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Fake Foliage

Finally, people have started to take the environment seriously! With vast deforestation, global warming and depletion of the ozone layers, we need to start being extremely careful in the way we live our lives. However, the University of Illinois at Chicago has developed fake plants that can actually ‘recycle’ carbon dioxide. This is an effort to reduce the amounts of harmful gases found in the atmosphere and thus, produce clean fuel.

This ‘fuel’ is generated by the sun, meaning it actually mimics plants during photosynthesis. The researcher Salehi-Khojin stated, “Real leaves use the energy from the sun and convert carbon dioxide to sugar. In the artificial leaf, we use the sun and we convert CO2 to (synthetic gas), which can be converted to any hydrocarbon, like gasoline.”

Seems incomprehensible? Well, the process basically involves the sun’s energy rearranging the chemical bonds composing carbon dioxide. The energy from the sun gets stored as a chemical bond, generating the ability to be burned as fuel. The technology companies face a lot of issues trying to store batteries. Particularly where solar panels and wind turbines have been developed to generate sustainable energy, providing corporations with an energy source in the form of solar and wind farms. But the ability to store the generated energy has not yet been discovered. Until now.

The director of the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern University, Professor Micheal R, Wasielewski, said “Whether you use solar or wind to generate electricity, you have a source that’s intermittent and not storable, so what you need to do is find a storage method. This fake foliage closes the carbon cycle so you don’t have any excess CO2, so it’s an environmentally friendly way of storing renewable energy.”

The Salehi-Khojin team at the UIC found a compound that had the ability to break down and rearrange the chemical bonds composing carbon dioxide better than the traditionally used gold and silver. Salehi-Khojin thinks that a prototype could be ready for use in the next 5 years with the help of a suitable manufacturing company. They believe it can be placed in solar farms alongside the power plants in order to recycle the carbon dioxide collected and convert it to be used as energy.

Professor Nathan Lewis of the California Institute of Technology, who has been researching artificial photosynthesis and solar fields for over 40 years, says that the development by Salehi-Khojin is just the starting piece of a product that will be widely executed in the near future. “There’s a lot of steps that need to occur to envision how these things would translate into a commercializable system, but it’s a step for building a piece of a full system that may be useful. It’s going to take a lot of effort from a lot of people to really push this over the goal line.”

Salehi-Khojin are yet to patent their technology and they were recipients of a $330,000 grant by the National Foundation last year to help further their research.

This is still a groundbreaking discovery by UIC which can really help to transform our environmental state if employed correctly.

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“Dream Chaser” Space Cargo Plane

Make some space for the Dream Chaser, the newest commercial cargo plane, ready for service. NASA has given the green light to Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to officially start mass producing the ‘Dream Chaser.’ The Dream Chaser is a commercial cargo plane specifically made to go into space. The first dream mission has been scheduled for 2020. SNC cleared the Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract and can now begin completely producing the space cargo carrier. These carriers can now carry cargo to the ISS. Let’s explore what this whole dream chaser situation is all about.

How Long Till Dreams Can Be Chased?

Originally, the ‘Dream Chaser,’ was conceptualized for the commercial crew program funded by NASA. However, NASA preferred the designs sent in by SpaceX and Boeing instead. The original Dream Chaser was redesigned and now has many new features. The new version is able to carry cargo weighing up to 5,500 kgs (12,125 lbs) up to the ISS and come back with 1,850 kgs (4078 lbs) of cargo back to Earth. It also has foldable wings.

Out of three companies, including Orbital ATK and SpaceX, SNC received a contract in 2016 for commercial cargo to be sent to the ISS by NASA. In this contract, each corporation is guaranteed a minimum of 6 ISS delivery missions.

Some components of the complete Dream Chaser design have been produced as well as tested already. SNC’s Space Exploration Systems VP, Steve Lindsey said in a conference in October 2018 that he was expecting the major part of the first Dream Chaser to be assembled and tested by October 2019.

Features of the Dream Chaser

The Dream Chaser is basically a multi-mission spacecraft that has been specifically designed to transport cargo and crew to destinations with low-earth orbit (LEO) just like where the ISS is situated.

The Dream Chaser showcases third-generation design and is 9 meters long, approximately ¼ of the length of traditional space shuttle orbiters. The dream chaser spacecraft contains a cargo bay which is spacious enough to carry a large cargo, for example, components to be used for the ISS or the Hubble Telescope.

The Dream Chaser will be able to not only deliver cargo and return with disposal but also be able to carry supplies such as science experiments, food and water and return back to Earth efficiently. The Dream Chaser is fully automated, launching, flying and landing by itself. This spacecraft that works on autopilot can be reused more than 15 times. The cargo and crew can be accessed immediately after landing. It is also compatible with commercial runways.

Future Of Space Exploration

Any commercial spacecraft manufacturing is usually hindered by the expensive costs. The more competition there is, the more likely new innovative ideas are likely to emerge. This is because 80% of the expenses are for the launching.

Just a mere year and a half is left till the Dream Chaser is set to chase some dreams and further space exploration.

New Hadron Collider

In the search for particles and in the name of science, physicists have gone to great lengths to satiate man’s hunger for knowledge. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that in this quest, the largest ever built machine would be the Hadron Collider, the particle accelerator. More commonly called the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) was built by the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) which was established in the year 1954, the main purpose of this lab’s research is particle acceleration and detection.

The purpose of LHC has been to provide physicists enough grounds where they can practice and test their theories of particle physics. However, LHC will soon have a successor which in many ways will be bigger, and better – the Future Circular Collider (FCC).

Why did the world of science decide that LHC needed a stronger replacement?

Why the need of FCC

Image: Dominionart / Shutterstock.com

From its point of conception, LHC was definitely the most awaited machine in the physicist’s world as the previous models of subatomic particles and their interaction tests weren’t making sense. With the very existence of LHC, the most important thing that happened was the way it transformed how particle physics looked. The much-discussed discovery of Higgs Boson was made, that filled in the questionable gaps in the theories but after that, there has not been any new discoveries.

According to CERN, a new collider might be able to take a further leap into the mysteries of the particle world. Starting from the understanding of dark matter, the concept of matter in contrast to the antimatter. This may not be a very popular belief somehow, as there are other scientists who do not believe that a new bigger machine would lead to any newer discoveries.

CERNs’ Main Concern for Building FCC

CERN claims that this new collider would be three to four times the size and possess seven to ten times the power of the LHC making it faster and able to cover larger parameters with more precision.

What LHC has been able to do for science is give answers to several unanswered questions and paint a complete picture of the standard model of particle physics. This is precisely what CERN wishes to accomplish from the making of this newer version, perhaps uncovering many other unsolved, unanswered mysteries.

The future ain’t what it used to be

Why do I write?  I write to clear my mind.  It is my reality relief – my escape.  I write to tell stories that I have not heard told before about things I have not yet seen.  I write to create and then explore places which do not yet exist, technology still to be designed and people not yet born.  When I write I investigate problems or trends or innovative technological processes which interest me with their potential, future consequences for me, you and humanity.  I adhere to Peter Drucker’s declaration that the best way to predict the future is to create it.

My Endless Fire series of action adventures is my method for describing and conversing with you about possible near-future events and people.  But, I do not write science fiction fantasy.  I write science-based fiction, which enables me to provide actual information as an integral part of my stories.  My desire to provide accurate data to you in my writing, requires that I do extensive research.  I am a voracious consumer of scientific, technological and space research information, so I relish exploring the latest discoveries.

After choosing an intriguing group of concepts that I imagine may interest you, I begin constructing my story’s future environment.  I project locations that I know through personal experience into the future to provide a ‘this could happen here’ touch of reality for readers.  My readers visit Africa, Europe, Puerto Rico and, of course, North America.  Because all of Earth and therefore all of my locations are directly impacted by climate change, I write all of my Endless Fire series stories with global warming as a major plot theme.

One of my reasons for writing this series of stories and entitling it Endless Fire is to create awareness and concern about the Earth’s and our future.  As I craft my stories, I consider the warning of Stephen Hawking, “We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.”  So, a constant question I pose when writing is, ‘Will humans destroy humanity?’

After determining a location, I dig into my own memories and experiences.  My characters, both the ones I like and the ones I dislike, I construct from bits and pieces of individuals I encounter during my life.  I seek to write my stories so they are studies of how certain types of people will act and react in certain circumstances – farmers, soldiers, scientists, doctors and others.  My goal is for the reader to feel my characters’ pain, experience their joy and enjoy their successes, so they comprehend what living in the future will require.  Or as Arthur M. Schlesinger wrote, “Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.”  I often wonder if a person living today could survive in the world of tomorrow.

If you are seeking super-human heroes, you will not find them in the Endless Fire series.  My characters possess problems and weaknesses, especially the series protagonist, Robert Goodfellow.  The trials and travails of reluctant cyberwarrior Robert Goodfellow connect the Endless Fire stories.  Robert is not your suave, international, crime-fighter.  No, he is rather clumsy, sometimes fainthearted and normally nervous.  “Why are so many people trying to kill me?  Don’t they understand that I’m here to save them?” are questions constantly plaguing Robert Goodfellow.  He battles bad guys with his brains not his brawn.

“The future ain’t what it used to be” – Yogi Berra

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” ― Yogi Berra

Now, I realize that most people consider these two, old, Yogi Berra quotes about the future to be ridiculous or perhaps just nonsensical.  Actually, most people probably have no idea who Yogi Berra was (Hall of Fame New York Yankee catcher and manager), so they are even more confused by his Yogi-isms.  However, I have adopted his weird wisdom as directional guides for my writing efforts.

I consider Yogi’s sayings to be inspirational truths.  For, in reality, is our future really ‘what it used to be’ or at least what it was expected or predicted to be?  So, when I write, I begin with a Yogi Berra philosophical approach.  In other words, I endeavor to approach my stories a little off kilter or from a different perspective.  It feels natural.

“You can observe a lot by watching” Yogi Berra

Taking Power from the Air

Does Air Comprise of Energy?

Free energy from air was once a skeptic’s sarcastic jest until it became a reality. There are energy particles all around us, everywhere we go there are telecommunication, radio & television networks, satellite systems and various other equipment creating a dynamic field of electromagnetic energy around us. There is enough evidence that the air is full of energy which can now be harnessed and used to power other devices without the need for a battery.

Recently an Israel based company called Wiliot has demonstrated the first Bluetooth Chip that harnesses energy from mere air. Like many other chips, this too is as tiny as a postage stamp and as thin as paper. This smart Bluetooth can send encrypted information covering about 3 meters of distance via Bluetooth. This chip is smartly designed to pull and wield energy from the air like cellular signals, ambient Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

This recycling of the radiation around us will change the face of technology and the way power is consumed. According to Wiliot’s CEO, such self-power generating products will be able to share the temperature and when it needs to be replaced or replenished.

Coming Attractions

In Las Vegas’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES), a spokesman from the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) gave a demonstration of their Airenergy charger. He mentioned how ambient Wi-Fi signals are being tested and used as power sources for the charger. He clearly stated how they used ambient Wi-Fi signals only to fully charge a Blackberry phone (with the Airenergy charger) that had 30% charging, in about 90 minutes! That’s not bad at all considering that charging is dependent on the number of such Wi-Fi sources as well as the proximity to the signals. This Airenergy unit is able to convert the Wi-Fi’s antenna signal to DC power which recharges its internal lithium battery. All one has to do is place it anywhere near a Wi-Fi hotspot and let it do its work automatically.

The Bluetooth chip is just one successful device that is launched as an air energy converter. But with the growing popularity and success in the energy and tech industry, one can soon expect many other interesting gadgets to come forward.

Electricity Producing Bacteria

In the quest for finding the most economical means to produce countless watts of power, science has been spending billions of dollars. Turns out it isn’t just human beings that are able to harness electricity but researchers claim that certain microbes are also capable of these rare abilities. Picture this, transferring electrons from a molecule to another is essential for all kinds of organisms because this needs to be exercised in order to produce energy, which is imperative for their survival.

For bacteria living in extreme conditions, finding alternatives for breathing in an oxygen deprived environment requires them to be creatively adaptive. Such microbes exist in various places. As fascinating as it would appear they also live in the ‘Human Gut’. This is how these microbes were forced to breathe in a uniquely creative way by pushing out electrons and as a byproduct, producing electricity.

Let us understand how the engineers, researchers, and scientists are thinking of harnessing the electrical power produced by such bacteria.

Bacteria Producing Electricity – Testing

Research has been going on to figure out ways to harness and develop such microbial power plants that are expected to purify water from the sewage, run fuel cells and other constructive uses.  But here’s the challenge, these microbe cells are much smaller than the conventional mammalian cells scientists have been dealing with and growing them in laboratories is extremely difficult.

The MIT engineers have been able to develop a microfluidic technique. This microfluidic technique enables quick processing of such small bacterial samples and analyzes their specific property. These specific properties, called the Polarizability, determine the highest correlation of electricity production by that particular species of bacteria. Polarizability can gauge the electrochemical activity of the bacteria compared to other techniques.

According to MIT’s associate professor of mechanical engineering, Cullen Buie, the current work being done on the bacteria portends that there is a broad range of such electricity-producing bacteria. Thus a special tool for probing such organisms have now become much more important than they were assumed to be earlier. The reason being, after all the research and experiments carried out, they have come to the conclusion that it is not just the job of a handful of microbes, and more species need to be tested.

Research Results

The study concludes that the higher the polarizability of a bacteria, the higher the rate of electricity produced. We can expect the researchers to start their bacteria search for the strongest candidate that will be able to produce large amounts of power soon. If the analysis made on the bacteria’s polarization turns out as expected then it won’t be wrong to say that this technique will be very useful in accessing electricity-producing bacteria.