Scientists unveil first printable, stable perovskite solar cell good for 10K hours

June 12, 2017 by  
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The mineral perovskite has been touted as the next big thing for renewable energy , potentially giving solar cells a 31 percent maximum efficiency – but water-soluble and perovskite solar cells typically don’t last long in the real world. 11 scientists at institutions in Switzerland and Italy may have finally achieved what researchers have been working towards since around 2009: a stable perovskite solar cell. Their solar cells stayed stable in real world conditions for longer than a year. Perovskite solar cells have already been built with an efficiency of more than 22 percent, but that’s in a laboratory. Oxygen and moisture go to work on the cells once they’re outside. But this team led by scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne drew on a new type of structure in the solar cell to create one the university says is ultra-stable. Related: Austrian scientists create a cheap, flexible solar cell just 3 micrometers thick They designed a hybrid 2D/3D perovskite solar cell. According to ScienceAlert, the 2D perovskite serves as a protective window to guard against moisture, so the 3D perovskite can generate electricity . The solar cells were built up layer by layer – like a sandwich, according to ScienceAlert – by putting different ingredients atop one another. The team built 10 by 10 centimeters squared solar panels , with what the university described as a fully printable industrial-scale process. The hybrid 2D/3D perovskite solar cells are resistant to oxygen and water, while still able to transport electrical charges. They absorb light from the whole visible spectrum, according to the university. The efficiency isn’t great yet – just 11.2 percent. But the university noted that efficiency was constant for over 10,000 hours, with zero loss in performance. Project leader Mohammad Khaja Nazeeruddin told ScienceAlert, “The important finding in this manuscript is identifying the presence of multi-dimensional 2D/3D interface. We believe [this] will trigger many further studies…widening the prospects for perovskite photovoltaics .” The journal Nature Communications published the advance online the beginning of this month. Via ScienceAlert and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Images via PublicDomainPictures.net and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

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Scientists unveil first printable, stable perovskite solar cell good for 10K hours

Gargantuan lace sea urchins light up the night along Singapore’s marina

June 12, 2017 by  
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A swarm of gigantic, glowing sea urchins recently appeared on Singapore’s waterfront for the iLight Marina Bay Festival. Choi+Shine Architects constructed the larger-than-life creatures as “lacy rooms” that invite visitors to walk inside and enjoy their intricate structure and visual effects. The structures are inspired by sea urchin shells, which are elnclosed yet lightweight and porous. The architects recreated the intricate patterns of urchins using white double-braided polyester chord woven in 20 segments and attached to a metal frame. It took 50 people to assemble the structures by hand over a period of two months. Related: Robots helped build and sew together this amazing sea urchin-inspired pavilion Each sea urchin measures 56 feet in size and weighs around 220 pounds. The lacy pavilions are illuminated by white spot lights, creating the illusion that they glow in the dark. The calming effect and simplicity of the installation visually contrasts Singapore’s skyscrapers and celebrates the city’s cultural diversity. + Choi+Shine Architects Photos © 2016, 2017 Choi+Shine Architects

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Gargantuan lace sea urchins light up the night along Singapore’s marina

Bio-inspired wind turbines with flexible blades 35% more efficient

June 8, 2017 by  
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Wind energy already yields four percent of Earth’s power, but five researchers at French institutions recently drew inspiration from nature to make wind turbines even better. Inspired by creatures like dragonflies, they found flexible blades on wind turbines make the machines much more efficient. Wind turbines today work best under optimal wind speeds, but the new bio-inspired design could offer a way around that fact, making wind power even more accessible. Wind speeds impact the functioning of a wind turbine. If the wind is too slow, the turbine won’t turn and generate energy; if the wind is too fast it could damage the turbine. Wind also must hit the turbines at the correct pitch angle to apply the correct amount of torque to the generator, according to Science. The new research from scientists at Sorbonne University and École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Métiers-ParisTech fixes these issues with flexible blades much like insect wings. Related: Revolutionary flapping wind turbine mimics hummingbirds to produce clean energy The researchers constructed prototypes with regular hard turbine blades, slightly flexible turbine blades, and very flexible turbine blades. The last design turned out to be too floppy, but the slightly flexible blades outperformed the rigid ones, offering as much as 35 percent more power . They also continued to work in lower wind conditions and weren’t as susceptible to damage in high winds. The journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A published the research online in February. But the scientists’ work isn’t yet done: they now need to search for the right material that’s “flexible, but not too flexible,” according to lead author Vincent Cognet, to scale up the findings. Engineer Asfaw Beyene of San Diego State University, who was not part of this study, told Science, “The fluid mechanics and the physics make absolute sense. There’s no reason why we cannot make morphing blades that will adapt to wind conditions.” Via Science and Tech Xplore Images via Joi Ito on Flickr and Pexels

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Bio-inspired wind turbines with flexible blades 35% more efficient

A goodbye from Inhabitat founder Jill Fehrenbacher

June 7, 2017 by  
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After 12 years as the Editor-in-chief of Inhabitat.com, I say goodbye today — as I step down from running Inhabitat in order to focus on my soon-to-be-expanding-family. This change is bittersweet for me, as Inhabitat has been one of the central focuses and passions in my life for more than a decade. I started Inhabitat.com back in 2005 as a way to explore the power of design to improve the world for the better – first quitting my digital marketing job and then dropping out of grad school to focus on all of my energy, money and attention on growing the website. For years I put all of my blood, sweat and tears into growing Inhabitat to be the premiere website for green design and innovation, and I believe that our website has really made an impact in shaping the global conversation around what design can and should be. I worked on Inhabitat through the births of my two children, and even launched a parenting website the day before my first son was born – merging my personal and professional lives in a way that might not have been entirely healthy! I roped my husband into penning columns for Inhabitat , my kids made videos and starred in sponsored promotions , and this endeavor has always been more like my third child rather than just a job for me for more than a decade. But now that I have a real third baby coming, I realize I needed to make more time for my growing family. Inhabitat’s wonderful Managing Editor Mike Chino , who I have had the pleasure of working with for almost 10 years, will be taking over the leadership of this website moving forward. I want to thank him, and all of the amazing and inspiring people I have worked with over the past 12 years, who helped to make this site what it is today. First, the current Inhabitat team of Mike Chino , Tafline Laylin , Kristine Lofgren and Lucy Wang – thank you guys so much for all of your hard work, creativity and amazing ideas that you bring to Inhabitat on a daily basis. I know the site will be in great hands with their talents and I can’t wait to see how it evolves. I also want to give shout outs to my early partners in the fledgling years; creative-powerhouses Sarah Rich and Emily Pilloton – you guys have both gone on to do so many incredible and inspiring things, but Inhabitat to this day is still shaped by your input from so many years ago. I have so much gratitude for the Inhabitots and Ecouterre Managing Editors Jasmin Malik Chua and Beth Shea , and the many awesome editors and project managers I had the good fortune to work with over the years. And thank you to our early investor Thomas Ermacora for supporting the website, business advisor Shayne McQuade , and the folks at out parent company Internet Brands for taking a chance on our boutique website back in 2011. Finally, thank you to all of the readers, without whom Inhabitat wouldn’t be possible. I have met so many amazing people, and had so many inspiring conversations through the course of this project, and Inhabitat owes a lot to all of you. I look forward to seeing how Inhabitat evolves in the coming years. If you want to reach me, you can find me on social media and at my personal email address JillFehrenbacher at gmail.com

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A goodbye from Inhabitat founder Jill Fehrenbacher

India to only sell electric cars by 2030

June 5, 2017 by  
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India is taking huge strides to escape its dubious distinction as one of the most polluted countries on Earth. The government is taking dramatic measures to clean the country’s air – including the switch to sell solely electric cars in just 13 years. If the amount of diesel and petrol cars dwindles on the streets of India, the country could lower the dangerous levels of air pollution that have led to the deaths of 1.2 million people annually. Energy minister Piyush Goyal said India would financially back the move for the first two to three years; then electric vehicle production will be “driven by demand and not subsidy.” Related: New Delhi has the worst air pollution of any city on earth The move has been praised by environmentalists and, naturally, worried the oil industry. India is the third biggest oil importer in the world – each year they spend $150 billion on oil. Moving to electric cars could save the country $60 billion in energy expenses. Indian car owners would also save money by switching to electric vehicles . Goyal, who presented the government’s plan at the Confederation of Indian Industry Annual Session 2017 in New Delhi, said the government would invest in charging infrastructure, beginning in big urban areas like Delhi. He also said they were considering methods like swapping batteries “so cars don’t have to wait for batteries to be charged,” saying, “Electric cars can then move to petrol pumps, swap their batteries, and drive out, just like they do now. And it will take less time than what it takes to put petrol in your car, like in Formula 1 races!” The transition to electric cars would also help the country slash greenhouse gas emissions. Calculations indicate India’s carbon emissions could decrease 37 percent by 2030 with the move to electric vehicles. Via World Economic Forum and International Business Times Images via Mahindra Electric Facebook

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India to only sell electric cars by 2030

It took more than 25 years to build this incredible walkable world map

June 5, 2017 by  
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You’d need around 11 years to walk around the globe – if you can walk on water. But a world map in Denmark makes the feat possible in a few minutes. Verdenskortet , or world map , is a walkable map , made of soil and stone, built on top of a pond. It took Søren Poulsen more than two decades to complete this extraordinary project, and it was worth the wait. Poulsen, who was born in 1888 in Denmark, realized a stone on his land was shaped similar to the Jutland Peninsula. That stone launched the idea to create a world map, and Poulsen started the project in 1944. He continued working on the map, located at his childhood home at Klejtrup Lake, until he died in 1969. Today the map comprises the center of a park offering outdoor activities and event space. Around 35,000 people visit every single year. Related: Our World: A Giant Pixelated LEGO Map Built from 1 Million Bricks! Poulson made the map out of rocks and dirt, using just hand tools, a pushcart, and a wheelbarrow. The Verdenskortet Facebook page explains the stones comprising the world map were moved onto the ice during winter, and then in spring the stones could be moved into place. Flags mark each country, and there’s even yellow bricks dividing America up into states. Red poles indicate where the equator lies. The world map is 300 feet by 150 feet, and every 10 inches represents around 69 miles in the real world. Today the park offers guided tours of Verdenskortet, paired with coffee and cake. People can play miniature golf on the grass, or take a class field trip to the map. Visitors can take a boat trip around the mini Pacific Ocean , and on land go on pony rides, play old Viking games, or jump on a trampoline. Park entry is inexpensive; around $12 for adults and $8 for kids. + Verdenskortet Via GOOD Images via Verdenskortet Facebook

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It took more than 25 years to build this incredible walkable world map

How net-zero impact buildings positively impact the world

June 3, 2017 by  
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What does good look like? Net Zero Energy buildings create a new model for regenerative architecture.

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How net-zero impact buildings positively impact the world

India cancels plans for coal power stations as solar prices hit record low

May 26, 2017 by  
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India has canceled plans to construct nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations in the country as prices for solar electricity “free fall” to levels once considered impossible, The Independent reports. Experts expect a profound shift in global energy markets as the cost of solar has dropped by 25 percent in some regions. Tim Buckley, the director of energy finance studies at the IEEFA, explains that 13.7GW of coal power projects have been canceled just this month. He added that the dip in solar prices is so low, it will never be repeated. A few factors have contributed to the decline in solar prices. Reportedly, the price of photovoltaic panels — which account for a major percentage of solar power plant’s costs — have dropped by a staggering 30 percent in the past year. This has helped lower prices. Additionally, the Narendra Modi government is working hard to “assure private renewables developers by backing a payment security mechanism,” according to Scroll . For instance, the Solar Energy Corporation of India , the country’s largest solar power purchases, was included in an agreement last year between the Central government, the Reserve Bank of India and the state government. This safeguards it against payment defaults — which is important, as power distribution compares are reportedly notorious for delayed payment to renewable energy producers. Overaggressive bidding is also resulting in a decline in prices, according to The Independent. An auction for a 500-megawatt solar facility, for example, resulted in a tariff of just 2.44 rupees compared to a wholesale price charged by a major coal power utility of 3.2 rupees. That’s a 31 percent difference. Related: Chile’s solar price hits record global low – at half the price of coal “For the first time solar is cheaper than coal in India and the implications this has for transforming global energy markets is profound,” said Buckley. “Measures taken by the Indian Government to improve energy efficiency coupled with ambitious renewable energy targets and the plummeting cost of solar has had an impact on existing as well as proposed coal -fired power plants, rendering an increasing number as financially unviable.” What India is witnessing, says the analyst, is a further indication of the “rise of stranded assets across the Indian power generation sector.” He added, “The caliber of the global financial institutions who are bidding into India’s solar power infrastructure tenders is a strong endorsement of India’s leadership in this energy transformation and will have significant ripple effects into other transforming markets, as is already seen in the UAE, South Africa, Australia, Chile, and Mexico.” In 2017, India’s solar-generation capacity is expected to reach 8.8 gigawatts – a 76 percent increase from 2016. According to renewable energy consultancy Bridge To India, that will make the country the third-largest solar market in the world. Via The Independent Images via Pixabay

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India cancels plans for coal power stations as solar prices hit record low

China subverts pollution with contained vertical farms – and boosts yield

May 26, 2017 by  
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Around one fifth of arable land in China is contaminated with levels of toxins greater than government standards, according to 2014 data. That’s around half the size of California, and it’s a growing problem for a country that faces such levels of pollution they had to import $31.2 billion of soybeans in 2015 – a 43 percent increase since 2008. Scientists and entrepreneurs are working to come up with answers to growing edible food in a polluted environment, and shipping container farms or vertical gardening could offer answers. The toxins in China’s environment have made their way into the country’s food supply. In 2013, the Guangdong province government said 44 percent of rice sampled in their region contained excessive cadmium. Around 14 percent of domestic grain contains heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium, according to research from scientists in 2015. Related: Arctic town grows fresh produce in shipping container vertical garden Could shipping container farms offer a way around this contamination? Beijing startup Alesca Life Technologies is testing them out. They turn retrofitted shipping containers into gardens filled to the brim with arugula, peas, kale, and mustard greens, and monitor conditions remotely via an app. They’ve already been able to sell smaller portable versions of the gardens to a division of a group managing luxury hotels in Beijing and the Dubai royal family. Alesca Life co-founder Stuart Oda told Bloomberg, “ Agriculture has not really innovated materially in the past 10,000 years. The future of farming – to us – is urban .” And they’re not alone in their innovation. Scientist Yang Qichang of the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences is experimenting with a crop laboratory, testing which light from the visible light spectrum both helps plants flourish and uses little energy . His self-contained, vertical system already yields between 40 and 100 times more produce than an open field of similar size. He told Bloomberg, “Using vertical agriculture, we don’t need to use pesticides and we can use less chemical fertilizers – and produce safe food.” Via Bloomberg Images via Alesca Life Technologies

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China subverts pollution with contained vertical farms – and boosts yield

Atelier Space turn a 1925 nursery into a daylit solar-powered residence in the Netherlands

May 26, 2017 by  
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Smart adaptive reuse can do wonders with old, abandoned and disused buildings. Dutch firm Atelier Space breathed new life into this 1925 nursery in Leiden, the Netherlands by converting it into a beautiful, daylit residence with amenities, technology and polish worthy of a modern urban home. The architects preserved much of the original 1925 nursery, turned the former gym into an airy, open-plan living, dining, and kitchen area. They also divided a large classroom into three separate bedrooms. Related: Patalab Architects transform dank mechanics garage into light-filled London home The entire residence features 13-foot-high ceilings with restored skylights and windows that bring natural light into the interior. A guesthouse occupies the floor above the living room, and the toilet, technical area, and storage room are all placed on one side. The converted schoolhouse also includes sustainable design features such as rooftop solar panels , improved building insulation, and centrally controlled lighting, climate, shading and security systems that allow occupants to control every aspect the interior environment. To top it all off, a heat pump heats and cools the house. + Atelier Space Via Curbed Photos by Brigitte Kroone

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Atelier Space turn a 1925 nursery into a daylit solar-powered residence in the Netherlands

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