Tag Archives: New Atlas

Hydrogen – the perfect renewable

Hydrogen has become something of a buzz word lately, but is it really a magic bullet for solving our energy problems? The answer is a qualified ‘yes’.

But first, what is hydrogen?

Hydrogen is the ‘H’ in H2O.

What is H2O? Why it’s good old fashioned water, that’s what!

About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, so if we can find a cheap, easy way to extract hydrogen from water we’ll be half way there to our renewable magic bullet.

We can already use electrolysis to split water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen, but the process requires both energy AND catalysts like platinum and iridium. If we use solar or wind power to extract the hydrogen then we’re still left with the problem of the platinum and iridium, neither of which is cheap.

Luckily, a lot of research is being directed at the extraction process. One team, headed by Dr Alexey Ganin of the University of Glasgow, is working on ‘pulsing electric current through a layered catalyst’ in order to extract the hydrogen. With this discovery, the pulse is the key.

Another team, from Stanford University, ‘developed a low-voltage, single-catalyst water splitter that continuously generates hydrogen and oxygen for more than 200 hours’. The beauty of this discovery is that the catalyst used is nickel-iron oxide. Not platinum or some other rare earth.

Clearly then, the extraction process is being improved in leaps and bounds, but what of the other side of the equation, the use of hydrogen as an energy source?

At the moment, hydrogen ‘…can be physically stored as either a gas or a liquid. Storage as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks (5000–10,000 psi tank pressure). Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is -252.8°C’ [Hydrogen Storage – Basics].

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d like to be anywhere near a hydrogen car if/when it collides with a truck and goes boooom!

To be a true magic bullet, hydrogen has to be both cheap and easy to produce and cheap and easy to store [and then use]. It also has to be safe. This is where new research is really powering ahead. Recently, not one, but two, separate research teams have come up with novel ways to store and transport hydrogen.

I’m very pleased to say that a team from Deakin University, right here in Australia, has come up with ‘a super-efficient way to mechanochemically trap and hold gases in powders’. Powders!!!

The neat little gif below [not mine] illustrates the process:

https://newatlas.com/energy/mechanochemical-breakthrough-unlocks-cheap-safe-powdered-hydrogen/?utm_source=New+Atlas+Subscribers&utm_campaign=dd973ce1ae-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_07_20_12_50&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-dd973ce1ae-92416841

The steel balls pounding away in the cylinder separate the gases and then bind one of them to the boron nitride. That’s why it’s called a mechano + chemical process. The resultant powder can be stored safely at room temperature. To release the gas, you simply heat the powder.

Hot on the heels of that discovery comes another, this time from a Hong Kong based company EPRO Advance Technology (EAT). They’ve made a silicon based powder that doesn’t contain hydrogen – it makes hydrogen… when you add water.

‘The Si+ powder can be made using a (preferably renewable) energy source, as well as metallurgical-grade silicon – which itself can be made from sand, or from crushed-up recycled solar panels and electronics. EAT’s process results in a porous silicon powder that’s completely safe and easy to transport.’

https://newatlas.com/energy/eat-si-hydrogen-generating-powder/

Two completely different approaches to the storage, transport, and use of hydrogen. Will either one become our magic bullet? I have no idea, but breakthroughs like these give me hope that we will be able to stop climate change before it stops us. 🙂

cheers,
Meeks


post-Covid cognitive impairment

Just read a thought-provoking article in New Atlas about the cognitive deficits experienced by people who have had severe Covid:

‘A new study has presented the most rigorous investigation to date into the long-term cognitive impacts of severe COVID-19. The research, led by scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, found persistent cognitive deficits in hospitalized patients equivalent to declines consistent with 20 years of brain aging.’

https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/cognitive-impact-severe-covid-equal-20-years-brain-aging/?utm_source=New+Atlas+Subscribers&utm_campaign=1643987275-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_05_05_12_42&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-1643987275-92416841

The study followed the post-Covid recovery of 46 people who had all had severe Covid, including 16 who had been ventilated. Their cognitive functions were compared to that of ‘age and demographically matched healthy control subjects.’ It was found that the more severe the disease, the greater the cognitive impairment:

‘These COVID patients were slower to respond to tasks and less accurate in their responses, compared to their matched controls. More specifically, the COVID patients performed poorly on “verbal analogical reasoning” tasks which are designed to test particular word-based reasoning cognitive domains.’

And as if that were not enough, there is some evidence to suggest that:

A study published earlier this year from researchers at the University of Oxford found minor cognitive deficits in subjects experiencing mild COVID-19 up to six months after an acute infection.

You can find the complete article here.

I know everyone wants to believe that the worst of Covid is over, but with Omicron morphing into BA.4 and BA.5 already, it’s not done with us yet. Please treat this disease with the caution it deserves. Even if you’re fully vaccinated. Even if you’ve had it before. Because there may be outcomes worse than death. 😦

Meeks


Popcorn foam!

If you thought this was going to be a post about food…sorry. It’s a tech post about an innovative way of creating foam packaging [amongst other things] out of, yes, popcorn. 🙂

Georg August University

You can find the full article here: https://newatlas.com/environment/popcorn-expanded-polystyrene-foam/?utm_source=New+Atlas+Subscribers&utm_campaign=b2daaabfa4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_11_18_11_54&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-b2daaabfa4-92416841

Climate change is too big for any one person to do much about, but if we all demanded non-plastic packaging, we might clean up those garbage patches in the oceans.

I’m still getting supermarket stuff home delivered [about 4 weeks until I’m fully vaccinated], and the thing I hate the most is that the packer puts each kind of fruit and veg. into a separate plastic bag. Back when I did my own choosing, all my fruit and veg went straight into the trolley or straight into one of my own bags. I know that’s not possible now, but… -sigh-

Anyway, I’m looking forward to edible packaging. 🙂

Meeks


A hover bike?

This is real. I’m stunned:

You can find the whole article here, on New Atlas.

cheers,
Meeks


Hydrogel for damaged joints

“Once it’s been injured, the protective cartilage in our knees and other joints heals very slowly – if at all. A new injectable gel, however, could both reinforce the tissue after it’s been damaged, and encourage new cartilage to grow over top of it.”

If you’re like me, and starting to find that your joints are not as young as the rest of you, the following article in New Atlas should be of interest: https://newatlas.com/medical/hyaluronic-acid-hydrogel-reinforce-regrow-cartilage/

If you’re young and have no idea what cartilage is, or how a joint works, or why it can cause pain, here’s a simple picture:

Image courtesy Wise Geek https://images.wisegeek.com/frontal-view-of-joint-with-cartilage.jpg labels by me

As you can see, the bone ends that meet in our joints, don’t actually meet. They’re held in place by ligaments [the blue bit] that act a bit like rubber bands. And to make sure the two bones don’t grind against each other, each end is capped by cartilage. Cartilage is a tough but flexible material that acts like the tyre on the wheel of a car – it stops you from driving on the metal rims.

And just like tyres, the cartilage protecting the ends of your bones wears down over time. How much time depends on how much wear and tear it is subjected to. The knee cartilage of runners tends to wear down faster than that of couch potatoes because it’s used more. Unlike tyres, however, joint cartilage can’t be replaced when the ‘treads go bald’, which is why this research is so important.

My tread isn’t bald yet, but it’s getting there, so I can hardly wait for the hydrogel to be commercialised. 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone,

cheers
Meeks


Dancing Robots Bid Farewell to 2020

There’s still 15 and a half hours till the start of New Year here in Australia, but…Happy New Year anyway!

Let’s dance!

https://newatlas.com/robotics/entire-boston-dynamics-robot-dances-spot-atlas-handle/

love,
Meeks


New Knees, using 3D printing

I’m not at the point of needing to get my knees fixed yet, but they definitely ain’t what they used to be, so I was fascinated by the idea of using 3D printing to build the implants. More importantly, I was thrilled by the idea that the bioinks used in the 3D printing process could actually encourage the body to create new cells itself:

‘…the researchers used several bioinks together to print the entire fibrocartilage tissue layer by layer, in an interleaved crosshatch pattern. The first was a composite gellan gum and fibrinogen ink, which encourages the body’s own cells to repopulate. The second bioink is a silk fibroin methacrylate, which helps keep the structure strong and flexible.’

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM)

You can find the whole article on the New Atlas website. It’s quite short and not super technical, so if you’re like me and starting to creak, check it out.

I have to say I’m quite looking forward to becoming a ‘bionic’ woman in the years ahead. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


I’m a genius!

-grin- no really! I just read a New Atlas scientific article about :

“…biohybrid synapses that let living cells communicate with electronic systems, not with electrical signals but with neurotransmitters like dopamine.

New Atlas: https://newatlas.com/computers/artificial-synapses-living-cells-communicate-dopamine/?utm_source=New+Atlas+Subscribers&utm_campaign=ff0315b360-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_06_17_12_51&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-ff0315b360-92416841

Remember when Miira was inducted into Innerscape and basically lost her whole skull so Kenneth Wu’s nano interface could connect the AI to her brain? Not quite there yet but…this article shows that it’s coming. And I actually forecast it…

Okay, okay, probably not that hard to do if you read sci-fi, but I’m still proud as punch.

Ahem, that’s all. As you were….


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