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TECH BRIEFS

Carbon capture gets boost

An expensive technology that promises to slash carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants could pay for itself by 2030, consultants McKinsey & Co said in a report published Monday.

Swedish-based energy company Vattenfall called for government subsidies to help kick-start carbon capture and storage, saying much-needed investment in low-carbon power will not happen without hefty European Union support.

The European Commission has pinned some of Europe’s ambitious hopes of fighting climate change on capturing greenhouse gas as it is burned and pumping it into empty gas and oil wells under the North Sea.

Music on memory cards

Perhaps not entirely, but SanDisk Corp., four major record labels and retailers Best Buy Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are hoping that albums sold on microSD memory cards will provide an additional stream of sales in the fading music market. The companies unveiled plans Monday to sell memory cards loaded with music in the MP3 format, free of copy protections.

Called “slotMusic,” the new format is meant to address two intertwined trends. Most albums are still sold in a physical format — 449 million were sold on CDs in 2007, while 50 million were sold digitally, according to Nielsen SoundScan — yet CDs are decreasingly popular.

Biotech changes crop mix

Biotechnology that allows more profitable corn and soybean crops to thrive in arid fields is encroaching on traditional wheat acreage across the Great Plains, experts say.

Irrigated corn acres are now common in western Kansas, where just 10 years ago little corn was grown in the region. The latest transgenic varieties may speed the transition. Some of the new varieties of biotech corn can grow with 50 percent less water.

Leica introduces lens

Now, Leica Camera AG, the prestigious but small German maker of high-end cameras and lenses, said it has created a new version of its Noctilux lens with an aperture number of 0.95, which in the inverted math of optics means it gathers 11 percent more light than the old version.The new Leica Noctilux lens is substantially faster than the zoom lenses that come with regular digital cameras, which typically gather just 7 percent as much light as the new Noctilux.

Web inventor backs group

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is helping to start a new foundation with the aim of supporting the Web as a tool that’s accessible to everyone.

Exactly what the World Wide Web Foundation is going to do hasn’t been decided yet, but Berners-Lee pointed to some possible areas of focus, like making the Web better suited to people in emerging countries. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation said it will give the WWW Foundation $5 million in seed money.

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