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New self-dusting solar panels

Scientists have discovered a new technology of ‘self-dusting solar panels’ that could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations.

The technology is the one that was developed for space missions to Mars.
In sun-drenched areas where dry weather and winds sweep dust into the air and deposit it onto the surface of solar panel, the grime reduces the amount of light that can enter the business part of the solar panel, decreasing the amount of electricity produced. Clean water tends to be scarce in these areas, making it expensive to clean the solar panels.

The new method involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels.
Sensors monitor dust levels, and when its concentration reaches a critical level, the material is energised, creating an electric charge that repels the dust wave.

Warm habitats boost bird bill size
The evolution of bird bills is linked to climate. Birds with larger beaks are usually found in hot habitats, while birds in colder environments have evolved smaller peckers, according to a new study.

The study led by Dr Matt Symonds of the department of zoology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and Dr Glenn Tattersall of the Department of Biological Sciences at Brock University, Canada, provides evidence that maintaining body temperature in a bird’s natural environment may have shaped the evolution of bird bills.

The size and shape of these distinctive structures are usually explained by their role in feeding and mate attraction. However, previous research shows bird bills have a third, less appreciated function, as organs of heat exchange.According to Dr Tattersall, thermal imaging studies show birds like toucans and geese can lose a large amount of their body heat through their bills.

He said: “Unlike humans they don’t sweat but can use their bills to help reduce their body temperature if they overheat”.“We then wondered whether this function had evolutionary consequences, and sought to compare bill sizes across a whole range of species.”

Safe cars still some distance away
In a bid to make vehicles ‘crash’ safe, researchers have now found a way for the automotive industry to mass-produce a particularly safe class of materials known as thermoplastic fibre composite components.

Highly stressed load-bearing structures and crash components that are designed to buckle on impact help to reinforce the body in order to protect the vehicle‘s occupants in the event of a collision. Automakers have previously constructed these parts from composites using a thermoset (ie infusible) matrix.

But this approach has a number of disadvantages: as well as being difficult to implement efficiently in a mass production environment, it can also be potentially hazardous since this material tends to ‘delaminate’ into sharp-edged splinters in a collision.
A further problem is the fact that thermosets cannot be recycled.

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