The future of furniture might also be the future of food. Or is that the other way around? Designers are increasingly turning to microalgae, which is effectively a “liquid plant,”
For the first time, researchers have found calcium phosphate in the structure of plants – in this case, used to harden the needle-like hairs used to defend against predators.
“The mineral composition of the stinging hairs is very similar to that of human or animal teeth,” says Weigend, who has been studying rock nettles for more than two decades. “This is essentially a composite material, structurally similar to reinforced concrete”, adds Weigend. While the structure of the trichomes are made of the fibrous typical of plant cell walls, they are densely encrusted with tiny crystals of calcium phosphate, making the stinging hairs unusually rigid.
The researchers are not clear as to why these plants have evolved such a unique type of biomineralization; most plants use silica or calcium carbonate as structural biominerals, so why not the rock nettles? “A common reason for any given solutions in evolution is that an organism possesses or lacks a particular metabolic pathway,” says Weigend. But since rock nettles are able metabolize silica, why the calcium phosphate?
“At present we can only speculate about the adaptive reasons for this. But it seems that rock nettles pay back in kind,” muses Weigend, “a tooth for a tooth.”
Researchers at The Ohio State University are developing this new technology that resembles a tree with no leaves and only a few branches. The team is using a tree design because they discovered that tree-like structures made with electromechanical materials can convert random forces like wind or footsteps on a bridge into strong structural vibrations that can then be converted into electricity.
The researchers don’t imagine groves of tall artificial trees placed everywhere, they actually believe this technology is best suited for small scale applications, requiring little power, where other clean energy sources won’t work. One possible early use could be tiny trees powering bridge and building sensors that monitor the integrity of the structures. Today, these types of sensors rely on batteries or being plugged into the grid.
The researchers point out that there are constant vibrations all around us from nature, like wind and seismic activity, and human movements that these trees could turn into electricity.
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The circular, barren patches of land, forming a highly regular pattern over the dry grassland of Namibia, were thought to be the only ones of their kind anywhere in the world. But a new study shows that they are not. Researchers have now discovered the baffling structures in the uninhabited Australian outback too. Investigations carried out there have also provided new evidence that these fairy circles result from the way plants organize themselves in response to water shortage.
“The interesting thing about fairy circles is that they are spread with great regularity and homogeneity, even over vast areas, but they occur only within a narrow rainfall belt” he explains. He believes that this pattern, which resembles the six-sided structure of honeycombs, most probably results from competition for water. He and his co-authors Hezi Yizhaq and Ehud Meron from Ben-Gurion University of Negev in Israel have also confirmed this appraisal with computer simulations. “For a long time, ecologists weren’t convinced that plants in dry areas could organise themselves because the theoretical principles for these processes lie in physics,” says Stephan Getzin and points to the laborious preparatory work undertaken by his two Israeli colleagues. “But it has since become increasingly clear how important this process is.”
“From ancient times the farmers noted that the phases of the moon affect the production of the crops, stimulating the rapid or germination retrasándola, especially in organic farming where plants grow naturally without the use of stimulants chemicals. The influence of the phases of the moon in productivity and the quality of the crops is manifested through the rise or fall in the SAP (food of the plant). The light from the moon, according to the intensity of each stage, intervenes in germination and growth of the plants, due to the fact that the lunar rays have the ability to penetrate through the soil.”
University of Washington Bioengineering Professor Gerald Pollack answers this question, and intrigues us to consider the implications of this finding. Not all water is H2O, a radical departure from what you may have learned from textbooks.