Scientists have created a one-step process for producing highly efficient materials that let the maximum amount of sunlight reach a solar cell - by finding a simple way to etch nanoscale spikes into silicon that allows more than 99 percent of sunlight to reach the cells' active elements, where it can be turned into electricity.

The more light absorbed by a solar panel's active elements, the more power it will produce. But the light has to get there. Coatings in current use that protect the active elements let most light pass but reflect some as well.

Various strategies have cut reflectance down to about 6 percent but the anti-reflection is limited to a specific range of light, incident angle and wavelength.

An imbalance of female sex hormones caused by vegetarian foods like soy may be contributing to high levels of male obesity, according to a recent paper.

Glen Tickle, a comedian and Senior Editor at Geekosystem, recently received a lovely gift: a note card with a recipe for a chemical-free weedkiller.

A note card recipe! How grandmotherly!

Except there is nothing chemical-free about it. And Dawn dishwashing liquid was nothing my grandmother ever used, when it came out it was so quasi-futuristic and chemical-company new that it might as well have had a platinum blonde in a shiny costume for its advertisements:

Agricultural science has made magnificent strides in the last few decades. Where once was rampant concern about mass starvation and food riots, farmers in developed nations are now producing more food on more land than once thought possible.

But the quest to use even fewer pesticides continues. Products need to protect plants against fungal and insect attack but the goal is to do that with fewer negative effects on the environment. Researchers are working to improve plant protection and one strategy is optimizing the interaction between the plant's barrier, plant protection products and adjuvants that are added to increase the effect of plant protection. 

Conventional touchscreens often use coatings made of indium tin oxide (ITO) which are  brittle, may shatter and increasingly costly to manufacture but polymer scientists have developed a transparent electrode that could make displays shatterproof.

In a recent paper, they demonstrated how a transparent layer of electrodes on a polymer surface could be extraordinarily tough and flexible, withstanding repeated scotch tape peeling and bending tests.  

The nation's sewer system is aging and that means it is also wearing out with the risk of broken pipes leaking raw sewage into streets and living rooms. 

Essential oils have boomed in popularity as alternatives for synthetic cleaning products, anti-mosquito sprays and even medicines.

Why not use them to preserve food in a way that will appeal to the natural medicine crowd? 

Essential oils have been used therapeutically for centuries, mostly for mood altering and also for preservation. Today, they are being studied by tobacco companies, the cosmetics industry and, of course, food chemists. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports the development of new edible films containing oils from clove and oregano that preserve bread longer than commercial additives.

If you visit the best noodle houses in Asia, they will happily tell you their secret: The amino acid glutamate, boiled from dried seaweed or fermented soy, or gotten from a can, where it has been stabilized with salt and given the name monosodium glutamate (MSG). 

MSG is safe but some epidemiological and animal model studies have linked it to obesity and disorders associated with metabolic syndrome, including progressive liver disease. Other studies have disputed that.

Melanin — and specifically, the form called eumelanin — is the primary pigment that gives humans the coloring of their skin, hair, and eyes. It protects the body from the hazards of ultraviolet and other radiation that can damage cells and lead to skin cancer, but the exact reason why the compound is so effective at blocking such a broad spectrum of sunlight has remained something of a mystery.

A new analysis of ancient Jian wares reveals that the distinctive pottery contains an unexpected and highly unusual form of iron oxide - a rare compound called epsilon-phase iron oxide which was only recently discovered and characterized by scientists and so far has been extremely difficult to create with modern techniques.

Understanding 1,000 year old synthesis conditions used by Chinese potters could lead to an easier, more reliable synthesis of epsilon-phase iron oxide, enabling better, cheaper magnetic materials - including those used for data storage.