50 micrometer thick membrane can absorb oil, swelling to 20 times its weightby Prachi Patel

A thin membranes made from a web of nanowires might become a promising tool for cleaning up oil spills and removing toxic contaminants from groundwater. When dipped into a mixture of water and oil, the 50-micrometer-thick membrane absorbs the oil, swelling to 20 times its weight.

Typically, oil spills are cleaned up using the same basic technology used 20 years ago. This includes using absorbent materials to sop up traces of oil. Natural sorbents such as hay and cellulose can soak up between 3 and 15 times their weight in oil, while synthetic polymer-based sorbents can absorb up to 70 times their weight. But these materials tend to absorb water as well.

TAU scientists create a solar energy device from a plant protein structure

If harnessing the unlimited solar power of the sun were easy, we wouldn't still have the greenhouse gas problem that results from the use of fossil fuel. And while solar energy systems work moderately well in hot desert climates, they are still inefficient and contribute only a small percentage of the general energy demand. A new solution may be coming from an unexpected source — a source that may be on your dinner plate tonight.

Scientists can now listen to a set of solar wind data that’s usually represented visually, as numbers or graphs. University of Michigan researchers have “sonified” the data. They’ve created an acoustic, or musical, representation of it.

The researchers’ primary goal was to try to hear information that their eyes might have missed in solar wind speed and particle density data gathered by NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer satellite. The solar wind is a stream of charged particles emanating from the sun.

Avni Argun and Paula Hammondby David l. Chandler

Layer-by-layer assembly system could lead to improved fuel cells, batteries and solar panels

A team of researchers at MIT and Pennsylvania State University has been developing a new method for producing novel kinds of membranes that could have improved properties for batteries, fuel cells and other energy conversion and storage applications.

In an advance that might interest Q-Branch, the gadget makers for James Bond, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and partners from industry and academia have designed and tested experimental antennas that are highly efficient and yet a fraction of the size of standard antenna systems with comparable properties. The novel antennas may be useful in ever-shrinking and proliferating wireless systems such as emergency communications devices, micro-sensors and portable ground-penetrating radars to search for tunnels, caverns and other geophysical features.

by David L. Chandler

Harvesting electricity from small temperature differences could enable a new generation of electronic devices that don’t need batteries

It can be inconvenient to replace batteries in devices that need to work over long periods of time. Doctors might have to get beneath a patient’s skin to replace batteries for implanted biomedical monitoring or treatment systems. Batteries used in devices that monitor machinery, infrastructure or industrial installations may be crammed into hard-to-reach nooks or distributed over wide areas that are often difficult to access.

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This news service is provided by Good Samaritan Institute, located in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

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