Future Tech Energy Edition: Plus…floating nuclear reactors & sweat-fueled batteries.
Bacteria covered in nanocrystals is a big step towards renewable energy breakthrough
From The Verge:
Cyborg bacteria covered in tiny solar panels can beat plants at photosynthesis, which means they could be key in creating renewable solar fuels.
Photosynthesis, or the way plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, is crucial for life on Earth — but it’s not a very efficient process. Scientists at a UC Berkeley lab taught bacteria how to cover their own bodies with nanocrystals, which function as tiny solar panels that capture more energy than plants can.
The bacteria ended up having 80 per cent efficiency, compared to about 2 per cent for plants. This form of artificial photosynthesis is a big step toward developing more efficient fuels that generate renewable energy using sunlight. The results were presented at the 54th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
Is a floating nuclear reactor a good idea?
From Popular Science:
China is well on its way to becoming a world leader in nuclear power; its 37 reactors are already producing 32.4 gigawatts of electricity, and more than 20 more reactors are currently under construction.
And now China wants to take the lead in building nuclear power plants in open waters. These floating plants could power oil rigs and islands off the coast, or travel to disaster-struck coasts to provide relief.
Bobbing nuclear power plants are often mounted on a broad-beamed hull, and typically have 25 per cent the capacity of their larger, land-based brethren. Those floating reactors can be positioned to coastal and offshore areas that quickly need power (such as areas devastated by tsunamis), or rented out to customers who urgently need a ready supply of electricity.
Work up a sweat to recharge your wearable
When it comes to making batteries for wearables or implantable medical devices, there are a few features that have to be incorporated. The batteries need to be flexible and remain functional while being bent or twisted, and ideally, they’ll be absent of harmful chemicals. So far, batteries developed for these uses don’t meet that latter requirement. However, a research team in China has developed a new type of flexible battery that doesn’t require dangerous chemicals.
Instead of packing electrolytes that are corrosive or toxic, the team used sodium-based chemicals like sodium sulfate, which was once used as a laxative, as well as saline and a solution used for cell culture. Because excessive leakage-prevention measures — and therefore, added materials — aren’t required, the battery can easily maintain flexibility.
That these batteries can function off of sodium-based liquids means that in the future these devices might be able to run off of body fluids like sweat.
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