New Solar Panels Suck Water From Air To Cool Themselves Down

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: Like humans, solar panels don’t work well when overheated. Now, researchers have found a way to make them “sweat” — allowing them to cool themselves and increase their power output. In recent years, researchers have devised materials that can suck water vapor from the air and condense it into liquid water for drinking. Among the best is a gel that strongly absorbs water vapor at night, when the air is cool and humidity is high. The gel — a mix of carbon nanotubes in polymers with a water-attracting calcium chloride salt — causes the vapor to condense into droplets that the gel holds. When heat rises during the day, the gel releases water vapor. If covered by a clear plastic, the released vapor is trapped, condenses back into liquid water, and flows into a storage container.

Peng Wang, an environmental engineer at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and his colleagues thought of another use for the condensed water: coolant for solar panels. So, the researchers pressed a 1-centimeter-thick sheet of the gel against the underside of a standard silicon solar panel. Their idea was that during the day, the gel would pull heat from the solar panel to evaporate water it had pulled out of the air the previous night, releasing the vapor through the bottom of the gel. The evaporating water would cool the solar panel as sweat evaporating from the skin cools us down. The researchers found that the amount of gel they needed depended primarily on the environment’s humidity. In a desert environment with 35% humidity, a 1-square-meter solar panel required 1 kilogram of gel to cool it, whereas a muggy area with 80% humidity required only 0.3 kilograms of gel per square meter of panel. The upshot in either case: The temperature of the water-cooled solar panel dropped by as much as 10C. And the electricity output of the cooled panels increased by an average of 15% and up to 19% in one outdoor test, where the wind likely enhanced the cooling effect, Wang and his colleagues report today in Nature Sustainability.

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Belkin, the Company That Makes iPhone Cables, Pivots To Ventilators

Belkin International, the company that makes iPhone charging cables and home routers, has started making what it calls “low-cost” ventilators at manufacturing plants in Providence, Rhode Island. USA Today reports: These are sub-$200 units aimed for emergencies and less severe cases of COVID-19, compared to more full-featured units that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. “This is one of the most urgent humanitarian crises we have experienced in our lifetimes and the number one responsibility for each of us in this moment is the care and compassion for others in need,” said Chet Pipkin, CEO and founder of Belkin. “It was obvious there’s a critical need for ventilators and not just for the short term,” says Pipkin. “We have no excuse not to get prepared.” It’s looking to make at least 10,000 ventilators.

So how did it learn how to go outside of their zone to medical supplies? “We felt a responsibility to be helpful to others,” he says, but acknowledges that Belkin didn’t have the expertise to design a ventilator. “We reached out to the network,” and found experts to guide the way. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Grainger College of Engineering had the design, and Belkin also consulted with Carle Health of Urbana, Illinois, for what’s being called the FlexVent. It’s under production now, but pending the review and approval of its Emergency Use Authorization application by the Food and Drug Administration. Belkin’s pitch: the FlexVent will be used as a single-use emergency ventilator that can provide constant-flow, pressure-cycled ventilation automatically to patients in respiratory distress.

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Comet Swan Is Visible To the Naked Eye and Passing By Earth Tonight

Comet Swan could deliver on the promise of a rare night sky show that Comet Atlas failed to provide. “Already, Swan could be visible to those with exquisitely dark skies and sharp eyes,” reports CNET. “Others might also be able to spot it with binoculars.” From the report: Astronomer Con Stoitsis said some predictions show the comet continuing to brighten in the coming days. “It should be an ‘obvious’ naked eye target in mid-May,” he said on Twitter. The comet makes its closest pass by Earth on May 13 and comes nearest to the sun on May 27. There’re a number of tools online — TheSkyLive is a great place to start — to help you find Comet Swan in the night sky. And, of course, the comet also has a Twitter account worth following.

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Democrats Try To Ban Internet Shutoffs Until Pandemic Is Over

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A proposed U.S. law would make it illegal for telecom providers to terminate Internet or phone service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was submitted in the Senate today by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “Now — as millions of Americans hunker down, work from home, and engage in remote learning — would be the absolute worst time for Americans to lose a critical utility like Internet service,” Merkley said in an announcement.

Separately, House Democratic leadership today unveiled a $3 trillion relief package that includes at least $4 billion for an “emergency broadband connectivity fund.” That money, if approved, would be given to ISPs that provide discounts to low-income households and people who lose their jobs. Subsidies would be up to $50 a month for most low-income households and up to $75 for households in tribal areas. Another $1.5 billion would be allotted to Wi-Fi hotspots and other telecom equipment for schools and libraries. The relief package also includes a provision that “prohibits telephone and broadband service providers from stopping service to consumers unable to pay during the duration of the emergency,” according to House Democrats.

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US e-Commerce Sales Jump 49 Percent In April, Led By Online Grocery

According to new data from Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, U.S. e-commerce jumped 49% in April, compared to the baseline period in early March before shelter-in-place restrictions went into effect. Online grocery helped drive the increase in sales, with a 110% boost in daily sales between March and April. Meanwhile, electronic sales were up 58% and book sales have doubled. TechCrunch reports: The data comes from Adobe’s index of the digital economy, which analyzes more than one trillion online transactions across 100 million different SKUs. The company works with 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers to gather its data. The numbers indicate that consumers are willing to spend on products that will help them manage the COVID-19 crisis. This includes, in large part, online grocery pickup and delivery.

Meanwhile, the electronics category of online sales saw its first inflation in years. According to Adobe, online electronics prices have been experiencing deflation at a steady rate since 2014, but COVID-19 has led to electronics prices flattening. Computer prices even crept up in April, due to rising demand. Plus, sales of audio mixers, microphones, microphone cables and other audio equipment jumped 459% in April as would-be podcasters and various creatives set up their home studios. The overall electronics category also appears to now be on an upward trajectory.

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Trump Wants California To Let Automaker Tesla Reopen Assembly Plant

U.S President Trump on Tuesday tweeted that Tesla should be allowed to reopen its electric vehicle assembly plant in California, joining CEO Elon Musk’s bid to defy county officials who have ordered it to remain closed. “California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!” Trump wrote on Twitter. Musk tweeted “Thank you!” in response. Reuters reports: At Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, employee parking lots that were deserted on Friday were packed with cars on Tuesday. Trucks could be seen driving in and out of the factory grounds. About a dozen workers, some masked, some not, were seen standing by a red food truck on the factory grounds. At the factory’s outbound logistics parking lot, where only a dozen Tesla cars stood on Friday, hundreds of Tesla vehicles were seen on Tuesday.

A county health official on Friday said the county had asked all manufacturers, including Tesla, to delay operations by at least another week to monitor infection and hospitalization rates. Scott Haggerty, the Alameda County supervisor for the district where Tesla’s factory is located, told the New York Times on Saturday that the county had been working to permit Tesla to resume operations on May 18 – the same day other U.S. automakers have been permitted to resume production in other states.

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Washington Restaurants Will Need To Track Diners’ Info As Part of Reopening Requirements

If you choose to go out to eat at a restaurant in Washington, you will have to give the restaurant your name, phone number and email to facilitate contact tracing. This is just one of the guidelines that restaurants must adopt before resuming dine-in services during “phase two” of Washington’s reopening plan. Eater Seattle reports: As announced previously, dining rooms can reopen at 50 percent capacity in this phase, with no more than five people at a table. But now there are several other strict requirements, including eliminating bar seating, distributing single-use menus, and logging diners’ personal info to facilitate contact tracing, a rigorous method of tracking and monitoring those who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. That last requirement is one that perhaps may generate the most discussion. According to the state’s phase two playbook, restaurants that offer table service must plan to keep a daily log of phone numbers, emails, and arrival times for everybody who comes in to eat. Diners are already used to giving restaurants such details to make a reservation, but Washington’s rules state that all customers must be logged, not just one per party. At a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee addressed some concerns over privacy, saying that the state would have the legal authority to prevent any data collected from restaurants for being used for purposes other than contact tracing (such as advertisements). “We would monitor it, we would audit it,” Inslee said, adding that he’s still working with leaders in the restaurant industry on coming up with a set of protocols that make sense. “It’s very important for us to maintain privacy in this entire endeavor.”

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US Marshals Service Breach Exposed Personal Data of 387,000 Prisoners

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Nextgov: The U.S. Marshals Service suffered a cyberattack that exposed the personal information of approximately 387,000 current and former prisoners at the end of last year, according to an agency official. “The attackers were able to exploit a vulnerability in the system to extract sensitive personally identifiable information on approximately 387,000 individuals,” a Marshals Service spokesperson told Nextgov. The spokesperson was referring to a system called DSNet, which is designed to house and transport prisoners within the agency, the federal courts and the Bureau of Prisons. Information extracted included names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers.

Under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, the data breach qualifies as a “major incident.” Justice and Marshals Service alerted the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, the FBI and Congress, in addition to the affected stakeholders, the spokesperson said, adding “USMS and the JSOC have taken numerous corrective actions to prevent future attacks, including comprehensive code review/correction and testing before returning DSNet to service.” The spokesperson said the affected individuals were only now being notified because of the time it took to gather their relevant information and identity and to line up the necessary assistance services. The notification letter advised the affected individuals their identity could be stolen and referred them to resources to freeze their credit and protect themselves from fraud. ZDNet published a copy of the letter the Marshals Service sent to the affected individuals. TechCrunch’s Zack Whittaker first reported the breach on Friday,

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Facebook Will Pay $52 Million In Settlement With Moderators Who Developed PTSD On the Job

In a landmark acknowledgment of the toll that content moderation takes on its workforce, Facebook has agreed to pay $52 million to current and former moderators to compensate them for mental health issues developed on the job. The Verge reports: In a preliminary settlement filed on Friday in San Mateo Superior Court, the social network agreed to pay damages to American moderators and provide more counseling to them while they work. Each moderator will receive a minimum of $1,000 and will be eligible for additional compensation if they are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or related conditions. The settlement covers 11,250 moderators, and lawyers in the case believe that as many as half of them may be eligible for extra pay related to mental health issues associated with their time working for Facebook, including depression and addiction.

Under the terms of the settlement, every moderator will receive $1,000 that can be spent however they like. But the companies intend for the money to be spent partly on medical treatment, covering the costs associated with seeking a diagnosis related to any mental health issues the moderator may be suffering. The amount of money a moderator will receive beyond the initial $1,000 will depend on their diagnosis. Anyone who is diagnosed with a mental health condition is eligible for an additional $1,500, and people who receive multiple concurrent diagnoses — PTSD and depression, for example — could be eligible for up to $6,000. In addition to payment for treatment, moderators with a qualifying diagnosis will be eligible to submit evidence of other injuries they suffered for their time at Facebook and could receive up to $50,000 in damages. The exact amount of the payout depends on how many members of the class apply for benefits, and it could shrink significantly if the majority of the class is found to be eligible for benefits. In the settlement, Facebook also agreed to roll out changes to its content moderation tools, such as muting audio by default and changing videos to black and white. These tools will be rolled out to 80 percent of moderators by the end of this year and 100 percent of moderators by 2021.

Additionally, “Moderators who view graphic and disturbing content on a daily basis will also get access to weekly, one-on-one coaching sessions with a licensed mental health professional,” the report says. “Workers who are experiencing a mental health crisis will get access to a licensed counselor within 24 hours, and Facebook will also make monthly group therapy sessions available to moderators.” Moderators working in California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida from 2015 until now are covered by this settlement.

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Uber Makes Takeover Approach To Grubhub

phalse phace shares a report from The Wall Street Journal: Uber is seeking to acquire Grubhub in an all-stock deal that would unite two of the biggest players in meal delivery at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has sparked a surge in demand for their services. Uber, which in addition to its flagship ride business operates a big meal-delivery unit known as Uber Eats, earlier this year approached Grubhub with a takeover offer and the companies continue to discuss a possible combination, according to people familiar with the matter. Grubhub recently proposed a deal in which its shareholders would receive 2.15 Uber shares for each Grubhub share, some of the people said.

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