Scientific discoveries this week: 4/21/14

Evanston, Illinois – Northwestern University scientists have discovered the material that is the best at converting waste heat into electricity. An interdisciplinary team, led by inorganic chemist Dr. Mercouri Kanatzidis, has found that the crystal form of tin selenide conducts heat so poorly that it is the most efficient thermoelectric material discovered. Tin selenide has a ZT metric (a ratio of electrical conductivity and thermoelectric power to thermal conductivity) 2.6. The group responsible for the discovery point to countless commercial uses for the information due to two third of energy input being lost to waste heat on average.

Auckland, New Zealand – By recreating the setting from the Aesop’s Fable story “The Crow and the Pitcher,” researchers from the University of Auckland have determined that corvids determined the causal relationship of the situation as well as 5-7 year olds. The crows were presented with tubes half filled with water and a piece of meat as well as small rocks and objects of the same appearance that would affect water level differently. The crows were able to determine what needed to be dropped in to get the meat, as well as variants of the experiment seeing if the crows could determine whether they could see water level rising faster with a wide or narrow base.

Nanjing, China – Researchers at the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics have discovered that dragging saltwater over a piece of graphene can generate electricity. The process generates a voltage charge by the electron distribution becoming steadily unbalanced from an even state at the top of the graphene to an unbalanced one at the bottom. The initial testing of a single drop of seawater generated 30mV. Further testing shows that increasing the amount of water or increasing the velocity at which the water is dragged along graphene both increase the voltage, which means that the process is scalable.

Marlborough, MA – Researchers from the biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology have successfully generated stem cells from adults. The process is the same as the cloning process that made Dolly the sheep in 1996. An human egg was stripped of its DNA and had the DNA of a donor inserted in, resulting in a hybrid capable of dividing. The embryo then has stem cells removed and is treated with numerous agents to develop into specific types of cells. The groups research also points to the largest determiner of working nuclear transfer is the quality of the donor eggs.

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