The next clean energy source? Snow.
Researchers from UCLA invent a device that generates electricity from a rather unusual source.
- UCLA scientists have invented a cheap, flexible, and simple device called snow-TENG that generates electricity when it comes into contact with snow.
- Scientists have known that snow carries an electrical charge for several decades, but this device is one of the first to capitalize on that effect.
- The researchers believe that snow-TENG could be used in movement-tracking applications or as a simple weather station that requires no battery to operate.
The amount of effort that we spend digging up ancient plankton is starting to get more and more ridiculous. There's energy all around us that we can easily collect from the sun, wind, rivers, waves — and now from snow, too. Indeed, Maher El-Kady and Richard Kaner, two scientists from UCLA, recently published a paper in Nano Energy describing how they were able to construct a cheap, flexible, simple device — they call it the "snow-TENG" — that can generate electricity from falling snow.
How does it work?
snow-TENG is shown attached to the sole of a boot. In this use case, an individual walking across a snowy field could generate electricity for wearable devices or use snow-TENG to count their steps.
H2O is a polar molecule, meaning that one of its sides is negatively charged (specifically, the side with the oxygen atom) and the other is positively charged (the side with the two hydrogen atoms). When water molecules crystalize into snowflakes, they orient themselves such that the snowflake gets an overall charge. Friction, too, can confer an electrical charge to snowflakes.
The exact nature of the charge depends on the temperature: between −5°C and −10°C the charge tends to be positive, and between −15°C and −20°C the charge tends to be negative.
"Snow is already charged," said El-Kady in a UCLA statement, "so we thought, why not bring another material with the opposite charge and extract the charge to create electricity?" Materials like this are called triboelectric nanogenerators (or TENGs), named after the triboelectric effect, in which a material picks up the charge of another material through contact. For example, rubbing your hair on a balloon strips electrons off of your hair and onto the balloon, causing your positively charged hair to reach out towards the now-negatively charged balloon in pursuit of its stolen electrons — also known as static electricity.
"After testing a large number of materials including aluminum foils and Teflon, we found that silicone produces more charge than any other material," said El-Kady.
What can it be used for?
There are a significant number of potential applications for a device like this. It could, for instance, be attached to solar panels to provide energy when the sun is blocked by a snowstorm. It could be used to track the performance of cold-weather athletes, power small wearable devices, or a portable weather station. In addition, it could be coming to a neighborhood near you. "We believe our materials can be painted onto buildings to create electricity, and also provide protection against water and humidity," El-Kady told Popular Science.
One of the more impressive uses for snow-TENG is, of course, as a battery-free weather station. When particles of snow strike the device, it generates a variety of electrical signals that can be interpreted to determine the wind speed and direction in a snowstorm as well as the snowfall rate and accumulation.
During the wintertime, up to a third of the planet becomes covered in snow, making devices like snow-TENG much more practical than they may initially sound. But, of course, one has to wonder how practical such a device will be in a future dominated by climate change. However, while many places will see less snow, climate change may actual increase snow fall in others, particularly in colder climates.
While free energy is always nice, it's important to stress that the snow-TENG is more of a proof of concept than a revolutionizing piece of new tech. During their tests, El-Kady and Kaner found that the device could output 0.2 milliwatts per square meter. As a comparison, a solar panel that's exactly one square meter could generate around 150 to 200 watts in good sunlight.
However, the device already works as a self-powered sensor of movement and weather, and the technology can likely be improved to generate more electricity. All told, snow-TENG demonstrates how much energy there is hiding in the background of our everyday environment.
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Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
Students who think the world is just cheat less, but they need to experience justice to feel that way.
- Students in German and Turkish universities who believed the world is just cheated less than their pessimistic peers.
- The tendency to think the world is just is related to the occurence of experiences of justice.
- The findings may prove useful in helping students adjust to college life.
The world is just? That’s news to a lot of people.<p>The study is the most recent addition to a long line of work focusing on the belief in justice, our behavior, and our reactions to evidence that might suggest injustice occasionally occurs. This study focuses on a personal belief in a just world, (PBJW) rather than a general belief in a just world (GBJW). The difference between them must be highlighted.</p><p>GBJW is the stance that justice prevails all over the world and that people tend to get what they deserve. PBJW is more focused on the individual's social environment and their belief that they tend to be treated justly. While several studies show PBJW correlates with a higher sense of well-being and a variety of other positive effects, a high GBJW is associated with less life satisfaction, negative behavior, and callousness towards the suffering of <a href="https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-1-4939-3216-0" target="_blank">others</a>. This study controlled for GBJW, and focused on PBJW as much as possible. </p><p>To assure that culture was not a factor, the study included students at universities in both Germany and Turkey. </p><p>The researchers gave students at the four participating universities a series of questionnaires that asked if they ever cheated in class, if they perceived the world to be just, if they though that justice always prevailed everywhere, their tendencies towards socially appropriate behavior, their life satisfaction, and if they felt like they were treated justly by their teachers and fellow students. </p><p>The answers were statistically analyzed for relationships. While some of the connections seem trivially true, others were surprising. <strong></strong></p><p>PBJW turned out to only be an indirect predictor of if a student was likely to cheat. Both a belief in a just world and a lower likelihood of cheating were mediated by the justice experiences of the students, with more of these positive experiences lowering the rate of cheating and improving their belief in justice. This was also associated with higher levels of life satisfaction. </p><p>These effects existed across all demographics in both countries. </p>
What does this mean? Is a belief in justice a self-fulfilling prophecy?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6oMv-azHNCA" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>In a way, it seems to be. People who have reason to think the world is just to them tend to interpret events in a way to sustain that belief and behave in a just manner. In a larger sense, the take away from this study is that experiences of justice, both from peers and instructors, is vital to student's wellbeing and understanding that the rules that exist about cheating are part of a larger, legitimate, system. </p><p>The researchers, citing previous studies on the perception of justice, note that "justice experiences (1) signal that university students are esteemed members of their social group, which in turn conveys feelings of belonging and social inclusion and (2) motivate them to accept and observe university rules and norms. These cognitive processes may thus strengthen their well-being and decrease the likelihood that they cheat."</p><p>The authors also suggest that if you want people (not only students) to act justly; consider treating them with "civility, respect, and dignity."</p><p>Sometimes, all it can take to help somebody act virtuously is to treat them well. Likewise, people treated harshly can rarely find reason to play by rules that don't protect them. The findings of this study will certainly add to the literature on how we perceive justice in the world around us, but might also help us remember that there are real consequences to our actions which can be much larger than we imagine. <strong></strong></p>
This could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
- The reason children suffer less from the novel coronavirus has remained mysterious.
- Researchers identified a cytokine, IL-17A, which appears to protect children from the ravages of COVID-19.
- This cytokine response could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
A member of staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a child's temperature at the Harris Academy's Shortland's school on June 04, 2020 in London, England.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images<p>Experts don't want to place kids at the back of the line, regardless of how strong their immune systems appear. At least one company, Moderna, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-vaccine-for-kids-moderna-plans-pediatric-trial-2020-9" target="_blank">hopes to begin testing</a> vaccines in pediatric volunteers by year's end.</p><p>Innate immune response is especially high during childhood (compared to adaptive immunity). This makes evolutionary sense: nature wants an animal to survive until its ready to procreate. Turns out the children in the study possessed high levels of cytokines that boost their immune response. The biggest impact is made by IL-17A, which appears to protect the youngest cohort from the ravages of the coronavirus. </p><p>While both age groups produced antibodies to fight off the infamous spike protein, adults that produce neutralizing antibodies actually suffer a <em>worse</em> fate. Herold says this "over-vigorous adaptive immune response" might promote inflammation, triggering acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). </p><p>This matters for vaccine development. As Herold says, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Our adult COVID-19 patients who fared poorly had high levels of neutralizing antibodies, suggesting that convalescent plasma—which is rich in neutralizing antibodies—may not help adults who have already developed signs of ARDS. By contrast, therapies that boost innate immune responses early in the course of the disease may be especially beneficial."</p><p>Herold says current vaccine trials are focused on boosting neutralizing-antibody levels. With this new information, researchers may want to work on vaccines that boost the innate immune response instead. </p><p>With <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html" target="_blank">at least 55 vaccine trials</a> underway, every piece of data matters. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Researchers from the University of Toronto published a new map of cancer cells' genetic defenses against treatment.