Harvard scientists claim they’ve made Earth’s first metallic hydrogen

January 27, 2017 by  
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For 80 long years, scientists have attempted in vain to produce a metal from hydrogen . A super substance thought to be present on other planets , metallic hydrogen could generate a rocket propellant around four times more powerful than what we possess now, allowing us to make advanced technologies like super-fast computers. Now two scientists at Harvard University say they have achieved the near miraculous. But other scientists are skeptical – the sensational discovery may just be too good to be true. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qitm5fteL0 Ranga Dias and Isaac Silvera of Harvard University say they’ve been able to create metallic hydrogen in the laboratory by squeezing hydrogen between diamonds inside a cryostat, at a pressure even greater than that at the Earth’s center. The journal Science published their astonishing findings this week. In a Harvard press release, Silvera said, “This is the Holy Grail of high-pressure physics . It’s the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you’re looking at it, you’re looking at something that’s never existed before.” Related: MIT’s new carbon-free supercapacitor could revolutionize the way we store power But other scientists aren’t so sure. A string of failed tries, from scientists around the world, precede the Harvard news. One physicist from France’s Atomic Energy Commission even said, “I don’t think the paper is convincing at all.” The Harvard scientists maintain they were able to polish the diamonds better, to remove any potentially damaging irregularities, and were able to crush the hydrogen gas at pressures greater than others have. Silvera said they produced a “lustry, reflective sample, which you can only believe is a metal .” But that shiny substance could be nothing more than alumina (aluminium oxide), according to geophysicist Alexander Goncharov from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C. That material coats the diamonds’ tips, and could act differently under the pressure. Silvera said they wanted to break the news before starting confirmation tests, which could ruin their sample. Now that their paper is out, they plan to perform more experiments. Stay tuned. Via Scientific American and The Independent Images via screenshot and Isaac Silvera/Harvard University

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Harvard scientists claim they’ve made Earth’s first metallic hydrogen

Rugged solar roads to hit four continents in 2017

November 25, 2016 by  
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Solar-generating roadways could soon be a reality on roads everywhere, thanks to new technology from Europe. According to Bloomberg , Colas SA, a subsidiary of France’s Bouygues Group has been working on solar panels that are tough enough to handle the load of an 18-wheeler truck – and are currently building them into some French road surfaces, with plans to test the technology across four continents in 2017. These panels have already undergone five years of research and laboratory tests, but before they hit the roads in a major way, the company plans to test them further by building 100 outdoor test sites over the next year. “We wanted to find a second life for a road,” Colas SA’s Wattaway Unit chief technology officer told Bloomberg. “Solar farms use land that could otherwise be for agriculture, while the roads are free.” How does a road made of solar panels withstand the weight of a massive semi truck, you might ask? According to Bloomberg , while the panels are made with ordinary solar cells such as those that might be on your roof, they are layered with several types of plastic on top to create a sturdy casing that can withstand abuse. It has electrical wiring embedded, and is coated with a layer of crushed glass to create an anti-slip surface. Related: Solar Roadways unveils super strong solar panels for roads in a prototypical parking lot Wattaway began testing the new product last month on a kilometer-long site in the French town of Tourouvre. At 2,800 square meters in area, the embedded solar panel array is expected to generate about 280 kilowatts of energy at peak capacity. The company says that’s enough power to light up a town of 5,000 people for a whole year. They also told Bloomberg they intend to test the technology in Calgary, Canada, Georgia, USA, throughout the European Union, Africa and Asia, with plans to commercialize in 2018. Add this innovation to Tesla’s solar roof and what Solar Roadways is doing in the U.S., and it’s been a good year for unconventional applications of solar power. Via Bloomberg Images via Wattaway

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Rugged solar roads to hit four continents in 2017

The future of food: how dry farming could save the world

November 15, 2016 by  
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You’ve heard the line: water , it’s everywhere, not a drop to drink. Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh, 75 percent of which is stored in glaciers. Much of the drops accessible for drinking are often diverted to the roots of thirsty plants. Currently, more than two-thirds of available potable water is used for agriculture , yet the global demand for water is soaring. In a water-scarce world, innovative growers are incorporating modern and ancient methods of dry farming into their practices to conserve water and provide healthy food to a growing population. According to the United Nations , up to two-thirds of the world population, which will rise to nearly 10 billion, may suffer from water scarcity by 2025. This makes the adoption of less water intensive farming techniques all the more urgent. In urban areas, where the vast majority of people live, some growers have switched to a soil-free growing system in which plants are watered via mist rather then traditional irrigation. This can result in water savings of up to 95 percent. Related: 6 innovative ways to harvest and harness rainwater However, dry farming also has its roots in more holistic, historic practices of cultivating plants directly in the ground. In-ground dry farming involves the preparation of soil to retain as much moisture as possible, through mulching, ground cover plants, and other practices. Dry farms also benefit from geographic features such as mountains and hills, at the bottom of which runoff water accumulates. Dry farming has proven to be particularly suited for vineyards . “In France irrigation is forbidden — you cannot irrigate grape vines,” says Tod Mostero, viticulturist at Dominus Estate in California’s Napa Valley. “There’s a reason for that. It makes sense that you plant crops where they belong, and not in places where they don’t.” While dry farming serves a practical and environmental purpose, this practice also enhances the final product. “We don’t believe you can make a wine that has true character, or at least the character of your vineyard, unless it’s dry farmed. Because only if it’s dry farmed will it have that connection with the soil.” Another form of dry farming that is more applicable over a variety of climates is known as partial root drying. Designed by University of Lancaster professor and crop scientist Bill Davies, this method involves splitting a plant’s roots into two sections, which are alternatively watered while the other remains dry. This process is particularly adept for rice growing. “Rice uses a ridiculous amount of water,” says Davies. “Probably about a third of fresh water on the planet. We have to grow rice with less water… As the climate changes , it’s getting hotter and drier in many food-growing areas. Our systems have to change. Farming has to respond now.” Via CNN Images via Ed Clayton  and Alex Lines

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The future of food: how dry farming could save the world

This reverse pyramid is a green urban community in the skies of Paris

October 25, 2016 by  
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The 127 residential units on the top of this bold building may be the world’s first village built out of bio-based materials. It is an inhabited natural ecosystem, where the apartments are surrounded by nature while being in the center of the French capital. While the roof of the Mille Arbres comprises a sustainable community in the middle of forest, the street level of the building is an urban park. Conceived as a work of land art, the park features a characteristic topography that lifts up or slopes down to provide convenient access throughout. Among other things, this landscape offers the experience of a real forest ecosystem. Managed by the Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux (League of the Protection of Birds), it will also be a place for classes and workshops. Related: Sou Fujimoto’s latest masterpiece in Japan spreads its branches like a real tree Fujimoto’s Mille Arbres will also include La rue Gourmande , an inner street and food court designed by Philippe Starck . In addition to housing and a food court, Mille Arbres will include a 4-star hotel with 250 rooms, over 27,000 square meters of office space, an ultra-modern integrated bus station, and a kindergarten with a large covered playground. The Thousand Trees project will rise above the ring road of Paris , absorbing pollution created by the traffic below and bridging the border that currently divides the inner and outer parts of Paris. Mille Arbres is the winner of the three-stage open competition Réinventer Paris . Its construction is expected to be completed by 2022. + Sou Fujimoto Images via SFA+OXO+MORPH

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This reverse pyramid is a green urban community in the skies of Paris

Homey village in France provides healing space for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia

September 23, 2016 by  
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Recent studies have shown that the quality and atmosphere of buildings can slow the progression of  Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and promote good health. The therapeutic features and overall design of the innovative new Alzheimer Village in France was created with this idea in mind. The design was created conceived by NORD Architects  in order to make a place where patients can find peace and comfort. The project recently won an international competition for a new building for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Located in the town of Dax, France , it deploys a new approach to designing healthcare facilities and draws from the architects’ extensive experience with designing buildings for the healthcare sector. The building respects the patients’ personal needs and privacy, and provides a homely atmosphere that has been proven to help Alzheimer and dementia patients. Related: Solar-powered hospital heals patients with sustainable design in New Zealand In addition to its therapeutic potentials, the new development will lower treatment and medication costs. It facilitates a gradual inclusion of patients and their relatives, and features a local shop, hairdresser, restaurants and cultural center in order to maintain an optimal level of normalcy. The intimate quality will allow users to feel at home. + NORD Architects Via World Architecture News

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Homey village in France provides healing space for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia

Energy Observer to sail around the world using only solar, wind, and hydrogen fuel

September 12, 2016 by  
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Since Solar Impulse successfully completed its fuel-free flight around the world earlier this summer, many adventurers are dreaming of making their own green journeys in other types of vehicles. For Victorien Erussard of France, a boat powered by renewable energy and hydrogen is the key part of his mission , but it’s not just a dream. Erussard’s boat, dubbed Energy Observer , is currently being outfitted with all the clean energy-generating gear it will need to cruise around the world. Energy Observer is a large catamaran, currently housed in a shipyard at Saint-Malo on the west coast of France. The next phase of the boat’s preparation is the installation of solar panels and wind turbines, as well as electrolysis equipment, which divides water molecules into hydrogen (for fuel) and oxygen (which is typically expelled into the air). While Solar Impulse flew powered solely by electricity generated from solar energy, Erussard decided early on to outfit his boat with multiple sources of renewable energy . After all, he won’t have the same convenience of landing and staying in a hotel until the weather turns favorable again. Related: 8 memorable milestones of the first solar-powered flight around the world “If there’s no sun or wind, or if it’s night, stored hydrogen—generated by electrolysis powered by the solar panels and two wind turbines—will take over,” Erussard explained in a statement. As a merchant navy officer, he knows plenty about boats, and he believes his onboard hydrogen fuel-producing boat will make history. “We are going to be the first boat with an autonomous means of producing hydrogen,” he told the press. Energy Observer is scheduled to hit the high seas next February, and Erussard will be accompanied on the adventure by Jacques Delafosse, a documentary filmmaker and professional scuba diver. + Energy Observer Via Phys.org Images via Energy Observer    

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Energy Observer to sail around the world using only solar, wind, and hydrogen fuel

Fully-furnished tiny house from France easily fits a family of three

August 24, 2016 by  
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The 217-square-foot house has a space-efficient layout that fits all the amenities of a regular-sized home. The sitting area lies above a small room that can be used as a guest room or play area for a small child. A small, operable window ensures the crawlspace is well ventilated. The kitchen is split into two areas-one with a sink and the other with the stove. A pull-out table forms a small dining space next to the kitchen. Accessible via a ladder is the main sleeping area with a big bed, while the bathroom features a composting toilet . Related: Tiny $33K Home Offers Off-Grid Luxury Living on Wheels The Odyssée, which costs $49,800, comes fully furnished and features a variety of natural materials such as red cedar, oak, ash and spruce. If you’re interested in visiting one of Baluchon’s built projects in person, check out the company’s website for open house dates. + Tiny House Baluchon Via Treehugger Images via Tiny House Baluchon

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Fully-furnished tiny house from France easily fits a family of three

SCAD artist turns recycled materials into giant puppets to revitalize a historic French village

August 4, 2016 by  
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https://vimeo.com/174097575 Founded in 2002, SCAD Lacoste is a study abroad campus set in a medieval village with stone structures that date as far back as the 12th century. Many of the buildings have been carefully restored and converted into student dorms, offices, classrooms, and studios with modern amenities without compromising the village’s historic integrity. Student-created art punctuates the village and buildings for a delightful contrast between old and new, however, the real beauty of SCAD Lacoste lies with the school’s enthusiasm for engaging the local French community and hosting events that bring new life and purpose to the village, rather than forcing the site to stay stuck in time. Sam Lasseter’s ‘Grande Parade’ is one such inspiring example. Created over six months, the project comprises large-scale puppets and costumes following the theme “Le rêve de nuit dété (Midsummer Night’s Dream): Flora and Fauna of a Lacoste Summer.” Sam built 35 puppets of varying sizes primarily from kraft paper and recycled cardboard reclaimed from village waste. The puppets were completed in collaboration with Martha Enzmann and Karen Butch. Envisioned as a tribute to Lacoste and the community, the giant papier-mâché puppets include characters specific to the region, from the infamous Marquis de Sade, who stayed in Lacoste in the 18th century, to the Quarry Worker that represents the workers that mined Lacoste’s famous stone quarries. Related: Medieval village ruins converted into an art school unveil past secrets “All of them are based off Lacoste’s culture and stories,” Sam told Inhabitat. “I wanted to do something to give back to the village. It sounds like being a local there can be hard when a portion of the population—the SCAD study abroad students—changes every two months. This parade was made for them, to honor their stories, culture, and Lacoste’s history.” SCAD alumna Trish Andersen was also commissioned to create ornate garlands, flower crowns, and large-scale decorations to complement the parade. The local community, visitors, SCAD students, and staff were invited to join the procession as it marched down the Rue Basse, the village’s main cobblestone road, led by a French second line-style jazz band. The Grande Parade took place at SCAD Lacoste on July 2, 2016. The puppets will travel to and be put on show at SCAD’s other three campuses, starting with Atlanta in September and ending with Hong Kong in Spring 2016. + Sam Lasseter + Savannah College of Art and Design Watermarked images © Lucy Wang , all others are courtesy of SCAD | Video by SCAD student William Burrell

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SCAD artist turns recycled materials into giant puppets to revitalize a historic French village

Massive turbines and blades for America’s first offshore wind farm land in Rhode Island

July 14, 2016 by  
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Although the United States is not new territory for wind farms , Deepwater Winds’ Block Island Wind Farm will be the first in the nation to be located offshore. The project calls for construction to take place through late summer, with the wind farm generating renewable energy  for the local community by the end of the year. The Block Island Wind Farm is expected to generate 125,000 megawatt-hours of electricity, providing 90 percent of power utilized on the island with a potential to supply electricity to the mainland. Related: Deepwater Wind breaks ground on the U.S.’s first offshore wind farm Five Haliade nacelles were built at GE Renewable Energy’s new plant in Saint-Nazaire, France to be shipped to the U.S. for the wind farm. Each massive machine weighs 400 tons and is the size of a bus. It holds all the power-generating components of the wind turbine, including a massive permanent magnet generator. Each of the five nacelles will support three 240-foot-long blades weighing 27 tons apiece. All 15 blades and five nacelles docked in Rhode Island last week after their long journey via cargo ship across the Atlantic. Eric Crucerey is the GE Renewable Energy project director in charge of delivering turbines to the site of the Block Island Wind Farm. Given the size and price tag of the wind energy farm , he takes his work very seriously. “My job is to be ready for everything, understand any weaknesses in Plan A and always have a Plan B,” he said. “’Never give up’ is my motto.” Luckily, he has numerous partners to help coordinate the project, including the folks who transported the wind turbine parts via truck, which sometimes meant building their own roads to maneuver the massive blades. The bases for each of the five wind turbines have already been built, completed last fall. Once the turbines are mounted this August, each one will stand 330 feet (100 meters) above the water’s surface, with a total height twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, their French cousin. + GE Reports Images via GE Renewables , LM Wind Power , and Deepwater Wind

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Massive turbines and blades for America’s first offshore wind farm land in Rhode Island

Paris opens first section of a 28-mile bicycle superhighway

July 6, 2016 by  
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Paris just inaugurated its very first all-bike superhighway . So far, the thoroughfare consists of a half-mile stretch of pavement that runs along the Bassin de l’Arsenal, but by 2020 it will be just one small part of a 28-mile bicycle highway network, called the Réseau express vélo (“REVe”) , planned across the city. Rather than simply placing bike lanes on already-busy streets, the city has opted to build dedicated bike paths free of motorized vehicles — a move that’s certainly sure to encourage those too timid to travel in urban traffic. As more people bike to work each day, the hope is that the city’s notorious air pollution will be lessened. In 2015, Paris officials voted to set aside €150 million ($164.5 million) to expand and improve the city’s biking infrastructure , including REVe. The city created new traffic regulations that are more friendly to cyclists, such as allowing them to turn at some intersections without waiting for green lights. The city also plans to build new bike stands, two-way bike lanes on one-way streets, and smart traffic lights that give priority to cyclists. When you look at the numbers, it’s not surprising that city officials sought to make biking more attractive to residents. A 2014 study showed that bikes made up only 5% of the city’s daily traffic, accounting for 225,000 trips. While that may seem like a high number, it barely registers compared to the 15.5 million daily car trips made within the city. These numbers are positively dismal when compared to other European cities like Copenhagen (where cyclists account for 55% of traffic) or Amsterdam (a close second at 43%). Related: France is Paying Commuters to Bike to Work! There is one factor that helps account for the disparity here: cyclists in Paris claim they simply don’t feel safe competing with motorized vehicles on the road. While most roads in the city have bike lanes, cyclists report being pushed out of them by other vehicles using them as lanes. The new bike highways solve this problem by eliminating shared bike lanes altogether — and the city hopes that cyclists will creep up to 15% of daily traffic by 2020. Via CityLab Images via Wikimedia Commons and The Mayor of Paris

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Paris opens first section of a 28-mile bicycle superhighway

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