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Fish eat plastic like teens eat fast food, researchers say June 3, 2016

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The fish that did hatch in these waters with high quantities of micro-plastics were “smaller, slower, and more stupid” than those that hatched in clean waters, lead author Dr Oona Lonnstedt, from Uppsala University, said.When exposed to predators, about half the young perch from clean waters survived for 24 hours. Those that had been raised with the strongest plastic concentrations were all consumed by pike over the same period.

junkfoodMost surprising for the research team was the way that plastic changed food preferences.

“They all had access to zooplankton and yet they decided to just eat plastic in that treatment. It seems to be a chemical or physical cue that the plastic has, that triggers a feeding response in fish,” Dr Lonnstedt told BBC News. “They are basically fooled into thinking it’s a high-energy resource that they need to eat a lot of. I think of it as unhealthy fast food for teenagers, and they are just stuffing themselves.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36435288

Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie | WIRED December 28, 2015

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Ear of Corn Ripening in Field

Ear of Corn Ripening in Field ca. 2000

Well before their veggie business went kaput, Monsanto knew it couldn’t just genetically modify its way to better produce; it had to breed great vegetables to begin with. As Stark phrases a company mantra: “The best gene in the world doesn’t fix dogshit germplasm.”

What does? Crossbreeding. Stark had an advantage here: In the process of learning how to engineer chemical and pest resistance into corn, researchers at Monsanto had learned to read and understand plant genomes—to tell the difference between the dogshit germplasm and the gold. And they had some nifty technology that allowed them to predict whether a given cross would yield the traits they wanted.

The key was a technique called genetic marking. It maps the parts of a genome that might be associated with a given trait, even if that trait arises from multiple genes working in concert. Researchers identify and cross plants with traits they like and then run millions of samples from the hybrid—just bits of leaf, really—through a machine that can read more than 200,000 samples per week and map all the genes in a particular region of the plant’s chromosomes.

They had more toys too. In 2006, Monsanto developed a machine called a seed chipper that quickly sorts and shaves off widely varying samples of soybean germplasm from seeds. The seed chipper lets researchers scan tiny genetic variations, just a single nucleotide, to figure out if they’ll result in plants with the traits they want—without having to take the time to let a seed grow into a plant. Monsanto computer models can actually predict inheritance patterns, meaning they can tell which desired traits will successfully be passed on. It’s breeding without breeding, plant sex in silico. In the real world, the odds of stacking 20 different characteristics into a single plant are one in 2 trillion. In nature, it can take a millennium. Monsanto can do it in just a few years.

And this all happens without any genetic engineering. Nobody inserts a single gene into a single genome.

http://www.wired.com/2014/01/new-monsanto-vegetables/

How Global Warming Can Start an Ice Age October 12, 2015

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ArcticColdSpotIn the last month, there’s been much attention to a cool patch in the North Atlantic Ocean, where record cold temperatures over the past eight months present a stark contrast to a globe that is experiencing record warmth. And although there is certainly no consensus on the matter yet, some scientists think this pattern may be a sign of long-feared consequences of climate change — a slowing of North Atlantic ocean circulation, due to a freshening of surface waters.

The cause, goes the thinking, would be the rapidly melting Greenland ice sheet, whose large freshwater flows may weaken ocean “overturning” by reducing the density of cold surface waters (colder, salty water is denser). If cold, salty waters don’t sink in the North Atlantic and flow back southward toward Antarctica at depth, then warm surface waters won’t flow northward to take their place.

Now, two new studies just out in Nature Geoscience help to underscore why scientists have a good reason to think this sort of thing can happen — namely, because it appears to have happened in the Earth’s distant past. And not just once but on multiple occasions.

Source: Why the Earth’s past has scientists so worried about the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation – The Washington Post

Back in 2007, I posted this sun spot research that  predicted that by 2020 we would be cooled by a low solar activity ( a cooler sun) period. https://terryorisms.com/2007/06/23/read-the-sunspots/   

The Reign of Recycling October 5, 2015

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According to the E.P.A.’s estimates, virtually all the greenhouse benefits — more than 90 percent — come from just a few materials: paper, cardboard and metals like the aluminum in soda cans.
Once you exclude paper products and metals, the total annual savings in the United States from recycling everything else in municipal trash — plastics, glass, food, yard trimmings, textiles, rubber, leather — is only two-tenths of 1 percent of America’s carbon footprint.

As a business, recycling is on the wrong side of two long-term global economic trends. For centuries, the real cost of labor has been increasing while the real cost of raw materials has been declining. That’s why we can afford to buy so much more stuff than our ancestors could. As a labor-intensive activity, recycling is an increasingly expensive way to produce materials that are less and less valuable.

It would be much simpler and more effective to impose the equivalent of a carbon tax on garbage, as Thomas C. Kinnaman has proposed after conducting what is probably the most thorough comparison of the social costs of recycling, landfilling and incineration.

The Reign of Recycling http://nyti.ms/1iUpbBE

Why Science is so Hard to Believe March 5, 2015

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, philosophy & politics, Science & Technology.
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We have trouble digesting randomness; our brains crave pattern and meaning.

Even for scientists, the scientific method is a hard discipline. They, too, are vulnerable to confirmation bias — the tendency to look for and see only evidence that confirms what they already believe. But unlike the rest of us, they submit their ideas to formal peer review before publishing them. Once the results are published, if they’re important enough, other scientists will try to reproduce them — and, being congenitally skeptical and competitive, will be very happy to announce that they don’t hold up. Scientific results are always provisional, susceptible to being overturned by some future experiment or observation. Scientists rarely proclaim an absolute truth or an absolute certainty. Uncertainty is inevitable at the frontiers of knowledge.

Featured imageThat provisional quality of science is another thing a lot of people have trouble with. To some climate-change skeptics, for example, the fact that a few scientists in the 1970s were worried (quite reasonably, it seemed at the time) about the possibility of a coming ice age is enough to discredit what is now the consensus of the world’s scientists:

Americans fall into two basic camps.  Those with a more “egalitarian” and “communitarian” mind-set are generally suspicious of industry and apt to think it’s up to something dangerous that calls for government regulation; they’re likely to see the risks of climate change. In contrast, people with a “hierarchical” and “individualistic” mind-set respect leaders of industry and don’t like government interfering in their affairs; they’re apt to reject warnings about climate change, because they know what accepting them could lead to — some kind of tax or regulation to limit emissions.

via Why science is so hard to believe – The Washington Post.

Drones Sacrificed for Spectacular Volcano Video March 3, 2015

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First Direct Observation of Carbon Dioxide’s Increasing Greenhouse Effect at the Earth’s Surface February 28, 2015

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The scientists measured atmospheric carbon dioxide’s contribution to radiative forcing at two sites, one in Oklahoma and one on the North Slope of Alaska, from 2000 to the end of 2010. Radiative forcing is a measure of how much the planet’s energy balance is perturbed by atmospheric changes. Positive radiative forcing occurs when the Earth absorbs more energy from solar radiation than it emits as thermal radiation back to space. It can be measured at the Earth’s surface or high in the atmosphere. In this research, the scientists focused on the surface.

Both series showed the same trend: atmospheric COemitted an increasing amount of infrared energy, to the tune of 0.2 Watts per square meter per decade. This increase is about ten percent of the trend from all sources of infrared energy such as clouds and water vapor.

Based on an analysis of data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s CarbonTracker system, the scientists linked this upswing in CO2-attributed radiative forcing to fossil fuel emissions and fires.

The measurements also enabled the scientists to detect, for the first time, the influence of photosynthesis on the balance of energy at the surface. They found that CO2-attributed radiative forcing dipped in the spring as flourishing photosynthetic activity pulled more of the greenhouse gas from the air.

via First Direct Observation of Carbon Dioxide’s Increasing Greenhouse Effect at the Earth’s Surface – News Center.

"All palaeotemps" by Glen Fergus - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:All_palaeotemps.png#mediaviewer/File:All_palaeotemps.png

“All palaeotemps” by Glen Fergus – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:All_palaeotemps.png#mediaviewer/File:All_palaeotemps.png CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE

GMO Mosquitoes to Fight Spread of Dengue and Chikungunya January 26, 2015

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Global_DengueTransmission_ITHRiskMapThere are no vaccines or cures for dengue, known as “break-bone fever,” or chikungunya, so painful it causes contortions. While U.S. cases remain rare for now, they have been rapidly spread throughout the Caribbean and Central America. But Aedes aegypti, whose biting females spread these diseases, have evolved to resist four of the six insecticides used to kill them.

Enter Oxitec, a British biotech firm that patented a method of breeding Aedes aegypti with fragments of genes from the herpes simplex virus and E. coli bacteria as well as coral and cabbage. This synthetic DNA is commonly used in laboratory science and is thought to pose no significant risks to other animals, but it kills mosquito larvae.

Oxitec’s lab workers manually remove modified females, aiming to release only males, which don’t bite for blood like females do. The modified males then mate with wild females whose offspring die, reducing the population. Oxitec has built a breeding lab in Marathon and hopes to release its mosquitoes in a Key West neighborhood this spring

via Millions of GMO insects could be released in Florida Keys.

Some Christmas Cheer for all you Preppers December 7, 2014

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Geopolitics, Life.
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image

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/11276913/So-this-is-how-the-world-ends…-isnt-it.html
Aside from the rise of the machines, many potential threats have been identified to our species, our civilisation or even our planet itself. To keep you awake at night, here are seven of the most plausible.

Seeking a Climate Change – The Chronicle of Higher Education November 9, 2014

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cultural theory of risk assessment. Social norms, above all else, informed how people judged risks, she said. The public divided along two spectra: one measuring their support of social structure, running from egalitarian to hierarchical; the other, their devotion to individualism or communitarianism. The scales combined for four essential “worldviews.” – See more at: http://m.chronicle.com/article/Seeking-a-Climate-Change/149707/#sthash.vX66URJw.dpuf

http://m.chronicle.com/article/Seeking-a-Climate-Change/149707/

Climate Science Is Not Settled – WSJ September 20, 2014

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ikePolicy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is “settled” (or is a “hoax”) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.

Society’s choices in the years ahead will necessarily be based on uncertain knowledge of future climates. That uncertainty need not be an excuse for inaction. There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.

Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future. Recognizing those limits, rather than ignoring them, will lead to a more sober and ultimately more productive discussion of climate change and climate policies. To do otherwise is a great disservice to climate science itself.

via Climate Science Is Not Settled – WSJ.

The Expanded Scope of Conflict Today August 31, 2014

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Wars are traditionally fought over territory. But the definition of territory has evolved to incorporate five domains: land, air, sea, space, and, most recently, cyberspace. These dimensions of “CLASS war” define the threats facing the world today. The specific triggers, objectives, and battle lines of such conflicts are likely to be determined, to varying degrees, by five factors: creed, clan, culture, climate, and currency. Indeed, these factors are already fueling conflicts around the world.

via Andrew Sheng argues that cyberspace, land, air, sea, and space now define the basis of global conflict. – Project Syndicate.

Just What We Need – Something Else To Worry About July 24, 2014

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solarstorm1On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth.  Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

Analysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket.  Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

“In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” Baker tells NASA. “The only difference is, it missed.”

During the Carrington event, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii according to historical accounts.  The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA  notes. The infamous solar storm of 1921 caused “the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th Street to be put out of operation, followed by a fire in the control tower at 57th Street and Park Avenue.”  global manufacturing capacity for high voltage transformers is estimated to be only about 70 units per year. A repeat of the 1921 space weather event might damage at least several hundred such units worldwide, with replacement of so many transformers taking a year or more

Though it’s impossible for scientists to predict exactly when or where the next solar storm happen, what they do know is that with more sunspots come more stoms. And the fall of 2013 is when the Sun is set to reach the crest of its 11-year sunspot cycle.

via How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth.

Can Innovation Save Our Future? May 3, 2014

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A Saudi oil minister once said, the Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone. Ecologists call this “niche construction”—that people (and indeed some other animals) can create new opportunities for themselves by making their habitats more productive in some way. Agriculture is the classic example of niche construction: We stopped relying on nature’s bounty and substituted an artificial and much larger bounty.

Economists call the same phenomenon innovation. What frustrates them about ecologists is the latter’s tendency to think in terms of static limits. Ecologists can’t seem to see that when whale oil starts to run out, petroleum is discovered, or that when farm yields flatten, fertilizer comes along, or that when glass fiber is invented, demand for copper falls.

That frustration is heartily reciprocated. Ecologists think that economists espouse a sort of superstitious magic called “markets” or “prices” to avoid confronting the reality of limits to growth. The easiest way to raise a cheer in a conference of ecologists is to make a rude joke about economists.

If I could have one wish for the Earth’s environment, it would be to bring together the two tribes—to convene a grand powwow of ecologists and economists. I would pose them this simple question and not let them leave the room until they had answered it: How can innovation improve the environment?

via The World’s Resources Aren’t Running Out – WSJ.com.

coalplugThe technological optimists crowd writing, in the current issue of Wired magazine, visits huge Chinese projects to sequester the Co2 from burning coal. An interesting read

Did You Ever Think the U.S. Would be largest Energy Producer? October 5, 2013

Posted by tkcollier in Economy & Business, Enviroment, Geopolitics.
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productionSince 2008, U.S. petroleum production has increased 7 quadrillion Btu, with dramatic growth in Texas and North Dakota. Natural gas production has increased by 3 quadrillion Btu over the same period, with much of this growth coming from the eastern United States. Russia and Saudi Arabia each increased their combined hydrocarbon output by about 1 quadrillion Btu over the past five years. Note: Petroleum production includes crude oil, natural gas liquids, condensates, refinery processing gain, and other liquids, including biofuels. Barrels per day oil equivalent were calculated using a conversion factor of 1 barrel oil equivalent = 5.55 million British thermal units (Btu).

via U.S. expected to be largest producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons in 2013 – Today in Energy – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

What In The World! October 4, 2013

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To gain perspective on just how differently people are living on this planet,
Half the World
(Parts of Malaysia and Indonesia have been intentionally left out—without them, the red regions still contain more than 50.2% of the world’s population.)

World_population_density_map

Niagara Falls Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before July 23, 2013

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 Niagara Falls is (or rather are) a sight to behold, and while capturing the falls from a boat or one of the overlooks is impressive enough, why not take to the air? That’s what YouTube user questpact did, creating the video above using his DJI Phantom quad-copter and GoPro Hero 3.

Although they’re not particularly tall, every minute (on average) about four million cubic feet of water makes its way over the crest line of Niagara Falls. Located on the Niagara River and serving the natural purpose of draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, the combined falls that make up Niagara boast the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world.

Volcanic Vortices May 30, 2013

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Volcanic Vortices bruce-omori-Extreme-Exposures-Fine-Art-Gallery-HiloBruce Omori, owner of Extreme Exposures Fine Art Gallery in Hilo, received the Windland Smith Rice International Award for his lava photo titled “Volcanic Vortices,” which will be displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s annual exhibition in June. His winning photograph was selected from almost 20,000 submissions from photographers in 46 countries.

“On an early morning shoot at the Waikupanaha ocean entry, lava from the Kilauea volcano poured into the sea. This created a huge escape of steam, and as it rose, multiple vortices began spinning off of the huge plume,” Omori described in his photo submission description. “A vortex or two is a pretty rare sight—but when one after another kept forming, my fumbling with the lenses turned into a panicked rush to switch my telephoto to wide angle lens to capture this awesome scene of seven vortices in a row.” Thanks to Muriel Lighter

via Hilo Photographer Receives Smithsonian Museum Award | Hawaii Business.

How Many Animals Can You See? May 27, 2013

Posted by tkcollier in Art, Enviroment.
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how_many_animals_can_you_seeThis beautiful painting by Donald Rusty hides more than meets the eye! Check it out and see if you can spot all the animals hidden somewhere inside it. How many are there? Don’t forget the proper way to submit your findings is using the “submit illusion” email link that can be found at the very bottom of this site. You are also free to post your outlined solution pics using “add image” option underneath the comment box. Happy hunting!

via Mount Zoomore Optical Illusion | Mighty Optical Illusions.

Fracking without Water May 20, 2013

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It’s possible to fracture gas-rich rock formations without using any water at all. Indeed, gas and oil companies have been using carbon dioxide this way for decades, albeit on a limited basis. Right now carbon dioxide fracking is used in places, like Wyoming, that already have carbon dioxide pipelines. But if this approach is going to be used on a large scale, it will require a major investment in infrastructure for getting carbon dioxide to fracking sites. And in some cases a price on carbon emissions may be the only way to make the economics work.

A price on carbon, for example, could create a big supply of cheap carbon dioxide by giving utilities incentive to capture it from power plants’ smokestacks. This might make sense in China, where the best shale gas deposits are in arid areas (see “China Has Plenty of Shale Gas, but It Will Be Hard to Mine”).

via Fracking with Carbon Dioxide Could Help Shale Gas Production in Arid Areas | MIT Technology Review.

Vampires Have Increased Risk Of Heart Attack May 10, 2013

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Edinburgh University research suggests sunlight helps reduce blood pressure, cutting heart attack and stroke risks and even prolonging life.

Heart disease and stroke linked to high blood pressure are estimated to lead to about 80 times more deaths than those from skin cancer in the UK.

Dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight” Dr Richard Weller Edinburgh University

Production of the pressure-reducing compound, nitric oxide, is separate from the body’s manufacture of vitamin D, which rises after exposure to sunshine.

via BBC News – Sun’s blood pressure benefits ‘may outdo cancer risks’.

Extreme Weather – The New Norm May 4, 2013

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The climate will swing to extremes as it tries to find a new equilibrium, in response to the warming climate. Siberian winters will be colder, heat waves extended, etc. This report says that if you are in a rainy location, expect more deluges, and if you live in a dry area, expect more droughts. Specifically, the new study found that although the 14 climate models differ when it comes to the amount of rainfall in individual locations such as cities, over larger areas, they all point to the same average picture. That is, for every single degree Fahrenheit the global average temperature climbs, heavy rainfall will increase in wet areas by 3.9 percent, while dry areas will experience a 2.6 percent increase in time periods without any rainfall.

Rain will get more extreme thanks to global warming, says NASA study | The Verge.

World’s Tallest Palm Trees April 9, 2013

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Wax PalmsColombia’s lush Cocora Valley, part of Los Nevados National Park, is the principal home for the country’s national tree, the palma de cera, or wax palm. The lanky tree is the world’s tallest palm tree, reaching up to 200 feet tall. Photograph by Alex Treadway

via Cocora Valley, Colombia — Travel 365 — National Geographic.

How Vaccines Have Changed Our World April 1, 2013

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The data in this graphic come from the web site of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, but a graphic designer in Purchase, N.Y., named Leon Farrant has created a graphic that drives home what the data mean.

Below is a look at the past morbidity (how many people became sick) of what were once very common infectious diseases, and the current morbidity in the U.S.

Print

via How Vaccines Have Changed Our World In One Graphic – Forbes.

Solar Panel Breakthrough April 1, 2013

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A novel fabrication technique developed by a University of Connecticut engineering professor could provide the breakthrough technology scientists have been looking for to vastly improve the efficiency of today’s solar energy systems.

Silicon solar panels have a single band gap which, loosely speaking, allows the panel to convert electromagnetic radiation efficiently at only one small portion of the solar spectrum. The rectenna devices don’t rely on a band gap and may be tuned to harvest light over the whole solar spectrum, creating maximum efficiency.

The nano-antennas – known as “rectennas” because of their ability to both absorb and rectify solar energy from alternating current to direct current – must be capable of operating at the speed of visible light and be built in such a way that their core pair of electrodes is a mere 1 or 2 nanometers apart, a distance of approximately one millionth of a millimeter, or 30,000 times smaller than the diameter of human hair.

The potential breakthrough lies in a novel fabrication process called selective area atomic layer deposition (ALD) that was developed by Brian Willis, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Connecticut and the former director of UConn’s Chemical Engineering Program.

The atomic layer deposition process is favored by science and industry because it is simple, easily reproducible, and scalable for mass production. Willis says the chemical process is particularly applicable for precise, homogenous coatings for nanostructures, nanowires, nanotubes, and for use in the next generation of high-performing semi-conductors and transistors.

“Until the advent of selective atomic layer deposition (ALD), it has not been possible to fabricate practical and reproducible rectenna arrays that can harness solar energy from the infrared through the visible

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-patented-fabrication-technique-key-solar.html#jCp

“Until the advent of selective atomic layer deposition (ALD), it has not been possible to fabricate practical and reproducible rectenna arrays that can harness solar energy from the infrared through the visible

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-patented-fabrication-technique-key-solar.html#jCp

Silicon solar panels, by comparison, have a single band gap which, loosely speaking, allows the panel to convert electromagnetic radiation efficiently at only one small portion of the solar spectrum. The rectenna devices don’t rely on a band gap and may be tuned to harvest light over the whole solar spectrum, creating maximum efficiency.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-patented-fabrication-technique-key-solar.html#jCp

Silicon solar panels, by comparison, have a single band gap which, loosely speaking, allows the panel to convert electromagnetic radiation efficiently at only one small portion of the solar spectrum. The rectenna devices don’t rely on a band gap and may be tuned to harvest light over the whole solar spectrum, creating maximum efficiency.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-patented-fabrication-technique-key-solar.html#jCp

Silicon solar panels, by comparison, have a single band gap which, loosely speaking, allows the panel to convert electromagnetic radiation efficiently at only one small portion of the solar spectrum. The rectenna devices don’t rely on a band gap and may be tuned to harvest light over the whole solar spectrum, creating maximum efficiency.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-patented-fabrication-technique-key-solar.html#jCp

Silicon solar panels, by comparison, have a single band gap which, loosely speaking, allows the panel to convert electromagnetic radiation efficiently at only one small portion of the solar spectrum. The rectenna devices don’t rely on a band gap and may be tuned to harvest light over the whole solar spectrum, creating maximum efficiency.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-patented-fabrication-technique-key-solar.html#jCp

Silicon solar panels, by comparison, have a single band gap which, loosely speaking, allows the panel to convert electromagnetic radiation efficiently at only one small portion of the solar spectrum. The rectenna devices don’t rely on a band gap and may be tuned to harvest light over the whole solar spectrum, creating maximum efficiency.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-02-patented-fabrication-technique-key-solar.html#jCp

via New patented fabrication technique key to new solar power technology.

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