Imagine an aircraft engine that has no moving parts, produces no harmful exhaust and makes no noise. That's what researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have created by adapting a technology previously only used in spacecraft so it can power flight over the Earth.
Ion drives have been used on spacecraft since the 1960s and work by firing out a stream of charged particles that propel the vessel forward. As well as being carbon neutral, they are less likely to go wrong and cheaper to maintain than conventional engines because they have no propellers, turbines or fuel pumps to break down. The only problem was that, in Earth's gravity, the thrust produced by the drive wasn't enough to overcome the weight of the batteries needed to power them. Until now.
The timely new research, published in Nature, paves the way for the possibility of silent drones in the very near future. With further advances in materials and power conversion, silent crewed aircraft and eventually commercial flights could also be on the horizon. In fact, this breakthrough could be the first step in changing how we all fly around the world in the future.
All aircraft engines work by pushing something backwards so that the craft moves forward. Usually this is air, whether cold air driven by electric propellers or hot air fired out by jet engines. Ion propulsion instead sends out charged particles or ions generated in the gap between two electrodes with a high voltage inbetween. The ions interact with the air, creating an ionic wind that is sent backwards, propelling the aircraft forward.
As with propeller-driven solar powered aircraft, ion drive craft are powered by electricity and so don't need to carry fuel, other than batteries filled with charged particles. The new research shows that, with some clever modifications to the battery setup and the way the electrical power is converted, it's possible to reduce the battery weight enough to make this technology fly.
A craft with an ion drive also needs a large front area to generate the ionic wind in the right way. But this would usually make the aircraft heavier, so the researchers had to balance these conflicting limitations. They designed a wingspan that was small enough to reduce risks and make the testing cheaper and easier, while being large enough to use standard remote control components.
The researchers flew ten flights using an aircraft with a 5-metre wingspan, weighing less than 2.5 kilograms. They were able to fly it for up to 9 seconds over a distance of 45 metres at a speed of 5 metres a second. The craft needed around 20 seconds to build up its power and was then launched using a mechanical bungee system.
While this flight time and distance might not seem like much, the researchers point out that they're actually similar to the those of the first flight of aeroplane inventors the Wright Brothers in 1903. Making further advances in materials and power electronics, and optimising the airframe, could enable the craft to fly faster and for longer. It may also be possible to use solar panels to generate the electricity needed to power the ion drive.
One of the big advantages of an ion-powered craft is its near-zero levels of noise. So it's likely the technology will find its first application in silent drones. Its lack of moving parts should make it relatively easy to scale the system down for smaller craft and make it easier to scale up. But bigger craft will also need a bigger increase in power. To build an ion-powered airliner you would need to increased the amount of power relative to the craft's size 300 fold.
But look how far we have come since the Wright Brothers' first flight. The sky may be the limit with this new technology.
Journal reference: Nature
Provided by: The Conversation
By Guest Nicole
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have left hospital after the arrival of their third child, a boy.
The couple's second son, who was born at 11:01 BST, weighing 8lb 7oz, is fifth in line to the throne.
Prince George and Princess Charlotte had visited their brother at the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital, London.
Leaving the hospital Prince William said the couple were very happy, before holding up three fingers and joking he had "thrice the worry now".
"We didn't keep you waiting too long this time," he added.
When someone asked him whether the couple had decided on a name, he said: "You'll find out soon enough."
Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43864933
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Terrorist incident at Manchester Arena
Police shutdown central Manchester, early Tuesday morning, after a suspected explosion at the Manchester Arena killed 19 and injured 50.
Suicide Bomber suspected
The incident is thought to have occurred at 22.35 local time (21.35 GMT), at the end of an Ariana Grande concert as 20,000 + attendees were leaving the premises. Emergency vehicles streamed to the arena and helicopters circled above as police urged people to stay clear of the area.
As we all get more details about this event please post news below as a reply
By Guest Nicole
(CNN)The UK's fertility regulator has given the green light to a treatment that will make it possible for babies to be made from two women and a man. The new advancement in in vitro fertilization, developed by doctors in Newcastle, is intended to prevent children being born with certain fatal genetic diseases.
The first child to be born in the UK through the new method could arrive by the end of 2017.
The procedure will allow the donation of mitochondria, which provides energy for cells, to mothers with mutations within the DNA of their own mitochondria so they do not pass the mutations on to their child.
What are mitochondria?
Mitochondria are small structures found in our cells that generate the cellular energy used to power every part of our bodies.
Mitochondria have their own DNA, which controls only mitochondrial function and energy production.
This is separate from our "nuclear DNA," which makes us who we are and determines appearance and personality.
(Source: Wellcome Trust)
Replacing your mitochondria
Mitochondrial diseases are genetic conditions; about one in 4,300 affected children are estimated to be born with these conditions every year. Mitochondria provide humans with energy and are present in almost every cell within the body.
Known as "mitochondrial donation," the IVF technique involves replacing faulty mitochondria inherited from the mother with the healthy mitochondria of another woman.
Most of a cell's genetic material, or DNA, is contained within the nucleus, but a very small amount (less than 1%) is found in the mitochondria.
This mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from the mother through her eggs.
If the mother's mitochondrial DNA is faulty, it is possible that she may pass on a number of rare but very serious mitochondrial diseases, including muscle weakness, diabetes, heart problems, epilepsy and stroke-like episodes. In serious cases, they can lead to death.
About 1 in 6,500 children are thought to develop a serious mitochondrial disorder, according to Newcastle's Wellcome Trust Centre for Mitochondrial Research, which has been a leading partner in the project.
A historic decision
"Today's historic decision means that parents at very high risk of having a child with a life-threatening mitochondrial disease may soon have the chance of a healthy, genetically related child," said Sally Cheshire, Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority chairwoman. "This is life-changing for those families."
An expert panel reviewed the development, safety and efficacy of these techniques over five years and four reports, she added, saying the authority feels that "now it is the right time to carefully introduce this new treatment in the limited circumstances recommended by the panel."
Moving forward has been approved, but caution is still recommended.
"Although it is tempting to rush ahead with new treatments, the UK approach of testing public opinion, putting the issue to Parliament and carefully monitoring laboratory research has proved to be the most responsible and sustainable of introducing new, cutting-edge treatments into the clinic," Cheshire said. "Such an approach has allowed us to balance innovation with safety, maintaining public trust as we go."
In February 2015, UK lawmakers voted in favor of a law that would allow the pioneering technique using DNA from three people.
The Newcastle team aims to offer treatment for up to 25 women a year affected by mitochondrial disease, but the treatment could be held back if they don't have enough healthy donated eggs.
The UK is probably not the first country in the world to have children born through the three-person technique.
A Jordanian couple and doctors in New York claimed they performed the procedure in Mexico, with the child being born on April 6.
The use of this reproductive technology was originally intended to prevent Leigh syndrome, a severe neurological condition that affects at least one in 40,000 newborns.
The mother in this historic case previously had four pregnancy losses and had given birth to two children, one of whom survived less than a year and another who lived only six years, both due to this syndrome.
For religious reasons, the mother wanted to use a technique that would not require the destruction of a fertilized egg. A team of doctors, led by Dr. John Zhang, founder of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City, went to Mexico to perform the procedure, as it is not licensed in the US.
But the UK may now see many babies being born through the method in the coming years.
"Mitochondrial donation offers a real opportunity to cure a class of potentially devastating inherited conditions and will bring hope to hundreds of affected families in the UK," said Dr. Dagan Wells, associate professor at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at the University of Oxford. "Research teams, such as those of Professors Herbert and Turnbull in Newcastle, have done sterling work to assess safety of methods for replacing defective mitochondria, and their research has provided much reassurance in that regard.
"The HFEA's decision to allow clinics to apply for permission to perform mitochondrial donation finally opens the way to begin using this technology for the benefit of families that have faced much heartbreak and hardship as a result of carrying a mitochondrial disorder."
"This marks a momentous and historic step, and we hope families next year will begin their journey to eradicate these genetic diseases," added Dr. Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society. "Clinics will now need to apply for a license, and the regulator will grant them, taking into account each application extremely carefully."
CNN's Meera Senthilingam contributed to this report.
By Guest Nicole
Crews remain at the Nicholas Street building in Manchester city centre following the blaze in the early hours of Friday
Firefighters outside the building in Chinatown (Photo: Steve Allen)
Firefighters are still at the scene of a devastating Chinatown fire which claimed the lives of two people - believed to be rough sleepers.
Crews remain at the Nicholas Street building in Manchester city centre following the blaze in the early hours of Friday.
A handful of firefighters are working to ensure the fire is completely out.
They doused small pockets of fire overnight - and expect to be at the building for the rest of the day.
Crews - and an aerial appliance - extinguished smoldering embers in the basement of the building on Friday night.
Tragically, two bodies were discovered by fire service search and rescue dogs on the first floor of the five-storey building.
They have not yet been identified, but are thought to have been members of Manchester’s homeless community.
Police confirmed that one line of enquiry is that they had started a fire to keep warm, though the cause of the blaze has not yet been established.
The fire has caused outrage among homeless charities and MPs, who have called for more action to tackle homelessness in the city.
Amanda Croome, manager of Manchester’s Booth Centre, which offers advice and support for homeless people, said she was stunned by the incident and hoped it would prompt urgent action.
MPs blamed the government’s austerity drive for the rocketing number of rough sleepers. Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “We can’t go on with this type of society. This isn’t civilisation.”
The alarm was raised just before 2.15am on Friday.
The building was left devastated by the inferno and the roof caved in.
The blaze has caused severe damage to the building.
Crews were forced to tackled the fire from a distance to avoid falling debris, with fears the structure could collapse.
Council engineers are working with a building inspector as the site has been deemed structurally unsafe.
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 - quoting incident number 146 of 25 November - or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
By Guest Nicole
Solar panels are great. So is architectural conservation. But what should we do when historic buildings want to incorporate cutting edge clean energy technology?
It's probably always going to be a balancing act.
But Business Green reports on an impressive project over in the UK, in which the 1,000 year old Gloucester Cathedral has installed 150 solar panels in an effort to cut its environmental impact. Mypower, the installers, claim it's the oldest building in the UK—and maybe the world—to install a commercial-size solar array.
Of course, cathedrals have one big advantage over many other historic sites: They are really, really tall. And the fact that they are surrounded by ornate buttresses and gargoyles and other fancy architecture means that the solar panels will mostly be hidden from the ground—meaning the cathedral gets to cut its energy costs by a quarter without really compromising its historic, architectural integrity.
Interestingly, cathedrals and other older churches also have another benefit when it comes to going solar. Namely, they were usually built pointing directly from east to west—leaving a huge area of south-facing roof that's ideally placed for maximum solar gain.
Given that the Church of England has declared climate change "a great demon", and has even divested itself from the dirtiest fossil fuels, I suspect we will see many more churches going solar as the costs come down.
This particular atheist is going to be singing the praises of the church if that really does happen.
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