: Optimizing water splitting

Computer simulations of a metal–sulfide alloy unlock the secrets to designing solar-powered catalysts that generate hydrogen fuel from water

Partnerships can pay off when it comes to converting solar into chemical energy. By modeling a cadmium sulfide (CdS)–zinc sulfide (ZnS) alloy with special computational techniques, a Singapore-based research team has identified the key photocatalytic properties that enable this chemical duo to ‘split’ water molecules into a fuel, hydrogen gas (H2). The theoretical study was published by Jianwei Zheng from the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing and his co-workers.

When it Comes to Labeling GMO Food, Monsanto Prefers to Flip-Flop

No one could blame Monsanto, one of the biggest purveyors of GMO food products, for wanting to squash California’s Proposition 37. The law is primarily focused on forcing food vendors to disclose whether or not any genetic modification took place to grow and produce the product they’re about to buy. Because such practices are viewed negatively by a large section of the public, it could be argued that it’s in Monsanto‘s best interest to fight the legislation.
EcoLocalizer (

Climate Change Is Already Costing the Global Economy & 400,000 Lives/Year, Finds Report

The economic and human costs of climate change are already here according to a new study; significantly contributing to the deaths of nearly 400,000 people a year and costing upwards of $1.2 trillion a year in economic costs — that’s 1.6% of the annual global GDP.

Developing countries have so far been bearing the brunt of the damage, according to the research. The agricultural production systems there, when damaged by extreme weather, directly cause the deaths of the people depending on them; from malnutrition, poverty, and associated diseases.

Google’s new wind power deal shows real corporate leadership

When's the last time you felt really good about something a corporation has done for the environment?

If you’re like me, it’s probably not recently. Big companies usually grace Greenpeace’s blog for destroying the environment.

Today though, we can feel good about at least one company's actions: Google announced that it is purchasing 48 megawatts of clean, renewable wind power for its data centre in Oklahoma, USA. That’s enough clean energy to power a small city!

Google’s announcement shows what the most forward-thinking, successful companies can accomplish when they are serious about powering their operations with clean energy.

In a climate-crazed world, how can we plan for the future?

Making decisions about how and where to invest limited resources is always difficult, especially with a group of diverse stakeholders. It’s more difficult when, as in the case of infrastructure like bridges, sea walls, and sewer systems, the effects of the decisions can extend out for decades, even centuries. And it’s more difficult still when future conditions are subject to what I discussed in a previous post as “deep uncertainty.”

Deep uncertainty involves two basic conditions. First, the models we use to anticipate future conditions produce a wide range of scenarios of equal (or indeterminate) likelihood.

2013 Audi SQ5 is the first S diesel [w/video]

Audi is a company synonymous with diesel performance. Its efforts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans have repeatedly proven what can be accomplished with a healthy oil-burner at your command, but until now, buyers were unable to pick up spots-oriented models with a TDI badge. That's changed with the debut of the SQ5 TDI at the 2012 Paris Motor Show.

As the first S model with a diesel engine, the crossover boasts 309 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The grunt gets to the ground via an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission and the company's Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The combination can hustle the SQ5 to 62 miles per hour in 5.1 seconds.

Audi A7 'coasting' hybrid knows when to be quiet [w/video]

It looks like Audi is the latest automaker to equip a car with technology that makes humans look plain ol' dumb by comparison.

In this case, the German automaker is developing a so-called "coasting" hybrid, which is a variation of the stop-start feature being included in an expanding stable of vehicle models. In fact, the system is similar to what we saw on the Volkswagen Golf Twin Drive in 2008, but Audi uses a three-cylinder gas-powered TFSI engine instead of the four-cylinder diesel that was found in the Golf. A version of Twin Drive was developed for the Audi A3, as well.

The iHEV (Intelligent Hybrid Vehicle) is now being developed for the Audi A7 sedan, though the automaker hasn't said anything about timeframe, cost or availability.

Monsanto fail – they can’t sweep the latest shocking GMO study under the rug

Last week, we told you about an disturbing new study that found long-term damage caused by Monsanto’s Genetically Modified (GMO) corn and Roundup week-killer.
And despite a firestorm of invective from the agri-business giant and its allies, it looks like they won’t be able to talk their way out of this one – France has promised, for the first time, to put GMO crops under a microscope and seriously look at possible health risks.
As Guardian (UK) environment blogger John Vidal noted, Monsanto’s corporate flacks and their bought-and-paid for allies trotted out every epithet imaginable to trash the study, including “biased”, “poorly performed”, “bogus”, “fraudulent”, “sub-standard”, “sloppy agenda-based science”, “inadequate” and “unsatisfactory”, and France was outed as “the most anti-science country in anti-science Europe”. (If those arguments don’t sound particularly “scientific” to you – there’s a good reason. They’re not. They’re completely ad hominem -attacking the person, rather than the facts.)

US grants licence for uranium laser enrichment

But technology raises fears over nuclear proliferation.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week granted a licence to allow construction of a plant that uses a controversial uranium enrichment process — one that critics fear could pose a serious nuclear-proliferation risk. The plant, which would be built through a partnership between General Electric (GE) and Hitachi in Wilmington, North Carolina, could be used to enrich uranium to make fuel for nuclear reactors quickly and cheaply using a process that involves a laser.

Tiny fossils hint at effects of ocean acidification

Sediment-bound specimens allow comparison of ancient and present responses to changing oceans.

A rare find of stunningly intact fossils of prehistoric plankton will allow researchers to study how the tiny marine organisms cope with rising acidity in the oceans.

Finding such intact specimens of coccolithophores, micrometre-sized marine plankton encased in discs of calcium carbonate, is a real coup — searching for fossils of calcified single-celled organisms often yields only skeletal bits that have fallen to the ocean floor.

Bioengineers at UCSB Design Rapid Diagnostic Tests Inspired by Nature

By mimicking nature's own sensing mechanisms, bioengineers at UC Santa Barbara and University of Rome Tor Vergata have designed inexpensive medical diagnostic tests that take only a few minutes to perform. Their findings may aid efforts to build point-of-care devices for quick medical diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), allergies, autoimmune diseases, and a number of other diseases. The new technology could dramatically impact world health, according to the research team.

White shark diets vary with age and among individuals

Many white sharks shift from fish to marine mammals as they mature, but individual sharks show surprising variability in dietary preferences

White sharks, the largest predatory sharks in the ocean, are thought of as apex predators that feed primarily on seals and sea lions. But a new study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows surprising variability in the dietary preferences of individual sharks.

UA Engineering Leads $5.5M DOE Project to Create Low-Cost Solar Energy

Solar power may be clean and renewable, but solar panels are inefficient and do not work at night. Could concentrated solar power be the salty solution?

The University of Arizona College of Engineering will lead a $5.5 million, 5-year research project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, to develop more affordable and efficient concentrated solar power systems.

Concentrated solar power, or CSP, is generated by mirrors, called heliostats, that focus sunlight on a receiver containing a heat transfer fluid that absorbs the energy, which is then used to produce steam to spin electric turbines.

New material may replace silicon

Norwegian researchers are the world’s first to develop a method for producing semiconductors from graphene. This finding may revolutionise the technology industry.

The method involves growing semiconductor-nanowires on graphene. To achieve this, researchers “bomb” the graphene surface with gallium atoms and arsenic molecules, thereby creating a network of minute nanowires.


Using an innocuous bacterial virus, bioengineers have created a biological mechanism to send genetic messages from cell to cell. The system greatly increases the complexity and amount of data that can be communicated between cells and could lead to greater control of biological functions within cell communities.

If you were a bacterium, the virus M13 might seem innocuous enough. It insinuates more than it invades, setting up shop like a freeloading houseguest, not a killer. Once inside it makes itself at home, eating your food, texting indiscriminately. Recently, however, bioengineers at Stanford have given M13 a bit of a makeover.

journal reference (abstract): jbe  >>

Mayo Clinic Finds Way to Weed Out Problem Stem Cells, Making Therapy Safer

Mayo Clinic researchers have found a way to detect and eliminate potentially troublemaking stem cells to make stem cell therapy safer. Induced Pluripotent Stem cells, also known as iPS cells, are bioengineered from adult tissues to have properties of embryonic stem cells, which have the unlimited capacity to differentiate and grow into any desired types of cells, such as skin, brain, lung and heart cells. However, during the differentiation process, some residual pluripotent or embryonic-like cells may remain and cause them to grow into tumors.

September 28, 2012

You're far less in control of your brain than you think, study finds

You've probably never given much thought to the fact that picking up your cup of morning coffee presents your brain with a set of complex decisions. You need to decide how to aim your hand, grasp the handle and raise the cup to your mouth, all without spilling the contents on your lap.

A new Northwestern University study shows that, not only does your brain handle such complex decisions for you, it also hides information from you about how those decisions are made.

journal reference (only the abstract is free): perception>>

Nanoparticles Glow Through Thick Layer of Tissue

Novel, biocompatible nanoparticles glow through more than 3 centimeters of biological tissue, demonstrating the promise of nanotechnology in biomedical imaging

An international research team has created unique photoluminescent nanoparticles that shine clearly through more than 3 centimeters of biological tissue -- a depth that makes them a promising tool for deep-tissue optical bioimaging.

On the charge: Doctoral student developing next generation of lithium-ion batteries for longer lasting mobile devices, electric cars

Sometimes even batteries can use a boost of energy, according to the focus of a Kansas State University graduate student's research.

Steven Arnold Klankowski, a doctoral candidate in chemistry, La Crescent, Minn., is working under Jun Li, professor of chemistry, to develop new materials that could be used in future lithium-ion batteries. The materials look to improve the energy storage capacity of batteries so that laptops, cellphones, electric cars and other mobile devices will last longer between charges.

World’s First Glimpse of Black Hole Launchpad

A strange thing about black holes: they shine.

The current issue of Science Express, the online advance publication of the journal, features a paper by the Event Horizon telescope team – a collaboration which includes Perimeter Associate Faculty member Avery Broderick – that may shed light on the origin of the bright jets given off by some black holes. In a world first, the team has been able to look at a distant black hole and resolve the area where its jets are launched from. This is the first empirical evidence to support the connection between black hole spin and black hole jets that has been long suspected on theoretical grounds.

Nickelblock: an element's love-hate relationship with battery electrodes

Images show how nickel, which enhances battery capacity, also appears to hinder charging rates

Anyone who owns an electronic device knows that lithium ion batteries could work better and last longer. Now, scientists examining battery materials on the nano-scale reveal how nickel forms a physical barrier that impedes the shuttling of lithium ions in the electrode, reducing how fast the materials charge and discharge. Published last week in Nano Letters, the research also suggests a way to improve the materials.


Even the most skilled and steady surgeons experience minute, almost imperceptible hand tremors when performing delicate tasks. Normally, these tiny motions are inconsequential, but for doctors specializing in fine-scale surgery, such as operating inside the human eye or repairing microscopic nerve fibers, freehand tremors can pose a serious risk for patients.

By harnessing a specialized optical fiber sensor, a new “smart” surgical tool can compensate for this unwanted movement by making hundreds of precise position corrections each second – fast enough to keep the surgeon’s hand on target.

Next up: Environmentally safe electronics that also vanish in the body

Physicians and environmentalists alike could soon be using a new class of electronic devices: small, robust and high performance, yet also biocompatible and capable of dissolving completely in water – or in bodily fluids.

Researchers at the University of Illinois, in collaboration with Tufts University and Northwestern University, have demonstrated a new type of biodegradable electronics technology that could introduce new design paradigms for medical implants, environmental monitors and consumer devices.

September 27, 2012

ASU scientists bring the heat to refine renewable biofuel production

Perhaps inspired by Arizona’s blazing summers, Arizona State University scientists have developed a new method that relies on heat to improve the yield and lower the costs of high-energy biofuels production, making renewable energy production more of an everyday reality.

ASU has been at the forefront of algal research for renewable energy production. Since 2007, with support from federal, state and industry funding, ASU has spearheaded several projects that utilize photosynthetic microbes, called cyanobacteria, as a potential new source of renewable, carbon-neutral fuels.

Breakthrough for new diabetes treatment

An international team of scientists, led from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, have discovered an entirely new approach to the treatment of type II diabetes. The therapy involves the blockade of signalling by a protein known as VEGF-B and this prevents fat from accumulating in the 'wrong' places, such as in muscles and in the heart. As a result the cells within these tissues are once again able to respond to insulin.

In experiments on mice and rats, the scientists have managed to both prevent the development of type II diabetes and reverse the progression of established disease. The study is published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, where it is described as a breakthrough in diabetes research. The findings are the result of a joint effort by Karolinska Institutet, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the Australian biopharmaceutical company CSL Limited, amongst others.

journal reference (only the abstract is free): nature >>

Breakthrough in kitchen furniture production: biocomposites challenge chipboard

Biocomposites challenge chipboard as furniture material. Researchers at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have developed a kitchen furniture framework material from plastic polymers reinforced with natural fibre. The new material reduces raw materials consumption by 25–30 per cent and the carbon footprint of production by 35–45 per cent.

“The frames are lighter by nearly a third because they contain more air,” says VTT’s Research Professor Ali Harlin. “Wastage during production is also reduced. This is a generational shift that revolutionizes both manufacturing techniques and design.”

According to Harlin, the framework for the kitchen of the future will be compression moulded or extruded - familiar methods in the plastics industry. The result is a component of exact dimensions, which does not need to be cut or drilled after production. Even the screw-holes are there when the component comes off the production line.

Crucial Advance in Stem Cell Research

Scientists at The University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research have succeeded in converting human skin cells directly into immature brain cells, or neural precursor cells.  “This is an advance of huge significance to stem cell research on a global level,” says Principal Investigator, Associate Professor Bronwen Connor.

Research yields promising breakthrough in solar cells based on nanocarbon

An exciting advance in solar cell technology developed at the University of Kansas has produced the world’s most efficient photovoltaic cells made from nanocarbons, materials that have the potential to dramatically drop the costs of PV technology in the future.

“We actually broke the all-carbon PV efficiency record,” said Shenqiang Ren, assistant professor of chemistry at KU, who spearheaded the research with colleagues from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Carbon nanotube-based solar cells, in the past, averaged less than 1 percent in efficiency.

journal reference (full text free): acs Nano >>

Sharp reveals see-through solar panel

Sharp's latest solar cell panel seems perfect for green fiends living within a sky-rise condominium.

A see-through solar energy panel announced today by Sharp -- primarily designed for balcony railings and skyscraper windows -- offers an uncommon alternative energy solution and sense of privacy in a single package.

The semi-transparent black solar panel launches in Japan on October 1, and delivers a solar power conversion efficiency of about 6.8-percent with a maximum output of 95 watts. While the low conversion rate seems lackluster comparative to the 10- to 20-percent efficiency standard these days, few see-through solar panel options exist commercially. Overall panel size stands at 4.5-feet wide by 3.2-feet tall and sports a super thin profile of only 0.37 inches.

Particle accelerator can transmute radioactive waste and drastically lower half-life decay

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, and as always Chernobyl, as anti-nuclear manifestos are quick to remind every time nuclear powered energy is concerned, there seems to be a sort of stigma applied to nuclear power. Countries are revising their policies –  some for the better, being long overdue, while other simply limit nuclear power rather precariously. Besides the actual chain reaction, meltdown or other nuclear hazard event which might possibly occur, there’s an other big issue with nuclear power and that’s  its byproduct – nuclear waste. A novel technique involving a particle accelerator which can create fast neutrons, in the process lowering the half-life of waste from hundreds of thousands of years to mere hundreds, might re-balance the odds back to nuclear, however. Nuclear energy might be in for a come back.