News

New Nanomaterials Mimic Bird Feathers

Inspired by the way iridescent bird feathers play with light, UC San Diego scientists have created thin-film materials in a wide range of pure colors: red, orange, yellow, and green. The hues are determined by physical structure rather than pigments.Melanosomes, tiny packets of melanin found in the feathers, skin, and fur of many animals, can produce structural color when packed into solid layers, as they are in the feathers of some birds. The UC San Diego researchers assembled synthetic melanin nanoparticles to mimic the natural structures found in bird feathers. Structural color arises from the interaction of light with the materials that have patterns on a minute scale, which bend and reflect light to amplify some wavelengths and dampen others. To mimic natural melanosomes, Yiwen Li, a postdoctoral fellow in Gianneschi's lab, chemically linked a similar molecule, dopamine, into meshes. The linked polydopamine balled up into spherical particles of near uniform size. Researchers then dried different concentrations of the particles to form thin films of tightly packed polydopamine particles.The films reflect pure colors of light. The hue is determined by the thickness of the polydopamine layer and how tightly the particles packed.Unlike pigment-based paints or dyes, the structural color of the material does not fade. The UV-absorbing coating protects materials, and the pure hues could become a valuable trait in colorimetric sensors. Source

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Researchers Create Jet Fuel Compounds From Fungus

Washington State University researchers have found a way to make jet fuel from a common black fungus found in decaying leaves, soil, and rotting fruit. They used Aspergillus carbonarius ITEM 5010 to create hydrocarbons, the chief component of petroleum, similar to those in aviation fuels.

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NASA Tests Green Aviation Technology

Two NASA experiments designed to help reduce fuel consumption and emissions will fly this spring on a specially outfitted Boeing 757 airplane called the ecoDemonstrator. One includes 31 small devices that will blow jets of air on the vertical tail, and the other involves non-stick coatings to help repel bugs from the leading edge of wings. Both are designed to improve the air flow over the surface and ultimately reduce drag.

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Airflow Model Could Reduce Time on the Tarmac

New research could lead to more efficient takeoffs on airport runways and improve safety. A mathematical tool was developed to calculate the flow of turbulent air produced by a plane’s wing tips — known scientifically as wing-tip vortices — when an airplane takes off. The study will assist in improving the present standards for the separation distance between planes, while maintaining safety. Mathematically calculating the amount of turbulence created by the wing tips of aircraft, particularly during takeoff, gives air traffic controllers a better method of determining how far each aircraft should be from the next.

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Computer Cooling System Could Save $6.3 Billion a Year in Electricity

A patented passive cooling system for computer processors from the University of Alabama could save U.S. consumers more than $6.3 billion per year in energy costs associated with running their computer cooling fans. The system uses convection to circulate 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 electronic cooling liquid through channels in a computer's processor, and then into a heat sink that serves as an external radiator.

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Molecules Could Harvest Sunshine for a Rainy Day

The Sun is a huge source of energy. In just one hour, planet Earth is hit by so much sunshine that humankind could cover its energy needs for an entire year if only we knew how to harvest and save it. A student at the University of Copenhagen has researched his way to a breakthrough that may prove pivotal for technologies trying to capture the energy of the Sun, and saving it for a rainy day.

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Electrical Power Converter Accepts Power from Renewable Energy

Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have invented a novel electrical power converter system that simultaneously accepts power from a variety of energy sources and converts it for use in the electrical grid system. The U.S. Department of Energy is seeking licensing opportunities for potential commercialization.

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