Why ARPA-E is essential for U.S. energy innovation

April 25, 2018 by  
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The federal agency has a mission of overcoming long-term, high-risk barriers to developing energy technologies.

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Why ARPA-E is essential for U.S. energy innovation

These robots assembled an IKEA chair in 20 minutes without having a meltdown

April 19, 2018 by  
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Who hasn’t found themselves ready to throw a half-assembled IKEA chair across the room in a fit of frustration? If you are one of the many humans that still struggle to piece it all together, don’t despair: the robots are coming. In a study recently published in Science Robotics , scientists created two robots that are capable of performing the complex movements and possess the planning skills necessary to construct an IKEA chair. The robots are able to assemble a chair in a little over twenty minutes, with 11 minutes and 21 seconds dedicated to planning and 8 minutes and 55 seconds devoted to actual construction. While computers seem to have surpassed humans in certain cognitive tasks, such as playing chess and Go, until the development of this particular robot, even the most advanced robots struggled to emulate the manual dexterity possessed by humans to complete a complicated task like chair assembly. Additionally, the task requires integration of sight and precise calculation of force necessary to complete a particular step in the process. The team that designed the IKEA assembly robot from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore  utilized 3D cameras and force sensors , combined with full-range robotic arms, to equip their machine with the parts necessary to get the job done. Related: Scientists develop tiny robots that drill into cancer cells to kill them To start, the robots recorded images to properly identify each component of the chair. Next, the robots followed a complex algorithm to plan the movements needed to complete the task without bumping into anything. Finally, the robot arms assembled the parts, guided by sensors to determine the force necessary to secure each component. Although the robots were not fully autonomous, the researchers predict that with ever-advancing artificial intelligence , assembly robots may someday be able to piece together your furniture simply by flipping through the manual. Via Science Magazine Images via Science Magainze

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These robots assembled an IKEA chair in 20 minutes without having a meltdown

The world’s largest beer brewer invents low-carbon beer bubbles

April 18, 2018 by  
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Belgium -based AB Inbev, the world’s largest beer brewing company, has created a new low-carbon method for adding bubbles to beer . The technique, which is expected to reduce the company’s CO2 emissions by 5 percent, involves heating the brew to just below boiling point, then pumping in CO2 or nitrogen to create gas bubbles. Typically, bubbles are created during the boiling process, which requires a great deal of heat and water. AB Inbev claims that using lower temperatures in the early brewing process cuts emissions and results in a beer that stays fresh for longer. AB Inbev fine-tuned and tested this method for four years at an experimental brewery in Leuven near Brussels, then later at large facilities in the United Kingdom. These bubbles are not to be confused with the bubbles that emerge when cracking open a cold one. The oh-so-satisfying suds are a product of fermentation — in which yeast consumes sugars within the brew to create CO2 and alcohol — and pressure formed through kegging or bottling. Related: Beer with biodegradable six-pack rings finally hits the market The company’s 5 percent annual emissions reduction is roughly equivalent of the energy consumption of 120,000 Western families. The method will also lead to a 0.5 percent reduction in water consumption which is the equivalent of 1,200 Olympic swimming pools. “Our innovation is to heat everything up to just below boiling point, which provides 80 percent energy savings at this point in time,” AB Inbev Europe research director David De Schutter told The Guardian . “There is a lot less steam released, which allows you to spend less on water. In our case, we managed to go from 5 percent evaporated water to less than 1 percent.” Cheers to that! Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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The world’s largest beer brewer invents low-carbon beer bubbles

Baboons use a barrel to escape biomedical research institute in Texas

April 18, 2018 by  
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Baboons  escaped a biomedical research facility over the weekend with the help of a 55-gallon barrel. Gizmodo reported  that one clever baboon figured out how to turn a barrel upright and use it to climb fencing. Three others followed and the group hit the road, although one returned on its own — but sadly, their freedom didn’t last long. Baboons hit the road after escaping from a Texas Biomedical Research Institute (TBRI) facility. Inward-leaning walls on their open-air enclosure (seen in the video above) have kept animals from leaving in the past 35 or so years, but that didn’t stop these primates . According to the institute’s statement , the animals rolled the barrel to an upright position to ultimately jump out of the enclosure. An animal capture team, wearing protective masks and suits, captured the three animals who did leave around 20-30 minutes after. Two baboons were held to the tree line, but one made it to a nearby street. ABC News shared a video on Twitter of members of the team chasing one of the baboons on a Texas highway. Four baboons escaped their enclosure at a San Antonio biomedical research facility Saturday. A woman then spotted one leading researchers on a wild foot chase down a Texas highway. All of the baboons were safely returned according to a statement. https://t.co/sA148VbSDd pic.twitter.com/pPBW4V5ZIu — ABC News (@ABC) April 15, 2018 Related: Scientists in China have successfully cloned monkeys There are over 2,500 animals at the institute’s campus; almost 1,100 are baboons. These four escapees were part of a group of 133 males, according to HuffPost , that aren’t currently being used for testing. TBRI assistant vice president for communications Lisa Cruz said in the institute’s statement baboons “have played an important role in the discovery of life-saving drugs, therapies, and vaccines and have led to greater understanding of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and so much more that impact the lives of millions of people.” The barrels, introduced in the enclosure just six to eight months ago, were what TBRI calls enrichment tools, and they’ve been removed. TBRI reported the returned baboons are doing well, but not everyone on social media thinks the baboons should have had to go back to the institute. People on Twitter called for the primates to find a new home in an animal sanctuary . This is heartbreaking. 4 baboons worked together to roll a 55 gallon barrel and escape the research facility where they were subject to horrifying medical experiments. They earned their freedom. Let them go to a sanctuary. Some animals are too sentient to be subjected to this. https://t.co/pWiykNdAW8 — Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) April 17, 2018 Four baboons planned their escape from your facility and escaped by positioning a 55 pound barrel so they could climb out. What does that tell you about your facility? You make me sick @txbiomed – have the decency to send them to a sanctuary. https://t.co/jRhD9xjG2L — Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) April 17, 2018 + Texas Biomedical Research Institute Via Gizmodo and HuffPost Image © Clem Spalding Photography (210) 271-7273, courtesy of Texas Biomed

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Baboons use a barrel to escape biomedical research institute in Texas

White Castle is now offering ‘bleeding’ vegan Impossible Burger sliders

April 17, 2018 by  
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Iconic fast-food chain White Castle is now offering a vegan version of its signature sliders, with the “beef” provided by Redwood City-based start-up Impossible Foods . It’s the first time that a major chain has offered the meatless burger alternative and marks a shift in what consumers are demanding these days. The Impossible slider re-creates the sensation of eating meat, complete with “blood,” in hopes to bridge the gap between the dry veggie burgers of yore and real meat. While the Impossible Burger is offered at 1,300 different restaurants in the United States, including Fat Burger, Umami Burger, and Momofuko Nishi, its featured debut at White Castle, the largest chain to partner with Impossible Foods, is a landmark for the companies involved. Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown hopes that the White Castle partnership will help the burgeoning vegan “meat” company better understand how to “popularize plant-based meat with mainstream burger lovers.” Founded in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, White Castle is credited as the first fast-food chain as well as the inventor of the slider. It also has been owned and operated by the Ingram family for four generations. White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram cites the strong relationship that the company has with its customers as a primary reason to explore a vegan burger option.  “It really starts by listening to our customers as we try to do with all of our innovations,” Ingram told Marketplace . “We also have some customers that grew up on White Castle but have decided to be vegetarians… This was a natural evolution for us when we found out that Impossible Foods was creating a plant-based product that looked and tastes like beef both for the people that like meats and for the people that are choosing to have a vegetarian diet.” Related: NYC’s first vegan butcher shop set to open this spring Founded in 2011, Impossible Foods opened its first high-volume production facility in Oakland , California in the fall of 2017. Despite this facility’s taking up a full city-block, the demand for Impossible Foods “meat” has become so high that the company is looking double its production in the near future. The Impossible Burger slider at White Castle costs $1.99, in contrast to the $.77 per beef slider, and is available in select stores in New York, New Jersey and the Chicago area. If this trial run proves to be a success, consumers may soon be able to enjoy the Impossible slider at White Castles across the United States . Via Grub Street and Marketplace Images via Impossible Foods and White Castle

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White Castle is now offering ‘bleeding’ vegan Impossible Burger sliders

Tesla Model Y production will power up in November 2019

April 12, 2018 by  
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With all the news about the Tesla Model 3 and the cargo hauling Tesla Semi , we might have forgotten that Tesla is already hard at work on its next model, the Tesla Model Y . We have yet to see the Tesla Model Y crossover, but according to the latest reports, Tesla has a goal of starting production in November 2019. Sources recently revealed to Reuters this week that Tesla is currently accepting bids for supplier contracts for the compact crossover. Tesla is keeping most of the details under wraps, but it has reportedly told suppliers as part of an RFI (request for information) that it will begin production of the Model Y at its Fremont, California plant by the end of next year. Related: The Tesla Semi just made its first cargo trip transporting battery packs News about Tesla getting ready for the Model Y production may raise comments from critics, since Tesla still hasn’t fully ramped up production of the Model 3 . Tesla is still hoping that it will be able to produce 5,000 Model 3 sedans a week at some point this quarter. It may seem aggressive that Tesla plans to start production so quickly, but the fact that the compact crossover shares its platform with the Model 3 will help. Tesla aims to eventually produce 1 million Model Y crossovers a year, helped by a new production facility in China that is expected to power up by 2021. Now that we have a production start date for the Model Y, we can get ready for the reveal of the car in the near future, though Tesla hasn’t confirmed just when this will happen. For now, we just have this single teaser of the Model Y. + Tesla Via  Reuters Images by Tesla

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Tesla Model Y production will power up in November 2019

World’s first electric road that charges moving vehicles debuts in Sweden

April 12, 2018 by  
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The first electrified road capable of charging EVs as they drive across it is now open outside of Stockholm , Sweden. While the road — which links Stockholm Arlanda airport to a nearby logistics site — is only two kilometers long, it is a significant step forward in Sweden’s strategic plan for energy and climate change . The country aims to become independent of fossil fuels by 2030 – a task that will require a 70 percent reduction in emissions from the transportation sector. Once expanded, the electric roadways and highways in Sweden will make it convenient to charge electric vehicles and ease the country’s transition from traditional combustion engine vehicles. The system works by transferring electricity from the installed underground rail to the vehicle above through a flexible arm that attaches to the charging vehicle . “There is no electricity on the surface,” Hans Säll, chief executive of  eRoadArlanda , explained to the Guardian . “There are two tracks, just like an outlet in the wall. Five or six centimeters down is where the electricity is. But if you flood the road with salt water , then we have found that the electricity level at the surface is just one volt. You could walk on it barefoot.” Related: Siemens debuts first electrified eHighway in the US It currently costs 1 million euros to construct one kilometer of electrified road, but this is still 50 times less than the cost of installing an equivalent distance of an overhead tram line. At the moment, Sweden maintains about half a million kilometers of roadways, of which 20,000 are highways. “If we electrify 20,000 kilometers of highways that will definitely be enough,” Säll said. “The distance between two highways is never more than 45 kilometers, and electric cars can already travel that distance without needing to be recharged. Some believe it would be enough to electrify 5,000 kilometers.” Sweden and Germany are in discussion to eventually construct a network of electrified roads to encourage a Europe-wide adoption of electric vehicles. Via The Guardian Images via  Erik Mårtensson/eRoadArlanda

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World’s first electric road that charges moving vehicles debuts in Sweden

World’s most powerful wind turbine installed off the coast of Scotland

April 10, 2018 by  
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The world’s most powerful wind turbine was just installed off the coast of Scotland. Developer Vattenfall announced this week it completed the installation of 11 turbines in Aberdeen Bay – two of which were upgraded with a record-setting capacity of 8.8 MW. In total, the installation generates 93.2 MW of energy – enough to power 70-percent of Aberdeen’s domestic needs. Vattenfall said that nine 8.4 MW turbines were installed off the coast, and two other turbines with an enhanced capacity of 8.8 MW were also put in place. These turbines are the most powerful in the world – and a major milestone for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC). The company also announced that a few weeks ago it installed the industry’s first suction bucket jacket foundations, which will help make off-shore wind power installations more affordable. ? Related: The world’s first subsidy-free offshore wind farm is being built in the Netherlands All told, 134,128 tons of coal will be displaced by the installation. “The turbines for the EOWDC, Scotland’s largest offshore wind test and demonstration facility, help secure Vattenfall’s vision to be fossil fuel free within one generation,” said Gunnar Groebler, Vattenfall’s Head of Business Area Wind. + Vattenfall Via Business Green Images via Vattenfall

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World’s most powerful wind turbine installed off the coast of Scotland

Are electric bikes the future of transportation? We tested one to find out

April 10, 2018 by  
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At first glance, it might seem like the standard bicycle doesn’t have much you could improve on. It gets you to your destination faster, provides a great workout, and doesn’t pollute the air. And, of course, once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. However, in sprawling modern day cities—Los Angeles, we’re looking at you—bikes are sometimes less than ideal as a form of transportation. Cyclists can certainly brave the crowded streets and longer commutes, but they’re far more likely to be exhausted, or at least uncomfortable, at the end of their ride. That’s where the electric bike comes in. Electric bikes, or e-bikes, have been around for a few years, but a recent increase in popularity has thrust them into the spotlight—and for good reason. As more and more people move to urban areas, we’ll have to find new ways of creating urban mobility if we want to stop problems of traffic congestion and air pollution from becoming worse. The electric bikes provides an excellent solution to this problem: by making commutes less intensive, it serves as a viable alternative to cars and lets riders enjoy their time outside and explore their city. Related: Copenhagen now has more bikes than cars Here at Inhabitat, we decided to test out an e-bike for ourselves to see just how different it was from a standard bicycle. On a typically sunny SoCal day, I headed down to Electric Bikes LA in El Segundo, a small suburb south of LAX, and picked up a Porteur Faraday bike . The bike itself was gorgeous, painted bright white and mint green, with sleek bamboo fenders above the wheels. The battery, which can last 25 miles when fully charged, was cleverly integrated into the frame of the bike. At the very least, I thought as I wheeled the bike out the shop’s front door, I would be riding in style, and nobody would know the bike was electric. I took the e-bike to a nearby park, then started out on a rutted dirt path. At first, I found I had to pedal a little harder than usual. Electric bikes weigh more than standard bikes, though, at 40 lbs, the Faraday models are much lighter than other brands. Once steady, I reached down with my thumb and switched the motor to full speed. And even though I had read about electric bikes and what they could do, I was not at all prepared for what happened next. Imagine flooring it in a car—the way the vehicle leaps forward, the landscape on either side turning to a blur. It was a little like that, except all I had to do was pedal, and instead of going from zero to sixty, I felt the bike comfortably pull me forward as I went from zero to twenty. Even so, I let out a whoop as I shot effortlessly through the park, then slowed down with ease and turned onto the street. Once I joined traffic, I dropped the motor speed down a notch, but that didn’t stop me from outpacing the cars beside me. I even spotted a few of the drivers giving me incredulous glances as I sped past. Granted, I was on residential streets, but I could understand—it’s not often that you see a cyclist pass a car without even breaking a sweat. As I navigated around El Segundo, I toggled between speeds, testing out various combinations. The motor essentially functions as a gear shift, allowing you to pair each setting with gears one through eight. The bike itself uses a Gates carbon drive belt that not only means less long-term maintenance, but also no greasy pant legs and a quieter ride. I found that the bike shifted seamlessly based on whatever speed I desired, which allowed me to pedal less while maintaining momentum. But I knew there needed to be one more test: the hill. El Segundo’s elevation changes aren’t exactly staggering, but still, I figured getting a 40-pound electric bike up a hill might take some effort. I tried it twice, only turning on the motor the second time. The first time, I have to admit that I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top. The next time around, I flipped on the motor and went up two gears, and I ascended the hill in about half the time, pedaling with ease. Once I got back home, charging the bike was a simple process. The adapter is about the size of a typical laptop charger and plugs straight into the battery pack. From a completely empty battery to full charge took around two and a half hours. The verdict? Faraday’s electric bike handles and rides like a dream, and it’s easy to imagine using it to commute in L.A., or any city, really. In fact, Los Angeles is just one among many cities where it can be faster to ride a bike than drive . An electric bike isn’t exactly cheap—the average retail price in 2016 was $3,000, and Faraday’s two models go for $3,499 and $2,499—but, as an alternative to other forms of transportation, it makes sense. Faraday itself offers a 24-month financing plan that knocks the price down to $104 a month, which is about the same price as a bus or metro pass in most major cities, and far less expensive than paying for gas and insurance. Plus, you have the added benefit of appreciating and experiencing your city rather than seeing it through a car window. While the concept is still relatively new, I don’t doubt that electric bikes could be on the rise as a transportation alternative —one that’s greener, faster, and much, much more pleasant than sitting in traffic. + Faraday Bikes Photos by Angela Molina and Kimberly Keller Additional images via  Faraday Bikes

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This tiny house on a sled is the perfect way to see the Northern Lights

April 5, 2018 by  
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For years, transparent bubble-type lodging has been all the rage for enjoying the Northern Lights , but now there is a better way to observe this natural phenomenon. One inventive tour operator, Off the Map Travel , is offering guests a roaming hotel sled that makes it easier to see the Northern Lights in arctic Finland, all without stepping out in the cold. As part of the Aurora Wilderness Camp , Off the Map Travel offers three mobile hotel rooms that are built on sleds for the sole purpose of watching the Northern Lights. Although they are a sight to be seen, the famed lights are notoriously hard to locate. Being mobile is the key to success in finding the colorful light show. Related: This glass cabin in Iceland lets you watch the Northern Lights from your bed At eight feet wide, 15 feet long and 6.5 feet high, the sled hotels are compact and fit only two people. On the interior of the tiny cabins  is a bed, a dining table and little else. The space comes with a heater to keep you warm and cozy. Snow shoes and individual sleds are also available upon request for outdoor enjoyment. The hotels are only available for rent until mid-April, and guests will have to make their way to Kilpisjärvi, a small village in northern Finland , to appreciate the unique experience. But, according to Off the Map Travel’s founder Jonny Cooper, it’ll be totally worth it. Cooper told Daily Mail , “The wilderness surrounding Kilpisjärvi is known for its remote and uninterrupted Arctic tundra. Away from any man-made light pollution, it is here that the wilderness camp is placed for the winter, giving guests the best possible opportunity to experience the Northern Lights and simply enjoy the silence of the Arctic plains.” + Off the Map Travel Via Apartment Therapy Photography via Kilpissafarit

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This tiny house on a sled is the perfect way to see the Northern Lights

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