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The week in tech: Can printed solar panels power a Tesla?

Here's what making news in the world of science and technology, including a collaboration between IISc and Isro to develop Martian space bricks

University of Newcastle Centre for Organic Electronics facility manager and project manager, Charge Around Australia, Ben Vaughan, University of Newcastle research associate Matthew Bergin, Charge Around Australia project lead Paul Dastoor and chief designer Michael Dickinson. (REUTERS)

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In August 2020, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) published the results of a sustainable process for making brick-like structures that could be used to assemble habitats on the Moon. Earlier this week, working in tandem with the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro), scientists at IISc developed a similar method to build bricks with Martian soil, using bacteria and urea.

More on this and other developments that made news in the world of science and technology this week.

Can printed solar panels power a Tesla?

In Australia, scientists are testing printed solar panels to power a Tesla vehicle for a 15,100-km journey, which will begin in September. According to a Reuters report, the 'Charge Around Australia’ project will power a Tesla electric car with 18 of the team's printed plastic solar panels – each of them 59 feet long – rolling them out beside the vehicle to soak up sunlight when it needs a charge. Paul Dastoor, the inventor of the printed solar panels, said the University of Newcastle team would be testing not only the endurance of the panels but their potential performance for other applications – like using them in space. Printed solar is a lightweight, laminated PET plastic that can be made at a cost of less than $10 a square metre. The panels are made on a commercial printer originally used for printing wine labels, the Reuters report adds.

These ‘space bricks’ can be used to construct building-like structures on Mars.
These ‘space bricks’ can be used to construct building-like structures on Mars. (Nitin Gupta, PhD student, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IISc)

Scientists at IISc, Isro make Martian ‘space bricks’

Working In collaboration with the Isro, a team of researchers from (IISc has developed a sustainable method for making bricks out of Martian soil, using bacteria and urea. These “space bricks” can be used to construct building-like structures on Mars that could facilitate human settlements on the planet in the future. The same research group had previously worked on making bricks out of lunar soil (simulant), using a similar method. The method for making these Martian space bricks was published in a study in the PLOS One journal earlier this month. A slurry is first created by mixing Martian soil (simulant) with guar gum, a bacterium called Sporosarcina pasteurii, urea and nickel chloride.

This slurry can be poured into moulds of any desired shape, and over a few days the bacteria convert the urea into crystals of calcium carbonate, an IISc news release explains. These crystals, along with biopolymers secreted by the microbes, act as cement holding the soil particles together. An advantage of this method – the release explains – is the reduced porosity of the bricks, which has been a problem with other methods used to consolidate Martian soil into bricks.

FILE PHOTO: The facade of a Google office is seen in New York City.
FILE PHOTO: The facade of a Google office is seen in New York City. (REUTERS)

‘Zero-Day’ hacks hit a new record in 2021

The pandemic years have seen an exponential rise in cybercrime and massive ransomware attacks across the world. But now researchers from Alphabet Inc’s Google have identified another threat: a record number of “zero-day” exploits in 2021. A zero-day exploit is a previously unknown bug which leaves software vendors exactly zero days to secure it. That makes the technology in question particularly valuable to hackers -- and a nightmare for cybersecurity professionals, a Bloomberg report explains.

Hackers exploited a total of 58 zero-day flaws impacting major software providers in 2021, according to a report published Tuesday by Google’s Project Zero, a team of elite bug hunters. That compares to 25 flaws in 2020 and 21 in 2019, the report adds.

Earlier this week, HP Inc announced the launch of its Pavilion laptops powered by 12th Gen Intel Core processors. Seen here is the HP Pavilion 15 in the Fog Blue colour variant.
Earlier this week, HP Inc announced the launch of its Pavilion laptops powered by 12th Gen Intel Core processors. Seen here is the HP Pavilion 15 in the Fog Blue colour variant. (HP Inc)

HP unveils its new series of Pavilion laptops

Earlier this week, HP Inc announced the launch of its Pavilion laptops powered by 12th Gen Intel Core processors for improved performance. The all-new Pavilion series – which consists of the HP Pavilion 15, HP Pavilion 14, and HP Pavilion x360 – is designed with the environment in mind, with an all-metal laptop built that contains ocean-bound plastics and recycled aluminum. Additionally, the Pavilion series also aims to eliminate over 10,000 kg of plastic bubble wrap with its new ‘Green Box’ Initiative. The Pavilion 15 is also equipped with an ‘EyeSafe’ certified display, designed in collaboration with doctors to reduce eye strain for users. It is available in three colours – Warm Gold, Natural Silver, and Fog Blue – at a starting price of 65,999.

– Compiled by Nitin Sreedhar

Also read: The week in tech: Mercedes-Benz EV breaks 1,000-km barrier

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