Friday, August 01, 2008

Coupla developments...

Not only did we get a personal reason to celebrate (Where is that Champagne?), but there were a couple of outside developments that bode well, also.

First we have energy from water, the sun, and a few catalysts.

Scientists have devised a cheap and simple method of turning water into rocket fuel using solar power in a development that could generate a new source of green energy for the home and workplace.

The researchers used electricity from solar panels to split water into oxygen and hydrogen – the constituents of rocket fuel – with a technology that scientists believe could solve many of the problems that have hampered the development of solar energy.

With the help of a simple and yet highly efficient "chemistry set" made out of commonly available materials, the scientists have found a way of storing solar energy as a chemical fuel that can be used to power pollution-free electricity generators known as hydrogen fuel cells.


"The discovery has enormous implications for the large-scale deployment of solar since it puts us on the doorstep of a cheap and easily manufactured storage mechanism. The ease of implementation means that this discovery will have legs," Dr Nocera said.


The secret of the breakthrough, published in the journal Science, lies in the type of electrodes used to generate oxygen and hydrogen when they are inserted into water. The scientists made them from a cobalt-phosphate mixture which acted as a catalyst that speeds up the splitting of water molecules into their components – oxygen and hydrogen.

"The simplicity of this process is amazing. Using common and affordable elements, and a glass of water, these chemists may have given us a future way to efficiently obtain oxygen by splitting water," said Luis Echegoyen, director of the chemical division of the US National Science Foundation, which funded the work.

Dr Nocera said that sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world's energy problems given that in one hour enough energy from the Sun strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for a year.

And from the world of medicine, we have a stem-cell breakthrough:

Reaching a milestone in stem cell research, scientists at Harvard and Columbia universities reported yesterday that they created the first stem cell lines from a sick person, then coaxed these cells to become nerve cells genetically matched to those that had gone bad in a patient's spinal cord.

In a paper published online in the journal Science, the team claimed success at what researchers have long been racing to do: create in the laboratory a plentiful supply of cells that have the same genetic makeup as a patient with a particular disease.

The work was done with patients suffering from ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, but the researchers said the same technique can be used to study many other genetic diseases. By comparing diseased cells to normal cells in a Petri dish, scientists hope to better understand what causes disease and test new drugs.


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