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Jan 20, 2022

The World’s Biggest Vertical Farm Yet Will Fertilize Crops With Fish Poop

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, evolution, food

Most vertical farms are hydroponic (plant roots sit in shallow troughs of nutrient-rich water) or aeroponic (roots dangle in the air and are periodically misted). But Upward Farms uses aquaponics to fertilize its crops. What does that mean? In a nutshell, that plants are fertilized with fish poop.

To get a little more specific: besides microgreens, Upward Farms raises fish: mercury-free, antibiotic-free, hormone-free hybrid striped bass, in tanks that are separate from the trays of greens. Manure from the fish is collected and fed to the plants, making for a soil microbiome that’s more dense, fertile, and productive than that of most indoor farms, according to the company. Best of all, the company sells the fish to consumers, too.

Upward Farms claims its yields are two times above the industry average thanks to its ecological farming method, which keeps the microbial cell count in soil much higher than it would be with chemical fertilizers. “There’s a communication layer that’s been built in by millions of years of evolution between plants and microbes,” said Jason Green, Upward Farms’ CEO and cofounder. “Plants can say, ‘Hey, I’m stressed in this way, my environment is imperfect in this way, can you help me?’ and plants recruit microbes to their service.”

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Jan 19, 2022

Tiny New Sensor — That Could Fit in a Smartphone — Makes the Invisible Visible

Posted by in categories: chemistry, food, mobile phones

Miniaturized near-infrared sensor that could fit in a smartphone can analyze the chemical content of milk and plastics.

A TU/e research group has developed a new near-infrared sensor that is easy to make, comparable in size to sensors in smartphones, and ready for immediate use in industrial process monitoring and agriculture. This breakthrough has just been published in Nature Communications.

The human eye is a marvelous sensor. Using three different types of photoreceptor cone cells that convert visible light into signals for different colors, the eye gives essential information about the world around us.

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Jan 18, 2022

China’s New Space Station Will Be Powered by Ion Propulsion System

Posted by in categories: chemistry, energy, space

Such thrusters have been used since the 1970s; however, the Tiangong’s core module is set to become the first crewed spaceship propelled by ion drives. China is betting big on ion thrusters and intends to develop them on a far greater scale for its deep-space missions.

The space station’s core Tianhe module, which will welcome its first astronauts later this month if all goes to plan, is propelled by four ion thrusters, which utilize electricity to accelerate ions as a type of propulsion.

When compared to chemical propulsion, which keeps the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit, ion drives are much more efficient. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the ISS’s thrusters require four tons of rocket fuel to keep it afloat for a year, whereas ion thrusters would require only 882 pounds (400kg) to do the same.

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Jan 17, 2022

These Were Our Favorite Tech Stories From Around the Web in 2021

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, blockchains, chemistry, cryptocurrencies, internet, mathematics, robotics/AI

Tech companies continued to draw criticism for their roles in political and social scandals, most notably when whisteblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testified to lawmakers. Undeterred, Facebook rebranded itself Meta and said it would now focus on building the metaverse. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down and likewise changed the name of his company Square to Block in a not-so-subtle nod to the blockchain.

Meanwhile, volatile cryptocurrencies set new records, their prices jumping and crashing on a tweet. NFTs, a once-obscure type of cryptoasset, went on an eye-watering tear as redditors pushed meme stocks skyward. It was also the year of ever-bigger AI. Machine learning models surpassed a trillion parameters, designed computer chips, and tackled practical problems in biology, math, and chemistry. Elsewhere, billionaires went to space, regular folks bought 3D printed houses, fusion power attracted billions in investment, gene editing trials hit their stride, and “flying car” companies hit the New York Stock Exchange.

For this year’s list of fascinating stories in tech and science, we sifted our Saturday posts and selected articles that looked back to where it all began, glanced ahead to what’s coming, or otherwise stood out from the chatter to stand the test of time.

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Jan 17, 2022

MIT Scientists Overcome a Major Bottleneck in Carbon Dioxide Conversion

Posted by in categories: chemistry, sustainability

Study reveals why some attempts to convert the greenhouse gas into fuel have failed, and offers possible solutions.

If researchers could find a way to chemically convert carbon dioxide into fuels or other products, they might make a major dent in greenhouse gas emissions. But many such processes that have seemed promising in the lab haven’t performed as expected in scaled-up formats that would be suitable for use with a power plant or other emissions sources.

Now, researchers at MIT.

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Jan 16, 2022

Tuning a Magnetic Fluid With an Electric Field Creates Complex Controllable Dissipative Patterns

Posted by in categories: chemistry, nanotechnology

An electric field transforms an iron oxide nanoparticle suspension into a model for the emergence of complex dissipative structures.

Researchers at Aalto University have shown that a nanoparticle suspension can serve as a simple model for studying the formation of patterns and structures in more complicated non-equilibrium systems, such as living cells. The new system will not only be a valuable tool for studying patterning processes but also has a wide range of potential technological applications.

The mixture consists of an oily liquid carrying nanoparticles of iron oxide, which become magnetized in a magnetic field. Under the right conditions, applying a voltage across this ferrofluid causes the nanoparticles to migrate, forming a concentration gradient in the mixture. For this to work, the ferrofluid has to also include docusate, a waxy chemical that can carry charge through the fluid.

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Jan 15, 2022

Innovative New Algorithms Advance the Computing Power of Early-Stage Quantum Computers

Posted by in categories: chemistry, computing, information science, quantum physics

A group of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory has developed computational quantum algorithms that are capable of efficient and highly accurate simulations of static and dynamic properties of quantum systems. The algorithms are valuable tools to gain greater insight into the physics and chemistry of complex materials, and they are specifically designed to work on existing and near-future quantum computers.

Scientist Yong-Xin Yao and his research partners at Ames Lab use the power of advanced computers to speed discovery in condensed matter physics, modeling incredibly complex quantum mechanics and how they change over ultra-fast timescales. Current high performance computers can model the properties of very simple, small quantum systems, but larger or more complex systems rapidly expand the number of calculations a computer must perform to arrive at an accurate model, slowing the pace not only of computation, but also discovery.

“This is a real challenge given the current early-stage of existing quantum computing capabilities,” said Yao, “but it is also a very promising opportunity, since these calculations overwhelm classical computer systems, or take far too long to provide timely answers.”

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Jan 15, 2022

Record-breaking molecular magnet

Posted by in category: chemistry

Physical Chemistry.

Record-breaking molecular magnet.

Dilanthanide complexes could pave the way for a new breed of powerful permanent magnets by.

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Jan 14, 2022

1,000-cycle Lithium-Sulfur Battery Could Quintuple Electric Vehicle Ranges

Posted by in categories: chemistry, engineering, sustainability, transportation

A new biologically inspired battery membrane has enabled a battery with five times the capacity of the industry-standard lithium ion design to run for the thousand-plus cycles needed to power an electric car.

A network of aramid nanofibers, recycled from Kevlar, can enable to overcome their Achilles heel of cycle life—the number of times it can be charged and discharged—a University of Michigan team has shown.

“There are a number of reports claiming several hundred cycles for lithium-sulfur batteries, but it is achieved at the expense of other parameters—capacity, charging rate, resilience and safety. The challenge nowadays is to make a battery that increases the cycling rate from the former 10 cycles to hundreds of cycles and satisfies multiple other requirements including cost,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Irving Langmuir Distinguished University Professor of Chemical Sciences and Engineering, who led the research.

Jan 11, 2022

Scientists uncover new information about cellular death process, previously thought to be irreversible

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, engineering, genetics

A study published by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago describes a new method for analyzing pyroptosis–the process of cell death that is usually caused by infections and results in excess inflammation in the body–and shows that process, long thought to be irreversible once initiated, can in fact be halted and controlled.

The discovery, which is reported in Nature Communications, means that scientists have a new way to study diseases that are related to malfunctioning cell death processes, like some cancers, and infections that can be complicated by out-of-control inflammation caused by the process. These infections include sepsis, for example, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is among the major complications of COVID-19 illness.

Pyroptosis is a series of biochemical reactions that uses gasdermin, a protein, to open large pores in the cell membrane and destabilize the cell. To understand more about this process, the UIC researchers designed an “optogenetic” gasdermin by genetically engineering the protein to respond to light.

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