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

Algae: Applications in Removing Arsenic and Beyond

Scientists at Zhejiang University have recently published an improved method for removing arsenic from drinking water, which relies on chemically modifying the shells of a type of algae, called diatoms, to make the shells efficient “sponges” for soaking up arsenic. Modified diatom shells are unique in that they can be widely manipulated for applications in fields as diverse as medicine and materials science. Despite their … Continue reading Algae: Applications in Removing Arsenic and Beyond

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)

Cash register receipts. Photograph by Hey Paul Studios (Flickr).

Cash Register Receipts and Clean Hands

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound that has been used in the production of plastics, including cell phones, contact lenses, and food storage containers, for over 50 years. Scientists have recently shown that the BPA found on cash register receipts (to help develop the printed text) may be a significant source of BPA exposure, thanks to our generous use of hand sanitizers and other skin care products. That’s because hand sanitizers contain ingredients that dissolve BPA, and also increase the skin’s ability to absorb the chemical. Although further studies and larger sample sizes will be necessary to conclude whether BPA is a true hazard, this finding suggests that certain populations, such as cashiers, may be exposed to higher than average amounts of BPA on a regular basis – and keeping hands clean may not be helping. Continue reading Cash Register Receipts and Clean Hands

Light-Powered Construction of Valuable Molecules from Simple Chemical Building Blocks

Two groups of researchers have recently reported a new light-powered method in which readily available chemical building blocks are coupled to produce useful complex molecules that cannot be easily found or made. Because these metal-catalyzed reactions require only visible light and mild conditions, they could be incredibly useful new methods for the cheap and environmentally friendly synthesis of pharmaceuticals and other valuable materials.  Introduction Everything … Continue reading Light-Powered Construction of Valuable Molecules from Simple Chemical Building Blocks

3D Printing – Why all the hype?

3D printer making a small building. Image credit: Tiia Monto, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3D_printer2.jpg In recent years, 3D printing has drawn a lot of attention to itself with breakthroughs in various industrial applications.  Given the relatively recent explosion in press, it may surprise you then to learn that the first 3D printer was actually built in 1983 – over 30 years ago – by Charles (Chuck) Hull, a … Continue reading 3D Printing – Why all the hype?

Diatoms: Nature’s nanotechnologists

Microscopy images above show two model diatom species: Thalassiosira pseudonana (left) and Phaeodactylum tricornutum (right). If you live in Boston, nanofactories of sophistication well beyond anything the human race has come up with are just a Charles River away. Diatoms (seen in the images above) are unicellular photosynthetic microalgae that can be found in freshwater and marine environments worldwide. These tiny creatures have plastids with … Continue reading Diatoms: Nature’s nanotechnologists

The Potential of Nanotechnology for Diabetes Management

Diabetes is a growing worldwide issue. In the United States alone, there are 25.8 million affected patients []. The annual cost of medical treatment (e.g. management and monitoring) and indirect expenses (such as disability and unemployment benefits) are $174 billion []. While there are several means for patients with diabetes mellitus to manage their condition, none of them are perfect. official pharmacy canada The Biological … Continue reading The Potential of Nanotechnology for Diabetes Management

Black Silicon: Working around the current limits of solar cells

For many years, sunlight has been seen as a potential gold mine of useable energy for our global needs.  Having successfully used the sun to grow food to feed the world, people are now trying to harvest the sun’s energy and convert it into electric energy.  The principle way this has been accomplished is through the use of solar cells, also known as solar photovoltaics … Continue reading Black Silicon: Working around the current limits of solar cells