Sci/Tech briefs

NASA auctions off patents

Ten patents owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were auctioned off for $50,000 in Chicago last week. The patents were primarily developed by researchers at the Goddard Space Flight Center to make use of the Hilbert-Huang Transform, a signal-processing technique that was originally intended to model ocean waves. Norden Huang won the NASA Government Invention of the Year in 2003 for devising the method. The patents could potentially be used on any technology which analyzes non-linear, non-stationary signals, with applications ranging from sound and vibration waves to environmental phenomena and fluid flow.
The patent auction was intended to raise funds for the Goddard Center in the face of the recent economic declines.

Source: Discovery News

Tequila used to make diamond film

Tequila’s precise ratio of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms allow for the spirit to be used to create inexpensive diamond films. Mexican researchers had previously been working with diluted organic solutions, but found that the 80-proof tequila blanco blend yielded a high-quality film of spherical, nano-sized diamonds. The scientists rely on a method called “pulsed liquid injection chemical vapor deposition,” in which the tequila is flash-heated to a gaseous state and condensed back onto a silicon or stainless-steel tray.
The rapid evaporation and exposure to temperatures in the range of 1500°F reduces the amount of impurities in the tequila, creating the high-quality crystallite film. Thin diamond films have multiple industrial applications, such as tool coatings and in semiconductors.

Axolotl population in danger

The axolotl is a remarkable amphibious salamander which lives in Lake Xochimilco and its canals around Mexico City. Biologists from the Autonomous University of Mexico have recently reported that the axolotl population decreased from 1500 to 25 per square mile in the last 10 years.

The axolotl is prized in scientific research for many of its unique characteristics: It can regenerate lost limbs, breathe air from the surface or through gills underwater, and create large embryos for reproductive studies. Local residents blame polluted water, urbanization, and imbalances in the ecosystem for this rapid decline in population. In captivity, however, the salamanders are easily bred and scientists are planning to raise new colonies in sanctuaries.

Source: Associated Press

Air-powered vehicles tested

Motor Development International has signed a contract with Air France/KLM to test its air-powered AirPod vehicles, which can transport passengers through airports, at airports in Paris and Amsterdam. Each AirPod fits four passengers and relies on compressed air to run its single-piston engine. Refilling the 175L tank clocks in at approximately 90 seconds, and a filled tank can power the car for 135 miles. CEO Guy Negre intends to license the technology to companies such as TATA Motors of India or Zero Pollution Motors of the United States.

Source: Wired