Science KombatA new web-based game, Science Kombat, is pitting some of history’s greatest minds against each other.

Gamers can pick from eight of history’s most famous geniuses to play as, including Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Pythagoras, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, and Stephen Hawking.

But this game isn’t just any combat-based game. Each character makes use of a special superpower that is specific to their scientific contributions to the world. For example, Marie Curie can shot polonium and radium and her opponents, while Nikola Tesla unleashes huge bursts of electricity.

Check out more of these geniuses and their superpowers by playing the game.

Rooftops can provide more than shelter from the elements; they may also provide a goldmine of untapped energy production.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently issued a report stating that rooftop solar panels have the potential to power nearly 40 percent of the U.S.

“It is important to note that this report only estimates the potential from existing, suitable rooftops, and does not consider the immense potential of ground-mounted PV,” co-author of the report Robert Margolis said. “Actual generation from PV in urban areas could exceed these estimates by installing systems on less suitable roof space, by mounting PV on canopies over open spaces such as parking lots, or by integrating PV into building facades. Further, the results are sensitive to assumptions about module performance, which are expected to continue to improve over time.”

Essentially, solar panels could have limitless possibles. However, land is a precious commodity. Roofs, however, provide a space that typically goes unused to generate a huge amount of power for the U.S.

PV Hybrid

A research team aims to make a battery and solar cell hybrid out of two single systems.
Image: Lunghammer – TU Graz

People across the globe are looking toward renewable solutions to change the landscape of energy. But what happens when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing? In order to guarantee green energy that is consistent, reliable energy storage systems are critical.

“Currently, single systems of photovoltaic cells which are connected together — mostly lead-based batteries and vast amounts of cable — are in use,” said Ilie Hanzu, TU Graz professor and past member of ECS. “We want to make a battery and solar cell hybrid out of two single systems which is not only able to convert electrical energy, but also store it.”

The idea of a battery and solar cell hybrid is completely novel scientific territory. With this project, entitled SolaBat, the team hopes to develop a product that has commercial applications. For this, the scientists will have to develop the perfect combination of functional materials.

“In the hybrid system, high-performance materials share their tasks in the solar cell and in the battery,” Hanzu said. “We need materials that reliably fulfill their respective tasks and that are also electrochemically compatible with other materials so that they work together in one device.”

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In an effort to move away from fossil fuels toward a renewable future, researchers have invested time and resources into developing hydrogen fuel. The most efficient way to create this sustainable fuel has been through water-splitting, but the process is not perfect. Now, researchers from MIT, the Skoltech Institute of Technology, and the University of Texas at Austin believe they may have made a breakthrough that could lead to the widespread adoption of water-splitting to produce hydrogen fuel.

The key discovery in the paper published in Nature Communications is the mobilization of oxygen atoms from the crystal surface of perovskite-oxide electrodes to participate in the formation of oxygen gas, which can speed up water-splitting reactions.

The breakthrough could be a crucial step in helping the energy infrastructure efficiently move away from traditional energy sources to renewables.

“The generation of oxygen from water remains a significant bottleneck in the development of water electrolyzers and also in the development of fuel cell and metal-air battery technologies,” said J. Tyler Mefford, current ECS member and lead author of the study.

But the new results didn’t come out of the woodwork. The data illustrates collaborative work across experimental and theoretical fields. The new work essentially explains over 40 years of theory and experiments, looking at why some approaches worked and others failed.

“If we could develop catalysts made with Earth-abundant materials that could reversibly and efficiently electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen, we could have affordable hydrogen generation from renewables — and with that, the possibility of electric cars that run on water with ranges similar to gas powered cars,” Mefford said.

Glucose monitoring has had a long history with electrochemical science and technology. While ECS Honorary Member Adam Heller’s continuous glucose monitoring system for diabetes management may be the first innovation that comes to mind, there is a new electrochemical bio-sensing tool on the horizon.

(WATCH: ECS Masters – Adam Heller)

Researchers have combined graphene with a tiny amount of gold to enhance the wonder material’s properties and develop a flexible skin patch to monitor blood glucose and automatically administer drugs as needed.

This from Extreme Tech:

[As] cool as a non-invasive blood-glucose monitor is, it’s nearly as revolutionary as what comes next: treatment. The patch is studded with “microneedles” that automatically cap themselves with a plug of tridecanoic acid. When high blood-glucose levels are detected, the patch heats a small heater on the needles which deforms the plug and allows the release of metformin, a common drug for treatment of type 2 diabetes. Cooling naturally restores the plug and stops drug release.

Read the full article.

This development is a huge stepping stone in the transformation of graphene as a laboratory curiosity to a real product. While it has taken a while due to the questions of the new material’s intrinsic properties, researchers believe that graphene-based products could soon be hitting the market.

Improving Access to Clean Water

Access to clean drinking water is something many take for granted. Crises like that of Flint, MI illuminate the fragility of our water infrastructure and how quickly access can be taken away. Even now, hundreds of millions of people around the world still lack access to adequate water.

Gaining access

But it’s not all negative. In the past 25 years, 2.6 billion people worldwide gained access to clean drinking water. This initiative stemmed from part of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 1990, attempting to cut the number of global citizens without access to clean drinking water in half. While this goal was achieved in 2010, there are still about 663 million without proper water and sanitation.

(MORE: Check out powerful images from the Water Front project.)

The divide

So who doesn’t have clean drinking water? Overall, urban areas tend to have greater access due to improved water infrastructure systems set in place. Access in rural areas has improved over the years, but people in these areas are still hit the hardest.

The major divide is most visible when analyzing the numbers by regions. Africa, China, and India are among the hardest hit, making up the majority of the 663 million citizens without access to water.

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From Trash to (Energy) Treasure

Image: Liz West

Image: Liz West

It doesn’t matter how green you thumb is, there will always be fruits and vegetables in your garden that just don’t quite make it. The same concept goes for commercial farms, where farmers accumulate tons of fruit and vegetable waste every year.

In fact, the state of Florida alone produces an estimated 369,000 tons of waste from tomatoes each year. But what if you could turn that waste into electricity?

That’s exactly what one team comprised of researchers from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Princeton University, and Florida Gulf Coast University are doing.

In order to produce the electricity, the team developed a microbial electrochemical cell that can use tomato waste to generate electric current.

“We have found that spoiled and damaged tomatoes left over from harvest can be a particularly powerful source of energy when used in a biological or microbial electrochemical cell,” says Namita Shrestha, a graduate student working on the project.

This from Tree Hugger:

The bacteria in the fuel cell trigger an oxidation process that releases electrons which are captured by the fuel cell and become a source of electricity. The tomatoes have proven to be a potent energy source. The natural lycopene in the tomatoes acts as a mediator to encourage electricity generation and the researchers say that while waste material usually performs poorly compared to pure chemicals in fuel cells, the waste tomatoes perform just as well or better.

Read the full article.

While their first trial resulted in just 0.3 watts of electricity per 10 milligrams of tomato waste, the researchers believe that more trials will result in improved electricity generation.

25 Years of Interface

Interface Prototype

In December of 1992, the premier issue of Interface was published with a cover celebrating Rudolph Marcus’s winning of the Nobel Prize that year. But did you know that prior to that first issue of Interface, ECS published its members magazine prototype named the Quarterly? It was published in January 1992 and its cover showed a porous silicon sample luminescing in the visible when irradiated by an argon ion laser.

In that prototype issue, then ECS president Larry Faulkner said in his Letter from the President, “The periodic self-analysis of the Society’s agenda and structure is an extremely important part of our life. Without it, we will fail to adapt effectively to a changing environment, so the work is essential in the strictest sense.” Still good advice today.

Now, over 90 issues later, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of Interface. Throughout the issues this year, readers will be treated to special excerpts looking back at some of the top moments in the magazine’s history.

We’re inviting readers to share their thoughts about Interface, in particular how the magazine may have impacted your research or career. Send your thoughts to Interface@electrochem.org.

Successful Proposal Writing Tips

Proposal writing is often a complex yet critical aspect of research and development. Check out how ECS treasurer E. Jennings (EJ) Taylor and ECS patron member Maria Inman are simplifying proposal writing for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) applications at Faraday Technology, Inc.

Learn more about the DOE’s SBIR/STTR application process.

When we think of carbon and the environment, our minds often develop a negative association between the two in light of things such as greenhouse gases and climate change. But what if carbon is the answer to clean energy?

A team of researchers at Griffith University is looking toward carbon to lead the way in the clean energy revolution. Their latest research showed that carbon could be used to produce hydrogen from water. This could offer a potential replacement for the costly platinum materials currently used.

“Hydrogen production through an electrochemical process is at the heart of key renewable energy technologies including water splitting and hydrogen fuel cells,” says Professor Xiangdong Yao, leader of the research group. “We have now developed this carbon-based catalyst, which only contains a very small amount of nickel and can completely replace the platinum for efficient and cost-effective hydrogen production from water.”

(MORE: Learn about the future of electrochemical energy.)

This from Griffith University:

Proponents of a hydrogen economy advocate hydrogen as a potential fuel for motive power including cars and boats and on-board auxiliary power, stationary power generation (e.g., for the energy needs of buildings), and as an energy storage medium (e.g., for interconversion from excess electric power generated off-peak).

Read the full article.

The researchers also believe that these findings could open the door for new development in large-scale water electrolysis.