Tech Universe: Monday 23 April

By Miraz Jordan

A University of Delaware student has found a way to use sunlight and zinc oxide to produce hydrogen without the CO2 byproduct. Photo / Thinkstock
A University of Delaware student has found a way to use sunlight and zinc oxide to produce hydrogen without the CO2 byproduct. Photo / Thinkstock

HYDROGEN ZINC: Hydrogen's a useful gas but it's currently made from fossil fuels and producing it releases CO2. A student at the University of Delaware found a way to instead produce hydrogen from highly concentrated sunlight and zinc oxide powder. A conical reactor feeds zinc oxide powder through hoppers onto a ceramic layer inside a cavity. Sunlight is concentrated into the cavity where it produces pure zinc vapour that then reacts with water to produce solar hydrogen. The zinc itself is also a valuable fuel, and the zinc oxide byproduct can be used again. The beauties of recycling. University of Delaware details.

NEW SPIN ON SOUND: At Dundee University a rubber disc in a canister of water lifts itself, floats and starts rotating for no apparent reason. Driving it is a beam of ultrasound shaped like a helix or vortex below the canister. Scientists used this demonstration to prove that they can now use ultrasound to not only push objects, but to turn and steer them as well.

This could give surgeons the ability to target drug delivery or manipulate cells. This needs a theramin soundtrack for
best effect. Check out BBC for further information.

DARK FERMIONS: Ah, the Majorana fermion — theorised in the 1930s and finally observed this month. The Majorana fermion sounds like a sci-fi plot device, right on the border between matter and anti-matter. One theory even suggests it's a component of Dark Matter. Scientists in Holland teamed an Indium Antemonide nanowire with superconductors and a strong magnetic field. A pair of Majorana fermions appeared at either end of the nanowire. Bringing a little dark into the light. Delft University of Technology has more. Watch the video here.

HUNT THE MICROBE: Sometimes microbes, such as those for TB, hide in the human body and are very difficult to detect. Tests can take a long time and delay treatment by weeks or months. Scientists at the University of Central Florida can detect microbes quickly using nanoparticles. Polymer-coated iron oxide nanoparticles are chemically modified to specifically bind to unique DNA markers. When they bind, a magnetic resonance signal can be read on a computer or smartphone, signalling the presence of the pathogen. The researchers hope to develop this into a rapid, sensitive lab test. Kind of like radar for microbes really. Visit University of Central Florida.

BATTERY BOOSTER: Lithium ion batteries are very popular. Most commonly the anodes are made from graphite, but 3M found that using silicon as a base instead can boost battery life. Matched with high-energy battery cathodes, the silicon-based anodes can increase cell capacity by more than 40%. That's quite a tweak. Business Wire explains.

Miraz Jordan knowit.co.nz

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