As world leaders prepare to gather in France for the 2015 United Nations Conference on Climate Change next week, global warming — and how to stop it — is a hot topic.
To limit climate change, experts say that we need to reach carbon neutrality by the end of this century at the latest. To achieve that goal, our dependence on fossil fuels must be reversed. But what energy source will take its place? Researchers from Concordia University in Montreal just might have the answer: algae.
In a study published in the journal Technology, a team led by Concordia engineering professor Muthukumaran Packirisamy describe their invention: a power cell that harnesses electrical energy from the photosynthesis and respiration of blue-green algae.
Why plants? Because the energy is already there.
“Both photosynthesis and respiration, which take place in plants cells, involve electron transfer chains. By trapping the electrons released by blue-green algae during photosynthesis and respiration, we can harness the electrical energy they produce naturally,” says Packirisamy.
Why blue-green algae? Because it’s everywhere.
Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae are the most prosperous microorganisms on earth, evolutionarily speaking. They occupy a broad range of habitats across all latitudes. And they’ve been here forever: the planet's early fauna and flora owe their makeup to cyanobacteria, which produced the oxygen that ultimately allowed higher life forms to flourish.
“By taking advantage of a process that is constantly occurring all over the world, we’ve created a new and scalable technology that could lead to cheaper ways of generating carbon-free energy,” says Packirisamy.
He notes that the invention is still in its early stages. “We have a lot of work to do in terms of scaling the power cell to make the project commercial.”
Currently, the photosynthetic power cell exists on a small scale, and consists of an anode, cathode and proton exchange membrane. The cyanobacteria or blue green algae are placed in the anode chamber.
As they undergo photosynthesis, the cyanobacteria release electrons to the electrode surface. An external load is connected to the device to extract the electrons and harness power.
As Packirisamy and his team develop and expand the project, he hopes that the micro photosynthetic power cells will soon be used in various applications, such as powering cell phones and computers. And maybe one day they’ll power the world.
Hundreds of millions of pieces of space junk orbit the Earth daily, from chips of old rocket paint, to shards of solar panels, and entire dead satellites. This cloud of high-tech detritus whirls around the planet at about 17,500 miles per hour. At these speeds, even trash as small as a pebble can torpedo a passing spacecraft.
Humans may have had pet cats for as long as 9,500 years. In 2004, archaeologists in Cyprus found a complete cat skeleton buried in a Stone Age village. Given that Cyprus has no native wildcats, the animal (or perhaps its ancestors) must have been brought to the island by humans all those millennia ago.
Acting as a “natural telescope” in space, the gravity of the extremely massive foreground galaxy cluster MACS J2129-0741 magnifies, brightens, and distorts the far-distant background galaxy MACS2129-1 in the upper-right corner of this image. (View an annotated image highlighting the gravitationally-lensed galaxy.)
By combining the power of a "natural lens" in space with the capability of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers made a surprising discovery—the first example of a compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the big bang.
If you’ve ever tried to get the best deal on a holiday, you will have noticed that airlines and hotels continually change their prices. What might cost a certain amount now, could be cheaper or more expensive tomorrow due to this “dynamic pricing” – used as a method to manage revenue. We have studied these pricing techniques in sectors including airlines and hotels to further understand and identify when it is best to book and get the best price.
After 50 years of sending rockets, satellites, and payloads into orbit, humanity has created something of a “space junk” problem. Recent estimates indicate that there are more than 170 million pieces of debris up there, ranging in size from less than 1 cm (o.4 in) to a few meters in diameter. Not only does this junk threaten spacecraft and the ISS, but collisions between bits of debris can cause more to form, a phenomena known as the Kessler Effect.
Most of Britain is experiencing a heatwave, with temperatures reaching up to 32℃. The public health watchdog for England has issued an amber health warning, advising people to take care in the hotter weather. But what does it mean for runners? Is it ever too hot to go for a run?
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, has released new details of his vision to colonise parts of the solar system, including Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. His gung ho plans – designed to make humans a multi-planetary species in case civilisation collapses – include launching flights to Mars as early as 2023.
The Kepler space telescope is surely the gift that keeps on giving. After being deployed in 2009, it went on to detect a total of 2,335 confirmed exoplanets and 582 multi-planet systems. Even after two of its reaction wheels failed, it carried on with its K2 mission, which has discovered an additional 520 candidates, 148 of which have been confirmed. And with yet another extension, which will last beyond 2018, it shows no signs of stopping!
Using the most powerful telescope ever sent to Mars, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught a view of the Curiosity rover this month amid rocky mountainside terrain.