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Mar 122009
 

By John DeFore
Green Right Now

File this under Sounds Too Good To Be True: Researchers using nanomaterials at Penn State are experimenting with a device that changes carbon dioxide into methane that can be used as transportation fuel.

Chronicling their experiments in the journal Nano Letters, team leader Craig Grimes describes an array of nanotubes that were coated with catalyst layers of platinum and/or copper, then stuck in a stainless steel chamber with some CO2-loaded water vapor and placed in the sun. After a few hours, the catalyst had turned some of the carbon dioxide into methane.

Similar transformations have been accomplished before using ultraviolet light in labs, but had produced much lower methane levels. According to an announcement made by the university, Grimes thinks his process “can readily be improved by several orders of magnitude, which could make the process economically feasible.”

Doing that might involve attaching solar condensers to a source of concentrated CO2 — like power plants that burn fossil fuels to make electricity. Grimes goes further, adding, “Then maybe we could figure out how to capture and reuse the CO2 in our vehicles and none of it would go back into the atmosphere.”

Further research, it goes without saying, is needed — but the team believes drastic improvements on current results are within reach.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media


Mar 122009
 

By John DeFore
Green Right Now

Animal-rights activists may be pleased at a new development that should lead to fewer animals being sacrificed in the name of environmental monitoring — or, at least, will result in vastly smaller organisms being used in the guinea-pig role.

The new developments also could save people from becoming inadvertent guinea pigs when their water system becomes contaminated by detecting problems early.

It all involves taking science to micro levels.

Scientists at Tel Aviv University are among teams around the world working on “lab on a chip” systems that can shrink large amounts of analytic equipment down to a quarter-inch square, and produce results more quickly to boot. At the university’s School of Engineering, a group led by vice-dean Yosi Shacham-Diamand has made such a nanolab that can perform water-quality evaluations that previously might have been the job of test fish; or not come to light until people had already been sickened by stealth toxins.

The chip in question is covered with a layer of bacteria that have been genetically engineered to produce small amounts of light in the presence of certain water contaminants. When paired with sensors that can pick up on these tiny light levels, the device can register changes in water quality in real time instead of waiting for results. “Our system is based on a plastic chip,” Professor Shacham-Diamand says in this press release, “that is more humane, much faster, more sensitive and much cheaper” than conventional tests.

Micro-labs like this one aren’t only useful for testing, say, E. coli levels in a city’s water supply. Scientists are working on applications involving stem cells, various chemicals that could be used in biological warfare, and cancer research.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media


Nov 202008
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

There’s science, and there’s applied science. Here’s some interesting applied science: Nanobamas. OK. We get that everything’s Obama right now. Obama-drama. Obama-rama. But nanobamas?

The scoop: John Hart, an assistant professor in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Michigan wants to expand our understanding of nanotechnology, which could be vital to developing better solar cells and batteries, disease treatments and the continuing perfecting of computer processors. Solar power could benefit from nano-thinking and already is, with experimental fabrics and even spray-on solar particles under development that could collect the sun’s energy wherever they go.

So who better to raise the profile of nanotech than the latest president elect?

Each tiny Barack Obama is smaller than a grain of salt. The images were based on Shepard Fairey’s red, white and blue poster of the president-elect. Scientists used lasers, glass plates and silicon wafers to miniaturize the picture, then grew the nanotubes on the pattern. Then they photographed the results under high magnification with an electron microscope.

And yes, that’s weird and a little scary that nanotubes grow.

Every portrait contains a mind-boggling 150 million carbon nanotubes “stacked vertically like trees in a forest,” according to a statement on these presidential electrons and protons. And the construction is drum-tight, with each carbon nanotube being very strong — and small, about 1/50,000th the width of a human hair.

That’s nano nano. Sure, jokes come to mind. Let’s just say we hope this is more foreshadowing of a mighty, new energy future, and not a metaphor for our shrinking economy.

(To read about nanotechnology see the U.S. government website, National Nanotechnology Initiative.)

Copyright © 2008 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media


Jul 032008
 

By John DeFore

Water boils whenever it reaches 100 degrees Celsius, period — right?

As with many lessons learned in elementary school, the truth is more complex than that, and new research conducted at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York is examining those complexities to come up with some energy-saving innovations that have big ramifications for energy processes relying on steam. Continue reading »