Smart Solar Greenhouse Grows Healthy Crops

Step aside, fossil fuels — everyone is going solar. With eco-houses and trains now on the market, we might as well redesign as much as we can into solar. This is where electricity-generating greenhouses are stepping in.

Electricity-generating solar greenhouses utilize Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs), a novel technology that generates electricity more efficiently and at less cost than traditional photovoltaic systems… WSPVs absorb some of the blue and green wavelengths of light but let the rest through, allowing the plants to grow.

In testing a variety of plant species, researchers at UC Santa Cruz found that 80% remained unaffected by changes. The remaining 20%? They actually grew better under the building’s bright magenta windows.

“If greenhouses generate electricity on site, that reduces the need for an outside source, which helps lower greenhouse gas emissions even more,” said [professor Michael] Loik. “We’re moving toward self-sustaining greenhouses.”

The greenhouse uses 5% less water — a success, taking into account that greenhouses occupy 9 million acres of land. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, the system costs 40% less than traditional means. Clearly, percentages have demonstrated a win-win situation for these buildings, which will hopefully bring users 100% satisfaction.

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Black Butterflies Inspire More Efficient Solar Panels

When it comes to moving forward with technology, we tend to fall back on nature. After all, in most ways, science is organic. If slugs can inspire a medical glue that will ease the difficulties of surgery, other animals can do the same. To improve on solar panels, researchers are drawing ideas from black butterflies.

The rose butterfly is native to Southeast Asia. Because it is cold-blooded and needs sunlight to fly, its black wings have evolved to be very good at absorbing energy.

Normally, solar panels are made with thick solar cells. Thin film solar cells have a lot of potential, but are not as productive. The black butterflies absorb heat perfectly because their wings are covered in holes. These holes effectively scatter light.

“I think what’s interesting is the excellent approach of looking at the underlying physiological concepts and then taking these concepts and emulating them in a structure that doesn’t look quite look like how a butterfly looks but does the same physics,” says Mathias Kolle, a professor of engineering.

The research has since received proper funding and, hopefully, will flutter along seamlessly.

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Endoscope Camera Can See Through Human Body

Technology is painting a bright and promising future for the medical industry. If smart brain implants and advanced computer systems are no longer just ideas, other new discoveries could be well within our reach. This includes an endoscope camera  that can see through the human body better than an x-ray.

Thanks to thousands of integrated photon detectors inside the camera, the device can detect individual particles of light being beamed through human tissue.

By reconciling light signals that come directly to the camera with scattered photons… the device is able to determine where the light-emitting endoscope is placed inside the body.

The technique, called ballistic imaging, is highly accurate and cheaper than resorting to a conventional x-ray. The device is also low-risk and a lot less scary than it sounds.

“The ability to see a device’s location is crucial for many applications in healthcare, as we move forwards with minimally invasive approaches to treating disease.”

There isn’t yet word on when the device will be available to use commercially. However, considering the pace of current technological developments, I can’t assume it’ll take much longer.

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Contact Lenses that Adjust to the Sun

The medical industry does not lack developments specific to addressing eye conditions. Some particularly interesting examples are the world’s first synthetic retinas and a teen-made AI system that diagnoses eye diseases. Today, I bring good news to my fellow four-eyed people: you can now wear FDA-approved contact lenses that adjust to the sunlight.

“This contact lens is the first of its kind to incorporate the same technology that is used in eyeglasses that automatically darken in the sun,” Malvina Eydelman said in a statement. Eydelman is the director of the Division of Ophthalmic, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

The light-reactive lenses, which Johnson & Johnson calls Acuvue Oasys Contact Lenses with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology, are for everyday use and lasts up to 14 days. While it might not yet be available for purchase, it could hit the stores soon enough, as it has already been approved by Food and Drug Administration last week.

The contact lenses contain a photochromic coating that adapts to UV light exposure. Johnson & Johnson says the lenses will automatically return to a regular tint when exposed to normal or dark lighting conditions.

The company also reassures future buyers that wearing darkening lenses does not mean having to look like a demon or an alien; a gray tint just appears, which is nearly imperceptible in brown eyes and just the slightest bit noticeable in lighter eyes. So no worries there, pal.

Now I can barely wait for summer to try this one out.

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Nanomachines Can Kill Cancer Cells In Seconds

Finding a cure for cancer has been a dream for doctors and patients alike. Over the years, scientists have made progress using gene-altering treatments, which reprograms T-cells. However, it seems nanomachines may be the answer, as they can destroy cancer cells in mere seconds.

The tiny spinning molecules are driven by light, and spin so quickly that they can burrow their way through cell linings when activated.

A broken outer membrane means a cell is no more. While I can only speak for myself, I think that’s pretty killerResearchers are developing light-activated methods using the nanomachines for non-invasive treatments.

“These nanomachines are so small that we could park 50,000 of them across the diameter of a human hair, yet they have the targeting and actuating components combined in that diminutive package to make molecular machines a reality for treating disease.”

Not initially meant for medical use, this application for nanomachines is certainly a game-changer. Great things do come in small packages.

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MIT Creates Glow-In-The-Dark Plants

New Zealand’s 1 billion tree-planting goal is proof that society is recognizing nature’s benefits. Anyway, city trees do cut down community expenses by up to $500 million. Besides producing oxygen, plants reduce air pollution and carbon emissions — and can now light up in the dark.

A team of MIT engineers have created living bioluminescent lamps out of watercress plants with the goal of one day replacing conventional electrical lighting with the glowing greenery.

The enzyme responsible for the Green Lantern glow is luciferase, active primarily in fireflies. For now, the plants glow dimly for around 4 hours at a time. With the project continuing to progress, scientists are hoping to at least pull leafy desk lamps from the experiment.

“The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don’t have to plug in. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself,” says Michael Strano, a Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT.

If MIT is drafting a customer waitlist, I’m definitely first in line. My electricity bill could use one less zero!

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Cyborg Bacteria Can Create Solar Fuels

Science is going back to basics. By basic, I mean down to the atom. Thanks to advanced methods of structural revision, Australian researchers have successfully created a modified metal that can purify water in minutes. Now, scientists at UC Berkeley have trained cyborg bacteria to photosynthesize, allowing them to create solar fuels.

Scientists… taught bacteria how to cover their own bodies with nanocrystals, which function as tiny solar panels that capture more energy than plants can. The bacteria ended up having 80 percent efficiency, compared to about 2 percent for plants.

Moorella thermoacetica occurs naturally and produces acetic acid, which can be turned into fuels and plastics. To enhance their efficiency, scientists threw cadmium and cystine into the mix. The bacteria then synthesized both into nanoparticles.

The nanoparticles acted like solar panels, so the new hybrid organism produced acetic acid not only from carbon dioxide, but also water and light. This made the process a lot more efficient — even more so than natural photosynthesis — and it created zero waste.

All jargon aside, it’s important to note that this could be the end of fossil fuels and the beginning of a clean future.

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Paper Flashlight Is Cheap And Futuristic

Some inventions, such as this makeshift space camera, are a testament to the ingenuity of the human mind. Others, like the Hyperface, are somewhat trivial but fascinating nonetheless. Is this paper flashlight just as clever? You decide.

Paper Torch is made from a sheet of heavy duty, water-resistant paper that’s typically used on election ballots. [Studio] Nendo then printed a circuit board using metallic ink from AgIC directly onto the paper and glued an LED bulb and two button-sized batteries to it. Electricity flows from the batteries to the bulb through the printed pattern.

If you still aren’t impressed, light intensity changes depending on how tightly you grip the device. Also, rolling either half of the paper inwards allows you to choose between two tints of light. Sweet! But is it more than a party trick?

Nendo sees potential applications for disaster relief and emergencies since the product is compact, does not require complex manufacturing, and is inexpensive to produce.

Aside from eliminating the use of plastic altogether, Paper Torch doesn’t use wire circuitry. With that being said, I’m pretty sure, if anything, we aren’t short on visionaries.

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Erasing Memories Associated With Fear Now Possible

In science nowadays, if you can dream it, you can believe it will exist within the next few decades. After all, mending a broken heart is no longer just a metaphor. If you were a fan of the 2004 hit “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, you’re in for a treat. Erasing memories associated with fear is now possible, thanks to professors at the University of California and a bunch of mice.

“Using low-frequency stimulations with light, we were able to erase the fear memory by artificially weakening the connections conveying the signals of the sensory cue – a high-pitch tone in our experiments – that are associated with the aversive event, namely, the foot shock.”

The technique is called optogenetics. Scientists use light to “edit” genetically modified brain cells until fear signals are wiped completely. After initial testing, mice with an initial fear of high-pitched noises no longer responded to triggers. Sadly, the method doesn’t apply to human brain cells. If you’re afraid of clowns, it’s unfortunately going to stay that way. The study itself, however, remains valuable.

“This study expands our understanding of how adaptive fear memory for a relevant stimulus is encoded in the brain,”

“It is also applicable to developing a novel intervention to selectively suppress pathological fear while preserving adaptive fear in PTSD.”

It may be a bummer, but considering the speed at which we develop new technologies, we may just have to wait a while longer.

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Electricity-Free Plastic Bottles Powered By Bleach

The Philippines is one of Asia’s most impoverished countries. However, it is also home to a very resourceful population. Around 12% of Filipinos have no access to electricity, making it difficult to work and study. Liter of Light has since provided nearly a million households with electricity-free plastic bottles that act as lamps.

The bleach-filled bottles… refract the light from outdoors into the house, lighting up much like a lightbulb.

In addition to using the bleach bottle lamps and the nighttime solar bulbs, the group also converts kerosene lamps into solar lamps.

To make the bleach bottle lights, people simply have to mix 3 milliliters of bleach into a liter of water. The concoction lasts for around five years, at which point one can simply switch out the water.

The low-budget project has proved to be simple but highly effective. Making them has also become a source of income for those without regular jobs. All the materials are sourced locally.

Making the plastic bottle lamps is “something everybody can do,” “You have to understand the genius of the poor: People have spun off our ideas into their own backyard solar business. That’s what we want. A nation of backyard solar entrepreneurs, instead of them relying on our foundation.”

As one of the five countries that contribute to half the world’s plastic waste, the Philippines should be commended for taking initiative.

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