NASA's EPIC Camera Captures Developing Tropical Lows

NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) captured three developing tropical low-pressure areas in the Indian Ocean. The EPIC instrument flies aboard NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite. EPIC views the entire sunlit face of the Earth from sunrise to sunset in 10 narrowband channels, from ultraviolet to near infrared.

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'Invisible' Wires Improve Solar-Cell Efficiency

Scientists from Stanford University have discovered how to make the electrical wiring on top of solar cells nearly invisible to incoming light. The new design, which uses silicon nanopillars to hide the wires, could dramatically boost solar-cell efficiency.

In most solar cells, the upper contact consists of a metal wire grid that carries electricity to or from the device. The wires, however, also act like a mirror and prevent sunlight from reaching the semiconductor, which is usually made of silicon.

The Stanford team placed a 16-nanometer-thick film of gold conducting metal on a flat sheet of silicon. The gold film was riddled with an array of nanosized square holes, but to the eye, the surface looked like a shiny, gold mirror.

To hide the reflective gold film, the engineers created nanosized silicon pillars that "tower" above the gold film and redirect the sunlight before it hits the metallic surface.

In addition to silicon, the new technology can be used with other semiconducting materials for a variety of applications, including photosensors, light-emitting diodes and displays and transparent batteries, as well as solar cells.

Source

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NASA Studies How Volcanic Ash Affects Airplane Engines

NASA researchers are poring over data from a recent test that involved sending volcanic ash through an airplane engine. The primary issue, according to NASA, is that volcanic ash forms glass in the hot sections of some engines that clogs cooling holes and chokes off flow within the engine, which can eventually lead to an engine power loss.

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Army’s “Robo-Raven” UAV Flies with Flapping Wings

In the future, it's possible that some unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) might sport wings that flap like a bird or a butterfly. The Army Research Lab has been testing such a UAV, known as Robo-Raven.

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Remotely Piloted Plane Bridges Gap Between Wind Tunnel and Crewed Testing

A new modular, subscale remotely piloted aircraft offers NASA researchers more affordable options for developing a wide range of cutting edge aviation and space technologies. The Prototype-Technology Evaluation and Research Aircraft (PTERA) flying laboratory bridges the gap between wind tunnels and crewed flight testing.

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Gamma-Ray Spectroscope Supports Asteroid Mining Missions

A new gamma-ray spectroscope detects the veins of gold, platinum, and rare earths hidden within the asteroids, moons, and other airless objects floating around the solar system. The sensor, developed by teams at Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Planetary Science Institute, will allow miners to find valuable materials beyond Earth.

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Sonic Tractor Beams Lift and Move Objects Using Sound Waves

Tractor beams are mysterious rays that can grab and lift objects. Now, researchers have built a working tractor beam that uses high-amplitude sound waves to generate an acoustic hologram that can pick up and move small objects.

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Positioning Systems Improve Airport Logistics

Tow tractors, pushback tractors, tankers, luggage carts, air cargo, and catering vehicles crowd airport aprons. Poor weather conditions impede work on the apron even more. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg are part of the EU project e-Airport, which is developing a positioning system that will increase safety on the apron. It will also make it possible to utilize airport capacities more efficiently because the system allows logistical operations to run in a significantly more structured way than before

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Tiny Carbon-Capturing Motors Could Clean up Carbon Dioxide Pollution

Machines that are much smaller than the width of a human hair could one day help clean up carbon dioxide pollution in the oceans. Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have designed enzyme-functionalized micromotors that rapidly zoom around in water, remove carbon dioxide, and convert it into a usable solid form.

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Single-Molecule Nanosubmarines Powered by Light

Rice University scientists have created light-driven, single-molecule submersibles that contain just 244 atoms. The motors of the "nanosubmarines" run at more than a million RPM, and the sub's top speed amounts to less than 1 inch per second.

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