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Gizmorama - December 19, 2016

Good Morning,

Japanese scientists have created a refrigerator that runs on sound waves. The sound waves probably come from those rumbly tummies just outside the aforementioned fridge. You probably thought I was going to make a "running refrigerator" joke, didn't you.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Engineers build refrigerator powered by sound waves --*

HIRATSUKA, Japan - Scientists in Japan have engineered a refrigerator powered by sound waves. The technology isn't new, but the research team's version of the thermoacoustic engine offers two important advantages over its predecessors.

The new and improved multistage traveling wave thermoacoustic engine operates at a lower temperature. It is also smaller and more adaptable.

Thermoacoustic engines can both generate and move heat, as well as convert heat into power, using acoustic waves generated by gas oscillations. The technology uses no moving parts. Though promising, the technology's adaptability is limited, as most thermoacoustic engines operate at temperatures between 400 and 600 degrees Celsius.

The new engine operates at less than 300 degrees Celsius. At 270 degrees, the refrigerator engine generated a low of minus 107.4 degrees Celsius. The engine even produced gas oscillations at 85 degrees, lower than the boiling point of water.

Because more than 85 percent of industrial waste is less than 300 degrees Celsius, the new engine can be adapted for a wide range of applications.

"TA engines do not have moving parts, are easy to maintain, potentially high efficiency, and low cost," Shinya Hasegawa, an engineer at Tokai University, said in a news release. "My goals in this research are to develop TA engines that operates at less than 300 degrees Celsius with more that 30 percent efficiency, and also to demonstrate a refrigerator operating at negative 200 degrees Celsius at these low temperatures."

The secret behind the new engine is a rearrangement of three etched stainless steel mesh regenerators within the closed loop system. Where the acoustic power and gas oscillation regenerators are positioned affects the efficiency and capacity of the system. Researchers found the sweet spot for all three, allowing them to oscillate at lower temperatures and enabling to system to generate more cooling power with less heat input.

Researchers detailed their efforts in a pair of papers published in Applied Thermal Engineering and the Journal of Applied Physics.

Scientists are now working on adapting their technology for real-world applications, with an emphasis on replacing engines most harmful to the environment. The new and improve engine could be used to recycle low-temperature waste heat in factories and automobile engines.

*-- Scientists trap bacteria with optical tractor beam --*

BIELEFELD, Germany - Studying bacterial cells and other cell cultures at high resolutions is now much easier thanks to a team of researchers from Germany.

Scientists at Bielefeld University have found a way to trap bacteria with a laser beam, simplifying the process of imaging cells with powerful microscopes.

Typically, scientists affix cells to a substrate before placing them under the lens of a microscope. The process risks augmenting the cells and tainting the sample -- whether blood or bacteria.

"Our new method enables us to take cells that cannot be anchored on surfaces and then use an optical trap to study them at a very high resolution," Thomas Huser, a professor of physics at Bielefeld, said in a news release. "The cells are held in place by a kind of optical tractor beam."

The new process for microscope imaging uses a beam of infrared laser light. The laser excites internal forces in the cell that keep it trapped within the beam. A second laser can be used to move and turn the trapped sample.

"The principle underlying this laser beam is similar to the concept to be found in the television series 'Star Trek,'" said Huser.

Scientists incorporated the the technique into the superresolution fluorescence microscopy imaging process, allows them to secure high-resolution images of cell samples from a variety of angles.

Researchers described the process in the journal Nature Communications.


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