Shell Building Giant Wind Farm In North Sea To Produce Hydrogen

Oil giant Shell is planning the biggest wind-to-hydrogen project in Europe, a colossal 10-gigawatt offshore wind farm in the North Sea feeding a massive electrolysis plant on dry land that’ll pump out a million tonnes of clean H2 a year by 2040.

The NortH2 project will be located on the North coast of the Netherlands, and by the time it reaches that kind of output, it’ll be reducing emissions by the same amount as shutting down every combustion vehicle in Norway.

Started in conjunction with Dutch natural gas company Gasunie and Groningen Seaports, it will eventually dwarf the 3.6-gigawatt Dogger Bank offshore wind generation project in the United Kingdom, with 4 GW of capacity in 2030 being ramped up to 10 or more over the following decade.

Gasunie’s existing natural gas pipeline infrastructure will come in very handy. It’ll allow large-scale transport and storage of the hydrogen produced, which will primarily feed industrial clusters in the Netherlands and Germany, with smaller amounts going to transport, mobility and domestic uses.

New “Faraday Fabric” Blocks All Electro-Magnetic Radiation

Researchers at Drexel University have created “Faraday fabrics” that can block almost all electromagnetic waves. The key ingredient is a 2D material called MXene, and the development could help protect wearables from interference and people from potentially dangerous radiation.

Electromagnetic waves have proven incredibly useful for modern technology – but between radio, TV, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular phone networks and other devices, the airwaves are getting clogged up. Interference can make these important connections unstable and slow and interrupt the function of electronic devices.

As such, vital components within devices are often wrapped in shielding materials like copper foil. The problem is, these can add bulk to the overall device, and since they reflect the waves the overall noise is still there.

Enter MXenes, a class of conductive, two-dimensional materials that are gaining interest for their promise in making sprayable antennasconductive clays, and faster-charging battery electrodes. A few months ago, the Drexel team described how one particular MXene, titanium carbonitride, made an excellent EM-shielding material. Not only is it incredibly thin – just a few atoms thick – but it actually absorbs signals rather than reflecting them, so it cleans up the airwaves a bit in the process.

In the new study, the researchers found a new application for the MXene shielding – fabrics that block electromagnetic waves. They dipped samples of cotton and linen into an MXene solution and found that the end result could block more than 99.9 percent of signals.

New Earring Will Track Blood Glucose Levels

 Monitoring blood glucose levels for sufferers of type 1 diabetes typically involves frequent finger pricks and analysis, but there are technologies on the horizon that promise to make things less invasive and more convenient. An imaginative example of this is a student-designed earring that would track blood glucose levels via the earlobe, which the creator hopes can one day help children with diabetes more discretely manage their condition.

The Sense Glucose Earring is the handiwork of 22-year-old Tyra Kozlow, a recent product design graduate from the University of Huddersfield. She was inspired to design the piece of smart jewellery after leading a focus group of parents with diabetic children, who spoke of the challenges of safely managing the condition faced by young people.

“Even though type 1 diabetes is not the fault of the person affected by it and is not related to any behaviour patterns or choices, young people diagnosed with the condition do experience a distressing level of stigma and can be twice as likely to have poor glycemic control which can lead to further health problems,” says Kozlow.

The idea is to have the earring pierce the earlobe and pulse high-frequency radio waves through the surrounding tissue as a way of measuring blood sugar levels. In this way, the earring wouldn’t require constant samples and can deliver real-time readings on blood sugar via a smartphone app. The device would run on rechargeable batteries.

FDA Approves Genetically Engineered Pigs

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved genetically engineered pigsfor use in food and medical products. The pigs, developed by medical company Revivicor, could be used in the production of drugs, to provide organs and tissues for transplants, and to produce meat that’s safe to eat for people with meat allergies.

“Today’s first-ever approval of an animal biotechnology product for both food and as a potential source for biomedical use represents a tremendous milestone for scientific innovation,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn in a press release.

The pigs are called GalSafe pigs because they lack a molecule called alpha-gal sugar, which can trigger allergic reactions. Alpha-gal sugar is found in many mammals, but not usually in humans. Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS), which causes a serious meat allergy, can happen after a bite from a lone star or deer tick. Though it hasn’t been tested specifically for people with AGS yet, the FDA has determined GalSafe pork products are safe for the general population to eat.

Spot The Robot Dog Learns How To Open Doors

 The New York Police Department’s new robot dog will receive a special robotic arm for opening doors and moving objects next month, according to a new report from ABC7 in New York. The existence of the NYPD’s robot was first revealed in late October after it assisted in the apprehension of a suspect in Brooklyn. But details about what the Boston Dynamics robot actually did during that arrest remain a mystery.

“This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers, and that’s our goal,” Frank Digiacomo, the NYPD’s Technical Assistance Response Unit Inspector, told the media.

A recent TV report was the first public display of the NYPD’s new four-legged robot, which has a max speed of 3 miles per hour, 360-degree video capabilities, and can carry up to 30 pounds. The robot, which the NYPD has named Digidog, is operated by remote control and can also climb stairs.

The only other time NYPD has publicly acknowledged use of the robot so far was during a hostage situation in Queens. But the robot apparently only served as a glorified waiter, something that would make various restaurant robots of the 1980s very proud.

Covid-19 Puts UK Automation Take-Up “On Steroids”

 The coronavirus crisis is accelerating workplace automation, putting UK jobs at risk in the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, according to new research.

A two-year inquiry by a commission set up by the trade union Community and the Fabian Society think-tank warned of a “disastrous double whammy” for low-paid workers in UK sectors such as retail and hospitality who were ill-equipped to move into the new jobs technology would create.

Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who led the inquiry, said that while the take-up of technology to enable ecommerce and homeworking had clearly helped to save jobs since the start of the crisis, the growth of automation was now “on steroids” in some sectors against a backdrop of “a much more difficult labour market and a deeply damaged economy”.

The commission found that 61 per cent of jobs furloughed in the first half of 2020 were in sectors that previous analysis by the Office for National Statistics showed to be at highest risk of automation that could replace workers. More than 3m furloughed jobs were in the most vulnerable sectors — hospitality, retail and motor sales and repairs.

New Silica Nanoparticles May Replace Pesticides

Pesticides may indeed kill plant pathogens, but they’re also harmful to the environment. Newly developed nanoparticles may provide a more eco-friendly alternative, as they boost the immune systems of crop plants, then harmlessly dissolve.

Occurring naturally in soil, a compound known as silicic acid has for some time been known to provoke plants’ immune response. It’s also released by amorphous (non-crystalline) silica nanoparticles, which are found in some crop plants. Such nanoparticles are additionally an ingredient in food-grade silica, which is used as an anti-clumping agent in products like table salt and protein powders.

Silicic acid is already applied to crops in liquid fertilizer form, to help them fight off viruses and problematic bacteria. Unfortunately, though, the sudden and intense dose of the compound can actually stress the plants, plus it may harm beneficial micro-organisms living in the soil.

Seeking a gentler approach, scientists at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg have created synthetic silica nanoparticles which are rich in silicic acid, but that release it slowly. In lab tests, these were applied to thale cress plants (Arabidopsis thaliana) that were infected with Pseudomonas syringae bacteria.

It was found that the acid helped the plants to fight off the microbes, by increasing production of a key defence hormone. Importantly, though, the nanoparticles entered the plants solely through the respiratory stomata pores on their leaves. The particles proceeded to perform all of their immune-boosting functions within the leaves, not travelling into the stems or roots – thus minimizing stress to the plants.

Yet Another New Battery Technology With Stunning Performance Claims

California’s QuantumScape has announced stunning performance figures for what may be the first commercially viable solid-state lithium-metal battery. It’s claimed to add as much as 80 percent to the range of an electric car, and charge from 0-80 percent in just 15 minutes.

Using a solid electrolyte instead of the typical liquid solution, solid state batteries can store considerably more energy by weight and volume than today’s lithium cells, but creating one that can stand up to the rigours of use in an electric vehicle – high charge and discharge rates, long lifespans, temperature and safety concerns – has proven difficult.

QuantumScape says it’s cracked the problem with a new design using lithium-metal anodes that aren’t formed during manufacturing, but that form around the current collector when the battery is charged. The solid-state separator is another key advance, using solid ceramic material that strongly resists the formation of dendrites – a common problem that can cause batteries to short out and sometimes catch fire when metal deposits build up on one electrode so much that they form spikes and pierce the separator.

So, let’s see the numbers. Energy density is reportedly excellent. In volumetric terms, the new battery can store 1 kWh/liter, about four times what the current Tesla Model 3 battery stores. By weight, it offers somewhere between 380-500 Wh/kg, compared to around 260 Wh/kg for the current Tesla packs – although renowned optimist Elon Musk reckons he can get 400 Wh/kg out of Tesla cells within three to four years in serious volume.