Happy new year! I hope 2011 brings us everything 2010 promised but failed to deliver. Namely jetpacks and first contact. But in the meantime we will have to enjoy these other exciting discoveries!

  • ResearchBlogging.orgSelf-repairing solar cells. One of the advantages that plants have over man-made solar cells is that whenever one of the dye molecules (the item that absorbs the light – in the case chlorophyl) is broken in some way, the plant has systems in place to repair or replace the broken dye molecule. In man-made solar cells however, the cells degrade over time as the dye molecules are slowly destroyed and not replaced. A group from Purdue University have been able to attach dye molecules to carbon nanotubes in such a way that they can be released and re-assembled on their command. This way dye molecules can be periodically released and replaced by new ones, ensuring that the solar cell stays at a high level of output without degradation. Check it out!

Scheme for a dye-molecule linked to a carbon nanotube solar cell. Source: SPIE.org

  • Bananas. Delicious, nutritious, and now able to scrub your water clean of heavy metals! A Brazilian chemist became concerned about the estimated 4 tons of banana peels wasted each week by restaurants in Sao Paulo after watching a documentary on the subject. Determined to find a use for the unwanted banana peel she found that by heating and drying the peels down to a powder, the powdered peel could be used to purify water of heavy metal contaminants. Because the peel powder contains a large number of negatively charged particles, the positively charged metals are drawn to it. Read more!

Useful outside of Mario Kart. Who knew? Source: flikr - sandman_kk

  • Remember… the future? I don’t usually post on psychology reports because that’s not my background, but this report’s conclusions were so bizarre that I had to share. Daryl Bem of Cornell recently released a report that appeared to indicated that subjects future actions changed their present actions a statistically significant amount of time. In one experiment, a group of students were shown a list of 48 common nouns (like tree, door, etc) and asked to visualize each one for a few seconds. Then they were all given a surprise exam where they were asked to recall as many of the nouns as possible.  Half of the students were then finished. The other half were asked to repeat the visualization process of 24 randomly selected  nouns from the list. The group that was allowed to study after the test apparently did better (a statistically significant amount, but the article doesn’t specify how much) than those that went home after the test. Are the subjects remembering their future actions? Read more to find out. Critics are calling it pseudoscience, but the nice thing is that these experiments are easily repeatable, so I would be on the lookout for other groups attempting to reproduce Bem’s results.

References:
Choi, J. (2010). Biomimetic light-harvesting optical nanomaterials SPIE Newsroom DOI: 10.1117/2.1201007.003130

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