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Electricity from the marshes

Electricity from the marshes
An unexpected source of new, clean energy has been found: the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell that can generate electricity from the natural interaction between living plant roots and soil bacteria. The technique already works on a small scale and will soon be applied in larger marshland areas throughout the world. On 23 November, researcher Marjolein Helder will defend her PhD research on generating electricity via plants at Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR. She has also founded a spin-off company called Plant-e with her colleague David Strik. The Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell draws electricity from the soil while the plants continue to grow. The Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell can currently generate 0.4 Watt per square metre of plant growth. Marshlands Plant-Microbial Fuel Cells can be used on various scales. Marjolein Helder's PhD research did not only focus on the technical aspects of the Plant-Microbial Fuel Cell, but also on how the technology could be integrated into society. Related:  Energy Sources & Generation

Lettuce-Bot can kill weeds with 98% accuracy Humans have a pesky way of increasing in number no matter what we do. All those people also consume resources, and the strain on global food supplies will only increase in the future. As everyone scrambles to find a solution to this problem, we come back to one of our favorite problem-solvers: robots. Angel investors have opted to put $3.1 million on the table to move development of the Lettuce-Bot forward. Lettuce-Bot does this by taking advantage of recent advancements in computer vision systems. The Lettuce-Bot is not a miracle machine, though. Blue River, via Future Timeline

Super-efficient solar-energy technology: ‘Solar steam’ so effective it can make steam from icy cold water Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water. The technology's inventors said they expect it will first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world. Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new "solar steam" method from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water. Details of the solar steam method were published online November 19 in ACS Nano. "This is about a lot more than electricity," said LANP Director Naomi Halas, the lead scientist on the project. The efficiency of solar steam is due to the light-capturing nanoparticles that convert sunlight into heat.

Plastic can convert heat into electricity A new study has found that certain types of plastic can be semi-metals. (Photo: Ida L. Flanagan) Plastic does not normally conduct electricity. This is why regular electrical wires are covered with plastic, so that we don’t get a shock when we touch them. However, it turns out that special forms of plastic polymers can actually conduct electricity in the same way that metals can. Some polymers share certain properties with metals, but they behave differently. Scientists from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Australia have now taken a closer look at these semi-metallic polymers. There is typically a heat loss of 50 percent from traditional energy sources. Jens Wenzel Andreasen Semi-metallic polymers can be thermoelectric, which means that their electrical conductivity varies with temperature. Waste heat turns into electricity These special materials can be used to recover heat that would otherwise go to waste. “There is typically a heat loss of 50 percent from traditional energy sources.

Flowers in Ultra-Violet The compilation of species will continue to be updated at irregular intervals. All species listed here have been documented, and links are added whenever I can find spare time for updating. These images are made for illustrative purposes, not as artistic statements per se. However, there are lots of food for thought in the convoluted ways Nature expresses itself, so for once the artist can step backand let the subjects speak for themselves. If you are unfamiliar with the botany, just select any species indicated as having a "strong" response to learn how this looks. However, not all species have the typical bull's-eye UV pattern, which may be confined to symmetrical flowers. The UV range of the spectrum has no predefined colours, so we are free to assign any colour we like. UV fluorescence may be a common trait to most flowers, but might be of temporary occurrence for parts of the flower. In case you are curious as to why the species might have these patterns, read this to learn more.

Tapping the Motion of the Ocean: Could the Tides Power Our World? | Environment on GOOD The city of Eastport, Maine is made up of a small group of islands just to the east of the eastern-most point of our eastern-most state. It houses about 1,300 residents, known for their dry humor, for their humbling heartiness, and for watching the sun rise hours before the rest of us get out of bed. The city boasts its annual pirate festival, its vague tie to a Mickey Rooney movie about a dragon, and the rip-roaring ocean tides that sweep its shores. To the east of Eastport lies Passamaquoddy Bay—an inlet of the Bay of Fundy through which 70 billion cubic feet of tidal water flow every six hours. The power of the ocean tides has never been lost on Mainers. It was as electrical power swept across the U.S., and the power grid was expanded, that folks in Eastport began eyeing the powerful tidal currents as one method of generation. The four TideGen turbines are a pilot program. Coastal towns and cities around the globe are watching this experiment with great interest.

A 'Green' Gold Rush? Calif. Firm Turns Trash To Gas hide captionEnergy Of The Future? California company Sierra Energy is testing out a reactor that turns garbage — like these wood chips, metal fragments and plastics — into synthetic gas that can then be turned into a low-carbon diesel fuel. Christopher Joyce/NPR Second of a two-part series. Read Part 1 California starts the ball rolling Wednesday on a controversial scheme to keep the planet from overheating. Some permits will be auctioned today; the rest are free. It's a gamble. Dan Kammen, an energy expert at the University of California, Berkeley, helped write the climate law. "The way we say it," Kammen explains, "we've squeezed the lemon a little bit. Many of those low-energy products are made abroad. That includes people like Mike Hart. Hart has set up shop in a big warehouse at a mothballed Air Force base near Sacramento. hide captionSierra Energy is testing a reactor that makes fuel in a warehouse at an old Air Force base near Sacramento, Calif. "It's an exciting time," he says.

Biologists learn how plants synthesize their growth hormone auxin Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have succeeded in unraveling, for the first time, the complete chain of biochemical reactions that controls the synthesis of auxin, the hormone that regulates nearly all aspects of plant growth and development. Their discovery, detailed in a paper in this week's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will allow agricultural scientists to develop new ways to enhance or manipulate auxin production to improve the growth and yield of crops and other plants. More than a century ago, Charles Darwin noticed that plants produced a substance that made them bend toward light, a hormone called auxin that biologists have since found to be essential not only in regulating plant growth but also in patterning their development. In 2006, a team of San Diego researchers headed by Yunde Zhao, an associate professor of biology at UC San Diego, discovered a family of 11 genes involved in the synthesis of auxin.

Award-winning device harvests energy from railway track vibrations Much of the abundant mechanical energy around us is irregular and oscillatory and can be somewhat difficult to efficiently tap into. Typical energy harvesting systems tend to be built for low power applications in the milliwatts range but researchers from New York's Stony Brook University have developed a new patent-pending electromagnetic energy harvester capable of harnessing the vibrations of a locomotive thundering down a stretch of track to power signal lights, structural monitoring systems or even track switches. As a train rolls down the track, the load it exerts on the track causes vertical deflection. "The U.S. has the longest rail tracks in the world, approximately 140,700 miles; that are often in remote areas," said Professor Zuo. Impact forces from repeated loading/unloading are also said to be reduced thanks to the incorporation of a flywheel to stabilize the generator. Source: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Stony Brook University

New Wave Energy wants to put power plants in the sky Harvesting power from the wind and the sun is nothing new. We've seen flying wind turbines and solar power plants that aim to provide clean renewable energy. UK-based New Wave Energy has a bolder idea in the works. The company plans to build the first high altitude aerial power plant, using networks of unmanned drones that can harvest energy from multiple sources and transmit it wirelessly to receiving stations on the ground. The patent-pending technology aims to have drone networks hover in the sky harvesting both solar and wind power, while moving about at low speeds to keep track of the sun. "At 50,000 ft (15,000 m) there is very little air traffic and biodiversity, unless you go over the Himalayas," company director Michael Burdett tells Gizmag. Each 20 x 20 m (65 x 65 ft) drone will have four rotors, multiple wind turbines and a flat base for generating solar power. It took around two years for New Wave Energy UK to develop the technology. Source: New Wave Energy UK

Scientists invent transparent soil to reveal the secret life of plants Lettuce grown in transparent soil developed by researchers at the James Hutton Institute and the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland Most people’s image of plants is actually upside down. For most of our photosynthetic friends, the majority of the plant is underground in the form of an intricate system of roots. The bit that sticks up is almost an afterthought. That’s a problem for scientists trying to study plants because growing them in media that allow you to see the roots, such as hydroponics, doesn't mimic real soil very well. Developed by a team led by Lionel Dupuy, a theoretical biologist in the Ecological Sciences group at the James Hutton Institute, the transparent soil is the result of two years of research. It’s made from granules of Nafion, which is a lot easier than calling it a sulfonated tetrafluoroethylene based fluoropolymer-copolymer. The team's research is published in the journal PLOS One. Source: James Hutton Institute About the Author