Sci/tech

Japan Looks to Batteries to Clean Up Cars
October 3, 2007 07:10 AM - Reuters

TOKYO - Achieving a breakthrough in battery technology is the key to tackling pollution caused by cars and sustaining a rapid growth in car ownership worldwide, an official at the Japanese automakers' lobby said.  An estimated 700 million cars are on the road today and this is expected to double "in no time" given rapid motorization in China, India and other emerging markets, said Minoru Taniguchi, head of the environment department at the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

New method could advance development of hydrogen-fueled cars
October 2, 2007 09:29 PM - UCLA News

Los Angeles, California - Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a model that could help engineers and scientists speed up the development of hydrogen-fueled vehicles by identifying promising hydrogen-storage materials and predicting favored thermodynamic chemical reactions through which hydrogen can be reversibly stored and extracted.

The new method, published online in the peer-reviewed journal Advanced Materials, was developed by Alireza Akbarzadeh, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher in the department of materials science and engineering; Vidvuds Ozolins, UCLA associate professor of materials science and engineering; and Christopher Wolverton, professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University in Illinois.

Ancient Fossils Points to Carbon Dioxide As a Driver of Global Warming
October 2, 2007 12:37 PM -

PASADENA, Calif.--A team of American and Canadian scientists has devised a new way to study Earth's past climate by analyzing the chemical composition of ancient marine fossils. The first published tests with the method further support the view that atmospheric CO2 has contributed to dramatic climate variations in the past, and strengthen projections that human CO2 emissions could cause global warming.

In the current issue of the journal Nature, geologists and environmental scientists from the California Institute of Technology, the University of Ottawa, the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Brock University, and the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve report the results of a new method for determining the growth temperatures of carbonate fossils such as shells and corals. This method looks at the percentage of rare isotopes of oxygen and carbon that bond with each other rather than being randomly distributed through their mineral lattices.

 

Some Cattlemen Nervous About New Biolab
October 2, 2007 08:09 AM - Suzanne Gamboa -Associated Press

The spread of a deadly livestock disease from a laboratory in Britain has not stopped U.S. officials from considering where to build a new animal disease research lab in this country.

The Aug. 3 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain was tied to a government laboratory and a private vaccine manufacturer in Pirbright, England. Initial tests show a second outbreak, which is still under investigation, was the same strain as the lab-related outbreak.

Killer Amoeba Blamed for Six Deaths
October 1, 2007 03:50 PM - Chris Kahn, AP, Lisa Vorderbruggen, Contra Costa Times / MCT

PHOENIX (Sept. 29) — It sounds like science fiction but it's true: A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.
 
Even though encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, it's killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases in the future.

"This is definitely something we need to track," said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd expect to see more cases."

Ground search resumes for adventurer Fossett
September 30, 2007 04:33 PM - William Albright, Reuters

RENO (Reuters) - Search teams on foot, horseback and all-terrain vehicles resumed their quest on Sunday in western Nevada for millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, missing since taking off alone in a small plane on September 3.

The ground search, now in its second day, focused on a patch of rugged terrain identified by U.S. Air Force radar analysis as an area where Fossett's aircraft was likely to have gone down, said Gary Derks, a state Department of Public Safety official overseeing the operation.

Speaking to Reuters by telephone from the command center in Nevada's capital, Carson City, Derks said the teams were expected to finish covering the search area of roughly 50 to 60 square miles by nightfall.

Wasp Study Suggests Altruism Evolved From Maternal Behavior
September 29, 2007 07:29 PM - Diana Yates, University of Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers at the University of Illinois have used an innovative approach to reveal the molecular basis of altruistic behavior in wasps. The research team focused on the expression of behavior-related genes in Polistes metricus paper wasps, a species for which little genetic data was available when the study was begun. Their findings appear today online in Science Express.

Like honey bee workers, wasp workers give up their reproductive capabilities and focus entirely on nurturing their larval siblings, a practice that seems to defy the Darwinian prediction that a successful organism strives, above all else, to reproduce itself. Such behaviors are indicative of a eusocial society, in which some individuals lose, or sacrifice, their reproductive functions and instead work to benefit the larger group.

Nanowire generates power by harvesting energy from the environment
September 29, 2007 07:22 PM -

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — As the sizes of sensor networks and mobile devices shrink toward the microscale, and even nanoscale, there is a growing need for suitable power sources. Because even the tiniest battery is too big to be used in nanoscale devices, scientists are exploring nanosize systems that can salvage energy from the environment.

Now, researchers at the University of Illinois have shown that a single nanowire can produce power by harvesting mechanical energy. Made of piezoelectric material, the nanowire generates a voltage when mechanically deformed. To measure the voltage produced by such a tiny wire, however, the researchers first had to build an extremely sensitive and precise mechanical testing stage.

“With the development of this precision testing apparatus, we successfully demonstrated the first controlled measurement of voltage generation from an individual nanowire,” said Min-Feng Yu, a professor of mechanical science and engineering, and a researcher at the university’s Beckman Institute. “The new testing apparatus makes possible other difficult, but important, measurements, as well.”

Eggshells Help Make Hydrogen Fuel.
September 29, 2007 07:09 PM -

COLUMBUS , Ohio -- Engineers at Ohio State University have found a way to turn discarded chicken eggshells into an alternative energy resource.

The patented process uses eggshells to soak up carbon dioxide from a reaction that produces hydrogen fuel. It also includes a unique method for peeling the collagen-containing membrane from the inside of the shells, so that the collagen can be used commercially.
L.S. Fan

L.S. Fan, Distinguished University Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State, said that he and former Ohio State doctoral student, Mahesh Iyer, hit upon the idea when they were trying to improve a method of hydrogen production called the water-gas-shift reaction. With this method, fossil fuels such as coal are gasified to produce carbon monoxide gas, which then combines with water to produce carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

The eggshell plays a critical role.

Researchers Detect Hint of Oxygen 50 to 100 Million Years Earlier Than First Believed
September 29, 2007 05:15 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

 
Riverside, California - Two teams of scientists report that traces of oxygen appeared in Earth's atmosphere roughly 100 million years before the "Great Oxidation Event" 2.4 billion years ago. The Great Oxidation Event is when most geoscientists think atmospheric oxygen rose sharply from very low levels and set the stage for animal life that followed almost two billion years later. Analyzing layers of sedimentary rock in a kilometer-long core sample they retrieved in 2004 from the Hamersley Basin in Western Australia, the researchers found evidence for the presence of a small but significant amount of oxygen 2.5 billion years ago in the oceans and likely also in Earth's atmosphere.

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