Archive for October, 2017

Biofuel for Flying Aircraft

Airlines are constantly battling the rising prices of aviation fuel. The refined fossil fuels that are used by commercial airlines are not only responsible for higher air fares, they will soon be hard to access. Does that mean that flying will soon become redundant? Not if researchers at the University of Illinois have their way.

The researchers at the University of Illinois’ Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology have been working on a science project which involves creating bio fuel to run air crafts on. They have used 54 acres to produce a specially engineered sugarcane which is able to provide a bio fuel that can run a plane for ten hours.

To consider how remarkable that is, we need to know that a single gallon of regular aviation fuel is able to fly an air craft for just one second. Besides sugarcane the researchers have created bio fuel from soybeans as well. Not only is plant based fuel cheaper to produce than fossil fuels, it has no harmful side products that are released into the environment.

The residual sugar that is left over after the oil is removed from the sugarcane to be processed as bio fuel, can also be converted into ethanol or sold commercially. There is the matter of some engineering changes to be made to the engine, but overall the bio fuel will prove more economical than the current aviation fuel.

Leave a Comment

Heavenly Palace Falls to Earth

In the year 2011 China had launched a space station into orbit around the Earth. Called Tiangong-1 or ‘Heavenly Palace’, the space station has been in a steadily decaying orbit since March 2016. The 8.5 tonne space station is currently about 216 miles above the Earth and headed towards the planet for a fiery end.

As per Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, now that the altitude is getting lower the space station will decay at a much faster rate. He expects the space station to come down in a few months time, which could be late 2017 or early 2018.

While the majority of the space station will be torn into chunks which will burn up upon reentry into the environment of the planet, there will still be a number of large pieces weighing up to 100 kg that will slam into the Earth. The Chinese government is closely monitoring the descent of the Heavenly Palace, but is unable to predict exactly where the impact will be made.

Chinese’s CNSA space agency said that the probability of endangering and causing damage to aviation and ground activities is very low. This is one science project that is going up in flames, and even it’s inventors have no idea how it’s all going to end.

Leave a Comment

Lava Tube Possible Human Habitats on Mars

The environment on Mars is a lot more hostile for human beings on the surface of the planet than it would be under it. Lava tubes formed by volcanic activity have been found on Earth in places such as as Hawaii, Iceland, Sicily, Galapagos Islands, and North Queensland in Australia. All of these places have had volcanic activity that have left behind cool underground tubes that can go up to 65 km.

Scientists propose that using lava tubes on the planet Mars may be a better place to serve as a human habitat than constructing one on the surface. The underground network would provide protection from the extreme atmospheric elements as well as the sun’s radiation. Some tubes may be large enough to establish small townships given that they are nearly 250 m in width and can stretch for many kilometers.

The high resolution digital terrain models created from the data gathered through space craft instrumentation suggests that making Lava Tube Human Habitats on Mars may be possible.  They would have enough space for streets and even smaller housing structures within. The well shielded townships may be where future human missions are carried out. This is one science project that could quite literally shape humanity’s future on Mars.

Leave a Comment

Cycling Their Way To Recycling

Growing enough food to feed everyone is one of the biggest challenges that the current generation faces. Humanity is growing by leaps and bounds and it’s important to not waste the food we have. One of the biggest sources of food wastage is the restaurant business. A team of cyclists in France have come up with an interesting solution to this problem.

La Tricyclerie is a group of cycling enthusiasts who have been appreciated by the United Nations for their unique concept of taking restaurant waste and turning it into compost using electric bicycles. They go collecting biodegradable waste from the restaurants and convert it into the “black gold” which can be used to fertilize fields.

The anti waste tour started in 2015 with eight restaurants but has grown to handle 23 outlets now. These days they are collecting 1.5 tonnes of waste per month. They have reduced the volume of restaurant food waste by 40% in the city of Nates. Other cities and restaurants are showing an interest in duplicating their system.

This is one science project that has come into the list of 12 finalists worldwide for the UN’s “Young Champions for the Earth” competition. There were a total of 2,400 entries and the prize of $15000 is going to be announced in November 2017.

Leave a Comment

Chinese Robot Dentist

There is a shortage of trained dentists in China. In response to this researchers at the Beihang University have developed a robot that is actually a skilled dental surgeon. The robot took four years to be refined to the point where it managed to conduct it’s first dental surgery on a patient, where it fit two new teeth implants.

The robot dentist carried out the hour long procedure in Xian, Shaanxi. The implants were created by 3D printing and were fitted within a error margin of 0.2- 0.3 mm. This is well within the acceptable limit for this kind of surgery. Human medical staff were present but did not participate during the dental surgery.

Dr. Zhao Yimin, who is a oral rehabilitation specialist, felt that the robot combined the expertise of a dentist with the latest technology to benefit the patients. It’s not just the Chinese who feel that using a robot dentist is a good idea. In March this year the Food and Drug Administration also approved a robot system called Yomi, which is set to assist human dentists while fitting implants.

Not all human patients may be comfortable letting a robot dentist handle their oral rehabilitation, but this science project has proved that it is possible. Considering the shortage of qualified dentists, it may soon become commonplace to have robotic dental surgeries.

Leave a Comment

The Ultimate in Miniaturized Machinery

Making machines smaller and more powerful has been the cornerstone of the electronic industry. Now it’s becoming easier for the miniaturization to be done by the machines themselves. Researchers at the University of Manchester have come up with the first “Molecular Robot”.

The individual robot is capable of manipulating a single molecule and is made up of just 150 carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms. A group of such robots operate together by carrying out chemical reactions in special solutions. These reactions are controlled and programmed by scientists to perform the basic tasks.

The system can be likened to that of Lego bricks. Each robot can be placed together with others to build something altogether different. The best part about such small robots is that the demand for materials reduces considerably to perform the same tasks.

The science project may seem complex, but is based on simple chemical processes.  As per Prof Leigh, the robots are assembled and operated using chemistry. This is the science of how atoms and molecules react with each other and how larger molecules are constructed from smaller ones. It is the same sort of process scientists use to make medicines and plastics from simple chemical building blocks.

Leave a Comment