We are a small sci-edu startup Sciteen, that improves and invents educational and scientific methodologies. In our free time, we take part in other projects. This year, we prepared TOP12 crossdisciplanary scientific discoveries made in 2019. Main fields of our top are chemistry, biology, physics, engineering.
We’re looking forward to organize a lectorium for scholars and students with some of the authors invited as video guests. They made great breakouts this year, and it’s my pleasure to introduce you to their discoveries.
Solar panels and nanotech
Currently, the highest value of the efficiency of solar cells and modules based on silicon is 25%. Scientists from the University of Rice (USA) managed to convert heat into light, due to certain orientation of inserted nanotubes, which will allow to increase efficiency up to 80%. Researchers from the Royal Institute of Technology KTH (Sweden), in turn, have also found a way to use nanomaterials to convert infrared light to energy.
Now you see reaction
Chemical reactions are quite fleeting processes. Researchers at Harvard University (USA) were able to create conditions close to absolute zero and collide potassium and rubidium atoms. As a result, scientists were able to observe all stages of the reaction. A little earlier, scientists at University of Tokyo (Japan) proposed a method for studying the course of chemical reactions by fixing the observed molecule at the end of a nanotube, which also made it possible to follow the progress of a chemical reaction.
Primodial soup 2.0
The year 2019 has become rich in the origin-of-life research. Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan) and University of Malaysia concluded that much larger number of molecules, that was supposed, was present before life appeared on Earth. A chimeric synthesis scheme from primordial soup was proposed, ribose was found in asteroids, and it was suggested that life originated in small ponds and reservoirs, rather than in the ocean, as previously was thought.
Accelarate reactions in thousand times
A team of scientists from University of Minnesota (USA) and University of Massachusetts (USA) has discovered a new technology that can potentially accelerate chemical reactions up to 10,000 times faster. This became possible due to the resonance obtained in the process of oscillating catalyst, when the wave frequency and the natural reaction frequency coincide. In this case, an increase in the rate of chemical synthesis can lead to a decrease in the cost of chemical processes used in the production of plastics, fertilizers, fuels, etc.
Refuel cars with plastic
According to the United Nations, we produce over 300 million tons of plastic waste per year. Many different laboratories are looking for a rational approach to solve this problem. Researchers at Purdue University suggested an unusual approach to plastic post-processing, turning it into fuel. To achieve this, they came up with a new chemical conversion process that can convert more than 90 percent of polyolefin waste into high-quality gasoline or diesel.
Engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) have developed a device that can absorb CO2 at a content of 400 ppm. Besides, scientists at Australian Royal Institute of Technology figured out a method to restore carbon dioxide to solid carbon particles at room temperature. Finally, researchers at Rice University (USA) obtained formic acid from carbon dioxide using a bismuth-based catalyst. And that’s even without Greta Thunberg!
How to get infrared vision?
A science team led by Tian Xue of University of Science and Technology of China and Gang Khan of University of Massachusetts Medical School changed the vision of mice so that they can see near infrared light (NIR) while maintaining their natural ability to see normal light. This was accomplished by injecting special nanoparticles into their eyes. The effect lasted about 10 weeks without any serious side effects.
The new allotropic modification of carbon
A research team from Oxford University (UK) and IBM Research Lab in Zurich (Switzerland) were able to produce a thermodynamically stable 18-membered carbon ring. There is no information on properties of the new compound published yet, but studying them can lead to surprising discoveries — previously obtained fullerene and graphene honored their discoverers with Nobel Prizes in 1996 and 2010, respectively.
Americium and plutonium
Scientists at the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory and University of Leicester (UK) were the first to receive electricity from americium, a by-product of the decay of plutonium, which itself is used as nuclear fuel. In addition scientists at Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf happened to discover a new stable form of plutonium.
Superconductors getting closer
A scientific group of scientists from Max Planck Institute (Germany), Laboratory of High Magnetic Fields (USA), University of Chicago (USA), Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences of Poland, Institute of Solid State Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences received a superconductor at a record-high temperature of -23 °C with 1.7 million atmospheres. It is possibly too early to speak about practical room superconductivity, but the obtained data confirm the theory of high-temperature superconductivity and crystal structure of the compound.
The thinnest gold
Researchers at University of Leeds (UK) for the first time received a layer of gold with a thickness of 2 atoms — 0.47 nanometers. Potentially such gold can be used as catalysts, possible replacement for nanoparticles, to create artificial enzymes, in electronics, etc. This study paves the way for ultrathin materials that don’t have a layered structure.
Tooth enamel restoration
Scientists from Zhejiang University (China) have developed a method for restoring tooth enamel through growing crystals on the original tooth surface. The thickness of the updated enamel was only 0.0027 millimeters, which, from a practical point of view, is completely insufficient. However, even with such thickness, the mechanical strength of the enamel is restored and its friction coefficient decreases.
Thanks, all. That’s our first post on Medium. We’re just arising.