• Inexpensive semiconducting organic polymers can harvest sunlight to split carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels

    Chemists at The University of Texas at Arlington have been the first to demonstrate that an organic semiconductor polymer called polyaniline is a promising photocathode material for the conversion of carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels without the need for a co-catalyst.

    "This opens up a new field of research into new applications for inexpensive, readily available organic semiconducting polymers within solar fuel cells," said principal researcher Krishnan Rajeshwar, UTA distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-Director of UTA's Center for Renewable Energy, Science & Technology.

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  • Spiders spin unique phononic material

    New discoveries about spider silk could inspire novel materials to manipulate sound and heat in the same way semiconducting circuits manipulate electrons, according to scientists at Rice University, in Europe and in Singapore.

    A paper in Nature Materials today looks at the microscopic structure of spider silk and reveals unique characteristics in the way it transmits phonons, quasiparticles of sound.

    The research shows for the first time that spider silk has a phonon band gap. That means it can block phonon waves in certain frequencies in the same way an electronic band gap - the basic property of semiconducting materials - allows some electrons to pass and stops others.

    The researchers wrote that their observation is the first discovery of a "hypersonic phononic band gap in a biological material."

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  • Why the Increase in Solar-Powered Schools?

    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.

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  • New material has potential to cut costs and make nuclear fuel recycling cleaner

    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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  • Provisional names announced for super heavy elements 113, 115, 117, and 118

    The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Inorganic Chemistry Division has published a Provisional Recommendation for the names and symbols of the recently discovered superheavy elements 113, 115, 117, and 118.

    The provisional names for 115, 117 and 118 -- originally proposed by the discovering team from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna, Russia; the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee -- will now undergo a statutory period for public review before the names and symbols can be finally approved by the IUPAC Council.

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  • Bright Lighting Encourages Healthy Food Choices

    Dining in dimly lit restaurants has been linked to eating slowly and ultimately eating less than in brighter restaurants, but does lighting also impact how healthfully we order?

    New research findings forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing Research illustrate that those dining in well-lit rooms are about 16-24% more likely to order healthy foods than those in dimly lit rooms. Furthermore, the researchers found evidence that this effect is due mainly to the level of diners’ alertness. “We feel more alert in brighter rooms and therefore tend to make more healthful, forward-thinking decisions,” explains lead author Dipayan Biswas, PhD, University of South Florida.

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  • Antarctic fossils show creatures wiped out by asteroid

    A study of more than 6,000 marine fossils from the Antarctic shows that the mass extinction event that killed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago was sudden and just as deadly to life in the Polar Regions.

    Previously, scientists had thought that creatures living in the southernmost regions of the planet would have been in a less perilous position during the mass extinction event than those elsewhere on Earth.

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  • How do trees sleep?

    Most living organisms adapt their behavior to the rhythm of day and night. Plants are no exception: flowers open in the morning, some tree leaves close during the night. Researchers have been studying the day and night cycle in plants for a long time: Linnaeus observed that flowers in a dark cellar continued to open and close, and Darwin recorded the overnight movement of plant leaves and stalks and called it "sleep". But even to this day, such studies have only been done with small plants grown in pots, and nobody knew whether trees sleep as well. Now, a team of researchers from Austria, Finland and Hungary measured the sleep movement of fully grown trees using a time series of laser scanning point clouds consisting of millions of points each.

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  • The Great Green Wall of Africa

    Though a border wall with Mexico is currently a matter of serious discussion in the United States, the aim of which is to prevent the physical movement of people (with few other apparent “benefits”), some walls can actually bring together and preserve communities, rather than divide them.

    In only five years, the UN says, around 60 million Africans may be displaced as their land ceases to be arable, a potential humanitarian disaster the scale of which would be unprecedented. This would be devastating to a huge portion of the African continent not only ecologically and economically but socially as well.

    That’s where Africa’s ingenious Great Green Wall comes in.

    Experts at the United Nations say without action, desertification may claim two-thirds of Africa’s farmlands in under a decade. The Great Green Wall, however, was conceived as a wide-reaching strategy to halt Northern Africa’s rapidly advancing Sahara Desert.

    The Great Green Wall, once complete, will stretch an incredible 4,400 miles from Senegal in West Africa to the East African nation of Djibouti. Instead of bricks and mortar, the wall will be made of trees and other vegetation, including plants that can be eaten or used to create medicine.

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  • Early Earth's air weighed less than half of today's atmosphere

    The idea that the young Earth had a thicker atmosphere turns out to be wrong. New research from the University of Washington uses bubbles trapped in 2.7 billion-year-old rocks to show that air at that time exerted at most half the pressure of today’s atmosphere.

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