Category: Other Science & Technology

Low-Tech, Affordable Solutions to Improve Water Quality

The PVC piping system developed by Brian Barkdoll, left, and Mohammad Alizadeh Fard, offers a low-tech, affordable internal piping method for drinking water supply managers to circulate water within large municipal water supply tanks to prevent against waterborne illness following large drawdowns of the tanks. Adding colorants to the water demonstrates how the sprinkler system effectively circulates the water within the experimental tank.

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Programmable droplets

Using electric fields to manipulate droplets on a surface could enable high-volume, low-cost biology experiments. MIT researchers have developed hardware that uses electric fields to move droplets of chemical or biological solutions around a surface, mixing them in ways that could be used to test thousands of reactions in parallel.

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Researchers steer the flow of electrical current with spinning light

Light can generate an electrical current in semiconductor materials. This is how solar cells generate electricity from sunlight and how smart phone cameras can take photographs. To collect the generated electrical current, called photocurrent, an electric voltage is needed to force the current to flow in only one direction. In new research, scientists at the University of Minnesota used a first-of-its-kind device to demonstrate a way to control the direction of the photocurrent without deploying an electric voltage. The new study was recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

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Understanding how electrons turn to glass

New insights into the behaviour of electrons as liquids transform to glass are deepening our understanding of this transition phase. Researchers at Tohoku University have gained new insight into the electronic processes that guide the transformation of liquids into a solid crystalline or glassy state. The ability of some liquids to transition into glass has been exploited since ancient times. But many fundamental aspects of this transition phase are far from understood.

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Researchers look to patterns to envision new engineering field

The phenomenon that forms interference patterns on television displays when a camera focuses on a pattern like a person wearing stripes has inspired a new way to conceptualize electronic devices. Researchers at the University of Illinois are showing how the atomic-scale version of this phenomenon may hold the secrets to help advance electronics design to the limits of size and speed.

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Microscopy: A Keen Eye on Sensitive Samples

New Multifunctional Electron Microscope of KIT Can Detect Structures in Sensitive Materials. Looking with atomic precision may be crucial to a materials researcher, no matter whether she/he wants to study organic solar cells, cement, or optical circuits. Hence, microscopes using electrons instead of light are the tool of choice, for robust materials at least.

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New property found in unusual crystalline materials

Materials with a special kind of boundary between crystal grains can deform in unexpected ways. Researchers have discovered an unexpected property of some nanostructured metals, could lead to new ways of ‘tuning’ their properties. Most metals and semiconductors, from the steel in a knife blade to the silicon in a solar panel, are made up of many tiny crystalline grains. The way these grains meet at their edges can have a major impact on the solid’s properties, including mechanical strength, electrical conductivity, thermal properties, flexibility, and so on.

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Laser cavities take on new shapes and functionalities

Researchers have demonstrated the first laser cavity that can confine and propagate light in any shape imaginable, even pathways with sharp bends and angles. The new cavity, called a topological cavity, could enable laser components to be packed more densely on a chip, leading to higher speed optical communication technologies that can be fabricated in an efficient and scalable manner using photonic integration techniques.

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Enhancing solar power with ‘jewels of the sea’

Diatoms, a kind of algae that reproduces prodigiously, have been called “the jewels of the sea” for their ability to manipulate light. Now, researchers hope to harness that property to boost solar technology. In the lab of Andre Taylor, associate professor of chemical & environmental engineering, fossilized diatoms are being used to solve a design problem that has long plagued the development of organic solar cells. The results of their work are published in Organic Electronics.

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Crisis with Solar-Powered Devices Made of Wood

Engineers at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering have created a novel technological solution to the pressing global challenge of water scarcity by creating a suite of solar steam generation devices that are at once efficient, easily accessible, environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and extremely low cost.

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Making renewable power more viable for the grid

“Air-breathing” battery can store electricity for months, for about a fifth the cost of current technologies. Wind and solar power are increasingly popular sources for renewable energy. But intermittency issues keep them from connecting widely to the U.S. grid: They require energy-storage systems that, at the cheapest, run about $100 per kilowatt hour and function only in certain locations. Now MIT researchers have developed an “air-breathing” battery that could store electricity for very long durations for about one-fifth the cost of current technologies, with minimal location restraints and zero emissions. The battery could be used to make sporadic renewable power a more reliable source of electricity for the grid.

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