Creating fuel from thin air with artificial leaves

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Artificial leaves could one day provide fuel

The sun produces more than enough energy for human activities, but we still can’t capture enough of it, points out Erwin Reisner, energy and sustainability professor at Cambridge University.

He heads a team of researchers trying to capture more of that free energy.

While solar panels have made big advances in recent years, becoming cheaper and more efficient, they just provide electricity, not storable liquid fuels, which are still in great demand.

“If you look at the global energy portfolio and what’s needed, electricity only covers maybe 20-25%. So the question is when we have covered that 25%, what do we do next?” asks Prof Reisner.

His answer is to look to nature: “Plants are a huge inspiration, because they have learned over millions of years how to take up sunlight and store the energy in energy carriers.

“I really believe that artificial photosynthesis will be one part of that energy portfolio over the next two decades.”

When plants photosynthesise, they take up water and carbon dioxide, and use light from the sun to convert these raw materials into the carbohydrates they need for growth.

Erwin Reisner, professor of energy and sustainability at Cambridge University
Prof Reisner is optimistic artificial photosynthesis will become an important energy provider

“We want to replicate this, but we don’t really want to make carbohydrates because they make a lousy fuel, so instead of making carbohydrates we try to make something that can be more readily used,” says Prof Reisner.

An added problem is that plants aren’t actually terribly good at photosynthesis, converting only around one or two per cent of solar energy into fuel. The US Department of Energy has concluded that for artificial photosynthesis to be viable economically, efficiency needs to rise to between five and 10%.

Prof Reisner’s team has worked on a number of


FIFA 21 is a breath of fresh air as gameplay speeds up, Career Mode gets revamped

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FIFA 21 makes a lot of notable gameplay gains that will keep you playing all season, and all year, long. Courtesy of EA Sports

With winter fast approaching, there’s no shortage of soccer on TV these days, but Friday marks another notable event on the soccer calendar: the worldwide release of FIFA 21, the latest iteration of the blockbuster video game franchise from EA Sports.

How does it play, what’s new this year and how do the player ratings stack up? We’ve got all that, and a word from the game’s new lead commentator, covered.

Jump to: Gameplay | Career Mode | Other modes | Superlatives | A word from Derek Rae | Verdict

A much smoother, faster game

Real-life soccer is chaotic and fluid, but previous versions of the FIFA game have felt at times inescapably blocky and slow-motion by comparison. Tackles would be chunky collisions between finely sculpted pixels, passes would skid and soar around the pitch, though never too far from your intended target. Headers would scoff in the face of physics.

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This year’s game feels like a massive upgrade when it comes to capturing the silken ebb and flow of the sport. Tackles come with consequences; limbs and player momentum are much more touchy and true to life, so that poor split-second decisions about taking an extra step or trying to change direction result in losing the ball. Passes made when the player is off-balance or on their weaker footbehave as they should; the end result is a much more frenetic and exciting experience.

Equally, the speed is notable in attack — everything about gameplay is souped up in the pursuit of goals, goals and more goals — when it comes to building play through midfield or switching the ball from flank to flank


Air Zoo museum in Portage offers virtual science education labs for children

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PORTAGE, MI — The Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum is deploying virtual learning programs through its museum in Portage and across the country in an effort to expose kids and their parents to science education, the museum announced in a news release.

The Air Zoo’s virtual programs are for children age 3 and up, and designed up to immerse kids in hands-on science education courses. Financial aid and scholarships are offered to help both individuals and groups that meet requirements and cover the cost of most of their educational programs, Air Zoo said in the release.

“As we build on the outstanding success of our new, immersive and engaging virtual summer camp programs, that reached children and families across the country, and even into Mexico, the dedicated team here at the Air Zoo is so proud to announce that it has just launched a new and exciting arsenal of science programs, we refer to them as our Virtual Learning Labs,” Air Zoo President and CEO Troy Thrash said in the release.

The Virtual Learning Labs include [email protected] and Virtual [email protected] programs for classrooms as well as newly developed programs for Girl Scouts, Scouts BSA, Cub Scouts, libraries and other organizations.

“As the year progresses, the Air Zoo commits to exploring even more ways to encourage, engage, and ignite our future technical workforce, support our dedicated educators and inspire our community leaders,” the Air Zoo said in the release.

Air Zoo’s [email protected] programs are geared toward families that are not only homeschooling their children, but also those with children in virtual or hybrid classrooms, learning from home. The 75-minute programs are segmented by age and offered once per month, now through May 2021, the release said.

The cost for registration is $6 per child, plus shipping for those with


Air stable intrinsically stretchable color-conversion layers for stretchable displays

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The development of a stretchable display that can be bent, stretched, and attached to the skin as a free-standing film appeared in science fiction films is expected to be one step closer. The research team led by Prof. Tae-Woo Lee from Seoul National University announced on the 29th that they have successfully achieved a stretchable color conversion layer (SCCL) using perovskite nanocrystals (PeNCs) and applied it to stretchable displays. This study has made it possible to accelerate the development of next-generation stretchable light-emitting devices.

Recent advances in soft materials and cost-effective solution processing techniques have enabled the fast development of wearable electronics for visualizing signals from varies sensors attached onto human body. The stretchable display, as one of the key components in the body-net wearable system, is the most convenient media for real-time monitoring sensor signals.

The materials that are commonly used for stretchable displays such as light-emitting polymers and quantum dots are unstable and prone to degrade when exposed to moisture and oxygen. The intrinsic properties of materials such as photoluminescence intensity and quantum efficiency will severely deteriorate after the exposure in air, leading to the formation of dark spots in the display. Hence, stretchable light emitting devices require an excellent stretchable encapsulation film to avoid deterioration in the air especially during stretching. New breakthrough through the development of stretchable encapsulation material is in an urgent need.

To solve the problem, a team of scientists from Seoul National University, led by Prof. Tae-Woo Lee have developed an air-stable color conversion layer using PeNCs for stretchable light-emitting devices.

PeNCs, when compared with other light-emitting organic materials and quantum dots, are cost-effective but highly efficient for light-emission. To prevent the degradation of PeNCs, the team used the SEBS (styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene) as a polymer matrix to improve both stability


Oklahoma college takes COVID-19 fight to the air with use of drones for disinfectant spray | State and Regional News

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Rose State College drone

Mist is sprayed by a drone during a demonstration Monday showing how a drone can be used to sanitize areas on the Rose State College campus new student union. DOUG HOKE/The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rose State College students returning to campus can breathe a little easier in the school’s new student union.

Across the world, drones are being used for large-scale disinfecting of public places, like sports stadiums, that would be too time-consuming for individual staff on the ground. The same case could be made for the student union at Rose State College, a 48,000-square-foot structure that includes a ballroom with seating for 400 people during normal operations.

The college, in collaboration with Total Defense Resource Strategies, demonstrated Monday the use of a drone to disperse a COVID-19 disinfectant at the newly constructed student union that opened this week.

“What we saw today was an innovative new technology, where we use a drone with a canister attached to it to spray a large area, to disinfect it from the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Toney Stricklin, president and CEO of TDRS. “The speed of this is actually such that we can spray 3,500 square feet in as little as three to four minutes.”

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