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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. Plants produce organic material via photosynthesis. 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.

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New technology turns manure into clean water Imagine something that can turn cow manure into clean water, extract nutrients from that water to serve as fertilizer and help solve the ever-present agricultural problem of manure management. Technology that has its roots firmly planted at Michigan State University is under development and near commercialization that can do all of that. And then some. Known as the McLanahan Nutrient Separation System, it takes an anaerobic digester – a contraption that takes waste, such as manure, and produces energy as a byproduct – and couples it with an ultrafiltration, air stripping and a reverse osmosis system. The result, or at least one of the results, is water clean enough for livestock to drink, or, at the very least, to dispose of in an environmentally friendly manner.

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. A startup called Blue River Technology has been funded to continue development of its Lettuce-Bot, which is much, much cooler than it sounds. Superior fuel cell material developed Using a mixture of gold, copper and platinum nanoparticles, IBN researchers have developed a more powerful and longer lasting fuel cell material. This breakthrough was published recently in the journal, Energy and Environmental Science. Fuel cells are a promising technology for use as a source of electricity to power electronic devices, vehicles, military aircraft and equipment.

Artichoke + MRI + GIF = Awesomeness About two years ago, Andy Ellison needed to test one of the MRI machines he works with at his job at Boston University Medical School. He reached for an orange. The result was stunning: 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

Quantum dot breakthrough could lead to cheap spray-on solar cells Researchers at the University of Toronto have manufactured and tested a new type of colloidal quantum dots (CQD), that, unlike previous attempts, doesn't lose performance as they keep in contact with oxygen. The development could lead to much cheaper or even spray-on solar cells, as well as better LEDs, lasers and weather satellites. Quantum dot solar cells A quantum dot is a nanocrystal made out of a semicondutor material which is small enough to take advantage of the laws of quantum mechanics. Quantum dots are at the center of a very new and rapidly evolving field of research, with the promise for applications in highly efficient solar cells, transistors and lasers, among other things. 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. "Das Ding an Sich" to paraphrase Kant, or Eigenvalue of Nature.

Bringing down the cost of microbial fuel cells Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) have identified a catalyst that provides the same level of efficiency in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) as the currently used platinum catalyst, but at 5% of the cost. Since more than 60% of the investment in making microbial fuel cells is the cost of platinum, the discovery may lead to much more affordable energy conversion and storage devices. The material -- nitrogen-enriched iron-carbon nanorods -- also has the potential to replace the platinum catalyst used in hydrogen-producing microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), which use organic matter to generate a possible alternative to fossil fuels. "Fuel cells are capable of directly converting fuel into electricity," says UWM Professor Junhong Chen, who created the nanorods and is testing them with Assistant Professor Zhen (Jason) He. "With fuel cells, electrical power from renewable energy sources can be delivered where and when required, cleanly, efficiently and sustainably."

The L-Space Web: Death and What Comes Next The L-Space Web Copyright © Terry Pratchett 2002 When Death met the philosopher, the philosopher said, rather excitedly: "At this point, you realise, I'm both dead and not dead." There was a sigh from Death. Oh dear, one of those, he thought. This is going to be about quantum again.

Plastic can convert heat into electricity A new study has found that certain types of plastic can be semi-metals. (Photo: Ida L. Flanagan)

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