The U.S. has the potential to transform itself into a powerhouse of green energy. The varying types of geography and climates within the borders of the U.S. offer the chance to tap into solar, wind and water power, allowing the country to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The problem with turning to alternative energy sources is the grid.
As shown by its utter failure during storms, or even as the result of poor timing (e.g. the blackout in 2003), the country’s grid is a creaking, fragile thing. Simply hooking a few wind turbines or photovoltaic cells up to the grid isn’t a solution, and could actually cause more problems. Compared to energy produced burning fossil fuels, energy from natural sources is somewhat sporadic. The wind doesn’t blow all the time, the sun isn’t always shining, etc. Continue reading
A team of researchers, including scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and MIT, have discovered a new state of matter and a new state of magnetism. The discoveries came by proving a quantum theory first speculated about in 1987 called “spin liquid.” A specific crystalline structure called a kagome allows the spin liquid to form, which is an unusual, “quantum state of matter in which the electrons’ magnetic orientation remains in a constant state of change.”
MIT was responsible for growing a kagome crystal they named Herbertsmithite (named after the mineralogist Herbert Smith) to test the theory. Researchers then analyzed the crystal by neutron scattering, which involved directing a beam of neutrons at the Herbertsmithite. The results proved the internal magnetic state of the kagome constantly shifted, forming quantum spin liquid. Continue reading
No, not that kind of transformer, as much as I’d like to lead this story with, “Autobots. Roll out.” Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, visiting scientist Ara Knaian and postdoctoral associate Kenneth Cheung, have created miniature robots that can be reconfigured into different shapes.
The robots are called “milli-motein,” and were inspired by a protein’s natural ability to reshape itself into nearly any form. In theory, the milli-motein bots could potentially provide the building blocks of any non-organic object. Continue reading
I very nearly titled this piece “Play Angry Birds Longer.” From what I’ve heard (a friend told me …), Angry Birds eats smartphone power at a pretty rapid pace. While plenty of other apps are guilty of the same thing, I still wonder how many lost calls are the direct result of flinging birds at pigs.
A new startup called ETA Devices, founded by Joel Dawson and David Perreault, a pair of electrical engineering professors from MIT, hopes to decrease smartphone power consumption by up to half. The key to this breakthrough is improved power amplifier efficiency. Continue reading
Not every satellite is a massive hunk of plastic and metal spinning in the sky. Constructing those kinds of satellites is very expensive and can be more machine than is needed for many different projects. Organizations with smaller amounts of funding have turned to one-use satellites, called CubeSats or nanosatellites, that are (no surprise) about the size of a Rubik’s Cube.
Most CubeSats are launched into low orbit where they perform the function for which they were intended before suffering orbital decay and burning up in the lower atmosphere. Some two dozen CubeSats are regularly in orbit around the Earth.