Cheap Solar Device Creates Hydrogen And Electricity

With the rise of solar power comes a great hurdle — bringing it into households. While scientists at the University of Exeter have masterminded glass solar blocks, those at UC Berkeley are working down to the atom. To bring cheaper options to the table, UCLA research teams are testing a solar gadget that creates hydrogen and electricity.

Along with the usual positive and negative electrodes, the device has a third electrode that can either store energy electrically or use it to split water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms – a process called water electrolysis.

The pocket-fitting tool produces clean energy to power appliances and vehicles. It also incorporates nickel, iron, and cobalt into hydrogen production, replacing platinum, which is scarce.

“Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known, it’s cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air – just water,” says [study head Richard] Kaner.

With a lot of work, UCLA’s newest contraption could do wonders for infrastructure and hydrogen cars. It may even bring a little sunshine to rural communities.

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First Robot Passes Medical Exam In China

If robots have become capable of performing complex surgeries, surely they can begin to replace traditional doctors. Such is the case with Xiaoyi, a machine that recently passed China’s medical licensing exam.

“Since 2013, more than half of the questions in the test are about [patient] cases,” [said engineer] Wu [Ji]… “So it’s impossible to purely rely on memorising and searches.”

To earn a score of 456 out of a perfect 600, developers programmed Xiaoyi to link words and phrases. In doing so, the “Little Doctor” learned to reason — an impressive but also intimidating feat.

“What it can do most at present is make suggestions to doctors, to help them identify problems quicker and avoid some risks,” Wu said.

Still, Xiaoyi won’t be flying solo anytime soon. After all, there’s nothing like the reassurance you get from a human being — especially when they’re holding a needle!

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MIT Designs Dome Forest Habitat To Win Mars Contest

Preparing for life on Mars has become increasingly tedious, especially after discoveries of snow on the planet. Nevertheless, places like the UAE are eager to push forward the limits of space study, building a massive Mars metropolis. You know — just in case. But clearly, it’s MIT engineers who are coming out on top after snatching the top prize at the Mars City Design contest for their dome habitats.

MIT’s winning design, which the team calls Redwood Forest, is a collection of “tree habitats” connected through a system of tunnels called “roots.” The roots would provide safe access to other tree habitats, private spaces and “shirt-sleeve transportation,”

If the designs make it to Mars, each dome would house up to 50 inhabitants. Realistically, the ambitious tech team hopes to build 200, which guarantees 10,000 hopefuls a spot on life beyond Earth.

“On Mars, our city will physically and functionally mimic a forest, using local Martian resources such as ice and water, regolith (or soil), and sun to support life,” MIT postdoctoral researcher Valentina Sumini said.

It’s a daunting prospect, if it does happen. Hopefully MIT’s “forest” will make future residents feel right at home.

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Pet Dog Rescues Owners From Gas Leak

Historically, dogs are famed for being highly affectionate companions. Some will risk their lives for two-legged family members, whether or not there is a bone at the end of the tunnel. Despite the heroism of man’s best friend, breed-specific bans remain intact (save for those that are now abolished). Yet pit bulls, a most-feared animal, continue to ride against the odds. Just a night ago, Ruby, a three-year-old pittie, saved Ronene Ando from a dangerous gas leak.

“Typically she only barks for one reason, and that’s if someone is at the door,” [said Ando.]

For an hour and a half, the therapy dog refused to let up. Ando then followed her persistent pup into the basement, where she discovered a leak in her propane heater. Had it not been for Ruby, Ando and her husband would’ve potentially succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Dogs are typically intuitive. I believe that breed is even more so with all the research I’ve done, and I think that was it, hands down.”

Remember, folks, if you’ve come across a pit bull with a rap sheet, it’s likely due to abuse or neglect. All dogs are good dogs.

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Mexico Creates World’s Largest Marine Reserve

To prevent passersby having to rescue beached whales, activists are looking for ways to better protect marine life. Some are turning to lab-grown meat to combat overfishing, while others are dealing with poachers up front. Determined to keep their own Revillagigedo Islands afloat, Mexico is placing 57,000 square miles under protection.

“It’s an important place biologically for megafauna, kind of superhighway, if you will, for sharks, manta rays, whales and turtles,” [said] Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project… “It’s a pretty biologically spectacular location.”

Altogether, the islands are home to 366 species of fish, as well as a vast number of plants and birds. Though fishing villages have expressed concern, conservationists have assured that the reserve will help catch populations to quickly rise.

“We have a long way to go,” [Rand] says. “But there’s been incredible growth in the concept of large-scale marine protected areas. It’s almost becoming a race. Hopefully it’s starting to snowball.”

To conserve ecosystems, at least 30% of the ocean must remain untouched. I’d say 57,000 square miles is a pretty good start.

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Tofu Wine Is Singapore’s Tastiest New Drink

From turning wine waste into leather, your go-to bottle of chardonnay has come full circle. A team from the National University of Singapore has brewed up a curd-based wine made with every vegan’s BFF — tofu.

[Researchers] employed yeasts to ferment the waste product just like what winemakers do to make your favorite bottle of red or white. Amino acids and minerals found in tofu whey help foster the growth of yeast in the process.

The wine, dubbed Sachi, is entirely sustainable, as the fermenting process produces no waste. Producing Sachi requires a substantial amount of time and tedious storage procedures. With that in mind, its inventors are on the fence about its mass production. Still, the unusual drink is unexpectedly tasty.

“This alcoholic beverage has a refreshing taste, is easy to drink and tastes like sake,” said co-creator Chua Jian Yong… “Even though it is made from tofu whey, it has a very mild to undetectable soy taste. All the flavors in the drink are derived from fermentation, without artificial flavors or flavor extracts.”

While there has yet to be any word on Sachi becoming commercially available, us wine enthusiasts remain hopeful.

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Smog Filter Tower Turns Pollution Into Gems

Every country has its own version of pollution patrol. Bogota has vertical gardens. China has a purification tower. Debuting its most exciting decontamination technology yet, Poland is ahead of the game with a “smog vacuum” that turns dirty air into jewelry.

The tower-like device essentially sucks up smog from the top and then releases the filtered air through its six-sided vents. It can clean more than 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour and uses no more electricity than a water boiler, according to [designer Daan] Roosegaarde.

After three years of research and development, the tower made initial headway in Rotterdam. To encourage other countries to adopt the device, Roosegaarde started pressing collected dust particles into rings and cufflinks. A single gem stone is equivalent to 1,000 cubic meters of air, which sounds like a whole lot, but deceptively so.

“The fine dust that would normally harm us, is collected together with the ions and stored inside of the tower. This technology manages to capture ultra-fine smog particles which regular filter systems fail to do.”

Never did I believe anything remotely attractive could come of city smog. But I like it, and I’m putting a ring on it.

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Portable Tents For Homeless Are Just Cardboard

For street-dwellers, a single blanket or free meal often goes a long way. What often makes the greatest impact is an occasional resting place, be it in a shelter or elsewhere. Still, this remains unlikely for most, but do-gooder Xavier Van der Stappen is revising that statistic. With the help of local factories, Van der Stappen designed portable origami tents for the homeless in Brussels.

“There are homeless people everywhere. When I saw them, it made me remember refugee camps in Africa,” said Van der Stappen, the man behind the ORIG-AMI project.

“It is a shame that in the 21st century there are still people living in streets in a very rich country like Belgium.”

The cardboard creations (ORIG-AMI), easy to dismantle, combat a ban against canvas tents and city camping. They will also provide temporary shelter to those rejected by overbooked hostels. Despite their early success, Van der Stappen continues to vie for a long-term solution to homelessness.

“I‘m not the person who is trying to solve it. I just try to find a solution for today, not for tomorrow,” he said.

For those not quite anticipating a tomorrow, ORIG-AMI makes a good contender for an interim home.

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A Curry Bowl Might Boost Your Memory And Mood

Where medicine fails, food steps in. Due to its cancer-fighting properties, consumers and labs alike are investing in avocados. Schools are offering vegan menus to students who want to pursue a healthier and more variant lifestyle. In 2018, power snacking hasn’t nearly come to an end. Proven to improve memory retention and mood, curcumin, a vital ingredient in curry, is taking over as a new trend.

“Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and major depression,” said Dr. Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA’s Longevity Center.

Subjects on curcumin performed better in memory tests by a significant 28%. However, the limited study involved only 40 participants. UCLA hopes to repeat the experiment with a larger control group as well as study genetic risks.

“These results suggest that taking this relatively safe form of curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years,” Small concluded.

For those not too keen on the spice of curry bowls, turmeric tea may just get the job done.

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Fluorescent Dye Can Identify Ocean Microplastics

Vast and mysterious, the ocean harbors many secrets. The great blue is home to shipwrecks and unusual species, along with — most urgently — tons of waste. Regrettably, the number of pollution-detecting technologies, such as swimming robots, remain limited. However, a new dye identification technique may help uncover 99% of microplastics invisible to the naked eye.

“Using this method, a huge series of samples can be viewed and analysed very quickly, to obtain large amounts of data on the quantities of small microplastics in seawater or, effectively, in any environmental sample,” said University of Warwick researcher Gabriel Erni-Cassola.

The dye is fluorescent, and clings easily onto the smallest of plastic particles. Previous attempts to assess microplastics involved manually retrieving samples (and presumably tired eyes coupled with a lot of frustration). The new method will allow more thorough ocean clean-ups and likely save a lot of marine animals.

“It is important to understand how plastic waste behaves in the environment to correctly assess future policies,” said Dr. Christie-Oleza.

Plucking thousands of discarded bottles may do the trick — but not if stealthy microplastics can get away.

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