Science Connections

The 1% of scientific publishing

(Source: femscinerd)

Via scigrrrl


A look today at the chemicals behind insect repelling sprays.

Read more here, including a possible reason why mosquitos just prefer some people more than others:


Agrivoltaics - Farming food and fuel, side by side

Image: Courtney White

What is the best way to utilize sunlight—to grow food or to produce fuel?

For millennia, the answer was easy: we used solar energy to grow plants that we could eat. Then, in the 1970s, the answer became more complex as fields of photovoltaic panels (PVPs) began popping up all over the planet, sometimes on former farmland. In the 1990s, farmers began growing food crops for fuels such as corn-based ethanol. The problem is that the food-fuel equation has become a zero-sum game.

That led French agricultural scientist Christian Dupraz to ponder whether both food and fuel production could be successfully combined on one plot of land. For example, why not build solar panels above a farm field so that electricity and food can be produced simultaneously? In addition to resolving the conflict between land uses, solar panels would provide an additional source of income to farmers while at the same time sheltering crops from the rising temperatures and destructive hail and rain storms associated with climate change.

In 2010, Dupraz and his colleagues at INRA, France’s agricultural research institute, built the first-ever “agrivoltaic” farm, near Montpellier. In an 860-square-meter field, they planted crops in four adjacent plots—two in full sun as controls, one under a standard-density array of PVPs, and one under a half-density array of PVPs.

The researchers assumed crop productivity would decline in the shade, since plants would have to compete with solar panels for radiation and possibly water. But they also wondered whether, in a warming world, shade might actually improve crop productivity. “Shade will reduce transpiration needs and possibly increase water efficiency,” Dupraz wrote. The key would be finding the right balance between electricity produced by the solar panels and productive capacity of the farm.

At the end of three growing seasons, the researchers found that compromise was indeed possible. Not surprisingly, the crops under the full-density PVP shading lost nearly 50 percent of their productivity, compared to similar crops in the full-sun plots. However, the crops under the half-density shading were just as productive as the ones in the unshaded control plots; in a few cases, they were even more productive. (1)

The reason for this surprising outcome, according to Hélène Marrou, who studied lettuce in the plots, was the ability of plants to adapt to lower light conditions. She reported that lettuce plants adjusted by increasing their leaf area and by altering leaf arrangement to harvest light more efficiently.

She also had good news to report on the water front. “We showed in this experiment that shading irrigated vegetable crops with PVPs allowed a saving of 14 percent to 29 percent of evapotranspired water, depending on the level of shade created and the crop grown,” she wrote in a 2013 paper. (2) Within the context of global warming and water shortage, she said, reducing water demand by shading plants could represent a big advantage in the near future.


Further reading:



Ocean Floor Mats Send Power to the Surface

A wave power technology called M3 Wave dispenses with all the problems that come with buoys or other above- and below-the-surface designs by mooring a simple device to the ocean floor. The device contains two air chambers connected by a wind tunnel of sorts. As a wave passes over the top of the first chamber, the pressure inside increases—forcing air through a passageway to the second chamber. Inside the passageway is a turbine, so the passing air is actually what generates the electricity. As the wave continues on, it raises the pressure inside the second chamber, pushing the air back through the turbine and into the first chamber (the turbine is bidirectional). Another wave, another cycle. Repeat.”

Learn more from Conservation Magazine.

Harnessing the power of the oceans….


Stephanie Kwolek

Inventor of Kevlar®

Stephanie Kwolek, the famous woman inventor and scientist, wanted to study medicine while growing up in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, and that desire persisted as she worked toward her B.A. in chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. After finishing her degree, however, Kwolek took a temporary research position with DuPont, where her work turned out to be so interesting that she decided to stay on.

One of the first women research chemists, she first gained national recognition in 1960 for her work with long molecule chains at low temperatures. In 1971, Kwolek’s further analysis culminated in an important discovery of a liquid crystalline polymer solution. Its exceptional strength and stiffness led to the invention of Kevlar®, a synthetic material that is five times as strong as steel.

Kevlar® is resistant to wear, corrosion and flames, and it is the main ingredient in the production of bulletproof vests, which have become invaluable to legions of soldiers and law enforcement officers. Furthermore, Kevlar® is used in dozens of other products, including skis, safety helmets, hiking and camping gear, and suspension bridge cables.

Kwolek’s research efforts have resulted in her being the recipient or co-recipient of 17 U.S. patents. This noted woman inventor also has received such prestigious accolades as the Kilby Award, the National Medal of Technology and the 1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award

Via Mind Blowing Science!


Catch The Stars


The triple point of a substance: where the substance exists as a solid, liquid and gas at the same time. 
[More interesting science facts and gifs …]


Learn more about the #FabulousFrogs Sir David came across while filming: (Set your DVR! It premieres Wed. at 8/7c on PBS!)


You can hear Geoff Brumfiel's full story about cosmic microwave background (the thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang) here.

Via Alpha Centauri

To Tumblr, Love PixelUnion