The study of Materials Science is not just about the materials themselves, but also about the shapes they are formed into for specific tasks. Roark’s Formulas for Stress and Strain (first published in 1938, currently in it’s 8th Edition) is the go to text for understanding how much shape impacts strength. The shapes (made of graphene) in the video below take this to a whole new level.
I’m pretty sure everyone has heard about how strong and lightweight spider silk is, easily putting steel to shame. The reason we haven’t been making anything out of it is because spiders aren’t exactly domesticated, and harvesting silk from the creepy little things is, well, I won’t be doing it (shudder!). We know how spider silk works (lots of tangled up proteins), but making those proteins tangle up in the right way is tricky. We tried getting goats to do it by splicing a spider gene into a goat’s udder, but extracting the silk proteins out of the resulting milk was expensive. We’ve created bacteria to produce the silk, but extracting the silk was still an issue. Now a team in Sweden has figured out that the proteins are pH sensitive. Make the aqueous solution acidic, and the silk comes right out. By the kilometer.
Speaking of silk, we can now produce silk from milk whey.
Petroleum has long been the chemical feedstock for the plastics industry, but for the past 20+ years, chemical engineers have been working to find alternative, more sustainable feedstocks for common plastics. Like shrimp, or pine needles. I like both because the feedstock from both sources are essentially waste products (no one eats shrimp shells, and both Christmas trees and the lumber industry have to deal with tons of needles. Also, human proteins make for useful feedstocks.
I did not know this, but our bones have an outer coating that is effectively a viscoelastic sleeve that adds extra strength when you take a hit. Except the sleeve is not a viscoelastic material, but rather a composite material that behaves like one. So of course someone has figured out how to make it outside of the body, and in a more durable form. The benefit is that most viscoelastic protective garments are actually fabric pockets with a viscoelastic fluid in the pocket, which is kinda bulky, and has the problem that the fluid layer has to be very thin, or else the fluid will pool. This makes the garments very expensive and hard to care for. But if the fabric itself behaves like a viscoelastic fluid…
It’s a known property of graphene that it is electrically conductive, and it has been theorized that it could be superconductive. Now we know that it can be just by layering it with another conductive material. No word on the temperature this works at (superconductors, even high temperature ones, only work under very cold conditions).
Time crystals? What the what? Is this some new age BS from fans of M. L’Engle? Nope, what this is is a crystal whose structure is constantly oscillating without any energy input. Let that roll around in your head for a while.
This is what you get when you let evolution play around for a few million years. Think about it, a dollop of slime made of proteins that, when seawater dissolves their bindings, turns into a sticky, slimy net. Now the Navy is thinking about defensive applications. I’m thinking, stick that in a shotgun shell and you maybe you got a non-lethal defensive round. Although, speaking of armor, how about piercing resistant fish scales.
Earth and Energy
Defeating tsunamis with acoustic gravity waves. Neat idea, but since we can’t generate these waves yet, it’s just a neat idea.
Hummingbird inspired residential wind turbine. More attractive than a normal turbine, in my opinion.
Chemically storing heat is not a new idea, but this strikes me as, if not novel, certain not common. The way this works is that Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) absorbs heat as it dries out, and releases that heat when it gets wet. So take a bunch of sodium hydroxide down to, say, Arizona, and let it dry out in the sun. Then pack it up and ship it to WI, where they add some water, and the NaOH releases it’s heat. Then either store the wet NaOH until summer, or ship it back to Arizona for some more sun.
Bio and Medical
One way to prevent rejection of artificial body implants is to coat them with a surface fluids can’t stick to.
Here I thought cancer drugs caused weight loss because they affected appetite or made food taste bad.
So obvious now that you think about it.
Prickly pears and seaweed may hold the keys to disease like Parkinson’s.
Playing God, kinda (still really cool!).
A robot with a soft heart! Err, a soft robot heart. Sorry, misread that headline.
I always knew the vaccine autism link was full of sh*t!
Haha! Human ingenuity strikes back at evolution!
The two acre farm in a shipping container. Not practical in the US, but in other parts of the world, this could be handy.
I’m not entirely certain how this works, but it’s called BioClay, and it gets sprayed onto crops, and it has RNA sequences that protect against pathogens.
Cows fart and burp, a lot. A whole lot, and it’s mostly methane, which is a nasty greenhouse gas. Our love of beef and footballs is probably as bad as our love of big engines. If we can make cows fart less methane, that is a net good. Turns out we can, by adding some tropical plants to their diet. Or seaweed.
3D printed rocket fuel! Why is this worthy? Because making solid rockets is a huge pain. A solid rocket is not just a big plug of something that burns energetically, it’s a carefully shaped and multi layered column of fuel. It has to be designed so that certain layers are burning at specific times in the flight profile, and doing so with the proper amount of thrust. If you were to take a cross section across the cylinder, it’d look like some kind of new age art piece. Being able to print the fuel out in the precise patterns needed will potentially make producing solid rocket boosters a whole lot cheaper, and anything we can do to lower the cost to orbit is a good thing.
Hubble caught the death of a star! Not a nova, but rather a red giant having its last gasp and becoming a nebula.
The Russians are at it again. They just can’t leave Wing in Ground Effect vehicles alone, although it has been a while since the last time they seriously played around with them.
Despite how a lot of SciFi treats space suits, they are pretty complex things, especially the ones that let you survive in space for a long time. So making suits that are comfortable and useful is a big deal. Here is Boeing’s latest offering. Functionally, this is a P-suit, or a pressure suit. It doesn’t have integrated environmental systems like the big, white EVA suits. This is more for launch, recovery, or anytime you may lose pressure, but won’t be spending a long time outside of the ship.
I know it’s called a BIC Laser, but it’s not a new lighter or pen. It’s a tunable, shapeable laser, and frankly, I don’t know much about it, but it sure sounds like something that would be fun to play with.
For when you need a third hand that actually follows your instructions, instead of trying to be helpful and doing something that becomes unhelpful.
Image by AJC1