A Device to Pull Water Straight From Thin Air
“Is it possible to pull water straight from thin air?”
Water is one of the most vital components to many natural and industrial processes, whether it be keeping humans hydrated, running HVAC systems, or growing food. However, in many desert areas, water is extremely hard to come by. So how can we use our scientific mindset to solve this problem? Well, a team of chemists at UC Berkeley and MIT recently used a class of porous materials known as metal-organic frameworks to build a sheet that can absorb water vapor during the night, hold it during the day, and use the sun’s rays to release some vapor and siphon it to a condenser to create usable water! This system uses 3 liters of water per day for every kilogram of sponge-like absorber it contains and holds much promise to revolutionize access to basic drinking water.
“What is one of the most fundamental radioactive elements?”
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we here at Isaac’s Science Blog thought that it would be appropriate to talk about one of Marie Curie’s most famous discoveries, the element Radium. Radium is a soft, shiny and silvery radioactive metal that belongs in the second group and seventh period of the periodic table. Although it is now deemed to be too radioactive for common use, it used to be used as a paint for clock and watch dials. The discovery of Radium led Marie Curie to receive a Nobel Prize. However, due to not patenting the element, she received few monetary benefits (despite kickstarting an entire industry). In fact, her intense work with the radioactive element had ravaged her health. Never the less, we must honor her work, and spend this International Women’s Day thinking about the countless sacrifices that women have made to advance our knowledge of science.
The Problem with Battery-Powered Planes
“What do we need to overcome before we make battery-powered planes?”
Although promising, battery-powered planes have a major hurdle to overcome before they make any major traction. As it stands, electrochemical batteries have only 1/60th the energy density of conventional plane fuels. This is further compounded by the fact that such batteries are heavier to equip, meaning more weight on the aircraft and a reduced ability to fly. However, if we can overcome these problems, whether it be through a new type of battery or improved electrical motors, then battery-powered planes are poised to disrupt the entire aviation industry!
“Can fuel exist in a solid form?”
When we think of fuel, we often think of the liquid petroleum that exists within our car. However, not all fuel has to be in a fluid form. In fact, there is such a thing as solid fuels to create heat and power. Many of these solid fuels are very well known such as coal, plant biomass, charcoal, wood, and even municipal waste!
“How do metals waste away with time?”
Metals are some of the most widely used materials in the world. However, nothing within the realm of physics lasts forever. If a metal is immersed in an atmosphere, then it will be surrounded by chemicals alien to its own. Chemical reactions are bound to occur, and over time this metal will decay and waste away in a process known as corrosion. Corrosion is a very important engineering factor, especially for public infrastructure. So much so that in 1998 alone the total annual direct cost of corrosion in the U.S. was around. $276 billion!
The Dew Point
“How can we measure the point in which saturation occurs?”
When it gets humid outside, it’s very easy for moisture to appear on surfaces. However, why does that happen? Well, the answer lies in a most interesting property called the Dew Point. The dew point is the temperature at which the gas in a given area will condense into a liquid. If an object cooler than this point comes in contact with air, then it is possible for dew to form. HVAC system engineers must keep this value in mind when designing dehumidifier equipment.
The Heat Index
“How can we measure how a temperature really feels?”
We all know how to read a normal thermometer. However, when it gets really humid, then oftentimes it will feel much hotter than it really is. So how can we use our scientific mindset to quantify this phenomenon? Well, what if we were to create a formula that combines both the absolute temperature and the relative humidity to produce a value? Well, this is the idea behind the heat index and is used by weather forecasters and HVAC systems analysts all over the world.