Check out the newsletter by the newest YSF committee for this month.
Engineers working to make solar cells more cost effective ended up finding a method for making sonar-like collision avoidance systems in self-driving cars.
The twin discoveries started, the researchers say, when they began looking for a solution to a well-known problem in the world of solar cells.
Solar cells capture photons from sunlight in order to convert them into electricity. The thicker the layer of silicon in the cell, the more light it can absorb, and the more electricity it can ultimately produce. But the sheer expense of silicon has become a barrier to solar cost-effectiveness.
So the engineers figured out how to create a very thin layer of silicon that could absorb as many photons as a much thicker layer of the costly material. Specifically, rather than laying the silicon flat, they nanotextured the surface of the silicon in a way that created more opportunities for light particles to be absorbed.
Their technique increased photon absorption rates for the nanotextured solar cells compared to traditional thin silicon cells, making more cost-effective use of the material.
It is with deep regret that we have to cancel PTET Science Outreach 2017 due to unavoidable circumstances. We thank you for your interest regarding this thus far and hope to return next year.
Lunchtime lecture positions are open for next year’s forum talks. In addition, our annual PTET Youth Science Symposium will go on as normal.
The huge variety of leaves in the plant kingdom has long been a source of wonder and fascination.
The leaves of a banana plant, for instance, are about a million times bigger than the leaves of heather.
The conventional wisdom is that leaf size is limited by the balance between how much water is available to a plant and the risk of overheating.
However, a study of more than 7,000 plant species around the world suggests the answer may be more complex.
Predatory sea worms just aren’t as spiny as they used to be.
These arrow worms, which make up the phylum Chaetognatha, snatch prey with Wolverine-like claws protruding from around their mouths. Researchers now report that a newly identified species of ancient arrow worm was especially heavily armed. Dubbed Capinatator praetermissus, the predator had about 50 curved head spines, more than twice as many as most of its modern relatives. Arranged in two crescents, the spines could snap shut like a Venus flytrap to catch small invertebrates.
After five years on Mars, the Curiosity rover is an old pro at doing science on the Red Planet. Since sticking its landingon August 5, 2012, NASA’s Little Robot That Could has learned a lot about its environs.
Its charge was simple: Look for signs that Gale crater, a huge impact basin with a mountain at its center, might once have been habitable (for microbes, not Matt Damon). Turning over rocks across the crater, the rover has compiled evidence of ancient water — a lake fed by rivers once occupied the crater itself — and organic compounds and other chemicals essential for life.
NASA has extended the mission through October 2018. And there’s still plenty of interesting chemistry and geology to be done. As the robot continues to climb Mount Sharp at the center of the crater, Curiosity will explore three new rock layers: one dominated by the iron mineral hematite, one dominated by clay and one with lots of sulfate salts.
So, here are four Martian mysteries that Curiosity could solve (or at least dig up some dirt on).
US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made and put the number at 8.3 billion tonnes.
It is an astonishing mass of material that has essentially been created only in the last 65 years or so.
The 8.3 billion tonnes is as heavy as 25,000 Empire State Buildings in New York, or a billion elephants.
The great issue is that plastic items, like packaging, tend to be used for very short periods before being discarded.
More than 70% of the total production is now in waste streams, sent largely to landfill – although too much of it just litters the wider environment, including the oceans.
“We are rapidly heading towards ‘Planet Plastic’, and if we don’t want to live on that kind of world then we may have to rethink how we use some materials, in particular plastic,” Dr Roland Geyer told BBC News.
YSF 2017 Lecture #6
When we brought our first baby home from the hospital, our pediatrician advised us to have her sleep in our room. We put our tiny new roommate in a crib near our bed (though other containers that were flat, firm and free of blankets, pillows or stuffed animals would have worked, too).
The advice aims to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Studies suggest that in their first year of life, babies who bunk with their parents (but not in the same bed) are less likely to die from SIDS than babies who sleep in their own room. The reasons aren’t clear, but scientists suspect it has to do with lighter sleep: Babies who sleep near parents might more readily wake themselves up and avoid the deep sleep that’s a risk factor for SIDS.