Looking Back to Move Ahead
It's sometimes said that in order to move ahead, it’s important to look back. In this edition of the Engineering360 news brief, we'll look at a few examples where drawing inspiration from the past is broadening the horizon of the future.
Consumer Technology Is Big. CES Is the Biggest.
CES 2018, the consumer technology show which is the largest hands-on event of its kind, is set to run from Jan. 9-12 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hosted by the Consumer Technology Association, CES has been a proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for more than 50 years. Everything from the first VCR to innovations in 3D printing and wearable technologies has debuted at the trade show, which this year will host more than 170,000 attendees from 150 countries. We'll also have one of our writers there for a close-up and personal look at some of the most interesting demonstrations, so watch our sister site, Electronics360.com, for updates. Learn more.
Ancient Gilding Technique Inspires Modern-Day Twist.
While CES's half-century of history is impressive, scientists at Johns Hopkins went back many more centuries for inspiration on improving fuel cells for electric cars. The technique known as gilding, or covering inexpensive metals with a thin gleaming layer of a precious metal like gold, dates back at least as far as Egyptian artists in the time of King Tut. In a modern-day twist, researchers have applied a one-nanometer thick coating of platinum to a cobalt core. Platinum can be used as a catalyst for fuel-cell electric cars, but is expensive and rare so its wide-scale use has been impractical. The cobalt-platinum nanoparticles used in the new study not only reduced the usage of platinum — they also performed almost 10 times better than platinum alone. Learn more.
We're (Probably) Not Alone.
Finally, going back much further in time, microorganism fossils found in ancient rock from Western Australia give reason to believe in the existence of life on other planets. A new study suggests that primitive life was not difficult to form 3.5 billion years ago — despite the fact that the surface of the planet at the time had frequent volcanic eruptions and almost no oxygen. Conditions that would have supported the photosynthesizing and methane-producing organisms identified in the study exist today in other areas of our galaxy, like the surface of the planet Mars, and on Saturn's moon, Titan. Learn more.