Ohio State Researchers Capture “Waste Heat” in New Experiment

The same researchers who pioneered the use of a quantum mechanical effect to convert heat into electricity have figured out how to make their technique work in a form more suitable to industry.

Many electrical and mechanical devices, such as car engines, produce heat as a byproduct of their normal operation. It’s called “waste heat,” and its existence is required by the fundamental laws of thermodynamics.

But a growing area of research called solid-state thermoelectrics aims to capture that waste heat inside specially designed materials to generate power and increase overall energy efficiency.

In Nature Communications, engineers from The Ohio State University describe how they used magnetism on a composite of nickel and platinum to amplify the voltage output 10 times or more – not in a thin film, as they had done previously, but in a thicker piece of material that more closely resembles components for future electronic devices.

In this latest advance, they’ve increased the output for a composite of two very common metals, nickel with a sprinkling of platinum, from a few nanovolts to tens or hundreds of nanovolts – a smaller voltage, but in a much simpler device that requires no nanofabrication and can be readily scaled up for industry.

While the composite is not yet part of a real-world device, Researchers are confident the proof-of-principle established by this study will inspire further research that may lead to applications for common waste heat generators, including car and jet engines. The idea is very general, he added, and can be applied to a variety of material combinations, enabling entirely new approaches that don’t require expensive metals like platinum or delicate processing procedures like thin-film growth.

OSU Researchers Get to Bottom of Long Held Belief About Food Cost and Health

Consumers believe healthy food must be more expensive than cheap eats and that higher-priced food is healthier – even when there is no supporting evidence, according to new research.

The results mean not only that marketers can charge more for products that are touted as healthy, but that consumers may not believe that a product is healthy if it doesn’t cost more, researchers say. For example, people in one study thought eye health was a more important issue for them when they were told about an expensive but unfamiliar food ingredient that would protect their vision. If the same ingredient was relatively cheap, people didn’t think the issue it treated – eye health – was as important.

The results appear online in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The study was conducted to examine the lay theory that we have to pay more to eat healthfully. Lay theories are the common-sense explanations people use to understand the world around them, whether they are true or not. Messages consistent with the “healthy = expensive” lay-theory are all around us. One example is the “Whole Paycheck” nickname people have given to Whole Foods, which touts itself as “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store.”

There are certainly categories of food where healthy is more expensive, such as some organic and gluten-free products, researchers stated. But it is not necessarily true all the time. The researchers conducted five related studies, all with different participants. The results all point to the lay-theory of “healthy = expensive” is not only something consumers believe, but act on.

While these results may be concerning for consumers there is a remedy. Consumers need to become scientists themselves, collecting data and making comparisons before drawing conclusions. It makes shopping easier to believe the overarching lay-theory that expensive food must be healthy because it’s expensive. While this kind of circular thinking is a logical fallacy, it quickly puts consumers at ease with their choices. Getting past easy comfort and making informed choices is the best way around this particularly false folk theory.

OSU: More Access to Higher Education for Low-Income Students

The American Talent Initiative, a collaborative of 30 founding colleges and universities, seeks to increase the number of low-income students at up to 270 of America’s top-performing institutions by 50,000 by 2025. The Ohio State University is a founding member of the collaborative.

Each founding institution has agreed to a renewed focus on enrolling, supporting and graduating additional low- and moderate-income students. Importantly, the institutions have also committed to sharing what they learn about making progress toward their goals with one another and with the broader higher education community and public.

Over the next decade, the American Talent Initiative plans to expand to a total of up to 270 schools that consistently graduate at least 70 percent of their students in six years or fewer. To reach the goal of 50,000 additional low- and moderate-income students among those colleges by 2025, the American Talent Initiative hopes to recruit 10,000 by 2020 and 25,000 by 2022.

Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake, an American Talent Initiative Steering Committee member, says the initiative will give thousands of students who believe higher education is beyond their reach the chance to attend the college of their dreams.

Ohio State Researchers Study Prisoner Recidivism

The evolution of how prisoners in substance-abuse programs communicate is a good indicator of whether they’ll return to crime, new research has found. The relationships between prisoners enrolled in therapeutic communities, groups that focus on rehabilitation from drug and alcohol addiction, are key to those programs And the theory behind these efforts rests on the idea that peer interaction will support learning that displaces ingrained (and unhealthy) ways of thinking that stand in the way of people leaving addiction behind.

This study, the first to test that theory, analyzed tens of thousands of written communications collected at four minimum-security facilities in Ohio with programs designed as an alternative to traditional prison time. The more a participant’s language choices changed during rehab, the less likely he was to return to prison, they found. The study was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
The messages exchanged between program participants come in two forms. The first, called “pushups,” are congratulatory notes to a peer – something like, “Good job talking about your triggers in group today, man.” The second, called “pull-ups,” are meant to steer a fellow prisoner toward better choices – something like, “Hey brother, next time try talking to me instead of getting into a fight.”

Researchers examined how these communications changed for each of 2,342 men included in their study. The more their word combinations shifted, the greater the chance the men didn’t return to prison. In cases where the inmates did return, those who showed the least change in how they thought and wrote tended to return to prison most quickly.

Understanding – and being able to measure – changes linked to reduced rates of repeat incarceration could eventually help program directors refine how they approach different participants, the researchers said.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.