Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Nanowires help produce hydrogen fuel using sunlight

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2015/07/20/nanowires-help-produce-hydrogen-fuel-using-sunlight/

Toyota's hydrogen-powered Mirai at a fuel station

You ideally want to produce clean hydrogen fuel using clean sources, and Dutch researchers have taken a big step toward making that a practical reality. They've built a solar cell that uses a grid of gallium phosphide nanowires to make hydrogen gas from water. The approach gets a useful yield of about 2.9 percent in lab tests. That may not sound like much, but it's about 10 times more effective than previous techniques and uses 10,000 times less exotic material.

It's still going to take more refinements before this kind of technology is practical. Even hooking up silicon cells to a battery nets a 15 percent yield, for example. If scientists improve their methods, though, you could be driving hydrogen cars whose fuel is eco-friendly at every step, not just when it's in your vehicle.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]

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Source: TUE, Nature


Monday, July 20, 2015

This Sea Sapphire Can Become Transparent in the Blink of an Eye

Source: http://gizmodo.com/this-sea-sapphire-can-become-transparent-in-the-blink-o-1718968498

Now you see it, now you don’t. But the disappearing act performed by this small sea sapphire isn’t magic: it manage to flex its body to reflect frequencies of light that the human eye simply can’t see.



Monday, July 13, 2015

ASUS' slim and sharp ZenPad S tablet arrives in the US

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2015/07/12/asus-zenpad-s-8-reaches-us/

ASUS ZenPad S 8.0

Looks like you didn't have to wait long for ASUS' ZenPad S 8.0 to show up in the US -- Best Buy is now selling the 8-inch Android 5.1 slate for an easy-to-swallow $200. While this isn't the highest-end version (it's carrying 'just' 2GB of RAM and a slower 1.33GHz Atom chip) it's far from a slouch. You're still getting an iPad mini-rivaling 2,048 x 1,536 display, 5-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front cam and 32GB of storage in a frame that's just 0.27 inches thick. You'll have to like ASUS' custom software for the ZenPad S to float your boat, but it's otherwise a solid deal.

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Via: Android Central

Source: Best Buy


Ditching RAM may lead to low-cost supercomputers

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2015/07/12/mit-flash-only-supercomputers/

A German supercomputer

Many servers, supercomputers and other monster systems thrive on high-speed RAM to keep things running smoothly, but this memory is wildly expensive -- and that limits not just the number of nodes in these clusters, but who can use them. MIT researchers may have a much more affordable approach in the future, though. They've built a server network (not shown here) that drops RAM in favor of cheaper and slower flash storage, yet performs just about as well. The key was to get the flash drives themselves (or specifically, their controllers) to pre-process some of the data, instead of making the CPUs do all the hard work. That doesn't completely close the speed gap, but the differences are virtually negligible. In one test, 20 servers with 20TB of flash were about as fast as 40 servers with 10TB of RAM.

This doesn't mean that flash-centric computing will be useful absolutely everywhere. MIT has only demonstrated its technique helping out with database-heavy tasks like ranking web pages. This wouldn't necessarily help much with tasks that depend more on calculations, and the networked design means it this RAM-less approach wouldn't do much to help your home PC. All the same, this could help a lot if it lets your favorite cloud service run faster, or helps cost-conscious scientists devote money toward other projects.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Jens Meyer]

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Source: MIT News


Comcast launches its own cable-free TV with Stream

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2015/07/12/comcast-xfinity-internet-stream/

The latest (and most interesting) entrant to the cord-cutting TV wars is here: Comcast. Tonight the company announced Stream, a service that delivers TV exclusively over the internet (Correction: it is "IP-based managed network" connection, check after the break for why that matters) to phones, tablets and computers -- but now TVs. The big catch? You'll need Comcast internet service to subscribe, and the Stream TV feeds only work while you're at home. It's only available in select areas to start, and will launch in Boston this summer. For $15 a month, subscribers get about a dozen channels, including all broadcast networks and HBO (but not ESPN or any other cable channels, according to the New York Times). It also has access to the usual TV Everywhere cable authenticated-streaming for when you're away from home, plus Comcast's Netflix-like Streampix service for movies.

As for the at-home restriction on TV service, that's because, as a Comcast representative tells Engadget, this is "an IP-based cable service that offers live, on demand and cloud DVR delivered over our managed network in the home." In case you're somehow not familiar with what that means, it translates to this service not using the open internet everyone else uses to reach subscriber's homes, even though it runs through the same wiring and modem over the last mile. Comcast made the same distinction when it launched video on-demand streaming to the Xbox 360 a few years back, and Reed Hastings was not happy with the explanation. Given the current climate around net neutrality, we can't imagine this launch will go over without any controversy, and expect to hear more about that bit soon.

Stream is very much cable TV without the cable box (or TV) -- assuming you have the company's internet service and live in the right area, all you'll need is a phone call to activate it. Unfortunately, it carries a surprisingly long list of restrictions, even for a brand new service. When Sling TV launched, you could get it everywhere, with PlayStation Vue, it came to your TV via consoles. While Stream has a DVR, network TV and HBO, it doesn't have quite enough to make me interested without a hook-up to real TVs or options for popular cable channels, and isn't going available where I live anyway.

Comcast already has an IPTV service it offers through universities, and made earlier efforts to push TV on phones and tablets in-home with its AnyPlay box. With cloud DVR tech in-hand, the company knows what many of us want -- TV service that works anywhere whether at home or away, with recordings, and smaller/cheaper bundles would be nice -- but will continue to play keep-away for now. If you're still interested, you can sign up for more info here.

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Source: Comcast