Science Briefs – April 5, 2011

Kelsey Gobroski / Sun Star Reporter
April 5, 2011

Leaves inspire cheap energy

Solar energy that draws inspiration from leaves may become more affordable for India and China in the future. Plants are powered by photosynthesis, and a step in that process is water splicing. When water is split into hydrogen and oxygen, the molecules can be stored as future energy. Just add water and catalysts, and silicon-based solar devices could also store energy for fuel cells. The hydrogen and oxygen would transport the energy, rather than expensive wires. The technology has been around since 1998, but never this inexpensively. Water doesn’t need to be purified in the new system and could cover rooftops much like conventional-wired solar panels.

Discovery News

Iran leads world in science

Iran’s scientific renown grows faster than any other country as scientists in Iran plug away at research and international collaborations. Iran churned out more than 13,000 scientific publications in 2008, up from less than 800 in 1996, according to the UK’s Royal Society. That rate of increase trumped the rest of the world. Iran isn’t the only country to stake its place on the scientific playing field. Turkey quadrupled its output. Tunisia, Singapore, and Qatar joined China, India, and Brazil in growth of peer-reviewed publications. The growth allows studies across the world to unify their data into a global mosaic of similar findings.

New Scientist

Mercury ready for close-up

The Messenger spacecraft reached Mercury’s orbit and began sending back photographs of the planet’s surface March 29. Mercury’s pockmarked poles could house frozen water in craters cast in unending shadow. The planet splits into rudimentary tectonic plates, which do not move as Earth’s do, but differ from Mars’s unified crust. Mercury also has a magnetic field, unlike Mars. The Messenger will pass as close as 160 miles to the surface in its elliptical orbit. It will take more than 75,000 photographs over the course of a year, the longest visit any spacecraft has paid Mercury. No other craft entered the planet’s orbit, and until now, scientists have had to settle for flybys. It took six and a half years to reach Mercury.

New York Times

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