EARTH COULD GET POWER FROM THE MOON
According to a Houston physicist, the Earth could say goodbye to fossil fuels and get all of the energy it needs in the 21st century from the moon. In the April/May issue of The Industrial Physicist, David Criswell proposes a Lunar Solar Power (LSP) System, using arrays of solar cells on the lunar surface to beam energy back to Earth. Criswell suggests that harnessing just 1 percent of the moon's 13,000 Terrawatts of solar power and directing it toward Earth could replace fossil fuel power plants on Earth. The LSP system consists of 20-40 lunar power bases, situated on the eastern and western edges of the moon. Each power base would have a series of solar cells to collect energy from the sun, which is sent over buried electric wires to microwave generators that convert the solar electricity to microwaves, Criswell says. "The generators then send the energy to screens that reflect the microwave beams toward Earth, where they are received by arrays of special antennas strategically placed about the globe," he says. "Each antenna converts the microwave power to electricity that is fed into the local power grid." However, the system depends on some human occupation of the moon to build and run the lunar bases, adds Criswell.
NANOTUBE EPOXY THREE TIMES HARDER, HEAT RESISTANT
Ever since carbon nanotubes debuted a decade ago, scientists have touted the strength attainable by ordinary materials reinforced with these strands of pure carbon. Subsequent studies have added superior heat-conducting properties to the futuristic fibers' portfolio of benefits. This longstanding promise of superfortified heat-conducting materials has become a reality, according to University of Pennsylvania scientists. Alan T. "Charlie" Johnson has determined that adding a relatively small number of carbon nanotubes to epoxy yields a compound three-and-a-half times as hard and far better at heat conductance. The researchers report their successful tinkering with the commonplace adhesive in the journal Applied Physics Letters. Johnson's team created a composite of up to 95 percent common epoxy mixed with up to 5 percent carbon nanotubes -- filaments of carbon less than one-ten-thousandth the width of a human hair. "These findings add considerably to carbon nanotubes' luster as possible additives to a variety of materials," says Johnson.
WEED KILLER DEMASCULINIZES FROGS
The nation's top-selling weed killer, atrazine, disrupts the sexual development of frogs at concentrations 30 times lower than levels allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, endocrinologist Tyron B. Hayes says the findings raise concerns about heavy use of the herbicide on corn, soybeans and other crops. The researchers find that atropine at levels often found in the environment demasculinizes tadpoles and turns them into hermaphrodites -- creatures with both male and female sexual characteristics. The findings come at a time when the EPA is re-evaluating allowable levels of atrazine in drinking water, which stand today at 3 parts per billion (ppb), and four-day average exposures to 12 ppb. Hayes found hermaphroditism in frogs at levels as low as 0.1 ppb. Even with today's limits, levels of 40 ppb atrazine have been measured in rain and spring water in parts of the Midwest, while atrazine in agricultural runoff can be present at several parts per million, says Hayes. The herbicide also lowers levels of the male hormone testosterone in sexually mature male frogs by a factor of 10.
OZONE GOOD FOR SEAFOOD PRESERVATION
Researchers in a North Carolina Sea Grant have found a new use for ozone -- enhancing seafood freshness. Scientists at the North Carolina State University Seafood Laboratory found that ozone reduces the population of common spoilage bacteria in seafood processing facilities. "We found that treating raw fish as well as processing equipment with ozone greatly reduced the bacteria that can spoil seafood," says Barry Nash, of North Carolina Sea Grant. During the study, researchers also found that ozone seemed to improve the shelf life of uncooked fish while not impacting the appearance, color, or aroma of the treated fresh fish. In addition, ozone research showed that by treating the air and water used in the processing plants, bacterial cross-contamination in the workplace environment was reduced. Robb Mairs, general manager of Hanover Sea Products, finds the results promising for dealers. "This will result in increased profitability in the seafood processing industry," says Mairs. Future studies will look at incorporating ozone in ice that is used to pack fresh fish.
(For more information, about MOON, call 301 209-3088; about EPOXY, call 215 573-6604; about FROGS, call 510 643-6998; about OZONE, call 252 222-6337.)