Female Politicians Inspire Young Women

A new study from MIT has concluded that female politicians boosts aspirations, educational achievement of young women. There have been a few international initiatives that look to improve the world by empowering women and now we know that getting more women into politics actually does make the world better!

Based on a survey of roughly 8,000 Indian adolescents and parents, the research paper, appearing this week in Science, notes that having women serve as the leader, or pradhan, of a village council erases the prevailing “gender gap” that tends to work in favor of young men, provided that female politicians remain visible in local government for an extended period of time.

“We think this is due to a role-model effect: Seeing women in charge persuaded parents and teens that women can run things, and increased their ambitions,” says Duflo, who is a co-founder of MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). She adds: “Changing perceptions and giving hope can have an impact on reality.”

Read more here.

Origami Solar Cells from MIT

Those ever smart people at MIT are using origami to model solar cells to make them more efficient. The greater the surface area the more sunlight can be absorbed and used, check out these crazy creations:

Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE), was inspired by the way trees spread their leaves to capture sunlight and wondered how efficient a three-dimensional shape covered in solar cells could be, and what its optimal shape would look like. He worked with a second-year DMSE graduate student, Marco Bernardi, to create a computer program that mimics biological evolution, starting with basic shapes and letting them evolve, changing slightly each time and selecting those that perform best to start the next generation. He found that such systems could produce relatively constant power throughout the day without the need for tracking, and produce significantly more power overall for a given area — for example two and a half times as much as a flat array when the height equals the length and width. He is continuing to work on finding the best shapes and teaming up with Professors Vladimir Bulović and David Perreault (EECS) to build a prototype system. The team believes that solar panels based on this concept could be shipped flat and then unfolded at the site to their complex shapes.

From MIT.

$3 Wound Healing Device Saving Lives in Haiti

A student at MIT has created a device that helps people heal after severe wounds that costs a fraction of what commercial options cost. The device is a portable version of the negative-pressure devices that accelerates wound healing and reduces the frequency that bandages need to be changed. Commercially available devices cost about $100 and require a lot more energy than the MIT designed $3 device.

Negative-pressure devices, which act like a vacuum over the bandaged wound, have become a central part of wound therapy in the United States over the last decade. They speed healing up to threefold, depending on the type of wound, and in some cases eliminate the need for plastic surgery or skin grafts. A number of commercial versions are available in the U.S. and are used to treat burns and chronic wounds such as bed sores or diabetic foot ulcers. While scientists don’t exactly know why this treatment accelerates the healing process, it likely helps by removing some of the fluid and bacteria that accumulates at the injury site and by increasing blood flow to the wound. The pressure itself may also help healing by bringing together the edges of the wound and delivering mechanical pressure, which has been shown to spur cell growth, says Dennis Orgill, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s who was not involved in the project.

Existing devices are often heavy, about five to 10 pounds, and require an energy source to create the vacuum, making them difficult to apply in disaster settings. Texas-based KCI, the leading maker of negative-pressure machines, has a portable version that’s battery powered, but it costs approximately $100 per day to rent. A number of companies are working on even more portable versions, say Orgill.

Keep reading at Technology Review.

Powering Tomorrow With Ancient Plant Technology

Photosynthesis is how plants convert energy from the ball of fire in the sky into useful plant-growing energy. The USA’s Department of Energy is actually looking into how photosynthesis can be used to power our homes and even turn homes into miniature power stations using the power of nature.

According to Nocera, his new system can work at ambient temperatures and pressures, without corrosion in a simple glass of water, even polluted water. “If you need pure water for energy storage, they’ll drink it,” Nocera said. “Use puddle water instead.” In fact, Nocera has been running his prototype on untreated water from the Charles River in Boston. And it’s cheap, not $12,000 per kilowatt like commercial electrolyzers that do the same thing. “That’s not going to help the energy situation for the U.S. or poor people of the world.”

Using the electricity generated by a photovoltaic array five meters by six meters, Nocera claims he can split enough water in less than four hours “to store enough energy for the average American home” for a day, a little more than 30 kilowatt-hours. “We need to stop making big energy systems one a time to service lots of people. We need to do it the old American way of making one small one and then manufacturing that system to give it to the masses.”

Read more at Scientific American

Super Solar Storage to Revolutionize Sustainable Energy

Getting renewable energy is the easy part whereas storing it is the hard part. Battery technology has not kept pace with the green technology field. That is until a team at MIT figure out how to store sweet savoury solar energy efficiently.

Until now, solar power has been a daytime-only energy source, because storing extra solar energy for later use is prohibitively expensive and grossly inefficient. With today’s announcement, MIT researchers have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar energy.

Requiring nothing but abundant, non-toxic natural materials, this discovery could unlock the most potent, carbon-free energy source of all: the sun. “This is the nirvana of what we’ve been talking about for years,” said MIT’s Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the work in the July 31 issue of Science. “Solar power has always been a limited, far-off solution. Now we can seriously think about solar power as unlimited and soon.”

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera’s lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun’s energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

Read more at MIT’s page on the project.

Thanks to Greg!

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