Category: frontpage

Pluto in a higher definition..

New Horizons: Tension mounts over Pluto signal –

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Large Hadron Collider discovers new pentaquark particle –

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Harnessing the sun with the blackest paint in the world

Harnessing the sun with the blackest paint in the world – paintingImage captionBack to black: This might just look like black paint – but it’s probably the blackest black paint in the world


In a cramped laboratory on the campus of the University of California San Diego (UCSD), graduate student Lizzie Caldwell is hard at work, painting tiny squares of metal with a fine mist of black paint.

As experiments go, it doesn’t look terribly impressive.

Yet the paint she is using is highly sophisticated – the result of intensive research. It is also probably one of the blackest materials ever created.

What the research team at UCSD are trying to do is make large-scale solar power generation more viable, by creating a material which can absorb a greater quantity of sunlight than existing coatings, and last longer.

Heart of darkness

The paint is being developed for a new generation of so-called concentrating solar power plants (CSP).

These use thousands of mirrors to focus sunlight on a central tower, which is coated with a dark, light-absorbing material. The light is converted into intense heat, which is used to make steam. The steam can then be used to drive turbines, in order to produce electricity.

It is a very clean form of power generation, and existing plants which use coal or other fossil fuels can be converted to use the technology. In addition, heat can be stored so that power generation can continue even when the sun isn’t shining.

Concentrating solar power plant
Image captionConcentrating solar power plants – like this one in California – use mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays at a central tower

However, there’s a catch. The light-absorbing coatings which are currently used aren’t really up to the job.

They aren’t efficient enough, can’t withstand the highest temperatures and, out in the elements, bombarded with intense sunlight, they don’t last very long either.

According to Professor Renkun Chen, who is helping to lead the research, the new material will be very different.

“First of all, it can absorb the light at a very high efficiency. And secondly, it can withstand very high temperatures in air, above 700 degrees Celsius. That isn’t possible with existing materials”, he says.

Spray painted plates
Image captionThe blacker the material, the more of the sun’s energy it will absorb

Small things

The secret of the new paint lies in nanotechnology – creating a surface made up of layers of microscopic particles. It is designed to minimise reflection.

The research team claims that it can convert up to 90% of the sunlight it captures into heat.

“The size of these particles matches the wavelengths of light, which is in the order of a few nanometres”, Prof Chen says.

“So when light gets in, it will get trapped. It’s as though it gets lost in a miniature forest, and never comes out”.

That is the theory, at any rate. But the mosaic of small metal tiles lined up in the lab for testing is testament to how challenging it is to put that theory into practice.

Each one represents a slightly different technique or chemical formula, as the team searches for the right balance of light absorption and durability.

Fifty shades of black, if you like.

“Right now we’re just playing with a lot of different ideas that we’ve been talking about for the last few months and years” says Lizzie Caldwell.

“We want to make sure we get the perfect, blackest colour”.

Under a microscope, the structure of the nanoparticles that make up the paint can be seen
Image captionUnder a microscope, the structure of the nanoparticles that make up the paint can be seen

Run for the sun

The research has been funded by the US government’s SunShot initiative, which hopes to make solar energy as financially competitive as other forms of power generation by the end of the decade.

There is clearly a very long way to go. Solar energy still accounts for less than 1% of all mass electricity generation in the US, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

But that figure doesn’t tell the whole story.

Solar capacity is growing rapidly, particularly in energy-hungry California. Moreover, the number of homes and businesses using solar panels to generate their own power has risen dramatically over the past five years.

It isn’t just happening in the United States. In China, generous subsidies have led to a very rapid growth of solar power generation over the past few years.

This has come partly in response to the country’s voracious appetite for power and the need to curb severe urban pollution. But China has also become a major exporter of cheap solar technology, which has brought prices down worldwide.

And according to Professor Chen, CSP in particular has the potential to become a major source of clean energy in developing countries, reducing their reliance on burning fossil fuels such as coal.

Renowned environmentalist Denis Hayes, who now leads the Seattle-based Bullitt Foundation, thinks that we could be heading for a golden age of solar power.

Environmentalist Denis Hayes
Image captionEnvironmentalist Denis Hayes is optimistic about the future of solar power

“With solar, if you take a unit of area, there’s only so much sun that is going to strike it,” he says.

“So if you can get twice as much electricity out of that sunshine, and it costs no more or even less than before then suddenly you’ve transformed the market”.

He thinks that one day, entire cities could be powered by the energy of the sun, with the fabric of the buildings themselves being used to trap solar energy.

It’s fair to say that such a sunny utopia remains a very long way off. However, research such as that being carried out at UCSD just might bring it a little bit closer.

So if there is a golden age approaching, it may owe a debt to some very, very black paint.

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Food Chain on Great Barrier Reef

Killer starfish threaten Great Barrier Reef –

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Memory Alloys

Memory alloy bounces back into shape 10 million times –

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This kid got 0 % ON HIS EXAM, I would have given him 100%

Q1. In which battle did Napoleon die?
* his last battle

Q2. Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
* at the bottom of the page

Q3. River Ravi flows in which state?
* liquid

Q4. What is the main reason for divorce?
* marriage

Q5. What is the main reason for failure?
* exams

Q6. What can you never eat for breakfast?
* Lunch & dinner

Q7. What looks like half an apple?
* The other half

Q8. If you throw a red stone into the blue sea what it will become?
* It will simply become wet

Q9. How can a man go eight days without sleeping ?
* No problem, he sleeps at night.

Q10. How can you lift an elephant with one hand?
* You will never find an elephant that has only one hand..

Q11. If you had three apples and four oranges in one hand and four apples and three oranges in other hand, what would you have ?
* Very large hands

Q12. If it took eight men ten hours to build a wall, how long would it take four men to build it?
* No time at all, the wall is already built.

Q13. How can u drop a raw egg onto a concrete floor without cracking it?
*Any way you want, concrete floors are very hard to crack .

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What to eat for exam success….

If you are going through the stresses of exams or are doing GCSEs, A levels or a degree, you will want to do all you can to boost your chances. What and when you eat and drink can be important in helping to keep you alert, focused and able to deal with the day-to-day pressure of exams.

It is an old rule but a golden one: during periods of intensive study, breakfast really is vital. Numerous studies have indicated that skipping it affects the ability to concentrate later: those who eat breakfast have better recall, better problem-solving skills and improved scores in maths tests.

The explanation for this is probably that your brain has high glucose requirements yet can store only small amounts of this crucial source of energy. It was always assumed that the body kept the brain optimally supplied with glucose (sugar) at the expense of almost every other organ. But this idea is challenged by the finding that boosting blood sugar after a nights fast aids mental performance.

The precise mechanisms by which blood sugar affects memory are not fully understood, but glucose is certainly needed to raise production of a nerve transmitter called acetylcholine. When drugs block production of acetylcholine, memory is disrupted, with the ability to remember new information being particularly affected.

While a sugary breakfast cereal and white toast, or a pain au chocolat or muffin will certainly give you a sugar rush, it is less likely to keep your blood sugar stable for the morning ahead than the slowly digested carbohydrates that are found in, for example, wholegrain cereals such as porridge and sugar-free muesli, granary toast or some fruit with a yoghurt or fromage frais.

Wholegrain cereals also give you a dose of B vitamins, including the B1 that is needed, along with blood sugar, to make acetylcholine. Meanwhile, the milk that you add to your muesli provides protein, which helps to keep you full and aids concentration.

For mid-morning snacks try to avoid quickly digested refined carbohydrates such as biscuits, cereal bars, fizzy drinks and squash or sweets. A sugar burst followed by a debilitating, energy-draining low can result, which is enough to throw your concentration off kilter in exams or make revision more difficult.

It is also vital to keep well hydrated. Even a small dip in fluid levels can affect our ability to focus and may impair mental agility. During revision, it is better to make frequent trips to the loo than to sit and stare blankly because, deprived of fluids, you can’t absorb information properly. During the exam it is a good idea to keep taking small sips of liquid, provided you have been to the loo before you begin.

While coffee, tea and energy drinks such as Red Bull might seem to help in staving off sleepiness during late-night revision sessions, overdoing these beverages can overstimulate the nervous system, elevating blood pressure and heart rate and putting you more on edge. Stick to no more than five or six caffeine-containing drinks each day. To get the most out of caffine’s short-term ability to improve concentration, it is worth cutting down your daily intake and saving such a drink until just before you really need the boost.

Lunch is as important as breakfast. The last thing you want, however, is the feeling that a rich meal is sitting uncomfortably in your stomach all afternoon. Avoiding fat-laden, mayonnaise-based sandwiches, pizzas and chips is therefore wise.

So, too, is steering clear of meals that are too rich in carbohydrate. Large pasta-based dishes and oversized baguettes will deliver a big dollop of carbohydrate, which can make you sleepy in the hours ahead so that you feel more like a siesta than hard mental work.

Protein, on the other hand, seems to help us to concentrate. Tuna, chicken, turkey, lean beef or ham and eggs make ideal bases for lunch and can be accompanied by slowly digested carbohydrates such as a small pitta bread, tortilla wrap or a slice of rye, sourdough or granary bread.

Surveys of British teenagers show that girls, particularly, are lacking in iron, consuming only about half the recommended daily intake between the ages of 11 and 18. A general lack of B vitamins can strain the nervous system, while too little folic acid (a specific type of vitamin B) can, like insufficient iron, trigger low moods.

Quick tips for smart candidates

  • Boost your omega3s. Omega3 essential fats are vital for optimum brain functioning, helping messages to reach nerve endings effectively. Two servings a week of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or anchovies, plus regular intakes of flax seeds and omega-3-enriched eggs, orange juice and milk are worth eating.
  • Avoid junk food, cakes, biscuits, pies and ready meals that contain trans fats (labelled as partially hydrogenated oils/ vegetable fats) in the ingredients list. It is believed that these can block the passage of messages between nerve endings in our brains.
  • Have plenty of citrus fruits, berries and vegetables, which are great for vitamin C. Our adrenal glands, which pump out adrenalin when we are stressed, need good supplies to keep our bodies in balance. As vitamin C is needed for a robust immune system as well, these fruits and vegetables may also help to reduce the risk of being laid low with a summer cold that could upset your revision and exam performance.
  • Replace some of your caffeine-rich, sugary drinks with camomile tea: the active plant constituents can help to reduce stress.

(Source: Times Online)

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2011 Animated Science Yearly Review


It has been a fantastic year for Animated Science with lots of new content being added for KS5 Physics and also some older items repurposed in our new blog. We have certainly gone worldwide with the appeal of the site with users across the globe accessing all the resources. The Charcuterie Section is also shaping up nicely with our top worldwide google ranking for “Pork and Sage Sausage”. I will be adding more as I have a new android phone so I will be adding some cool videos as well as images to this section.

Looking through the statistics it has been amazing; we have served pages to over 60,000 unique visitors, who have viewed 401,896 pages. In total we have had over 2 million hits and users have downloaded over 192GB of data through the site.

It seems that mobile use is now building and the site is now fully optimised for Android/iPhone or the newer smart phones. We have a full menu system with icons and able to rotate and scale for every modern phone or tablet on the market.

The most exciting launch is our Kindle venture with notes of nearly 10,000 words for Unit 1 AQA Revision in the Amazon store. We will see how this goes but more will follow when time allows and the price has fallen due to dollar / pound exchange rates so good news there!

Thanks for all the support and please come back!

Daniel Powell

(Animated Science Admin)

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