SciTech Briefs

Credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Scientists create new nanostructures

Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered how to create relatively inexpensive nanostructures out of sugar, salt, and Everclear, a 190-proof alcoholic drink. While working out the problems with another experiment, they accidentally created a substance that could turn out to be very useful for the storage of hydrogen in fuel cells and for drug delivery.
Taking a kind of sugar called gamma-cyclodextrin, salt (preferably potassium chloride), and 190-proof alcohol, the team was able to construct a rigid and porous nanostructure called a metal-organic framework. They did this by first dissolving the sugar and salt in water and then evaporating the alcohol into the solution. This process caused colorless cubic crystals to form.
Not only does this discovery provide new research opportunities, but it also has intriguing applications in high-technology foods because it is edible and can store other edible substances inside its pores.

Source: The New York Times

Deforestation rate decreases

The Brazilian Ministry of Environment has released a survey claiming that large-scale deforestation in the Amazon has declined by almost half in the last year. This would imply that deforestation is now one-fifth of what it was at its peak in 2004.
Using low-resolution satellite imagery, Brazil’s remote sensing agency — the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais — determined that the drop in deforestation rate is the largest since records started being kept 20 years ago.
Researchers believe that the reduction could be due to the government refusing to provide loans to people clearing large areas of forest, and due to supermarkets refusing to buy soybeans and meat produced on recently deforested land.
However, one major caveat is that such low-resolution sensing does not detect smaller clearings, which may have grown significantly. Also, as demand and prices for agricultural goods continue to increase, this could lead to greater forest clearing.

Source: Science

NASA employs new hurricane technology

NASA recently carried out its first observation of a hurricane using a Global Hawk drone. As Hurricane Earl moved up the East Coast earlier this month, the drone used a new piece of equipment called HAMSR, which stands for High-Altitude Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit Sounding Radiometer, to record a 3-D view of the temperature, water vapor, and other characteristics of the weakening hurricane.
NASA used measurements from the drone, two other aircrafts, and from astronauts on the International Space Station to track changes in the hurricane. The new instruments used will help scientists understand the rapidly changing nature of hurricanes. NASA will continue flights all month as hurricanes continue to form over the Atlantic Ocean.

Source: Wired magazine