Posted by Nick
This is a little bit late, but engineers at UCLA recently reported that they were able to successfully modify some bacteria to produce isobutanol from photosynthesis instead of sugars. Pretty damn cool, because isobutanol is a useful alternative fuel that burns relatively clean. Also cool because the process consumes carbon dioxide, as all photosynthetic processes do.
Posted by Nick
In general, I hate that “nano-” has turned into such a buzzword in the sciences. Vendors try to sell nanoprep kits and charge more for them. Unfortunately, these kits are not 9 orders of magnitude smaller than ordinary kits – they tend to be exactly the same with snazzier packaging. I honestly believe that if you went to a biochemistry conference selling “nanocookies” that the scientists would pay twice as much for them than if you merely labeled them cookies.
In spite of the regrettable buzzword, a lot of nanotechnology is incredibly cool stuff and has tons of very important potential applications. Nanoparticles have some particularly cool electronic properties related to them being a sort of in between atomic substance and bulk substance, leading to unique behaviors. These properties make some types of nanoparticles good candidates for use in photovoltatic cells. The main obstacle of solar energy currently is that solar cells are expensive and hard to produce. Chemical engineers at UT-Austin, however, are working on a way to synthesize photovoltaic cells in “nanoparticle inks” cheaply and easily. These inks would not only present production advantages, they would also make deployment a good deal easier. Unfortunately these “inks” are about 10 times less efficient than is feasible for a commercial solar cell.
In any case, the idea of a painted-on solar cell is incredibly cool, regardless of how realistic it is.
Lower Cost Solar Cells To Be Printed Like Newspaper, Painted On Rooftops [ScienceDaily]
Abstract at JACS [Journal of the American Chemical Society]