6 under-the-radar science stories we should cover?

Energy, physics and brain chemistry.

These are the science topics most requested for coverage on The Daily Circuit by scientists and engineers in our Public Insight Network.

We’ve got physicist Brian Cox lined up for February 24. I’ll let you know when we line up a conversation about neuroscience or the possibilities of hydrogen fuel.

Meanwhile, here are 6 lesser-known stories nominated for further examination by PIN members:

1. The use of rare earth elements in electronics. Kent Cavender-Bares of Saint Paul asked, “Will we run out? Will China corner the market?”

2. “Xcel’s experimental installation of a sodium-sulfur battery in southwestern Minnesota — if it works — is a game changer,” wrote Daniel Burbank. “It could potentially eliminate the need to back-up wind generation capacity with, for example, a gas turbine peaking plant.”

turbine.jpg MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

3. “Diatom analysis. You are familiar with scientists coring down through glaciers to examine eons of ice layers and the gas bubbles trapped in them?” asked Steve Woods of Shoreview. “This is the equivalent but takes place in the sediments of lakes. Scientists are (usually) able to pull up a core of lake sediments and analyze the algae species present to estimate the species and abundance of micro-plant life present over the decades. It is a retro-estimate of what the historical water quality REALLY was.”

4. Biomimicry “for finding solutions to engineering and product development problems” captures the imagination of Stephen Thompson of Lakeville.

5. Todd Burlet of Maple Grove said, “I’m fascinated by the “sunshine to petrol” project underway at Sandia National Laboratory . The project uses solar energy to convert CO2 into liquid fuel. How cool is that?”

6. Alex Egan of Minneapolis studies coastal rock pools. “It is a relatively unknown system that has the potential to indicate abiotic changes in the environment based on how ecological communities are impacted,” he wrote.

tidal pool.JPG Photo by drothamel via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License

Stephanie Curtis, social media host