New Semiconductor Paves Way for Non-Toxic Solar Cells | Design News

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Solar panels have been a great benefit to the world’s interest in deriving electricity from alternative energy sources. However, one drawback to the technology is that the panels and cells themselves are created from toxic and non-environmentally friendly materials.

Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis—working with the Department of Energy (DoE)–aim to help solve this problem with a discovery that paves the way for nontoxic perovskite solar cells.

The team—led by Rohan Mishra, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science in the McKelvey School of Engineering–has discovered a new semiconductor comprised of potassium, barium, tellurium, bismuth, and oxygen that could replace lead-based semiconductors used in perovskite solar cells.

Source: New Semiconductor Paves Way for Non-Toxic Solar Cells | Design News

Prosthetic Arm Can Sense Touch, Move with Wearer’s Thoughts | Design News


Losing a limb is probably one of the most physically challenging things a person can face, which is one of the reasons why researchers have been working for decades to develope prosthetics with increasingly more advanced and “life-like” movements and capabilities.

A team at the University of Utah has contributed to this aim with the development of technology for a next-generation prosthetic arm that can “feel” and make movements according to the thoughts of the person wearing it.

Source: Prosthetic Arm Can Sense Touch, Move with Wearer’s Thoughts | Design News

Auto-zero calibration maintains pressure sensor accuracy | Electronic Products

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As pressure monitoring systems become more sophisticated, auto-zero calibration is becoming a critical technology for a growing number of applications.

Common medical applications that demand high accuracy include non-invasive blood pressure monitors and miniature pumps. Another new medical application is wound therapy, in which controlled negative pressure over the wound promotes healing.

Auto-zero calibration can also maintain a consumer product’s accuracy for its lifetime across a range of consumer and commercial appliances, including coffee makers, dishwashers, and washing machines.

Regardless of the application, auto-zero calibration begins by sampling an output at a known reference point. Software running on a signal-conditioning ASIC embedded in the sensor can then adjust the output to the correct pressure.

The key concept in this process is the ideal transfer function.

Source: Auto-zero calibration maintains pressure sensor accuracy – Electronic Products

Why synthetic chemicals seem more toxic than natural ones | Aeon Ideas


Toxicologists believe that nearly every substance is safe in certain amounts.

Take the example of botulinum, the most poisonous substance on Earth. Just 50 grammes of the toxin spread evenly worldwide would kill everyone. But, in very minute amounts, it is safely used for cosmetic purposes in Botox. Thus the adage ‘the dose makes the poison’.

Source: Why synthetic chemicals seem more toxic than natural ones | Aeon Ideas

Weaponizing Biotech: How China’s Military Is Preparing for a ‘New Domain of Warfare’ | Defense One


We may be on the verge of a brave new world indeed.

Today’s advances in biotechnology and genetic engineering have exciting applications in medicine — yet also alarming implications, including for military affairs. China’s national strategy of military-civil fusion (军民融合) has highlighted biology as a priority, and the People’s Liberation Army could be at the forefront of expanding and exploiting this knowledge.

The PLA’s keen interest is reflected in strategic writings and research that argue that advances in biology are contributing to changing the form or character (形态) of conflict.

Source: Weaponizing Biotech: How China’s Military Is Preparing for a ‘New Domain of Warfare’ – Defense One

How Mosquitoes Helped Shape the Course of Human History | Smithsonian

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In his new book The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator, historian Timothy Winegard exposes this insect as not merely an itchy pest, but a force of nature that has dictated the outcome of significant events throughout human history.

From ancient Athens to World War II, Winegard highlights key moments when mosquito-borne diseases caused militaries to crumble, great leaders to fall ill, and populations to be left vulnerable to invasion.

Source: How Mosquitoes Helped Shape the Course of Human History | History | Smithsonian

Fast Food Companies Are Seeking Political Cover in the Developing World


In the United States and Europe, junk food sales have precipitously declined since the late 1990s.

Analysts have put the change up to greater health consciousness, increasing labor costs, decreasing purchasing power among the poor, new tastes among millennials, and the rise of “fast casual” dining options, among other market shifts.

For their part, the soda and snack food companies, such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé, have turned to emerging markets to secure profits. And they are doing everything they can to keep their new markets pliable.

The alliances that the snack food and soda industries cultivate today will have grave policy consequences in the future.

Politicians who have benefited from the companies’ largesse will be hard pressed to stiffen regulations limiting the marketing and sale of junk food products.

And such limits are critical at a time when obesity and type 2 diabetes are on the rise among children and the poor in countries such as Mexico and Brazil.

Mexico has become a particularly important staging ground for this new mode of business. There, Coca-Cola has built a strong network of supporters within government, ranging from presidents to senior health-care officials.

PepsiCo went so far in 2007 as to work with the country’s Secretariat of Public Education to create a school exercise program, Vive Saludable Escuela, which won PepsiCo political favor and burnished its public image.

And Nestlé locked in the support of former President Enrique Peña Nieto by providing prepackaged biscuits for his government’s anti-hunger program.

A similar dynamic prevails in Brazil, where Nestlé is a particularly powerful player.

Finally, in India, the Modi government perceives companies such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo as vital to agricultural development. Delhi therefore has little incentive to effectively limit the marketing and sale of these companies’ products.

In fact, Modi’s mandate that all flavored sodas include two percent locally produced fruit ensures that what profits the soda companies also serves the prime minister’s political and economic agenda.

Mexico, Brazil, and India’s governments have done a commendable job of recognizing the need to improve public health. But for efforts to that end to remain vigorous and independent, the governments will have to limit the junk food industry’s relationship with government and civil society.

Source: Fast Food Companies Are Seeking Political Cover in the Developing World

In New York, a diverse, new group works the soil | Reuters


“Farming – for where I grew up – was a very unusual career choice,” said Guenther, 32, who grew up in a New York City suburb and identifies as gender non-binary and uses they/them pronouns. But “everybody belongs on the land in their own way. None of us should feel alienated from it.”

Guenther grows potatoes, squash, wheat and other crops at Quail Hill, the Amagansett, New York, farm they manage on land donated to the Peconic Land Trust, and is part of a growing cadre of gender-diverse college graduates in their 20s and 30s who are changing the face of organic farming.

Source: In New York, a diverse, new group works the soil – Reuters

U.S. coal miners discouraged by black lung meeting with McConnell | Reuters


A group of coal miners afflicted with black lung disease met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday as part of an effort to convince lawmakers to restore a higher excise tax on coal companies to help fund their medical care, but several said the meeting left them discouraged.

McConnell, the Republican leader who represents Kentucky – one of the states that has seen a rebound in the progressive respiratory illness – told them their benefits would be safe but gave no assurances about the excise tax and left without answering questions or offering details, several of the miners who attended the meeting said.

Source: U.S. coal miners discouraged by black lung meeting with McConnell – Reuters

Air Force seeks to integrate existing sensors to help monitor pilot health in the jet aircraft cockpit | Military & Aerospace Electronics

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U.S. Air Force researchers are approaching industry new kinds of cockpit sensors to monitor and alert pilots to problems with their abilities to function and behave normally during flight in high-performance aircraft.

Researchers are looking for companies to develop and demonstrate existing sensor technologies to help keep pilots working and feeling well in the cockpit. They are looking for self-contained and self-powered sensor hardware that is small enough to fit into aircraft cockpits.

Source: sensors cockpit pilot health | Military & Aerospace Electronics