Monday, 11 June 2012

Physics stuff from the week 4-10/6/12

Due to the physics of scale, elephants can barely jump, yet mosquitoes can fly through 3D 'minefields' consisting of raindrops that are up to 50 times as massive as themselves!

More news from the world of solar power research:
A silicon-carbon nanocone-structure solar cell has been designed that manages 11.1% efficiency. That's not bad for a technology that could potentially be a dirt cheap source of 'free' power!

Leg 2 of Solar Impulse's pioneering solar-powered flight:
This leg was from Madrid, to Rabat, Morrocco, flying both by day and at night, using battery stores.
The aircraft already holds two records for solar-powered flight, and plans to travel around-the-world in 2014
Morrocco has been using the flight as publicity for their plans to invest $9,000,000,000 into five solar energy plants:

An exciting programme that i missed the first time around, about the Cassini Huygens project to Saturn's moon - Titan
Well, i suppose it's made more exciting for me, because the researchers who developed the Huygens probe did so at the same University i went to!

The plumes of x-rays belched out by early supermassive black holes could have quenched the formation of other medium-sized black holes in surrounding areas of space, thereby permitting relatively black-hole-free regions such as in our local universe.

'c' (celeritas) should not be seen as a 'speed limit' - it should be seen as a spacetime constant
I, for one, am not surprised that the CERN experiments on neutrinos that appeared to measure a speed faster than c were wrong.

Surface tension on a fluid is caused by the fluid's attractivity to itself; this team investigated water and oil's attractivity to other surfaces - something they call wettability.
The ratio between the fluid's attractivity to itself, and to the surface it is on, will determine the shape of the droplet: tall or short, broad or thin.
Wettability, as well as to open surfaces, also applies to microfluidic structures, such as inside a sponge, or soil, or bedrock.
Assessments of various rocks' wettability can therefore be used to infer how well it will 'sponge up', for example, supercritical carbon dioxide, and hold onto it in perpetuity - a property necessary for any CO2 sequestration technique

'Wires turn salt water into freshwater'
There are two ways to get fresh water from salty water:
- Evaporate the water, leaving a crust of salt behind
- Remove the salt ions, leaving the water behind
Due to water's really high specific heat capacity (4190 Joules per Kelvin per Kilogram), it takes a lot of energy to evaporate water.
This team's technique involves the use of electrodes to adsorb the Na+ and Cl- ions from the water, and then dump them into a waste water tank, leaving the original water less salty.
For highly salty water (like seawater), distillation and osmosis work better, but this process can be applied to moderately salty water (like groundwater).

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