Daily TIPs: Fins to Wind, Artificial Photosynthesis, Republicans on Facebook, & More

FDA Approves Intel Health Guide

Microprocessor-maker Intel is getting into the high-tech health business: its Health Guide has won approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The device records vital signs and allows for videoconferencing with doctors or nurses in remote locations. Daily Tech says Intel is marketing the device to nursing homes and care centers, and also expects that chronically ill people who live in their own homes might purchase the Guide.

Organic Dyes May Lead to Cheaper Solar Panels

In an effort to make solar cells more affordable, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a set of organic dyes that can be coated onto glass to concentrate sunlight for photovoltaic cells underneath. Technology Review says the dyes help collect sunlight and channel it to the cells, much like a fiberoptic cable directs light. The lead researcher, Marc Baldo, says this technique could lead to solar power that is cheaper than coal.

Whales’ Tails May Produce More Wind Power

Studying the mechanics of the fins and tails of whales and dolphins could lead to better-designed wind turbines, Discovery Channel tells us. Researcher Frank Fish of West Chester University in Pennsylvania has been modeling the aerodynamic properties of fins. He finds that adding bumps to a turbine, like those along a humpback whale’s fin, allows it to capture more wind without stalling.

Nanotubes May Make Artificial Photosynthesis Possible

Scientists would love to be able to emulate what plants do so easily – turn sunlight into chemical energy. Now, New Scientist says, researchers have found that carbon nanotubes can mimic an important step in the process, involving the transport of multiple electrons, that scientists haven’t been able to replicate. Artificial photosynthesis could be used to efficiently produce hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles, and even to remove some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

FCC to Test White-Space Devices

High-tech companies would love to use portions of the electromagnetic spectrum that are set aside for television broadcasts (but not being used) for various mobile communication devices. The Federal Communications Commission has yet to issue regulations for this so-called white space. But according to CNN, the FCC says it will begin testing prototype devices from Microsoft, Motorola, and Philips next week.

GOP Seeks to Build its Platform on Facebook

The Republican Platform Committee has launched a website and a Facebook application to solicit public input on its party platform. TechCrunch points out that this may just be a ploy to collect email addresses and solicit donations, but that if the group is sincere, they could start a real public dialogue. No word on whether their Facebook presence will allow you to hug, tickle, or throw a sheep at John McCain.

IBM Wants to Promote “Smart-Grid” Applications

IBM is in the process of creating communications protocols and data formats for so-called “smart grid” devices, inventions designed to make the public electrical grid more flexible and reliable. For instance, a homeowner may have a device connected to an air conditioner that turns up the temperature setting if power demand on the grid becomes too great. CNET News reports that IBM is hoping a common set of standards will make the creation of such devices easier for startup companies.

Mini Cooper Goes Electric

BMW has announced it will start producing an electric Mini Cooper. Motor Trend reports that testing of the vehicle will take place over the next 12 to 18 months. The automaker has not announced what kind of electric engine the Mini Cooper will use.

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