Shining solar cell design sets new efficiency record

high-efficiency Alta Devices solar cell

High-efficiency Alta Devices solar cell

To produce the maximum amount of energy, solar cells are designed to absorb as much light from the Sun as possible. Now researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have suggested – and demonstrated – a counterintuitive concept: solar cells should be designed to be more like LEDs, able to emit light as well as absorb it. The Berkeley team will present its findings at the Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics (CLEO: 2012), to be held May 6-11 in San Jose, Calif.

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China succeeds in handmade cloning the world’s first transgenic sheep

Handmade transgenic cloned sheepChinese scientists from BGI, the world’s largest genomics organization, together with the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and Shihezi University, Xinjiang province, made a significant breakthrough in animal cloning. The world’s first transgenic sheep produced with a simplified technique, handmade cloning, was successfully born at 12:16pm, March 26, 2012, in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China. The project was also supported by the Animal Science Academy of Xinjiang.

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The biofuel supply chain is too competitive for its own good

As biofuel production has increased – particularly ethanol derived from corn – a hotly contested competition for feedstock supplies has emerged between the agricultural grain markets and biofuel refineries. This competition has sparked concern for the more fundamental issue of allocating limited farmland resources, which has far-reaching implications for food security, energy security and environmental sustainability.

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Urban areas have more plant species than rural areas but they die younger

Singapore skylineCities in both, the US and Europe harbour more plant species than rural areas. However, plant species of urban areas are closer related to each other and often share similar functions. Consequently, urban ecosystems should be more sensitive towards environmental impacts than rural ecosystems.

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Nanoparticles may damage plant DNA

Nanoparticle influence on plantsResearchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) have provided the first evidence that engineered nanoparticles are able to accumulate within plants and damage their DNA. In a recent paper, the team led by NIST chemist Bryant C. Nelson showed that under laboratory conditions, cupric oxide nanoparticles have the capacity to enter plant root cells and generate many mutagenic DNA base lesions.

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Laying eggs was dinosaurs’ first step to extinction

Their reproductive strategy spelled the beginning of the end: The fact that dinosaurs laid eggs put them at a considerable disadvantage compared to viviparous mammals. Together with colleagues from the Zoological Society of London, Daryl Codron and Marcus Clauss from the University of Zurich investigated and published why and how this ultimately led to the extinction of the dinosaurs in the journal Biology Letters.

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Animated NOAA GOES-13 satellite data shows space view of Great Plains tornado outbreak

Satellite data gives forecasters a leg up on severe weather. NASA has just released an animation of visible and infrared satellite data showing the development and movement of the Great Plains tornado outbreak, using data from NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite. There were more than 135 reports of tornadoes and 124 different warnings over April 14-15, 2012.

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Meet Olavius algarvensis: the worm that eats carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide

Eating is actually a big word for the marine worm Olavius algarvensis, since the worm completely lacks a digestive system. Over the course of evolution the worm has gathered millions of symbiotic bacteria that have found a home under its … Continue reading

Brightening rooftops and pavements can cool the Earth by 0.07 degrees

Imagine a world where the rooftops and pavements of every urban area are resurfaced to increase the reflection of the Sun’s light rays. Well, this is exactly what a group of Canadian researchers have simulated in an attempt to measure the potential effects against global warming. Continue reading

The future of our biobased economy? Snail-powered cameras and crab-powered computers

With our conventional energy supplies getting more expensive or less reliable by the day, many researchers aim to find new sources of energy. Sometimes those new energy sources seem a bit too farfetched to make it to general use. We … Continue reading