SciTech Roundup 11/14


Capturing CO2 from factories through a different type of columns
The fossil fuel industry has emitted 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2022 alone, and emissions are projected to increase in the coming years. One way of limiting carbon dioxide emissions is to capture them; this process is called post-combustion capture. After combustion, the gases produced rise up through the columns of the power plant. In post-combustion capture, these columns can separate carbon dioxide from the rest of the gases, compressing carbon dioxide into a liquid form and preventing carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon are trying to better optimize the structures inside these columns to ensure the maximum amount of CO2 is transitioned from gas to liquid. They looked at a surface called Schwarz-D, which minimizes the amount of surface while providing strong structural support, and simulated properties of chemical solvents, liquid and gas loads, and contact angle in Schwarz-D packed columns.

Polymers that can self heal: improving sustainability in manufacturing

Polymers are used in everything from plastic bags to clothing to paint to fiberglass. It's relatively durable for its price, but its biggest trade off is that for most products with polymer, every time they are recycled, they diminish in quality.

To mitigate this, manufacturers could instead use polymer materials that last longer. Carnegie Mellon researchers in materials science and engineering and chemistry are investigating a type of material composition that has improved self-healing properties. This material composition is called copolymer brushes, in which polymers with more than two types of monomers are tethered to nanoparticles (also called "hairy particles"). In their paper in "Macromolecules," they describe how these copolymer brushes can also be more easily manipulated to create different properties in the resulting material.


More big tech layoffs: Meta

If you're in the tech industry or near it at all, you've already heard this one: Meta has laid off 11,000 employees, reducing 13 percent of headcount in its biggest company restructuring since Facebook was founded. Meta is also "reducing its office space, moving to desk-sharing for some workers, and extending a hiring freeze through the first quarter of 2023."

This news comes weeks Meta revealed a four percent drop in quarterly revenue, partly due to spending 9.6 billion on achieving CEO Mark Zuckerberg's vision of a metaverse. Horizon Worlds, the virtual reality app that Meta hopes to host the metaverse, has fewer than 200,000 monthly active users. Meta's stock has fallen more than 70 percent this year.

In earlier weeks, Twitter, Google, SnapChat, Salesforce, and Lyft have begun to layoff workers and institute hiring freezes, with more to follow (Amazon?). Overall, the companies cite inflation, but there are other reasons: Snap's stock fell 80% this year, and Twitter's new CEO Elon Musk spent more money than he could afford buying out the company. Tech companies also cite overstaffing during the pandemic, a period when users spent more time online than ever before. Now that social distancing mandates have largely lifted, in-person events are back and online activity is down, leading to less revenue for tech companies.

Meta's shares rose 5.2 percent after the layoffs were announced.

Want to pirate textbooks? Tough luck

As college students, we all operate on a tight wallet, and spending money on an expensive, heavy textbook that you'll only use for a semester does not seem worth it at all. Unfortunately, pirating course textbooks online has just gotten a bit more difficult: last week, the FBI shut down a series of Z-Library domain names. If you visit their main page, you'll see an FBI notice with a seal of the Department of Justice.

While these pirated textbook websites, or "shadow libraries," have existed for years, they recently gained even more attention over TikTok, prompting authors and publishers of The Authors Guild to submit a complaint. “The hashtag #zlibrary on popular social media platform TikTok has 19 million views, in reference to the countless videos posted by college and high school students and others across the world promoting it as the go-to place for free ebooks," they wrote in their complaint.