Tag Archives: technology

Slippery and Slick

Carnivorous pitcher plants are one inspiration for super-hydrophobic surfaces

The integration of engineered hydrophobic surfaces in everyday life is all around us: Teflon cookware in the kitchen, Rain-X in windshield wipers, and NanoDrop at the bench (hint: the sample pedestal coating). Unfortunately, there is much to be desired regarding the attributes of even the best industrially marketed treatments. One major challenge is that many of these surfaces have poor anti-fouling properties, are not optically transparent, and do not repel low-temperature and oily liquids. This technological dearth has broad impacts, from the medical industry to aeronautics. While it may seem like the Gore-Tex on your winter jacket is working just fine, there are a series of demanding applications that require an extra level of resilience to bacterial films. For instance, bacterial infections from medical catheters remain a leading cause of complications for chemotherapy patients due to tubes that provide insufficient protection from bacterial growth.

Last week in Nature,  the Varanasi group at MIT reported a new superhydrophobic material that has the potential to make surfaces drier than ever before. The scientists at MIT were inspired by the microscopic ridges present in the leaves of the the nasturtium plant to develop a robust superhydrophobic mesh that is capable of quickly repelling water and even molten metal. Read on to explore the world of wettability and the remarkable biology that inspire these technologies.

Piper Promotes: Women Who Tech San Francisco Party, May 23, 2012

Women Who TechWomen Who Tech San Francisco is hosting a post-summit cocktail party to celebrate their annual meeting on May 23, 2012. The party is from 6 to 8 pm and is to celebrate women who rock tech and will be held at Change.org (383 Rhode Island Street (at 16th Street), 3rd Floor, San Francisco).

The evening will start with complementary drinks and tasty treats and will include great opportunities to meet some fellow techies. The event is free, but registration is required. For more information, contact Women Who Tech San Francisco.

Every week, Piper will highlight an event or an organization on or near campus that is of interest to the Berkeley Science Review audience.

Technology deployment in the developing world: Myth versus reality

The narrative usually goes something like this: a naïve scientist invents a clever piece of technology designed to improve the quality of life in the developing world, only to be shocked and horrified when it is not wholly embraced by the people it was designed to help. Of course, such characterizations could not be further from the truth. Many scientists, especially those working on technologies for the developing world, take on challenges precisely because of their desire to address human-level complexity. The fact that difficulties arise on occasion comes as neither a surprise nor a disappointment to them. It’s just part of the job.

Sneak preview of BERC’s Electronics Waste Roundtable: an interview with Zoey Herm

Ever wondered what you’re supposed to do with your old electronics once you stop using them? Ever considered how the often toxic materials in your old laptops and cellphone can best be managed? If you’re interested in learning more about electronics waste recycling, head over to the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC) sponsored Electronic Waste Roundtable this Friday, February 17th at 2:30 in Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall. Speakers will include employees of market-drivers in the field, like Dell, and members of policy-oriented organizations, like Electronics TakeBack Coalition.

Last week, I had the chance to talk to Zoey Herm, Berkeley grad student and organizer of this forum, about electronics waste.

Why did you choose to organize a roundtable on electronics waste?

This is a very pressing issue globally in terms of human health and the environment. Specifically the topic was of interest to the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative because there’s a huge vacuum in the market for solutions to this problem. There are a lot of market incentives to work on this problem, which can be pushed by regulations, but also exist on their own. There’s a lot of valuable materials – plastics and metals – in electronics waste which can be recovered for profit.