Scientists just created green solar cells – and they’re working on white, red and additional colors

August 17, 2017 by  
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Do you love solar panels , but hate the color blue? You’re in luck – researchers in the Netherlands have developed a process for making conventional solar panels bright green, and they’re working on developing other colors as well. By making the panels more appealing, they hope to entice more people and businesses to invest in clean energy. Researchers at AMOLF devised a method of imprinting solar panels with silicon nanopatterns that make them appear green. Though the process decreases the efficiency by 10 percent, it’s considered to be an acceptable trade-off if the panels are installed on more buildings. Said Verena Neder, lead author of the paper and researcher at AMOLF, “The black appearance of the [conventional] solar panels is not attractive for many people and a reason to not put solar panels on their rooftop. Making solar cells colored makes it possible to integrate them in an architectural design of houses and full cities, but also to merge them in the landscape.” CleanTechnica reports that to turn the panels green , researchers “use soft imprint lithography to apply a dense array of silicon nanotubes onto the surface of solar cells.” At approximately 100 nanometers wide, each nanotube is carefully shaped to scatter a certain wavelength of light. The cells appear green to observers, and the color is constant regardless of where one is standing. “The structure we made is not very sensitive to the angle of observation, so even if you look at it from a wide angle, it still appears green,” said Neder. Related: Revolutionary glass building blocks generate their own solar energy Because the color can be adjusted by altering the geometry of the nanotubes , the researchers have started planning imprints that create red and blue solar colors. After the three primary colors of light are developed, they will be able to create any color — including white. “You have to combine different nanoparticles, and if they get very close to each other they can interact and that will affect the color,” said Albert Polman, a scientific group leader at AMOLF. “Going to white is a really big step.” The technology could make it possible to create tandem solar cells which are stacked in layers. Each layer would be fine tuned to absorb certain portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Theoretically, this could result in sunlight conversion efficiencies of 30 percent more. Considering commercially available solar cells are about 20 percent efficient, this could be a game-changer for the renewable energy industry. Affirmed Neder, “The new method to change the color of the panels is not only easy to apply but also attractive as an architectural design element and has the potential to widen their use.” + AIP Applied Physics Letters + AMOLF Via Clean Technica Images via Pixabay and Depositphotos

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Scientists just created green solar cells – and they’re working on white, red and additional colors

Inexpensive new battery generates power with just a drop of saliva

August 10, 2017 by  
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In addition to aiding digestion, it turns out saliva can also power batteries. Researchers at Binghamton University discovered this while inventing a small, paper-based battery that generates energy when mixed with a drop of saliva. The batteries, which are more like tiny microbial fuel cells, are inexpensive to make and could be used in natural disasters and remote settings where on-demand power is hard (if not impossible) to come by. As a result, access to medical care and screenings in rural settings could improve. Binghamton University Electrical and Computer Science Assistant Professor Seokheun Choi spent the past five years developing the micro-power sources. His ultimate goal was to find a way to power medical diagnostic tests in poverty-stricken regions; finally, he succeeded at developing paper-based bacteria -powered batteries “On-demand micro-power generation is required especially for point-of-care diagnostic applications in developing countries,” said Choi. “Typically, those applications require only several tens of microwatt-level power for several minutes, but commercial batteries or other energy harvesting technologies are too expensive and over-qualified. Also, they pose environmental pollution issues.” Related: Indian startup pioneers new battery swapping system for electric buses The batteries contain freeze-dried exoelectrogenic cells which generate power when saliva is added. Astonishingly, with just one drop of spit, the paper batteries can produce enough power for low-power biological sensors in just a matter of minutes. Eureka Alert reports that a benefit of freeze drying the cells is that they can be stored for a long time before use. This means they can be stocked in medical clinics around the world. An additional perk is that the required biological fluid (saliva) can be easily obtained anywhere, anytime. At present, the battery can only produce a few microwatts of power per square centimeter. However, Choi and his research assistant, Maedeh Mohammadifar, are working on boosting the output. In the future, the team hopes to make the paper batteries more robust so they can sustain devices other than LED lights when connected in a series. The paper, “A Papertronic, On-Demand and Disposable Biobattery: Saliva-Activated Electricity Generation from Lyophilized Exoelectrogens Preinoculated on Paper,” was published in Advanced Materials Technologies. + Binghamton University Via Eureka Alert Images via  Binghamton University , Pixabay

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Inexpensive new battery generates power with just a drop of saliva

Insane new flying Iron Man suit will be 3D-printed

August 9, 2017 by  
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Hold onto your seats Marvel fans and tech enthusiasts. Before you know it, a real-life “Iron Man” suit will be on the market — and yes, it can fly. Developed by Richard Browning, the co-founder of start-up company Gravity , the jet engine-powered flying suit was designed to “re-imagine manned flight.” With two engine arm configurations that weigh up to 90 pounds and a temperature threshold of 700°C (1292°F), the highly-anticipated invention will also feature wings. And did we mention it will be 3D-printed? The Gravity jet engine-powered flying suit was unveiled at Comic-Con in San Diego, CA, where Browning dished details to Tested’s Adam Savage. The newest version of the suit is comprised of four arm-loaded thrusters and an additional jet pack that is strapped to the user’s back. As noted above, two engine arm configurations can reach temperatures of 700°C (1292°F). 3D Printing Industry reports that if handled responsibly, the rockets aren’t as dangerous as they first might seem. This is because the heat is quickly dispersed by the air which, in turn, reduces the risk of one’s boots or sneakers catching on fire. Browning explained that the movement of the suit is controlled by a very “intuitive” system. For instance, minor movements of the arms determine the direction and height by altering the jet’s vector. It helps that a DAQRI augmented reality (AR) helmet with a heads-up display is connected. Not only does the AR helmet monitor the suit’s performance, it shows the data of speed and altitude in real-time, eliminating the need to check one’s wrist. Browning flew the suit at Comic-Con, wowing comic fans and technology entrepreneurs . He was reportedly able to fly at a speed up to 45/50 mph. Right now, between seven and eight different versions of the suit are in development; modifications will affect the functionality and appearance of the suit. “We are working on a whole bunch of adaptations with the manufacturer,” said Browning “to make [the engines ] much more fit for what we’re now using them for, because clearly they weren’t designed for this.” Related: Stunning Europe Building facade shows off the beauty of 3D printing in Amsterdam The most exciting part of the next-generation suit is that it will be 3D-printed and will feature temperature proof, one-piece aluminum housing for the thrusters. Because the control modules are in need of improvements, the engine configuration will also be changed. Finally, wings will be added to the suit to change the pattern of flight from vertical to airfoil. I’m quite excited about that, Browning said. “We’ve fully CADed up a beautiful, organic inspired housing, and that’s being 3D printed now.” No further information has yet been obtained about the potential cost or release date of the real-life Iron Man suit. However, in the past, Browning informed interested buyers that a custom-built suit should cost approximately $250,000. + Gravity  Via 3D Printing Industry Images via Gravity  

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Insane new flying Iron Man suit will be 3D-printed

GM is selling an electric car in China that costs just $5,300

August 9, 2017 by  
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Good news for Chinese consumers. This week, General Motors will start selling a tiny electric car which, after national and local electric vehicle incentives, costs just $5,300. From front to end, the Baojun E100 measures just 63 inches. And, when unleashed and fully charged, the two-seater can reach speeds of 62 miles per hour and travel about 96 miles on a single charge. The E100, which has been outfitted with a 39-horsepower electric motor, is Baojun’s first electric car. Prices for the vehicle begin at RMB 93,900, or approximately $14,000 before incentives. Amenities include an entertainment system with a 7-inch screen and built-in WiFi . For safety measures, all versions of the car have parking sensors and pedestrian alert systems. Those who invest in high-end models can also lock and unlock the car using a touchpad. According to data from LMC Automotive, Baojun — a mass-market car brand from General Motors’ SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture — is China’s eighth most popular car brand. It ranks just below Volkswagen , Toyota, Honda, and Buick. Considering China presently accounts for 40 percent of all electric vehicles sold worldwide, it’s clear there is a demand for non-polluting vehicles. As a result, Baojun’s ranking may very well increase. Related: The world’s first all-electric sport utility truck is finally here – and it looks incredible So far, more than 5,000 people have registered to purchase the first 200 vehicles. Another 500 will be made available later this week. Reportedly, buyers will be chosen on a first-come-first-serve basis. A GM spokesperson revealed that the first sales will initially be limited to the Guanxi region of southern China. As the car becomes more popular, GM plans to sell the cars more widely in China . + Baojun E100 Via CNN Images via General Motors

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GM is selling an electric car in China that costs just $5,300

Reflective paint helps women in slums combat extreme heat caused by climate change

July 14, 2017 by  
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Temperatures are skyrocketing in India, as a result of climate change . Sadly, this has resulted in a 150 percent increase in the number of heat waves , killing thousands of people in recent years. To help those who are suffering find some relief, the non-profit Mahila Housing Trust is working with Indian women based in 100 slums across five cities to apply reflective paint to units, decreasing indoor temperatures by several degrees. Additional goals of the non-profit include upgrading and redeveloping slums, helping women secure property rights, and assisting women in dealing with climate change pressures by utilizing techniques such as rainwater collection and harvesting. The organization is presently experimenting with reflective paint, as well as insulated ceiling and modular roofs in units located in the Ramesh Dutt Colony. This low-cost approach to making homes more comfortable could literally save lives, since more than 2,400 deaths were recorded in 2015 due to heatwaves , according to government data. One individual benefiting from the reflective paint is Meenaben, who says she used to dread summers in India . Before applying the reflective paint, her two-room home in the Ahmedabad slum would get so hot, she could not sit indoors for several hours during the day. Now, she is able to sit in her abode and work, sewing quilts and bedcovers. “We used to really suffer from the heat. We could not sit inside, we could not work, people were falling sick,” said Meenaben. “This year it has been so much better. The paint brought the temperature down by several degrees, and I have been able to sit in my home, do my work.” Related: School principal uses $22,000 of paint to transform former slum into a rainbow wonderland Bharati Bhonsale, a program manager at Mahila Housing Trust, noted the devastation some families experience from unexpected weather patterns which result from climate change . “They work so hard to improve their lives, their homes. But even one setback from something like flash floods or a heat wave can have a big impact and cause them to slip back into poverty ,” Bhonsale told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “A flash flood can destroy their belongings, heat stress affects their work and their health. So it is important they are equipped to manage the effects of climate change.” Fortunately, most poverty-stricken citizens are happy and willing to implement technologies that may better their lives and the environment . Some measures the women have been trained to incorporate include using fuel-efficient stoves to reduce reliance on firewood, composting, cleaning stormwater drains, planting shrubs to help prevent flash floods, and harvesting rainwater. The women have also learned how to keep narrow lanes free of trash and to dump unused collected rainwater in an effort to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. Bhonsale said, “They may not understand the science of global warming , but they have first-hand experience of its effects, and with some education and simple solutions, they are better able to tackle it.” + Mahila Housing Trust Via Scroll Images via Mahila Housing Trust , Pixabay

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Reflective paint helps women in slums combat extreme heat caused by climate change

Sleep hundreds of feet in the air in this renovated air traffic control tower

July 14, 2017 by  
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An old fight control tower in Stockholm ‘s Arlanda Airport has been transformed into a unique luxury apartment that offers panoramic views of planes taking off and landing – and you can spend the night there. Swedish artist and designer Cilla Ramnek and the Arlanda airport teamed up with vacation rental company HomeAway and Swedavia to give the old tower a complete makeover. Now, the unique living space is perfect for aviation geeks and those who dream of sleeping hundreds of feet in the air. The 262-foot-high tower is located directly next to the runway, which makes it a perfect sport from which to observe plane take off and land. Cilla Ramnek designed the interior in a retro sixties style and furnished it with products already available for purchase inside Arlanda. Related: Architect turns old cement factory into incredible fairytale home – and the interior will blow you away Right now, HomeAway is giving away the opportunity to spend the night in the high-flying tower. Five winners of the competition, which will run until the end of July, will have the opportunity to stay in the apartment for a night, and enjoy a meal at the Pontus in the Air restaurant. The winners can bring guests and, after the stay in the tower, choose other HomeAway rentals for three more nights. + HomeAway + Swedavia + Cilla Ramnek Via CNN Travel

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Sleep hundreds of feet in the air in this renovated air traffic control tower

Recycled plastic paving company Platio installs first 3 solar systems

July 14, 2017 by  
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We’re so excited to announce that the Hungarian startup Platio , which designed a modular energy-harvesting paving system made with recycled plastic , has now installed their first three systems. Within a span of just two months, they developed projects in Hungary, Sweden, and Kazakhstan. And it’s not just sidewalks that now boast the solar pavers, but pontoons providing energy for ships, and benches where passerby can charge their smartphones. Platio is helping to shape the future of cities with their solar paving systems. One creative use of their technology can be found in Budapest , Hungary, at Városháza Park, where their solar system stretches across a wooden bench. The smart bench allows park-goers to power their phones or tablets with clean energy , using either a USB cord or QI wireless charging. Local design studio Hello Wood installed the park’s wavy wooden benches. Related: New recycled plastic sidewalk harvests energy from the sun Platio’s very first permanent installation was indeed constructed on a sidewalk, in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, in front of a mall in the new Green Quarter. Near the shopping entrance, around 861 square feet of the sidewalk is covered with Platio paving, offering a total peak output of 11.7 watts. The electricity will help power the mall. Strong, anti-slip glass tiles top the recycled plastic solar paving system. Two specialists were able to put together the mall installation in just a few days thanks to the modular design and a built-in electrical network. And it’s not just urban infrastructure that can benefit from Platio’s technology. The company partnered with engineering firm SF Marina to install the solar pavers on around 86 square feet of pontoons at SF Marina’s Swedish factory. The solar energy generated by the Platio systems will help power port facilities and ships. According to Platio, as recently as last year they only had a prototype of their technology, but they’ve now successfully installed it in the real word. The three Hungarian engineers who started Platio want to help make future cities sustainable and energy-independent . + Platio Images courtesy of Platio

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Recycled plastic paving company Platio installs first 3 solar systems

This urban tree cleans as much polluted air as an entire forest

June 26, 2017 by  
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Air pollution might be invisible, but it results in 7 million premature deaths each year. Fortunately, there’s a solution – the CityTree is a high-tech green wall that scrubs the air of harmful particulates – and it has as much air-purifying power as 275 urban trees. As you might have guessed, the CityTree isn’t really a tree . Instead, it’s a moss culture. Zhengliang Wu, co-founder of Green City Solutions said: “Moss cultures have a much larger leaf surface area than any other plant. That means we can capture more pollutants .” The CityTree is under 4 meters tall, approximately 3 meters wide and 2.19 meters deep. Two versions are available – one with or without a bench – and a display is included for information or advertising. Due to the huge surface area of moss installed, each tree can remove dust, nitrogen dioxide and ozone gases from the air. Additionally, the installations are fully autonomous, as solar panels provide electricity and collected rainwater is filtered into a reservoir where it is pumped into the soil. Related: Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide The invention also has WiFi sensors which measure the soil humidity, temperature and water quality. “We also have pollution sensors inside the installation, which help monitor the local air quality and tell us how efficient the tree is.” said Wu. Every day, a CityTree can absorb around 250 grams of particulate matter. Over the length of an entire year, the invention can remove 240 metric tons of C02. Green City Solutions seeks to one day install CityTrees in major cities around the world – but they presently faces bureaucratic challenges. Said Wu, “We were installing them (the CityTrees) in Modena, Italy, and everything was planned and arranged, but now the city is hesitant about the places we can install because of security reasons.” Regardless, the company will persist and already has plans to introduce the invention to India , where air pollution has reached dangerous levels in certain locations. So far, 20 CityTrees have been successfully installed in major cities around the world – including Oslo, Paris, Brussels and Hong Kong. Costing about $25,000 each, they are a big investment – but one deemed to be worthwhile as they clean the air of harmful contaminants. + Green City Solutions Via CNN Images via Green City Solutions

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This urban tree cleans as much polluted air as an entire forest

Eviation Aircraft unveils all-electric aircraft with 600-mile range

June 23, 2017 by  
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Though flying via airplane is a fast and fun way to travel, it is one of the least environmentally-friendly methods to do so. That may soon change, however, as Eviation Aircraft (a member of NASA’s on-demand mobility program) recently unveiled the first prototype of an all-electric aircraft that has a range of up to 600 miles (965 km). Presented at the 52nd International Paris Air Show, the prototype could be ready to move into certification and commercialization as soon as next year. “At a time when we are more connected than ever, our mobility options must adapt to reflect this new, efficient future,” said Omer Bar-Yohay, CEO of Eviation Aircraft, in a statement. “Whether it is zero emissions , low-cost trip from Silicon Valley to San Diego, or Seoul to Beijing, our all-electric aircraft represents a chance for people to move with the speed and impact our global economy now demands.” The electric aircraft could potentially fly six to nine passengers, in addition to two crew members on long distances. With the intention to commercialize the plane by 2018, Eviation by far has the most aggressive timeline of any company intent on producing an electric plane. Due to the energy density of batteries, electric air transport has been limited. However, the company says it has developed a new aluminum-air battery that will make it possible for consumers to fly without harming the environment . Related: eGenius Plane Sets World Record for Electric Aircraft Speed “Based on an aerial application of  Phinergy Ltd’s Aluminum air battery, coupled with a high power rechargeable battery buffer, and managed by a clever mission specific power analytic algorithm, EViation’s energy system is unique. Providing a true solution to both energy density and utilization, at a cost that beats gas, and with zero emissions,” said Eviation Aircraft. Rather than compete with traditional aviation companies, Eviation will position itself as an Uber-like on-demand transport service. Mark Moore, Uber Engineering Director of Aviation, commented on the Eviation  technology : “We are witnessing a new age in aviation as advances in energy storage and aircraft design bring electric, on-demand air transit within reach. Our focus at Uber is in galvanizing the ecosystem necessary for urban VTOL electric vehicles to thrive for 20-60 mile trips that can provide massive time savings over ground transportation for long trips in cities. In parallel, we are encouraged to see bold new players like Eviation tackling challenges in different sectors using electric aviation; these players will help catalyze demand for new battery and rapid recharging technologies that are crucial to enable electric flight.” Via Elektrek Images via  Eviation Aircraft , Pixabay

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Eviation Aircraft unveils all-electric aircraft with 600-mile range

New research shows there may be 10 planets in our solar system

June 23, 2017 by  
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Don’t get your hopes up – scientists aren’t making Pluto a planet again just yet. But the number of possible planets that we haven’t discovered was recently bumped up to two. Last fall researchers published a study on the mysterious Planet Nine , which could explain the unusual tilt of the sun. Now University of Arizona (UA) scientists think they may have found evidence for yet another planetary mass object – and it could be closer than Planet Nine. Planet Nine – which scientists think might be 10 times Earth’s mass – could be lurking out past Pluto’s orbit. But Planet Nine might not be all we’ve missed in our solar system . Kat Volk and Renu Malhotra of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at UA think they’ve found an unknown planet that’s between the mass of Earth and Mars. What gave this potential planet away was the fact it could be controlling the orbital planes of Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) – a group of space rocks. Related: New research suggests an unseen 9th planet may be tilting the solar system In the Kuiper Belt, the furthest away of the KBOs don’t orbit the sun with orbital tilts scientists would expect. Instead, they’re tilted away by around eight degrees, suggesting a mysterious something might be warping their orbital planes. Volk, lead author on a study slated for publication in the Astronomical Journal , said in a statement, “The most likely explanation for our results is that there is some unseen mass. According to our calculations, something as massive as Mars would be needed to cause the warp that we measured.” Why haven’t we yet stumbled across this potentially rather large planet? Volk and Malhotra say we haven’t searched the whole sky for distant objects in the solar system – Planet 10 may have been hiding among the densely packed galactic plane. We might catch a glimpse of Planet 10 when the construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope – an instrument operated by a consortium including UA – is completed, possibly in 2020. Via Futurism and the University of Arizona Images via Heather Roper/LPL

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New research shows there may be 10 planets in our solar system

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