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Making the Defroster Obsolete
Today’s anti-fog glass treatments all have one thing in common: Coatings must be constantly reapplied because over time, they wash away. However, researchers at Université Laval (ulaval.ca) have developed an anti-fog compound that’s permanent. Their compound consists of a polyvinyl alcohol that prevents water vapor from condensing into fine droplets to create fog on glass. But they found that applying four successive layers of molecules to the glass application before adding the polyvinyl locks the coating into place. The result is a thin, secure and transparent multilayered treatment that doesn’t alter any properties of the glass it’s being applied to.

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Converting Exhaust Heat to Electricity
Although thermoelectric materials, which convert heat to electricity, have been around since the early 1800s, they’ve yet to gain traction in the automotive market. That’s because they have a low conversion efficiency: wrap one of the materials around an exhaust pipe to reclaim the energy and the conversion rate is only on the order of 5% efficiency. However, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory (ameslab.gov) have developed a material that significantly boosts this efficiency.

Tellurium, antimony, germanium and silver make up a thermoelectric material known as “TAGS.” Researchers found that adding just 1% of a rare earth element like cerium or ytterbium was enough to alter its mechanisms to increase conversion efficiency by 25% compared to conventional thermoelectrics.

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Behold the Power of the Human Mind
The autonomous vehicle of the future might be here sooner rather than later. That’s the thinking at the Freie Universität Berlin AutoNOMOS innovation labs (autonomos.inf.fu-berlin.de), where researchers have developed a system that allows drivers to steer a car using nothing but their minds. They call it “BrainDriver.”

Using sensors that record electroencephalograms (EEGs), or brain waves, Freie scientists are able to determine bioelectrical wave patterns for control commands like “left,” “right,” “accelerate,” and “brake” in test subjects. A special interface communicates this data to the vehicle so it can be controlled via thought.

Initial tests have been successful.

Mind control: Scientists at the Freie Universität Berlin AutoNOMOS innovation labs have developed a system that allows drivers to steer a car with their thoughts.

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Fast Butanol Production with “Electrodeionization”
Chemical engineers at the University of Arkansas (uark.edu) have developed a more efficient means of converting algae to butanol, which can be used as a replacement for gasoline. Their process—“Electrodeionization”—begins after the algae is harvested and carbohydrates are extracted from its plant cells. But in order to turn these sugars into fuel, they must first be converted into organic acids. The Electrodeionization process uses a special membrane to rapidly separate acids as they’re being electrically charged, helping to isolate the butyric acid faster than conventional conversion methods.

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