Sometimes science truly is indistinguishable from magic: a team of engineers at Arizona State University has created a knife that can actually cut water. Cut it clean in two parts, no little droplets, no mess. Like Moses parting the Red Sea, but without killing any Egyptians.
What kind of sorcery is this? Was this forged by Elvish blacksmiths?
The knife was actually made by Dr. Antonio García and his team. García, a Chemical, Biological & Materials Engineering associate professor at the College of Engineering in Tempe, wanted to find a new class of metal that would allow completely clean bioseparations.
The core of the blade is two 0.020-inch thick zinc and copper sheets. After forging it, it was cleaned with acetone, ethanol, deionized water and then air-dried with nitrogen. Then the researchers dipped it in “a 10 nanomolar aqueous solution of silver nitrate for approximately 20 seconds.” Finally, they added the magic element, dipping it in a 1 nanomolar solution of substance called HDFT.
This seemingly magic material and manufacturing method can revolutionize biomedicine, allowing the separation of proteins in biological fluids “without troubling satellite drop formation.” This will allow for faster and more efficient analysis of biochemical liquid substances.
To test it, they got a water droplet and put it on a Teflon surface, pinned by wire loops. As you can see in the video, the experiment was a complete—and amazing—success.
The famous Moore’s Law, derived from a 1965 paper published by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, may not be the most accurate model to predict the scaling of technology and technology development. Researchers at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) found that a much older similar prediction model is more accurate than Moore’s Law.
In 1936, Theodore Wright authored a paper entitled “Factors affecting the costs of airplanes,” which examines inflation-adjusted unit prices and the decrease of technology over time. Instead of Moore’s prediction that the transistor count in a certain space doubles every 18 to 24 months, Wright’s prediction is based on the emergence of volume production and can be translated to state that the cost of transistors is halved every 1.4 years. In conclusion, Wright’s Law is slightly more accurate as a predictive tool than Moore’s Law. The researchers also looked at Goddard’s Law (drop in price due to greater productivity), Nardhaus’ Synthesis (combines elements of Moore’s Law and Wright’s Law) as well as Sinclair, Klepper and Cohen’s Synthesis (combines Wright’s Law and Goddard’s Law), but none of them was as accurate as both Wright’s Law and Moore’s Law.
Wright’s Law has never been a popular way to describe the progress of technology, but since we know about the challenge of maintaining Moore’s Law (that nature laws will more than likely trump Moore’s Law), Wright’s Law could become more valuable over time. One could question the value of those predictions and even Intel occasionally hinted that the doubling of transistor counts may not be as critical anymore in the future as new features and abilities take the spotlight. Still, Wright’s Law could give the technology industry another guideline to hang on when new products are announced.
The world is no stranger to flexible batteries, but they’ve almost always had to be made in thin sheets — that doesn’t amount to a long running time if you’re powering anything more than a watch. LG Chem has developed a flexible lithium-ion battery that’s not just better-suited to our bigger gadgets but could out-do previous bendable energy packs. Researchers found that coating copper wires with nickel-tin and coiling them briefly around a rod results in a hollow anode that behaves like a very strong spring; mating that anode with a lithium-ion cell leads to a battery that works even when it’s twisted up in knots. Join multiple packs together, and devices could have lithium-ion batteries that fit many shapes without compromising on their maximum deliverable power. Some hurdles remain to creating a production-grade battery, such as a tendency for the pack to shed a small amount of capacity whenever it’s put under enough stress. LG Chem is fully set on turning these cable batteries into shippable technology, however, and could ultimately produce mobile devices and wearables that really do bend to their owners’ every whim.
Physics’ big announcement had more in common with a leaky product launch than the serious business of re-writing the science books. But slack asset management aside, it’s official: a new boson has been observed with a standard deviation of 5 (confidence of 99.9%). The highly anticipated announcement came this morning direct from CERN’s press conference (via ICHEP in Melbourne,) and is the result of an intense, ongoing search for the elusive particle.
The observation is of a boson particle with a mass of 125.3 ± 0.6 GeV, at a significance of 4.9 sigma. Joe Incandela — giving the presentation — said that this is “In agreement with the standard model at 95% confidence range.” The boson is the heaviest ever found, and although this is still a preliminary result, it’s by far the strongest case yet for the existence of the elusive Higgs.
The sought-after particle is essential for supporting the current understanding of sub-atomic world, and its bearing on nuclear, and electromagnetic interactions. The next stage will be to determine the exact characteristics of the new particle and whether it matches the expectations of the Higgs, or is it in fact something more “exotic.” This part will take much more time, but for now, a (very) small, but important piece of the puzzle has been found.
The sun-powered Solar Impulse plane is gradually working up to a trip around the globe, with the most recent benchmark being its first international flight in 2011. Now Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg are taking the jumbo jet-size plane on its first transcontinental journey. The Solar Impulse set off for Morocco today, and its pilots will stop in Madrid along the way. The goal is to complete the 1,554-mile trip by next week, and the big challenge will be crossing cloudy regions like the Pyrenees mountains separating France and Spain. In a 2010 test flight, the Impulse’s 12,000 solar cells soaked up enough rays to keep the plane going through the night, but in case something goes wrong this time, the pilots are prepared with parachutes. If all goes well on this trial run, Piccard and Borschberg will be just one step away from their goal of circumnavigating the world in 2014.
Lithium batteries very frequently power our gadgets, but the material itself isn’t common and, by extension, isn’t cheap. Researchers at the Tokyo University of Science aim to solve that through sodium-ion batteries using a new electrode material. By mixing together oxides of iron, manganese and sodium, Shinichi Komaba and team have managed to get a sodium battery’s electrode holding a charge closer to that of a lithium-ion battery while using a much more abundant material. Having just 30 total charges means this simplest form of sodium-ion battery technology could be years away from finding a home in your next smartphone or EV, although it’s not the only option. Argonne National Laboratory’s Chris Johnson has co-developed a more exotic vanadium pentoxide electrode that could produce 200 charges while keeping the battery itself made out of an ingredient you more often find in your table salt than your mobile gear.
After tacking space shuttle Discovery onto the back of a 747, the brainy gang over at NASA’s READI for a new challenge — earthquake detection. The agency’s GPS-monitoring system, known as the Real-time Earthquake Analysis for Disaster Mitigation Network, is being tested with the goal of more accurately detecting the scale of quakes and, consequently, getting tsunami warnings out as soon as possible. The setup, made possible by a partnership between the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, and the United States Geological Survey, works by measuring ground displacement in real-time to provide a faster, more detailed assessment of imminent damage, thereby giving first responders a head start on determining aid. So the next time you look up to the night sky and wish upon a tracking star, keep in mind that sometimes privacy-skewing, positioning tech could just save your life.
Sadly we can’t all be spacemen. Commercial travel beyond the atmosphere is getting closer but still priced way, way, way beyond the budgetary constraints of mere human beings. The closest many of us will get to outer space is photography and, thanks to ever-cheaper and ever-more-durable cameras, getting those pictures is easier than ever. Engadget recently visited Project Aether on location in Fairbanks Alaska, a group working to study what happens in the upper atmosphere and, along the way, inspire students around the world. Using a helium-filled weather balloon and a payload made of carbon fiber tubing, the team lofted a set of GoPro HD Hero 2 cameras, one of which captured photos of the green aurora borealis and, off to the side, the lingering the glow from a long-set sun. That black arc below? That’s the earth. Read more…
Although the concept of obtaining clean water out of thin air is nothing new, most designs aren’t efficient enough for a larger, commercial scale use. Hoping to remedy this shortcoming, Eolewater founder Marc Parent has designed an innovative wind turbine that can extract hundreds of gallons of clean, fresh water on a daily basis.
After several years of prototypes and revisions, Parent’s turbine was finally put to the test in October of last year. Set up in the dry desert air of Abu Dhabi, his wind turbine was able to reliably gather 130-200 gallons of fresh water every day. While many of us are lucky enough to be blessed with an abundance of clean drinking water, many underdeveloped countries aren’t so lucky.
Advancements in photovoltaic cells have been phenomenal over the years, but sadly we are still a long way from having a universally efficient solar power system in every home and commercial application. Fortunately for the future, scientists continue to find methods to create cheaper, more efficient systems that will pave the way for the future of sustainable energy.
One of the latest advancements in solar power technology is the reimagined photovoltaic cell created by scientists at the University of Cambridge. By harnessing more of the sun’s spectrum than traditional silicon-based solar cells, the scientists’ hybrid cells are capable of generating 25% more energy.
The new solar cell design is capable of absorbing both red and blue spectrums of light, while generating electrons from photons at a two-to-one ratio with the blue spectrum. Conventional solar cells lose blue photon energy as heat, meaning they are unable to convert approximately 34 percent of the sunlight they absorb into energy.
For more information on the research and the results of the project, you can read the findings in the recently published paper here.