Decarbonizing is a top priority goal for all countries around the world. Recently, scientists have researched and developed wireless charging technology for electric vehicles, which can even be charged while the car is moving on the road. Besides, engineers has created the world’s whitest paint, with light-reflecting capabilities that can cool a building from the outside. This month coolest things are helping to save our planet.

The Charging Lane

What is it? A team of Cornell engineers has proposed a “wireless power transfer” technology that could charge electric vehicles as they cruise down the road.

Why does it matter? Electric cars can help the world decarbonize, but there are hurdles along the way. One involves charging. “If every vehicle in the country was electric, you would need a lot of outlets to plug them in,” says Khurram Afridi, an associate professor at Cornell University and leader of a new study on embedded roadway charging strips. “We don’t have that kind of power available in our homes to be able to charge them very fast.”

How does it work? The new system proposes insulated metal plates embedded in the roadway, connected to power lines through an inverter that creates oscillating electric fields. Matching metal plates mounted to a vehicle’s underside would attract and repel these charges, driving the current through a circuit on the vehicle, thereby charging its battery. The system works at 13.56 megahertz, nearly 200 times faster than the latest magnetic field systems.

Cold Comfort

Xiulin Ruan, Purdue University professor of mechanical engineering, with a super-reflective paint sample. Image credit: Purdue University/Jared Pike.

What is it? Purdue University engineers have created the world’s whitest paint, with light-reflecting capabilities that can cool a building from the outside.

Why does it matter? Typical commercial white paint, like other colors, warms up in the sun. Paints designed to reflect heat bounce only 80% to 90% of sunlight and can’t cool a surface below the ambient temperature. This new paint formula reflects 98.1% of sunlight, sending infrared heat away from the painted surface. “If you were to use this paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet, we estimate that you could get a cooling power of 10 kilowatts,” said Xiulin Ruan, a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering. “That’s more powerful than the central air conditioners used by most houses.” A paper by the research team was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces

How does it work? The paint gets its extreme whiteness from barium sulfate, a chemical compound used commercially to make photo paper whiter than other standard papers. The barium sulfate particles in the paint vary in size, allowing them to scatter a broad spectrum of sunlight. The paint was shown to drop the temperature of painted surfaces by 19 degrees Fahrenheit at night and by 8 degrees during peak-sun daytime hours.

Mission: Reaction

Illustration of a nuclear-propelled transit habitat that could someday take astronauts to Mars. Image credit: NASA.

What is it? NASA is exploring two nuclear propulsion technologies that could power a crewed mission to Mars with a round-trip duration of two years or less.

Why does it matter? While robotic explorers on the Red Planet only require a one-way ticket, human astronauts face the tricky matter of optimal planetary alignment. Appropriately timing the return to Earth “would require astronauts to loiter at Mars for more than a year,” NASA says. If scientists can overcome some limitations of chemical rocket propulsion, they could, in theory, reduce that hefty layover enough to reach NASA’s target of a two-year mission.

How does it work? The administration is considering two distinct nuclear propulsion technologies: nuclear electric and nuclear thermal. Nuclear electric systems use a reactor to generate electricity, which positively charges gas propellants and expels the ions through a thruster. They would be much more efficient than chemical rockets but produce less thrust. Nuclear thermal methods use heat from the reactor to convert a liquid propellant to gas, which expands through a nozzle, creating thrust. These systems could potentially use half the propellant of chemical rockets and still provide high thrust. NASA says a nuclear-enabled system “would take advantage of optimal planetary alignment for a low-energy transit for one leg of the trip and the new technology’s enhanced performance to make the higher-energy transit for the other leg.”

Microcoat Of Armor

A fungal cell (in green) takes its last dance with “killer” black phosphorous. Image credit: RMIT University.

What is it? Researchers at Melbourne’s RMIT University have developed an ultrathin microbial coating that could be used to treat wounds and in medical implants to prevent potentially serious infections.

Why does it matter? “As drug resistance continues to grow, our ability to treat these infections becomes increasingly difficult,” Aaron Elbourne, RMIT postdoctoral fellow and co-lead researcher developing the protective material, said in a news release. “We need smart new weapons for the war on superbugs, which don’t contribute to the problem of antimicrobial resistance.”

How does it work? The new coating is based on an ultrathin material called black phosphorus (BP). Scientists studying BP for electronics applications have observed some antibacterial and antifungal properties, but the RMIT study is the first to examine its clinical potential. BP breaks down when exposed to oxygen. This is a problem for electronics, but in medicine it helps prevent the material from accumulating in the body. As BP degrades, it oxidizes pathogens’ cell surfaces at the same time, essentially tearing them apart. The lab study found the optimal level of BP for this use, destroying 99% of bacterial and fungal cells in two hours while leaving human cells healthy and whole. A paper on the researchers’ findings was published in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces

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