science tech physics sun neutrinos fusion nuclear_reaction space

One Type of Fusion Accounts For Nearly All Of Sun’s Power, Detector Finds

by Michael Keller

The cool instrument above is what you get to work with if you are on the hunt for neutrinos, the tiny subatomic particles with barely any mass that rarely interact with other matter. Theses pictures all show the Borexino Collaboration particle physics experiment, which is designed to detect a type of neutrino predicted to fly out of the sun due to nuclear fusion of proton atoms at its core. 

The group announced today that their instrument, which is buried nearly 3,200 feet under a mountain to minimize interference from other particles, has detected the so-called pp neutrino. This variety of particle is the result of energy-generating nuclear reactions caused by the fusing of two protons. The team’s results indicate that 99 percent of the sun’s power comes from this type of fusion at its core. 

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WiFi Drones Stand Up Network During Emergencies

by Michael Keller

Some of the first responders to enter future disaster zones might be tiny drones equipped with transmitters designed to reestablish WiFi and cellphone communications. 

University of North Texas electrical engineers have unveiled prototypes of the multirotor aerial vehicles that they are designing to fly in pairs after the network goes down. One drone would land in the area—perhaps on a rooftop—and the second would be placed in line of sight of the first up to almost two miles away. 

See the video and read more below.

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science tech renewable_energy solar artificial_photosynthesis solar_concentrator alternative_fuel power aviation badass_machines
Squeezing Liquid Fuel From The Sun

by Michael Keller

Earlier this month, we spotlighted promising research that has successfully produced biofuel by feeding electricity to bacteria. If it can scale up, this work would answer several current problems inherent in converting solar energy into fuel, a necessity in a world that runs on powerful vehicle engines that need energy-dense liquids to run.

Figuring out solutions to lowering society’s fossil fuel use could potentially help with global issues from energy insecurity to global warming. Yet contemporary biofuels are rife with their own set of problems. Often biofuel crops compete with acreage for food production and increase pressure to clear forests for cultivation. In the case of commodities like corn, which can be used for fuel feedstock and food, fuel production directly competes with food supplies. 

Meanwhile, plants are highly inefficient at converting sunlight into chemical energy, averaging little more than 3 percent efficiency. And if fertilizers are needed or trees must be cut to grow biofuel crops, then the process wouldn’t be carbon neutral, a requirement to slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

But electricity-eating bacteria aren’t the only contenders for the next generation of renewable biofuels. There are also a number of projects that are starting to see dividends in taking sunlight and converting it directly into chemical energy.

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NASA Investigating Electric Propulsion For Flight

NASA engineers in Virginia successfully flew this remote-controlled aircraft that can hover like a helicopter and fly like an airplane. Its 10 rotors change direction on wings that tilt from vertical to horizontal.

Their purpose in testing the 10-foot-wingspan vehicle that they call the GL-10 Greased Lightning? To see if aircraft powered by multiple electric rotors might be the future of air travel. The first flights at the agency’s Langley Research Center saw the Greased Lightning tethered for safety. Researchers expect to run untethered flights later this year. 

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