Photo: Tobias Wheeler
Scientists at Cornell University have made the world's first synthetic tree. Or rather, the process by which trees "drink":
Known as "transpiration," the hydration process appears to require no biological energy. Scientists theorize that as evaporation occurs on the surface of a tree's leaves, the resulting drop in water pressure propels water from the earth and through their bodies. The same principle pulls oil through the wick of a candle.
Cornell University researchers modeled the water-transporting tissue, called "xylem," with fine networks of hydrogel-embedded capillaries. The hydrogel itself had nanometer-scale pores -- the same material is used in contact lenses -- that allowed water to evaporate, creating the necessary pressure differential.
The artificial tree proved capable of transporting water, raising the possibility of applying transpiration mechanisms to the heating systems of buildings or the cooling systems of computers.
Sarcasm aside, this is good work, but the hype about possible applications is idiotic.