Sci/tech

Microbial fuel cell converts methane to electricity
May 17, 2017 11:39 AM - Penn State

Transporting methane from gas wellheads to market provides multiple opportunities for this greenhouse gas to leak into the atmosphere. Now, an international team of researchers has taken the first step in converting methane directly to electricity using bacteria, in a way that could be done near the drilling sites.

"Currently, we have to ship methane via pipelines," said Thomas K. Wood, holder of the biotechnology endowed chair and professor of chemical engineering, Penn State. "When you ship methane, you release a greenhouse gas. We can't eliminate all the leakage, but we could cut it in half if we didn't ship it via pipe long distances."

The researchers' goal is to use microbial fuel cells to convert methane into electricity near the wellheads, eliminating long-distance transport. That goal is still far in the future, but they now have created a bacteria-powered fuel cell that can convert the methane into small amounts of electricity.

Microbial fuel cell converts methane to electricity
May 17, 2017 11:39 AM - Penn State

Transporting methane from gas wellheads to market provides multiple opportunities for this greenhouse gas to leak into the atmosphere. Now, an international team of researchers has taken the first step in converting methane directly to electricity using bacteria, in a way that could be done near the drilling sites.

"Currently, we have to ship methane via pipelines," said Thomas K. Wood, holder of the biotechnology endowed chair and professor of chemical engineering, Penn State. "When you ship methane, you release a greenhouse gas. We can't eliminate all the leakage, but we could cut it in half if we didn't ship it via pipe long distances."

The researchers' goal is to use microbial fuel cells to convert methane into electricity near the wellheads, eliminating long-distance transport. That goal is still far in the future, but they now have created a bacteria-powered fuel cell that can convert the methane into small amounts of electricity.

Raising Coral
May 17, 2017 08:21 AM - Oregon State University

Imagine you’re swimming lazily along, just below the water’s surface in a tropical ocean. You look down at a colorful array of pinks, yellows and greens. Spikey corals cover the floor below. Small fish swim in and out of hiding places, ducking behind the stationary animals to avoid your peering eyes.

Super hearing: University of Toronto scientists study fly to develop better hearing aids
May 17, 2017 08:21 AM - University of Toronto

Ormia ochracea's sense of directional hearing is second to none in the animal kingdom.

“These flies have highly specialized ears that provide the most acute directional hearing of any animal,” says Andrew Mason, an associate professor of biology at U of T Scarborough.  “The mechanism that makes their hearing so exceptional has even led to a range of bio-inspired technology, like the mini-directional microphones used in hearing aids.”

3D-printed soft four legged robot can walk on sand and stone
May 16, 2017 05:04 PM - University of California - San Diego

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed the first soft robot that is capable of walking on rough surfaces, such as sand and pebbles. The 3D-printed, four-legged robot can climb over obstacles and walk on different terrains.

Researchers led by Michael Tolley, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of California San Diego, will present the robot at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation from May 29 to June 3 in Singapore. The robot could be used to capture sensor readings in dangerous environments or for search and rescue.

3D-printed soft four legged robot can walk on sand and stone
May 16, 2017 05:04 PM - University of California - San Diego

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed the first soft robot that is capable of walking on rough surfaces, such as sand and pebbles. The 3D-printed, four-legged robot can climb over obstacles and walk on different terrains.

Researchers led by Michael Tolley, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of California San Diego, will present the robot at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation from May 29 to June 3 in Singapore. The robot could be used to capture sensor readings in dangerous environments or for search and rescue.

How hard did it rain on Mars?
May 16, 2017 11:59 AM - Elsevier

Heavy rain on Mars reshaped the planet’s impact craters and carved out river-like channels in its surface billions of years ago, according to a new study published in Icarus. In the paper, researchers from the Smithsonian Institution and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory show that changes in the atmosphere on Mars made it rain harder and harder, which had a similar effect on the planet’s surface as we see on Earth.

How hard did it rain on Mars?
May 16, 2017 11:59 AM - Elsevier

Heavy rain on Mars reshaped the planet’s impact craters and carved out river-like channels in its surface billions of years ago, according to a new study published in Icarus. In the paper, researchers from the Smithsonian Institution and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory show that changes in the atmosphere on Mars made it rain harder and harder, which had a similar effect on the planet’s surface as we see on Earth.

Study solves mystery of how plants use sunlight to tell time via cell protein signaling
May 16, 2017 11:46 AM - Southern Methodist University

Findings of a new study solve a key mystery about the chemistry of how plants tell time so they can flower and metabolize nutrients.

NASA Aims to Create First-Ever Space-Based Sodium Lidar to Study Poorly Understood Mesosphere
May 16, 2017 11:14 AM - NASA

A team of NASA scientists and engineers now believes it can leverage recent advances in a greenhouse-detecting instrument to build the world’s first space-based sodium lidar to study Earth’s poorly understood mesosphere.

Scientist Diego Janches and laser experts Mike Krainak and Tony Yu, all of whom work at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, are leading a research-and-development effort to further advance the sodium lidar, which the group plans to deploy on the International Space Station if it succeeds in proving its flightworthiness.

NASA’s Center Innovation Fund and the Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development for Science programs are now funding the instrument’s maturation. However, the concept traces its heritage in part to NASA’s past investments in promising lidar instruments, called Sounders, originally created to measure carbon dioxide and methane in Earth’s atmosphere.

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