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Engineers Respond to Disaster in Japan

An aerial view of damage to Wakuya, Japan, after March 11 earthquake and tsunami

Last Friday, Japan was hit with a devastating earthquake of 9.0 magnitude. In combination with the following tsunami, the earthquake caused immense damage to northeastern regions of Japan and severely compromised six nuclear power-plant reactors. Recent reports estimate the death toll at over 5,000, with another 9,000 people missing and 2,500 injured. Over 4 million households were left without electricity, and 1.5 million without running water.

Since the tragedy stuck, scientists and engineers have been working around the clock to find and help survivors, as well as to avert potential nuclear meltdowns.

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New Reactor Turns Sunlight into
Hydrogen Fuel

Every hour, the sun beams down more energy than the whole planet consumes in a year. Although solar cell technology has advanced considerably in recent years, many challenges related to reliably capturing and storing the sun’s energy still remain.

Sossina Haile, a professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering at CalTech, is developing a new approach to solar power. Using cerium oxide (or ceria), a metal most commonly found in self-cleaning ovens, Haile and her research team have created a prototype reactor that has the power to transform sunbeams into clean fuel.

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Russia Investing $2 Billion To Clean Up Space Debris

An artistic interpretation of cluttered Earth orbits

Tens of millions of pieces of space debris currently orbit Earth – discarded rocket engines, outdated satellites, and the fragments remaining after explosions and collisions.

All this clutter poses a threat to manned space missions, as even a small piece of debris can seriously damage a spacecraft. And while most debris will burn up in Earth’s  atmosphere, larger objects could fall to the ground intact, threatening lives.

That is why Russia’s space corporation, Energia, is going to invest $2 billion to build a space pod to fly around and knock the junk out of orbit and out of our way.

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Video: NASA | New Eye on the Sun Delivers Stunning First Images

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Video: Nuclear Fusion

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