American fern inspires groundbreaking new solar storage solution

April 3, 2017 by  
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Energy storage has been a leading obstacle to widespread adoption of solar energy , but that may be about to change. A new nature-inspired electrode developed by two scientists at RMIT University in Australia could hold the key to drastically improved storage. Their electrode, which is based on patterns in the western swordfern, could boost the capacity of storage technologies by a staggering 3,000 percent. The groundbreaking electrode is made with graphene , and according to the university, could open the door to flexible, thin solar capture and storage technology. This would allow us to place a thin film on smartphones, cars, or buildings – enabling them to power themselves with solar energy. Related: Pocket-sized HeLi-on charger uses flexible, printed solar cells to power your phone The two researchers found inspiration for their prototype in the veins of the Polystichum munitum , a native western North American fern. Researcher Min Gu said in a statement, “The leaves of the western swordfern are densely crammed with veins, making them extremely efficient for storing energy and transporting water around the plant. Our electrode is based on these fractal shapes – which are self-replicating, like the mini structures within snowflakes – and we’ve used this naturally efficient design to improve solar energy storage at a nano level.” The electrode could be combined with supercapacitors , which have been combined with solar already but haven’t been widely utilized for storage due to limited capacity. But the scientists’ prototype can increase their capacity 30 times greater than current limits, according to Gu. The journal Scientific Reports published the research online the end of March. Paper lead author Litty Thekkekara said by using their electrode with a solar cell, we could develop flexible thin film solar, replacing the rigid, bulky solar cells that are limited in use. Smartphone batteries would become a thing of the past, and hybrid cars wouldn’t need charging stations, if scientists could build on this research to develop thin film solar. Via RMIT University Images via RMIT University

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American fern inspires groundbreaking new solar storage solution

New brain implant allows paralyzed monkey to walk again

November 10, 2016 by  
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A new high-tech implant could be the key to helping the brain communicate with damaged nerves – at least in rhesus macaques. Swiss neurosurgeon Jocelyn Bloch and her colleagues at Lausanne University Hospital successfully tested a device that can allow monkeys with spinal cord damage to walk again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sjeytKmlCk In the experiment , Bloch and her colleagues at Lausanne University Hospital worked with a monkey that had its spinal cord partially cut. While there was nothing wrong with the monkey’s brain or leg, nerves weren’t able to communicate with the limb to tell the muscles when to move. When Dr. Bloch placed electrodes on a part of the monkey’s brain associated with leg movement, and another set along the spinal cord, below the injury, these signals were able to bypass the damaged nerves entirely. The electrodes are connected to a device that passes brain signals through a computer, and then back to the spine. In a video of the experiment, you can see a macaque go from limping and deliberately avoiding putting weight on the leg, to suddenly walking on a treadmill with the affected leg. Related: Thought-Controlled Robotic Arm Returns the Sense of Touch to Amputees The new technology builds on research into prosthetic limbs . There have been many attempts in recent years to manufacture prosthetics that can be controlled by the wearer’s thoughts. However, this is the first time this technology has been used to bypass faulty nerves and reactivate an injured limb directly. The implants are already undergoing a human clinical trial to see if the treatment is just as effective in humans as it is in other primates. Via NPR Images via EPFL

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New brain implant allows paralyzed monkey to walk again

Britain to officially shutter all coal power plants by 2025

November 10, 2016 by  
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Last year the British government promised to replace coal with natural gas and alternative energy within a decade. But according to The Guardian , the country’s last coal power plant could close down by 2022 – and without government intervention. Britain’s Secretary of Energy Gary Clark told the Guardian that the move sends a clear signal to the world that the U.K. is a good place to invest in clean energy. “Taking unabated coal power out of our energy mix and replacing it with cleaner technology, such as gas, will significantly reduce emissions from the UK’s energy use,” Clark noted. And the British government is clearly heeding its own advice when it comes to investing in alternative energy sources. The country is investing roughly $1.22 billion (730 million pounds), over the next two and a half years. The majority of that money is expected to go towards offshore wind farm developments. Related: UK solar power outshined coal power plants for the entire month of May The British government is currently examining its options for forcing its eight remaining coal power plants to close by the 2025 deadline. One option would be to change the country’s Emission Power Standard (which sets a limit on the annual carbon emissions of coal power plants based on their capacity) to a level that the dated coal plants will most likely be unable to meet. Air pollution and climate action could also make coal power an unprofitable venture in the future, which would leave the plants to die a natural death – even earlier than the government’s deadline. Via The Guardian Images via zrfraileyphotography and x1klima , Flickr Creative Commons  

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Aedas sleek office tower and green space will bring a "missing humanism to Shanghai

November 10, 2016 by  
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The 45,000-square-meter Gemdale Changshou Road development is nicknamed “Cloud on Terrace” after its rounded and reflective tower set on a terraced retail podium. The landscaped terraces soften the building’s appearance and break down the development to a human scale. The terraces step up to form a tower with rounded edges and an angular orientation—a contrast to the surrounding boxy skyscrapers . The terraced building is a visual bridge between the low-rise, residential developments to the south and Changshou Road in the north. Related: Aedas unveils mountainous mixed-use building that looks like a stack of books The building is mostly glazed and will be installed with high-performance, low-e , and low-iron glass to save on energy. The landscaped terraces help provide a cooling microclimate , purify the air, and reduce solar heat gain. Horizontal solar shades extrude from the tower’s glass curtain wall to further reduce solar gain. The building is slated for completion by 2019. + Andrew Bromberg Aedas Via ArchDaily Images via Aedas and AsymmetricA

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Autonomous robotic garden can drive itself around the city in search of sun

October 5, 2016 by  
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https://vimeo.com/163436492 Designed by UCL students William Victor Camilleri and Danilo Sampaio under the supervision of the Interactive Architecture Lab’s director Ruairi Glynn, Hortum machina, B draws inspiration from Buckminster Fuller’s landmark book ‘Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth’ and his geodesic domes . The mobile ecosystem uses a network of electrodes to monitor the garden’s physiological responses to the environment and then, using this data, propels the sphere into motion. For example, if the plants at the bottom of the sphere lack direct light, the individual panels begin to shift until those plants are sufficiently lit. The robotic core can also move the sphere to a new location if the garden requires shade or if air pollution levels are unhealthy. Related: ON/OFF’s BOULEvard tensegrity ball is a mobile playground in Brussels “With all the discussion of ‘“smart-buildings’” and ‘“smart-cities’” focused on human needs, and the arrival of driverless cars, drones and many other forms of intelligent robotics starting to co-habit our built environment, Hortum machina, B is a speculation upon new opportunities for bio-cooperative interaction between nature, technology and people, within the city landscape,” write the designers. “A growing body of research has revealed electrochemical mechanisms in plants analogous to those found in the animal nervous system. By networking and amplifying plant electrophysiology, [we] believe it opens the doors to giving nature a say in how we design and manage cities better in the future.” Hortum machina, B was tested in London. All plants in the garden are native to Greater London and the machine is powered by an attached solar panel. The unit also has built-in water storage. The experimental project was seen as a way to expand the reach of London’s green space to new terrain. + Hortum machina, B Images via Hortum machina, B

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Autonomous robotic garden can drive itself around the city in search of sun

Scientists Use Crab Shells to Make Better Lithium-Ion Batteries

June 21, 2013 by  
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If you can make a battery out of a piece of citrus , why not a crustacean? Scientists at Stanford University are taking a look at the nanostructure of crab shells to create better lithium-ion batteries . The scientists first put a series of shells through a chemical process that turned them into hollow carbon nanotubes. They then stuffed these tiny tubes with sulfur and silicon, and tested them as electrodes. They found that not only did the anode and cathode hold a good amount of their charge after several hundred testing cycles, but the crab shells could help form a cheap, renewable base for batteries. Read the rest of Scientists Use Crab Shells to Make Better Lithium-Ion Batteries Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: anode , cathode , crab shell , electrodes , lithium ion battery , silicon , stanford university , sulfur , yi cui        

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Solar Cells Made From Bioluminescent Jellyfish

September 8, 2010 by  
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Swedish researchers have devised a way to turn bioluminescent jellyfish into solar cells . It works like this: the green fluorescent protein (GFP) that makes the Aequorea victoria glow is simply dripped onto a silicon dioxide substrate between two electrodes. The protein works itself into strands between the electrodes.

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Solar Cells Made From Bioluminescent Jellyfish

Sunny Delight Reaches Zero Waste Goal, But Is Still Bad for You

September 8, 2010 by  
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Here at Inhabitat we love hearing about multi-national corporations undertaking incredible measures to become more Earth friendly, so with the recent announcement that all of Sunny Delight ’s US and Spanish companies have gone certifiable zero waste to landfill, we’re inclined to give them a standing ovation for their eco-efforts. But unfortunately, there’s another equally dire aspect that requires us to sit back down – because while green in production, the beverage itself remains a sugary mess.

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Sunny Delight Reaches Zero Waste Goal, But Is Still Bad for You

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