Archive for September, 2011

‘Artificial leaf’ makes real fuel

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 30, 2011   View Article

It doesn’t look like the leaves changing colors and piling up on the lawn, but a nature-inspired “artificial leaf” technology has taken a notable step toward the goal of producing storable and clean energy to power everything from factories to tablet computers.

The leaf is a silicon solar cell coated with catalytic materials on its side that, when placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, splits the H2O into bubbles of oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen can be stored and used as an energy source, for example to power a fuel cell.

Taxicab data helps ease traffic

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 29, 2011   View Article

Traffic blows. It’s unhealthy and a waste of time. It is also a fact of life in almost every major city around the world, especially in fast-developing China whereas many as 20 million rural farmers migrate to the cities each year looking for jobs and a better life.

To help urban planners determine where to build new roads, subways, skyscrapers and shopping malls to absorb their new residents, researchers are turning to data collected by GPS systems in taxicabs.

Glowing bacteria encrypt codes

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 28, 2011   View Article

Scientists are tweaking bacteria to send encrypted messages that can be shipped via snail mail on sheets of paper-like material called nitrocellulose.

The recipient grows the bacteria with a select cocktail of nutrients and other chemicals. Once grown, each microbe glows one of seven colors when exposed to the right kind of light. Different colored microbes are arranged to represent different letters and symbols. If you know the nutrient and chemical cocktail as well as the keys to the code, you can decipher the message.

The era of e-bikes is upon us

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 27, 2011   View Article

Bikes with an electric-motor assist are beginning to change the way people get around town, according to experts who declare the age of the e-bike is upon us.

E-bikes look and operate similar to their traditional pedal-powered equivalents, but contain a battery-powered motor that kicks on when, for example, pedaling up a menacing hill.

‘Unnatural’ bugs to enhance our lives?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 22, 2011   View Article

Scientists have successfully added multiple “unnatural” amino acids to a strain of bacteria, a breakthrough on the path to genetically engineered microbes that create useful things for people such as life-saving medicines and biofuels.

“We are adding components to the bug so that the bug can do something that a natural bug usually can’t do,” Lei Wang at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies told me today. “We are trying to make it do new tricks.”

Technologist wins ‘genius’ award for sensor tech

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 20, 2011   View Article

Your credit card bill tells you how much you spent on gas last Tuesday, groceries on Wednesday, and football tickets on Friday night. Wouldn’t it be helpful if your electric bill did something similar?

This isn’t pie in the sky for Shwetak Patel, a 29-year-old technologist who received a $500,000 “genius” grant Tuesday for his work on inexpensive and easy-to-deploy sensors that can make our lives more efficient and enjoyable.

Laser detects roadside bombs

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 19, 2011   View Article

Lab scientists are pitching a new high-tech laser that is able to detect roadside bombs before they explode, potentially thwarting the deadliest weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices or IEDs, account for 60 percent of coalition soldiers’ deaths, according to NATO figures. Finding a way to improve on — or at least replace — bomb sniffing dogs is therefore a priority abroad and at home.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach