Building a better battery
June 28, 2016 03:14 PM - Texas A&M University via EurekAlert!

Forget mousetraps -- today's scientists will get the cheese if they manage to build a better battery.

An international team led by Texas A&M University chemist Sarbajit Banerjee is one step closer, thanks to new research published today (June 28) in the journal Nature Communications that has the potential to create more efficient batteries by shedding light on the cause of one of their biggest problems -- a "traffic jam" of ions that slows down their charging and discharging process.

All batteries have three main components: two electrodes and an intervening electrolyte. Lithium ion batteries work under the so-called rocking-chair model. Imagine discharging and charging a battery as similar to the back-and-forth motion of a rocking chair. As the chair rocks one way, using its stored energy, lithium ions flow out of one electrode through the electrolyte and into the other electrode. Then as the chair rocks the other way, charging the battery after a day's use, the reverse happens, emptying the second electrode of lithium ions.

Recycled Plastic Lumber Invented by Pioneering Rutgers Professor
June 27, 2016 10:08 AM - Carl Blesch and Todd B. Bates via

Imagine a material lighter than steel, longer-lasting than lumber and strong enough to support 120-ton locomotives.

Now imagine that material is made from milk containers, coffee cups and other plastics that we recycle.

It’s called structural plastic lumber, and the ingenious, nontoxic material was invented by Thomas Nosker, an assistant research professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and principal investigator in the Center for Advanced Materials via Immiscible Composite Materials at Rutgers University. The late Richard W. Renfree, Nosker’s graduate student who later became a Rutgers professor, helped invent the revolutionary material.

Why the Increase in Solar-Powered Schools?
June 24, 2016 05:02 PM - Jake DiRe, Triple Pundit

Out of the 125,000 K-12 schools in the United States, over 3,700 are running on solar power. Three-thousands of these schools installed their solar power systems within the past six years, as solar technology continues to become less expensive and more sophisticated.

This trend in powering our schools reflects the growing recognition by district and state officials that photovoltaic electrical systems offer significant financial and environmental benefits. Here are four key reasons why more schools are making this transition.

Probing giant planets' dark hydrogen
June 23, 2016 01:10 PM - Carnegie Institution for Science via EurekAlert!

Hydrogen is the most-abundant element in the universe. It's also the simplest--sporting only a single electron in each atom. But that simplicity is deceptive, because there is still so much we have to learn about hydrogen.

One of the biggest unknowns is its transformation under the extreme pressures and temperatures found in the interiors of giant planets, where it is squeezed until it becomes liquid metal, capable of conducting electricity. New work published in Physical Review Letters by Carnegie's Alexander Goncharov and University of Edinburgh's Stewart McWilliams measures the conditions under which hydrogen undergoes this transition in the lab and finds an intermediate state between gas and metal, which they're calling "dark hydrogen."

Laplace's Equation: Mathematical Key to Everything
June 22, 2016 04:37 PM - Brendan Cole via Wired

PHYSICS HAS ITS own Rosetta Stones. They’re ciphers, used to translate seemingly disparate regimes of the universe. They tie pure math to any branch of physics your heart might desire.

It’s in electricity. It’s in magnetism. It’s in fluid mechanics. It’s in gravity. It’s in heat. It’s in soap films. It’s called Laplace’s equation. It’s everywhere.

Laplace’s equation is named for Pierre-Simon Laplace, a French mathematician prolific enough to get a Wikipedia page with several eponymous entries. In 1799, he proved that the the solar system was stable over astronomical timescales—contrary to what Newton had thought a century earlier. In the course of proving Newton wrong, Laplace investigated the equation that bears his name.

It has just five symbols. There’s an upside-down triangle called a nabla that’s being squared, the squiggly Greek letter phi (other people use psi or V or even an A with an arrow above it), an equals sign, and a zero. And with just those five symbols, Laplace read the universe.

Particle zoo in a quantum computer
June 22, 2016 04:02 PM - University of Innsbruck Via EurekAlert!

Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The discovery of the Higgs boson at the CERN in 2012 constitutes a further step towards the confirmation of the Standard Model. However, many aspects of this theory are still not understood because their complexity makes it hard to investigate them with classical computers. Quantum computers may provide a way to overcome this obstacle as they can simulate certain aspects of elementary particle physics in a well-controlled quantum system. Physicists from the University of Innsbruck and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences have now done exactly that: In an international first, Rainer Blatt's and Peter Zoller's research teams have simulated lattice gauge theories in a quantum computer. They describe their work in the journal Nature.

Researchers find better way to 'herd' electrons in solar fuel devices
June 20, 2016 02:23 PM - University of British Columbia via EurekAlert!

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered a new way to optimize electron transfer in semi-conductors used in solar fuel solutions.

The finding, published today in Nature Chemistry, could have a big impact on devices that convert sunlight into electricity and fuel.

Improving poor soil with burned up biomass
June 20, 2016 07:15 AM - RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have shown that torrefied biomass can improve the quality of poor soil found in arid regions. Published in Scientific Reports, the study showed that adding torrefied biomass to poor soil from Botswana increased water retention in the soil as well as —the amount of plant growth.

A Plan to Mute Ocean Noise for Marine Life
June 15, 2016 06:37 AM - Laura Goldman, Care2

Imagine trying to relax in your home while being bombarded with the explosive sounds of shotgun blasts as well as freight trains rumbling by. For many whales, dolphins and other marine life that depend on their hearing to survive, there is no way to escape the loud, human-made noises in their ocean home. The main culprits are vessels like cargo ships, along with sonar guns used by the U.S. Navy and air guns used in seismic oil and gas exploration. Their blasts are so loud that they are known to change the behavior of blue whales. But now, in what Michael Jasny, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land & Wildlife Program, referred to as “a sea change in the way we manage ocean noise off our shores,” NOAA has announced it plans to take action to reduce the noise in entire marine ecosystems.

New material has potential to cut costs and make nuclear fuel recycling cleaner
June 13, 2016 11:00 AM - Mary Beckman via PNNL

Researchers are investigating a new material that might help in nuclear fuel recycling and waste reduction by capturing certain gases released during reprocessing. Conventional technologies to remove these radioactive gases operate at extremely low, energy-intensive temperatures. By working at ambient temperature, the new material has the potential to save energy, make reprocessing cleaner and less expensive. The reclaimed materials can also be reused commercially.

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