The Secret to a Spider’s Superpowered Silk

If you have ever swatted a spider web away from a dusty corner of the house, congratulations—you have unknowingly dismantled one of the toughest materials known to man. The silk which spiders use to spin their webs and capture prey is five times stronger than steel, yet lightweight and more flexible than rubber. Because of these remarkable properties, scientists have been trying for years to … Continue reading The Secret to a Spider’s Superpowered Silk

Be the coolest house on the block with a fresh coat of a new polymer material

This summer, heat waves hit the Northern Hemisphere with temperatures upward of 100°F, highlighting one of the biggest current worldwide challenges: keeping buildings (and the people inside them) cool. A group of researchers from Columbia University may have an answer. They’ve designed a new material that chills buildings by reflecting sunlight. Instead of getting rid of heat that has already slipped into the building, this … Continue reading Be the coolest house on the block with a fresh coat of a new polymer material

Nanomaterials as cancer treatment: overcoming drug resistance in chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a common cancer treatment, using drugs to destroy cancer cells. However, cancer cells can develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs by developing “efflux pumps”, pumps in the cell membrane that work to actively expel the chemotherapy drugs from the tumor cells. Shana Kelley and her team in University of Toronto developed nanomaterials that can deliver drugs into cancer cells and suppress their drug resistance. … Continue reading Nanomaterials as cancer treatment: overcoming drug resistance in chemotherapy

Taking out the (space) trash

If you saw the blockbuster Gravity, then you probably had the dangers of orbiting space debris impressed upon you by a 90-minute emotional Hollywood roller coaster. While such catastrophic events haven’t ever happened, the risks of in-space collisions are certainly very real. In 2009, two satellites collided and rapidly produced thousands of smaller orbiting objects. It is this high production of smaller material from a … Continue reading Taking out the (space) trash

Engineering the Earth to Fight Climate Change

by Katie Dagon Imagine if we had an “undo” button for climate change – we could remove all the greenhouse gases from the air or cool the planet’s temperature in an instant. While this might sound like science fiction, the basic idea is not as far off as you might think. Reducing fossil fuel use is really important, but also really difficult. And even if … Continue reading Engineering the Earth to Fight Climate Change

Solid-oxide Fuel Cells: Using familiar fuel in a new way

by Michael R. Gerhardt Our climate is rapidly changing, and many countries are beginning to take action. In the United States, President Barack Obama has announced the Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power generation, while Chinese president Xi Jinping has announced economic incentives to reduce emissions [1,2]. Even oil companies have publicly acknowledged the challenges we face and have voiced … Continue reading Solid-oxide Fuel Cells: Using familiar fuel in a new way

The Light of Elendil in Shelob’s Lair

By Andrew Wong, a second year graduate student in the Applied Physics program at Harvard University.       The increase in global energy demand and subsequent carbon dioxide emissions has driven advancements in renewable energy generation technologies such as wind turbines and solar cells. However, these technologies are inherently intermittent, and require robust energy storage devices. Inexpensive, large-scale energy storage systems such as aqueous … Continue reading The Light of Elendil in Shelob’s Lair

Innovating in a New Market: Challenges for Cleantech

by Greg Silverberg figures by Kaitlyn Choi Cleantech is a troubled sector Scientists know from geological data that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have been below 300 parts per million for nearly 1 million years.  However, for about a century, carbon dioxide concentrations have been rising at a rate unprecedented in these data and are now approaching 400 parts per million.  Carbon dioxide acts … Continue reading Innovating in a New Market: Challenges for Cleantech

Why the blue LED should light up your life (and won a Nobel Prize)

What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘green technology’? Do solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars come to mind? What about light-emitting diodes (LEDs)? Unlike many costly green technologies, LEDs are accessible to the majority of Individuals who want to help the environment and save money. Using an LED for 50,000 hours of white-light home lighting (i.e. LED light bulbs for … Continue reading Why the blue LED should light up your life (and won a Nobel Prize)

Removing Threat from Invasive Species with Genetic Engineering?

A recent publication from Harvard scientists outlines the potential of a cutting-edge technology, CRISPR, to improve on an old technology called Gene Drives in order to solve the enormous problems caused by invasive species. However, attempts to control harmful species with this technology may just be another way to introduce potentially destructive foreign elements into an ecosystem. Furthermore, relying on genetic sequences of wild organisms … Continue reading Removing Threat from Invasive Species with Genetic Engineering?