SciTech Briefs

Breakthrough in limiting carbon dioxide emissions

By mimicking the way sea urchins create their exoskeletons, physicists have developed a means of converting carbon dioxide pollution into harmless calcium carbonate or chalk. Lidija Siller and her team at Newcastle University realized that they needed a catalyst to speed up the process of absorption of carbon dioxide into water. While examining sea urchins that absorb carbon dioxide into their skeletons, they found that nickel was abundant on the exoskeleton of urchin larvae. By adding nickel as a catalyst to the absorption process, they were able to almost completely remove the carbon dioxide.

By diverting gases from chimneys into water tanks saturated with nickel nanoparticles, the carbon dioxide present in the emissions can be almost completely eliminated, as it will react with the water to form chalk.

Source: Discovery News

New York Times investigates recent hacker attack

Chinese hackers compromised the computer systems of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal at the end of last month. The attacks seemed to have been more personal than previous hacks, raising further concerns among enterprises. The more targeted an attack, the less effective traditional security is.

In particular, the anti-virus software that the Times was using failed to detect 44 different kinds of malware. This was because the malware was custom built, and current malware detection systems are able to catch only more generic types. The Pentagon plans to expand its ranks of cyber-warriors to help fight against such attacks. However, the lack of enough highly-skilled individuals and a fiscally conservative Congress are likely to be large obstacles in the Pentagon’s future recruitment plans.


Researchers create material that can repel all fluids

Dr. Anish Tuteja and his team at the University of Michigan have developed a coating that repels almost all fluids. Currently, liquid resistant coatings are either oleophobic (oil-repellent, like those on touchscreens) or hydrophobic (water-repellent, as on waterproof gear). The new coating, dubbed “superomniphobic,” repels fluids by trapping millions of microscopic pockets of air within itself, so that fluids are unable to come in contact with the surface. It is resistant against almost all fluids, including highly reactive ones like hydrochloric acid. Currently, the durability of the coating is an issue, since it can be easily peeled off; the team is working toward developing a more permanent coating.

Source: Wired

Blackout during Super Bowl being investigated

The cause of the power failure during the Super Bowl, which suspended play for more than half an hour, has been narrowed down to a device that ironically, had been installed to prevent the possibility of a blackout. The device was a relay that had been installed in the switching gear by Entergy New Orleans, the company that supplies power to the Superdome. The relay was intended to protect the Superdome from a cable failure between the company’s incoming power line and the lines that run through the stadium. The exact cause for the failure of the relay has yet to be investigated.

Source: The New York Times