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Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:55:00 EST

Rice University materials scientists have created a light foam from two-dimensional sheets of hexagonal-boron nitride (h-BN) that absorbs carbon dioxide.They discovered freeze-drying h-BN turned it into a macro-scale foam that disintegrates in liquids. But adding a bit of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) into the mix transformed it into a far more robust and useful material.The foam is highly porous and its properties can be tuned for use in air filters and as gas absorption materials, according to researchers in the Rice lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan.Their work appears in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.(image)



Smart electrical grids more vulnerable to cyber attacks

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 13:39:00 EST

Electricity distribution systems in the USA are gradually being modernized and transposed to smart grids, which make use of two-way communication and computer processing. This is making them increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. In a recent paper in Elsevier’s International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection, Dr. Sujeet Shenoi and his colleagues from the Tandy School of Computer Science, University of Tulsa, US, have analyzed these security issues. Their report provides crucial keys to ensuring the security of our power supply."Sophisticated cyberattacks on advanced metering infrastructures are a clear and present danger," Dr. Shenoi pointed out. Such attacks affect both customers and distribution companies and can take various forms, such as stealing customer data (allowing a burglar to determine if a residence is unoccupied, for instance), taking power from particular customers (resulting in increased power bills), disrupting the grid and denying customers power on a localized or widespread basis.(image)



Researchers clarify mystery about proposed battery material

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 14:17:00 EST

Battery researchers agree that one of the most promising possibilities for future battery technology is the lithium-air (or lithium-oxygen) battery, which could provide three times as much power for a given weight as today’s leading technology, lithium-ion batteries. But tests of various approaches to creating such batteries have produced conflicting and confusing results, as well as controversies over how to explain them.Now, a team at MIT has carried out detailed tests that seem to resolve the questions surrounding one promising material for such batteries: a compound called lithium iodide (LiI). The compound was seen as a possible solution to some of the lithium-air battery’s problems, including an inability to sustain many charging-discharging cycles, but conflicting findings had raised questions about the material’s usefulness for this task. The new study explains these discrepancies, and although it suggests that the material might not be suitable after all, the work provides guidance for efforts to overcome LiI’s drawbacks or find alternative materials.(image)



University of Sydney charges ahead on zinc-air batteries

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 14:12:00 EST

University of Sydney researchers have found a solution for one of the biggest stumbling blocks preventing zinc-air batteries from overtaking conventional lithium-ion batteries as the power source of choice in electronic devices.Zinc-air batteries are batteries powered by zinc metal and oxygen from the air. Due to the global abundance of zinc metal, these batteries are much cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries, and they can also store more energy (theoretically five times more than that of lithium-ion batteries), are much safer, and are more environmentally friendly.(image)



Jackdaws flap their wings to save energy

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 10:05:00 EST

For the first time, researchers have observed that birds that fly actively and flap their wings save energy. Biologists at Lund University in Sweden have now shown that jackdaws minimise their energy consumption when they lift off and fly, because the feathers on their wing tips create several small vortices instead of a single large one. The discovery could potentially be applied within the aeronautical industry.(image)



Night vision for bird- & bat-friendly offshore wind power

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 09:55:00 EST

The same technology that enables soldiers to see in the dark can also help protect birds and bats near offshore wind turbines.Night vision goggles use thermal imaging, which captures infrared light that's invisible to the human eye. Now, researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are using thermal imaging to help birds and bats near offshore wind farms. PNNL is developing software called ThermalTracker to automatically categorize birds and bats in thermal video. Birds and bats fly over offshore waters, but they're difficult to track in such remote locations.(image)



RAVAN CubeSat Measures Earth's Outgoing Energy

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 12:31:00 EST

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth’s climate.(image)