News

New Technology Can Expand LED Lighting

Highly efficient, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) could slash the world’s electricity consumption. They are already sold in stores, but more widespread adoption of the technology has been hindered by high costs due to limited availability of raw materials and difficulties in achieving acceptable light quality. But researchers recently reported at a meeting of the American Chemical Society that they have overcome these obstacles and have developed a less expensive, more sustainable white LED.

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What Makes Quantum Dots Blink?

Quantum dots are nanoparticles of semiconductor that can be tuned to glow in a rainbow of colors. Since their discovery in the 1980s, these remarkable nanoparticles have held out tantalizing prospects for all kinds of new technologies, ranging from paint-on lighting materials and solar cells to quantum computer chips, biological markers, and even lasers and communications technologies. But there’s a problem – quantum dots often blink.

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Blue LEDs Could Provide Chemical-Free Food Preservation Technology

A team of scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has found that blue light emitting diodes (LEDs) have strong antibacterial effects on major foodborne pathogens, and are most effective when in cold temperatures (between 4°C and 15°C) and mildly acidic conditions of around pH 4.5. This opens up novel possibilities of using blue LEDs as a chemical-free food preservation method. Acidic foods such as fresh-cut fruits and ready-to- eat meat can be preserved under blue LEDs in combination with chilling temperatures without requiring further chemical treatments that are commonly needed for food preservation.

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Will we colonize Mars by 2039?

This week's Question: Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is teaming up with the Florida Institute of Technology to develop a "master plan" to colonize Mars within 25 years. Aldrin envisions using Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, as preliminary stepping stones for astronauts. The program would culminate with a landing at a Mars base that had been prepared with robots tele-operated by astronauts on Phobos. A spacecraft would travel between Earth and Mars on a continuous basis using “cycling orbits,” with astronauts boarding them from space shuttles and riding across interplanetary space and then leaving the spacecraft behind at the destination. Aldrin hopes that the plan will lead to the first Mars settlement by 2039, the 70th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing. What do you think? Will we colonize Mars by 2039?  

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Self-Healing Spacecraft Material Plugs Holes in Seconds

Although shields and sophisticated maneuvers could help protect space structures, scientists have to prepare for the possibility that debris could pierce a vessel. NASA and a team from the University of Michigan developed a new material that heals itself within seconds and could prevent structural penetration from being catastrophic.

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'Snap' Design Mimics Venus Flytrap

A team led by physicist Christian Santangelo at the University of Massachusetts Amherst uses curved creases to give thin shells a fast, programmable snapping motion. The technique – inspired by the natural "snapping systems" like Venus flytrap leaves and hummingbird beaks – avoids the need for complicated materials and fabrication methods when creating structures with fast dynamics.

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Will elevators take us to the edge of space?

This week's Question: Last month, the Canada-based company Thoth Technology received a US patent for its 12-mile space elevator design. The elevator, enclosed in a tunnel, includes a landing pad on its roof. Spacecraft would refuel and take on passengers and cargo from the pad. Some of the elements of the elevator, however, have yet to be invented, including a tether cable that is lightweight and can withstand the tension of the lift technology. There is also concern about high winds and the possibility of the tower buckling under its own weight. What do you think? Will elevators take us to the edge of space?  

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