New quantum tunneling application captures electricity from Earth’s heat

February 8, 2018 by  
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Researchers at  King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have learned how to produce electricity from Earth’s excess heat through quantum tunneling. Quantum tunneling is a phenomenon in which particles are able to tunnel through a barrier that, under the rules of classical mechanics, they are usually unable to pass through. First predicted in the early 20th century and generally accepted by mid-century, quantum tunneling plays an important applied role in devices such as the tunnel diode, quantum computing, and the scanning tunneling microscope. Its more recent application, the harvest of electricity from Earth’s radiant heat, involves a specifically designed antenna that can identify this excess heat as high-frequency electromagnetic waves, then transforms the signals into a direct electrical charge. The heat produced by sunlight hitting the Earth results in a constant flow of infrared radiation that, if untapped, is essentially free energy gone to waste. It is estimated that the global output of infrared radiation may be as much as millions of gigawatts per second. Since the infrared wavelengths are so short, scientists at KAUST needed to design micro-antennas suited to catch this heat. “There is no commercial diode in the world that can operate at such high frequency,” said lead researcher Atif Shamim . “That’s why we turned to quantum tunneling.” Related: New double-pane quantum dot solar windows generate power with better efficiency Via a tunneling device known as a metal-insulator-metal (MIM) diode, electrons are able to pass through a small barrier, despite lacking the energy classically required to do so. As the electrons pass through this barrier, they are converted into an electrical direct current. The technology could be applied to solar panels , which currently only harvest a small percentage of the potential heat and light energy available for electrical power. While there is work to be done, the potential for how we gather and use energy is huge. “This is just the beginning – a proof of concept,” said Shamim . “We could have millions of such devices connected to boost overall electricity generation,” Via ScienceAlert Images via Depositphotos and  KAUST (1)

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YouTuber designs a DIY solar device to help power Puerto Rico

January 5, 2018 by  
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Swaths of Puerto Rico still lack electricity . Jehu Garcia, film-making equipment company owner and YouTuber , wondered how he could help. He’s built his own do-it-yourself version of a Powerwall , and tackled the Puerto Rico power issue with his technical know-how by building a solar generator , and providing information for others to also build the DIY generators. Garcia created a solar generator , which he explained in his video is “essentially a small, lightweight, portable Powerwall .” The solar generator is a box “containing batteries , an inverter, a solar charge controller, and all kinds of different connectors to get the power in and out.” His 13-minute video details how to make the device, and the text below includes links to the various components a builder would need – costing around $550, a figure which includes the cost of a solar panel , an extension cord to connect the device to the panel, and around six light bulbs. “This is a complete system ready to deploy in Puerto Rico to light up a home and to give at least power communications or medical devices,” Garcia said in his video. The device can be equipped to offer around one kilowatt-hours worth of battery. Related: More than 20 organizations launch Solar Saves Lives to power clinics and food markets in Puerto Rico Garcia called for people to build the solar generators, and send completed devices or parts to Javier Camacho, a contact of Garcia’s in Puerto Rico. Camacho recorded a video sharing his experience on the island, saying, “We are at the mercy of the people that can actually put the grid on – or, we could help them. We could make something.” Camacho has access to a maker space, according to Garcia, with people who could build the solar generators. OZY reported there have been 15 installations so far. + Jehu Garcia on YouTube Images via Jehu Garcia on Instagram ( 1 , 2 )

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Clever switches use your OCD tendencies to save electricity

December 21, 2017 by  
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Do you have a habit of forgetting to turn off the lights? Thai designer Pakaporn Teadtulkitikul has a smart solution for those of us with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Meet the OCD Switch, a clever light switch that takes advantage of our preference for pattern and symmetry to encourage users to turn the lights off and save electricity . When turned on, the switch is visually misaligned with its background, only to be set back in its proper place once turned off. Winner of a 2017 Red Dot Design concept Award , the OCD Switch is a simple and beautiful solution to a common problem. Pakaporn looked to basic human psychology to develop her concept and explored basic shapes and patterns familiar to the human brain for the design. Her final concept shows a white circular light switch with a ribbed pattern that is disrupted when turned on. Related: Obsession with material possessions makes you anxious and depressed The Red Dot design statement explains: “Observations about human behaviour and the subconscious tells us that human beings are naturally attracted to order, pattern and symmetry ; they feel uncomfortable when those are interrupted or when things seem off-balance. That is how we can trick the brain and manipulate the user’s routine behaviour to trigger a response.” + OCD Switch Via Yanko Design

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New Zealand aims for grid completely powered by renewables by 2035

November 8, 2017 by  
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New Zealand’s new prime minister has ambitious goals to seriously slash carbon emissions . Jacinda Ardern, who became prime minister in late October, wants to transition the grid to 100 percent renewables in less than 20 years. Her ultimate goal for New Zealand is zero carbon emissions by 2050. New Zealand’s 4.7 million people already obtain over 80 percent of electricity via sustainable sources, according to Bloomberg . But Ardern – now the world’s youngest female leader – seems to think they can do even better. She wants the country to move over to obtaining electricity completely from renewable energy by 2035. Related: New Zealand river world’s first to obtain legal status as a person The move won’t be without its challenges. New Zealand generates around 60 percent of their power from hydropower , according to 2016 figures. But when dry conditions cause lake levels to drop, gas and coal have helped out. Without those fossil fuels , electricity consumers could experience price hikes. But the country still has made a lot of progress towards the ambitious goal; in the winter of 2016, renewable energy generation actually peaked at 93 percent, according to Bloomberg. Ardern hasn’t put out full details of her plan to get New Zealand to a carbon-free status. She has suggested an independent commission to help meet the 2050 goal. New Zealand’s independent advisory body Productivity Commission has an inquiry into transitioning to a low carbon economy. Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson told Bloomberg Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar .” Contact Energy chief executive officer Dennis Barnes also pointed to solar – and batteries and electric vehicles – as technology that could help New Zealand move towards a greener future. Via Bloomberg and Futurism Images via Depositphotos and Good Free Photos

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New Zealand aims for grid completely powered by renewables by 2035

New EV charging system lets Nissan Leaf owners sell power back to the grid

October 11, 2017 by  
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UK residents who plan to purchase an electric vehicle (EV) next year should hold out for a Nissan Leaf. Energy company Ovo has partnered with the automaker to allow anyone with a garage to receive a special charger that facilitates a “vehicle-to-grid” energy exchange. During off-peak hours, when electricity costs are low, the charger will power up batteries, and switch back to charging up a home or even selling energy back to the grid during peak hours. Essentially, this means EV owners may never have to pay to charge their eco-friendly car. In off-peak hours in the UK, electricity costs approximately 5 cents a kilowatt ($0.07). At peak hours, that increases to as much as 25 cents. “In other words, the value of the electricity that’s stored in the battery goes up by a factor of five,” said Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO of Ovo. “It provides an economic benefit for electric vehicle owners, so they get more use of out of the vehicle that they’ve got parked in the driveway.” By no means is the Nissan Leaf inexpensive. The brand-new car costs £26,490, or $35,064. However, by taking advantage of Ovo’s new program, car owners could save thousands of dollars in energy costs in the long-term. According to Fitzpatrick, the “vehicle-to-grid” technology is not complicated, which is why “other electric car manufacturers are looking at this.” He said, “If it lowers the cost of vehicle ownership, if it lowers the cost of driving the vehicle per mile, I think there will be a lot of consumer demand for it, and that will translate into agreement on technical standards with other car manufacturers.” As FastCompany reports, using the battery automatically in this way — instead of leaving it plugged in, is also better for its battery life. Related: 2018 Nissan Leaf debuts with 150-mile driving range for just 30k By 2021, there will be approximately 1 million electric cars on the road in the UK. If every single vehicle were to be plugged in at the same time, there would be a demand for seven gigawatts of power — or the equivalent of 10 power stations. On the contrary, if the cars were plugged in and charging at a peak time, the power stations would be obsolete. Clearly, technology such as this is needed. And, not only will “vehicle-to-grid” tech help solve the challenge of providing enough electricity to the growing number of EVs, it will also save vehicle owners money. “The flexible use of car batteries is a perfect complement for renewable generation,” said Fitzpatrick. “You can imagine as we see more electric vehicles on the road, we can have more and more renewable generation without compromising the grid stability…renewable energy and electric vehicles are the perfect complement, just like oil and the internal combustion engine.” Via FastCompany Images via Pixabay , Nissan Leaf

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New EV charging system lets Nissan Leaf owners sell power back to the grid

This new energy concept from Sweden can make any building net zero

October 11, 2017 by  
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A new Swedish energy concept can turn any building into a net zero energy structure. Pioneered by Malmö-based company Innenco , the concept utilizes a building’s thermal mass to drastically reduce energy use by around 85 percent. With their active elements systems, heat pumps, chillers, and adding solar panels , Innenco can bring new or existing buildings to net zero energy consumption. Inhabitat spoke with CEO and founder Jonathan Karlsson to find out more. Innenco, which stands for innovative energy concept, dramatically slashes a building’s energy use. Karlsson told Inhabitat, “Our vision is to create possibilities to make new net zero constructions in an efficient way, giving everyone the capability to do so.” Their technology changes how a building operates for vastly improved energy efficiency . Related: California city could become the first Zero Net Energy city in the U.S. It starts with their active elements system: pipes are integrated into the frame construction to utilize a building’s thermal mass. Adding heat pumps and chillers to the system allows Innenco to get four to six times greater efficiency in heating and cooling . At this point they’re able to reduce energy use by 85 percent, so to cover that last 15 percent, they install Innenco Quantum Solar panels. “This makes an investment in solar cells much lower than a traditional system, and we can get net zero for a really cost-efficient investment,” Karlsson told Inhabitat. Buildings with the Innenco system installed tend to maintain a temperature of around 22 degrees Celsius, or around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Innenco has already seen their concept work in the real world. They’ve installed their system in homes, offices, schools, and industry premises. Karlsson said they were excited to discover they could utilize a really high rate of thermal mass in industry buildings, and think their concept could translate well to skyscrapers . They’ve worked in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Spain, and the Netherlands, with projects coming up in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. They provide maintenance, and their energy concept can be installed as new buildings are built or integrated in old ones. Karlsson said sustainability projects should deliver social, environmental, and economical benefits, all three of which Innenco aims to offer with their concept. “Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is a really high goal for us,” Karlsson told Inhabitat. “It’s the climate condition; it’s really necessary to figure out how we can help the planet.” Innenco hopes to introduce their energy concept to other markets too, such as the United States. You can find out more on their website . + Innenco Images courtesy of Innenco

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India aims to bring electricity connections to 40 million households

October 3, 2017 by  
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Millions of homes in India lack electricity . Prime minister Narendra Modi hopes to change that with his Power For All By 2019 plan. Under the scheme, around 40 million households could obtain electricity connections – with the poor receiving them for free. Low income households could finally receive electricity in India. While people won’t get power for free under the Power For All plan – they’ll need to pay for electricity they consume – they could get a free connection. Homes will be connected to the closest electricity pole by a service cable, and the government will install an energy meter and wiring so homes can charge mobile phones and obtain light from an LED bulb. Related: India cancels plans for coal power stations as solar prices hit record low Homes in rural areas that can’t easily be connected to the grid will receive solar power packs of 200 to 300 watts and a battery pack. They’ll also get five LED lights, one DC power plug, and one DC fan, according to BloombergQuint. In addition, the government will provide maintenance and repair for five years. The idea isn’t completely new; Anil Razdan, former power secretary, told BloombergQuint it’s a decade old, and they’ve been working to electrify villages, but now, “after having spent tens of thousands of crore, we’ve finally decided to take it to every home.” Some households in the past couldn’t afford initial connection charges, and under the new plan, such homes could get connections for free. India will need around 28,000 more megawatts (MW) for the plan, according to BloombergQuint. Clean energy has been soaring in the country, according to a statement from Modi , which said in the past three years, renewable energy capacity has nearly doubled. Solar power capacity grew by almost five times. The government’s goal is to produce 175 gigawatts of clean power coming from wind, solar, and hydro by 2022. Via BloombergQuint Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Puerto Rico electricity crisis sparks interest in renewable energy

September 29, 2017 by  
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Hurricane Maria has left swaths of Puerto Rico without power – and millions of people could have to go without electricity for months . The storm’s devastation has stirred new interest in obtaining more energy from clean sources like solar or wind . Energy experts say increasing renewables and transitioning from centralized grids to microgrids could boost resilience as Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands weather storms. CARICOM, a Caribbean nation consortium, already hoped to hit 47 percent renewable energy by 2027. The recent hurricanes could act as a motivation to work for that goal. Caribbean countries in the past have relied mostly on imported fossil fuels , which are expensive both for the islands and for the environment . And storms can cripple power lines. Related: Puerto Rico could be without electricity for months due to Hurricane Maria There is an alternative, according to The Washington Post. Renewable sources, coupled with battery storage , powering small grids could offer more resiliency. Fossil fuels would offer backup—at least initially until battery storage becomes more affordable. The microgrids could be connected to a main grid but could also be isolated. With this new setup, the Caribbean could benefit from trade winds and solar panels. According to renewable energy expert Tom Rogers, who works at Britain’s Coventry University, solar systems in the tropics can “generate over one and a half times more than exactly the same PV system” installed in a location with a higher latitude like Europe. Rogers told The Washington Post, “You look at islands like Dominica, Anguilla, and other islands affected by the recent hurricanes, I’ve spoken to a couple of the utilities, and they say they would prefer to rebuild using distributed generation with storage, and just trying to reduce the amount of transmission lines. Because that’s where their energy systems fail. It’s having these overhead cables.” Via The Washington Post Images via Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/Puerto Rico National Guard and NOAA Satellites Twitter

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Solar-powered Villa H is a modern glass-fronted home in the Dutch dunes

September 29, 2017 by  
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Natural materials converge in the beautiful, tailor-made Villa H (Villa Hupkes) tucked into Rotterdam’s dune landscape. Architecture firm BERG + KLEIN designed this modern home for a client who wanted a warm and minimalist dwelling that embraced the landscape. Fronted with floor-to-ceiling glass, Villa H opens up to the garden and maintains a relatively low environment footprint with its use of solar energy, green roof, and air-driven heat pump. Built primarily of concrete, stained Western Red Cedar , and natural stone, Villa H features a muted materials palette that helps blend the structure into the surroundings. The low-lying building is spread across three levels: the basement level with a garage, the main living spaces on the ground floor, and the accessible landscaped roof. The ground-floor living area features an open-plan living room, kitchen, and dining area on one end and the bedroom and study on the opposite. A staircase between two concrete walls is located at the center of the home. Related: Unique asymmetrical home in the Netherlands takes a novel approach to sustainability The ground floor opens out via sliding glass doors to a terrace that doubles as an outdoor living space. These sliding glass openings and other windows promote natural ventilation . Timber brise-soleils slide along a track in front of the glazed sections to deflect sunlight, reducing solar heat gain while providing privacy. The inhabitat.com/tag/cantilever/ cantilevered roof also helps provide shade. Electricity is partially provided through rooftop solar cells. + BERG + KLEIN Via ArchDaily Images © Christian Richters

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Solar-powered Villa H is a modern glass-fronted home in the Dutch dunes

MIT researchers explore ancient firebrick technology to store energy

September 7, 2017 by  
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Firebricks – or bricks made with clay able to endure temperatures of 1,600 degrees Celsius – have been around for at least 3,000 years. Now Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers are revisiting this ancient technology to potentially help us transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy . The researchers worked out a scheme where excess electricity , generated when the wind is blowing or sun is shining, could be converted into heat and stored in the firebricks for later use. The firebricks technology has existed since the time of the Hittites, according to MIT researchers, who want to draw on this old technology to help make carbon-free power sources competitive with fossil fuels. Right now, with solar and wind power , electricity prices can collapse to near zero when there’s high wind or solar output, making those clean energy installations unprofitable unless companies can store power. Related: Google wants to solve renewable energy storage with salt and antifreeze Their system, called Firebrick Resistance-heated Energy Storage, or FIRES, costs between one-tenth and one-fortieth as much as pumped hydroelectric systems or batteries . It works like this: electric resistance heaters convert that excess electricity to heat, which would be stored in a large mass of firebricks. If the firebricks are inside an insulated casing, they can store that heat for long periods of time. The heat could either be utilized for industrial processes or converted back to electricity later. Regis Matzie, retired Westinghouse Electric Chief Technical Officer, wasn’t involved with the research but told MIT the way electricity prices are determined in America yields to a “skewed electricity market [that] produces low or even negative prices when a significant fraction of electrical energy on the grid is provided by renewables.” He said FIRES could offer an innovative solution, but a demonstration would probably be needed to see if the method is indeed economical. The Electricity Journal published the MIT research online the end of August. The next step will be setting up full-scale prototypes in the real world, which lead author Charles Forsberg said could occur in 2020. He said they’re looking for the right customers – one example would be an ethanol refinery, since they use a lot of heat, located near a large wind farm . Via MIT News Images via U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Master Sgt. Gary J. Rihn/Released and courtesy of the researchers

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