UPS and MIT on mobility and megacities

January 29, 2018 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: Mark Wallace of UPS and Matthias Winkenbach of the MIT Megacities Logistics Lab untangle urban sustainability.

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UPS and MIT on mobility and megacities

MIT’s new thermal battery releases heat on demand with light

November 28, 2017 by  
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Heat is often plentiful during the daytime for people in developing countries – but at night, when they’re cooking and the sun is down, they don’t typically have access to that heat and must use a material like dung or wood for fuel. A new chemical composite developed by three Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists could offer an alternative by storing the sun’s heat during the day in what MIT described as a thermal battery, and releasing that heat on demand later for cooking or heating. Scientists commonly approach thermal storage with a phase change material (PCM): when heat melts the PCM, it changes from solid to liquid stores energy , according to MIT . When it’s cooled and changes back into a solid, it releases the stored energy as heat. But all current PCMs need a lot of insulation, and MIT said they go through “that phase change temperature uncontrollably, losing their stored heat relatively rapidly.” Related: MIT battery that inhales and exhales air can store power for months Researchers overcame challenges to thermal storage with a system drawing on molecular switches that alter shape in response to light . They integrated these molecules into traditional PCM materials to release heat on demand. MIT professor Jeffrey Grossman said in a statement, “By integrating a light-activated molecule into the traditional picture of latent heat, we add a new kind of control knob for properties such as melting, solidification, and supercooling.” Their chemical heat battery could harness solar heat and potentially even waste heat from vehicles or industrial processes. With the system, heat could stay stable for at least 10 hours – and a device of around the same size storing heat directly would release it in just a few minutes. The MIT material can store around 200 joules per gram. Postdoctoral researcher Grace Han said there’s already been some interest in their thermal battery for use in cooking in rural India. The journal Nature Communications published the research online earlier this month. Via Massachusetts Institute of Technology Images via Melanie Gonick/MIT and courtesy of the researchers

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MIT’s new thermal battery releases heat on demand with light

MIT and Lamborghini designed an electric supercar – and it’s incredible

November 14, 2017 by  
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Looking for the car of your dreams? We’ve found it. Lamborghini recently partnered with MIT to produce a futuristic, semi-autonomous car that’s as sexy as it is eco-friendly. As you might expect, the Terzo Millennio looks like a Lamborghini supercar. But its sleek, sharp angles aren’t its most impressive feature. The vehicle’s carbon fiber body actually stores energy – and it’s able to heal itself. Lamborghini and MIT sought to develop a supercar for the generation after the next that focuses on five distinct areas: energy, materials, storage, propulsion, design, and emotion. The Terzo Millennio has four electric motors — one in each wheel. This allows for more freedom in the design, as all the motor-related parts are hidden in the wheel wells. Rather than relying on standard batteries, the vehicle is powered by supercapacitors. CNET reports that supercapacitors “accept and deliver charge faster than batteries can, while withstanding numerous charge cycles and featuring storage capacities much higher than standard capacitators.” Related: MIT students find a way to make stronger concrete with plastic bottles New technology can monitor the car’s carbon fiber structure. This prevents a small crack (for example) from growing and altering the charge of the vehicle. The MIT researchers refer to this as a “self-repairing” process. The Terzo Millennio is also designed to be semi-autonomous . This means it will work with the driver to help them become more proficient at handling the vehicle and navigating roads. Technically, it could ferry around a passenger, but the vehicle treats autonomy as a means to an end instead of the end itself. + Lamborghini Via CNET Images via Lamborghini

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MIT and Lamborghini designed an electric supercar – and it’s incredible

Greenbuild: The world’s biggest green building expo kicks off tomorrow in Boston

November 7, 2017 by  
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The world’s biggest conference dedicated to green building kicks off tomorrow – and you won’t want to miss it! The Greenbuild International Conference and Expo will convene sustainable building experts, professionals and leaders for mind-blowing exhibits, learning activities, a Net Zero zone, and pavilions packed with the latest in green building technology. If you are passionate about green living, then clear your calendar for November 8 – 10 and get ready for an amazing experience. This year, Greenbuild will feature education, workshops, tours, awards, and an expo hall that is not to be missed. Inhabitat regularly attends the conference, so we know first-hand how great it can be. Check out our coverage from past years to get a glimpse into what you can expect – we’ve rounded up some of our favorite innovations here , here and here . Greenbuild has a reputation for stellar education sessions, where you can learn about a huge range of topics – from passive and net zero building to tips from developers who are changing the face of the industry. Workshops qualify for continuing education credits and toward LEED certification hours. Summit topics will include Communities and Affordable Homes, The Water Summit and the International Summit. Greenbuild’s tours are always highly anticipated, and this year’s lineup promises to be exceptional. Attendees will be able to visit four net positive and passive house buildings that are breaking the mold, MIT to learn about its green building innovations, and some of Boston’s groundbreaking green spaces. Head over to Greenbuild to nab your spot now. + Greenbuild Expo Save

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Greenbuild: The world’s biggest green building expo kicks off tomorrow in Boston

Magnetic particles may be the future of data storage

October 24, 2017 by  
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Recently discovered magnetic behavior may have enormous potential to power the next generation of data storage technology , according to new research reported this week in the journal  Nature Nanotechnology.  The promise of data storage based on “skyrmions,” minuscule disturbances in magnetic orientation, offers a potential path to overcome fundamental limitations in computing technology that otherwise may have heralded the end of Moore’s Law, which holds that computing power doubles in strength roughly every two years. Skyrmions, the phenomenon on which this new data technology would be based, were only discovered in 2016 by a team led by MIT associate professor of materials science and engineering Geoffrey Beach. These magnetic particles occur between two thin metallic films from two different kinds of metal and can be wielded using electric fields, allowing long-term data storage without the need of additional energy. While the locations of these skyrmions were originally random, Beach and collaborators at MIT and in Germany  have since demonstrated an ability to purposefully create and harness these magnetic particles, opening the door to new technological possibilities. Related: Scientists turn eggshells into eco-friendly data-storage devices Because skyrmions are very stable in contrast to traditional magnetic storage devices , data could potentially be stored on a magnetic surface perhaps only a few atoms across. This feature is what allows the theoretical skyrmions-based storage devices overcome the physical limitations of traditional magnetic storage devices and continue the computing power expansion under Moore’s Law. The next step is to figure out an efficient way to read the data that has been written into the skyrmions. One solution is to add an additional layer of a different metal to the skyrmion sandwich and then use differences in the layer’s electrical resistance based on the presence of skyrmions to determine the encoded data. “There’s no question it would work,” said MIT postdoc and study co-author Felix Buettner, but further research and development is needed to determine how best to implement the idea. Via Futurism/MIT News Images via Moritz Eisebitt/MIT News and Depositphotos

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Magnetic particles may be the future of data storage

MIT battery that inhales and exhales air can store power for months

October 12, 2017 by  
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Could this air-breathing battery help solve energy storage woes? 10 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers developed the battery capable of storing electricity for months for around one fifth of the cost of comparable technologies. MIT professor Yet-Ming Chiang said, “This battery literally inhales and exhales air , but it doesn’t exhale carbon dioxide , like humans – it exhales oxygen .” MIT says their air-breathing battery could help renewable energy , like solar and wind, be more practicable for the grid . Their rechargeable flow battery costs a fraction of current technology, and can store power for long periods of time, with zero emissions and few location restraints. Related: Former Tesla executives to produce battery “with significantly lower carbon footprint” Sulfur dissolved in water comprises the battery’s liquid anode. What MIT described as an aerated liquid salt solution in the liquid cathode brings in and lets out oxygen. According to the institute, “Oxygen flowing into the cathode causes the anode to discharge electrons to an external circuit. Oxygen flowing out sends electrons back to the anode, recharging the battery.” The cost of the anode, cathode, and electrode materials in the battery is around 1/30 that of lithium-ion batteries , according to MIT. If the battery system was scaled up, it could store electricity for around $20 to $30 per kilowatt-hour – compare that against today’s batteries, which are around $100 per kilowatt-hour, at least. Right now, the prototype is about as big as a coffee cup. But Chiang said flow batteries are highly scalable. This new technology could compete with pumped hydroelectric storage systems, though, since the MIT system is more compact, it could be deployed in more locations where renewable energy is being generated. As solar and wind energy production can be intermittent, the battery could store the energy they generate to offer a reliable source of power. The journal Joule published the research this week. Via MIT News Images courtesy of the researchers and Felice Frankel

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MIT battery that inhales and exhales air can store power for months

Cover installs its first prefab dwelling for the masses in L.A.

October 12, 2017 by  
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Thoughtful prefabricated design for the masses just moved one big step closer to reality. Tech company Cover just completed and installed its first computer-designed dwelling—and it’s begun taking pre-orders worldwide and delivering in Los Angeles. Cover, which describes their work as “doing for homes what Tesla is doing for the car,” uses proprietary computer algorithms to design beautiful custom spaces crafted to meet the user’s needs and optimized to meet rigorous Passive House standards. Cover is setting out to revolutionize the building industry with its streamlined process that combines precision-made prefabricated panels with proprietary technology. Cover’s computer algorithms create high-quality floor plans customized to the client’s needs as well as property and zoning constraints in as little as three days. The custom-designed units can be built to sizes ranging from 100 to 1,200 square feet and can be used as standalone homes with full kitchens and bathrooms. Energy efficiency is a big component of Cover’s units. Each modular unique dwelling will be built in Cover’s Los Angeles factory to rigorous Passive House standards and boast 80% more energy efficiency than the average home. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding doors let in ample natural light, while the low-slope roof is optimized for photovoltaics . Radiant heating and cooling provide consistent and comfortable temperatures inside the airtight building envelope. Its steel structure is 100% recyclable. Related: Cover’s $50k algorithmic tiny houses are 80% more efficient than conventional homes “Unlike other prefab companies and builders, Cover is a technology company first, armed with a team of full-time software engineers, designers, manufacturing engineers, and architects who have developed technology that streamlines the entire process of designing, buying, permitting, manufacturing and assembling Cover units,” said Alexis Rivas, Co-Founder and CEO of Cover. “We focus on the quality of the spaces and the little details – like the way light reflects off surfaces, how a door handle feels or the framing of the view – to transform the living experience for our customers and ensure a more efficient, smarter, and thoughtful way of living.” The first Cover unit is a 320-square-foot space that will be used as a music studio and office. Cover plans to produce 150 units per year in its Los Angeles factory. + Cover

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Cover installs its first prefab dwelling for the masses in L.A.

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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MIT researchers explore ancient firebrick technology to store energy

Tips for sustainability-oriented entrepreneurs seeking capital

July 25, 2017 by  
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How do you balance “doing well” with “doing good” when it comes to raising money for startups? A new platform from MIT can help.

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Tips for sustainability-oriented entrepreneurs seeking capital

Will the power grid handle amped demand from EVs?

July 25, 2017 by  
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Pricing incentives can help match electric vehicle’s increasing electricity usage with power output.

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Will the power grid handle amped demand from EVs?

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