August 04, 2017

Breakthroughs in Energy, Health and Data Storage

By Chelsea Follett
Heat and Cold Provide Energy Storage Solution

Alphabet INC, the parent company of Google, is pitching the idea of using molten salt and cold liquid to store renewable energy. Existing solutions for energy storage all have disadvantages, including high price tags and low efficiency. The research lab suggests the thermal-energy system in salt could be durable, flexible and cheap. This system functions by converting electrical power from solar panels or wind turbines into thermal energy, which is then divided and stored in tanks of molten salt or cold liquid. The heat and cold can later be used to generate the wind for electricity production. Academics agree that the proposed system is technically viable. If successful, this system would help renewable energy, which is hindered by its instability and a lack of storage options, to become more cost-effective.

Gene-Editing Could Prevent Diabetes

Researchers from the University of Chicago recently made a medical breakthrough in treating diabetes by the new and highly precise gene-editing technique CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). The research team modified the gene for G1P1, the hormone responsible for stimulating insulin production, to make the hormone’s half-life longer. Then they attached an inducible promoter, which acts as a switch for GLP1 production. The modified gene is inserted into lab-grown skin cells and then transplanted into mice. There have been no significant side effects observed. Although this experiment targets diabetes, such skin transplants could be a potential cure for many diseases associated with genetic defects, such as hemophilia.   

Data Storage Breakthrough Announced

Another technological breakthrough was made in data storage. Sony and IBM just jointly announced “a twenty-fold increase in the areal density of magnetic tape storage.” The demand for high-capacity data storage has sky-rocketed due to recent developments in areas such as the internet of things, big data and cloud computing. Given concerns about cost, resilience, and capacity, magnetic tapes are considered an important archival format. With a combination of technologies from IBM and Sony, the new tapes will be able to hold 330TB of data, and will be commercialized soon.