Category: The Daily Telegraph

Nano-agents that strip for action

Nano-agentsNanotechnology has invaded the fuel tank. But forget Prince Charles’s “grey goo” and science fiction tales of rampaging swarms of nano-robots. This invader is a harmless diesel fuel additive, and just a teaspoon in your tank can not only increase your fuel economy by up to 10 per cent, but significantly cut harmful exhaust emissions.

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How nanocubes can run your laptop

nanocubes

Dr Who’s TARDIS may not have been quite so far-fetched an idea after all. A canister¬†filled with new ‘nanocubes’ is able to hold several times more gas than an empty one. These crystals were developed by scientists working for chemical giant BASF, and are fantastically porous. Just a thimbleful has the surface area of a football pitch. What’s more, they are formed in a reaction so simple it could be done in a school chemistry lab. The crystals represent part of the company’s commitment to the emerging field of nanotechnology – materials on the scale of a billionth of a meter. In the case of their nanocubes, it is only the pores that are nano-scale – the crystals themselves are the size of salt grains.

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The Cuttlefish makes a killing with colour

cuttlefishCuttlefish have an extraordinary, and almost instantaneous, control over their appearance. They can produce hundreds of distinct patterns, which they use for camouflaging, courting mates or startling predators. One dynamic pattern, where thick black and white bands flow rapidly over the skin of the cuttlefish as it near its prey, is somewhat of a mystery. Why, just as the cuttlefish approaches an unsuspecting target, should it switch from camouflage to a highly conspicuous display?

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The Illusion of Danger

The sleek animal glides effortlessly above the ground. The skin of her bullet-shaped body can smoothly change colour and pattern to match the surroundings, providing an almost perfect camouflage. The animal is on the hunt, and scans ahead with her acute vision. She spies her prey in the murky distance and banks gently towards it. As she approaches, the hunter slows and then hovers, the skirt-like fin along her flanks rippling gently to provide lift. The design on her back morphs into an all-together different pattern, this one a vivid, dynamic display. The whole animal appears to be pulsating as thick black and white stripes race across her surface, from the base of her body to the tip of her tentacles. The predator carefully edges nearer to its quarry and then suddenly jets forward, her tentacles exploding outwards to envelop the hapless prey in their clutches. It is quickly dragged in towards the beak, which crushes through the prey’s exoskeleton and gulps down its flesh. After this burst of ferocity the hunter switches back into perfect camouflage, and slips away unseen.

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