ESUB Tracks is a smart, solar-powered bicycle helmet concept

January 26, 2021 by  
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Germany-based design firm  WertelOberfell  has teamed up with material scientists, material suppliers, end-users and manufacturers to develop ESUB Tracks, a conceptual design for a smart bicycle helmet powered by flat-printed organic photovoltaics. Designed to prioritize safety, the proposed smart  bicycle helmet  is equipped with proximity sensors, a printed piezoelectric microphone that accepts basic voice commands for hands-free use, turn signal indicator lights and printed piezoelectric bone conduction speakers that provide audio via Bluetooth without distracting from the surrounding environment. To maximize solar access, the designers covered the entire surface of the uniquely shaped helmet with flat printed organic  photovoltaics  to recharge the printed organic batteries tucked inside a unit in the lower rear part of the helmet. Plans also show the rear part of the helmet would contain turn signal indicator lights as well as left and right piezoelectric haptic actuators that vibrate to warn the cyclist if a fast vehicle is close approaching. Meanwhile, the area in front of the rider’s ears includes leather straps with Bluetooth speakers attached via heat pressing. “One of the goals of this EU Horizon 2020 project was to stimulate interdisciplinary design and material research, process optimization and to develop less toxic and more eco-friendly alternatives in the field of printed electronics,” the designers explained in a project statement. “It explores how novel materials can help to improve safety and the user experience while commuting or  cycling  for leisure.” Related: Jeff Woolf’s folding bike helmet could revolutionize cycling safety A Nano Arduino board controls all electric components, from the  Bluetooth -connected speakers to the electric drive that fastens the straps for a snug and custom comfortable fit. The ESUB Tracks smart bicycle helmet concept was created with funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 761112. + WertelOberfell Images via WertelOberfell

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ESUB Tracks is a smart, solar-powered bicycle helmet concept

Princeton study shows possibility for a carbon-neutral US

December 21, 2020 by  
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It’s hard to imagine everybody making the necessary sacrifices for the U.S. to be carbon-neutral in 30 years, even if it does mean the difference between an inhabitable or uninhabitable planet. But an optimistic new study from Princeton claims that yes, it is possible. The 345-page Princeton University report , published last Tuesday, explains several ways that the U.S. could attain the goal of carbon-neutrality by 2050. The report’s six pillars are efficiency and electrification; clean electricity; zero-carbon fuels; carbon capture and storage; non-CO2 emissions; and enhanced land sinks. The keys to success are quick government action and money upfront. Related: New Zealand targets carbon neutrality by 2025 amidst climate emergency The clean electricity pillar relies on a dramatic increase in wind and solar power. This would provide many new jobs, and it would require a massive scaling up of production of turbines and photovoltaic systems. According to the study, we’d need up to 120 times as much capacity to produce the photovoltaics for solar power and 45 times our current capacity for wind turbines. Obviously, this is would require a huge commitment from the top. Individuals trading their Keurig for sun tea isn’t going to cut it. The efficiency and electrification approach focuses on improving our end-use energy productivity. This means more efficient lighting and heating in businesses and homes, such as expanded use of heat pumps. However, some researchers have posited that this approach could have a rebound effect, as people save money on energy costs only to spend it on some other goods or services that use energy and release emissions. This approach also requires widespread use of electric vehicles . The Princeton report also examines ideas like biogas or biomass collection and regenerating forests and other land sinks. What will all this take? Princeton estimates we can get to net-zero by 2050 with a $2.5 trillion investment, plus seriously committed and motivated leadership. But we need to start now. + Princeton University Via Grist Image via Angie Warren

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Solar power prices expected to drop further this year

June 12, 2018 by  
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The price of solar energy could further fall this year, experts say. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analysis published by PV Magazine predicted a 34 percent drop in the price of multicrystalline solar modules in China, an event expected to influence prices around the world. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said a price drop could open up “further space for more ambition to tackle climate change , which is crucial to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement .” The 2018 solar panel price decline could be about the same as the drop in module prices in 2016, and would be exceeded only by 2011’s 40 percent drop in prices, PV Magazine said. BNEF’s benchmark monocrystalline module price was $0.37 per watt for 2017’s fourth quarter, and could be just $0.24 per watt by 2018’s close. BNEF experts predict module prices will drop another 10 to 15 percent next year. Related: The cost of high-efficiency solar panels fell 37% in 2017 The price decline is a result of withdrawn support for China’s photovoltaic market. Since China is the biggest solar market in the world, the price fall could emanate. PV Magazine cited a BNEF note saying, “Oversupply is universal.” The note predicted a market panic initially, and developers could halt installation in the third quarter and wait for cheaper module prices and release of new quotas. India and developing countries around the world could benefit from the panel price decline, according to the UNFCCC. The UNFCCC praised the International Solar Alliance (ISA), started by India and France in 2015 to focus on investment in large-scale solar power in developing countries. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said earlier this year, “Our globally agreed goals in the Paris Agreement and the Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without your [ISA’s] effort to scale up solar power generation and support countries with great solar potential … This is our moment to deliver on the promise of a better future agreed in Paris.” + Bloomberg New Energy Finance Via PV Magazine and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Solar power prices expected to drop further this year

Some of the oldest and largest baobab trees are dying

June 12, 2018 by  
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A new survey of baobab trees throughout southern Africa has shown that most of the two dozen largest and oldest trees in the region have died in the past decade or are currently very ill. While human-caused physical damage to individual trees may explain specific die-offs, researchers believe that climate change, which is occurring faster in southern Africa than many places on Earth, may be the most significant factor in the trees’ poor health. “Such a disastrous decline is very unexpected,” chemist and survey organizer Adrian Patrut told NPR . “It’s a strange feeling, because these are trees which may live for 2,000 years or more, and we see that they’re dying one after another during our lifetime. It’s statistically very unlikely.” The iconic baobab are culturally important for many communities. A common myth explains the baobab’s unique shape as a result of gods punishing the tree for its vanity in its extraordinary size, with the baobab being uprooted and flipped upside down with its “roots” facing upwards. Baobabs can be cultivated for their nutritious leaves and fruit and may prove to be a source of economic development . The trees are also ecologically significant, providing habitat and food for a wide variety of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles. Related: Can this tree provide financial security for 10 million people in Africa? Because of their unique shape and growth patterns that distort their tree rings, accurate dating of a baobab is difficult. Despite some questioning of Patrut’s methods, researchers nonetheless recognize that baobab die-offs is an unsettling trend that deserves more study. As southern Africa likely faces intense temperature increases and drought , the urgency to understand and better protect the baobabs is clear. “The decline and death of so many large baobabs in recent years is so tragic,” ecologist David Baum told NPR . “It is heartbreaking that any should die — but even worse that we might be seeing the beginning of the end of all the giant baobabs on the planet.” Via NPR Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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New Arval HQ uses geothermal and solar energy to achieve complete power self-sufficiency

December 26, 2017 by  
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The new headquarters for car rental company Arval uses geothermal and solar energy to achieve complete self-sufficiency and a zero-emission status. Pierattelli Architetture designed the building with huge photovoltaic steel wings lined with over 1000 flexible solar panels to maximize solar-collecting capabilities. The architects designed the headquarters , known as the Photovoltaic Bolt, as a Climate House Class A building without emissions. The complex is characterized by huge photovoltaic wings with about 1000 solar panels , realized with a steel frame. Together with the panels installed on the roof, these structures can generate enough power to activate the geothermal pumps in the subsoil and make the building completely energy self-sufficient. Related: OVG’s TNT Centre is an Energy Positive, Zero Emission Office in The Netherlands The office spaces and common areas are distributed across 3 floors and a basement, accommodating about 200 employees per floor. Spaces are articulated around a central dorsal on a north-south axis to provide an east-west direction and guarantee optimum sunlight positioning. Natural light is available throughout the complex. The architects placed ceiling lights of different dimensions to guarantee maximum diffused lighting capability. Large open spaces and colorful furniture help humanize the spaces and enhance socialization. Color coding by program makes navigation more intuitive and fun. + Pierattelli Architetture Photos by Max Lisi

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Hot electron research could open up greater efficiencies for solar energy

December 26, 2017 by  
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Hot electron research is heating up solar and renewable energy research, according to the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory . Nanoscientists there uncovered quicker ways to convert power from light to energetic or hot electrons – and their methods could allow for higher efficiencies for solar power. Argonne researchers and collaborators created hybrid nanomaterials – smaller than the width of human hair – “to harness the full energy of photons,” according to the laboratory . The result was what are called hot electrons that “carry the same amount of energy as a photon that strikes nanomaterial components” and could lead to large advances in photovoltaics and photocatalytic water splitting — where materials turn solar energy into hydrogen fuel . Related: SunPower’s new solar shingles are 15% more efficient than conventional photovoltaics Senior scientist and study co-author Gary Wiederrecht said in their statement, “In larger particles, you see very few of these energetic electrons with energies near the photon energy. So you need a smaller particle.” The team zeroed in on metals because they absorb a lot of light, key to increasing the amount of energetic electrons in a material that’s been lit up. They simulated the material to determine what conditions would create the biggest number of hot electrons, and settled on silver nanocubes and gold films divided by aluminum oxide spacers. The nanostructure can crank out hot electrons better than others, according to Argonne. Wiederrecht said, “One of the key advances is our ability to produce energetic electrons over a very broad spectral range – from the ultraviolet through the visible and into the near infrared.” The journal Nature Communications published the research online in October. Scientists from Duke University, the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, and Ohio University contributed. Via Argonne National Laboratory Images courtesy of Matthew Sykes, Argonne National Laboratory, Shutterstock/Triff and Shutterstock/siro46 and via Depositphotos

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This solar-powered floating farm combines agriculture and dining under one roof

November 17, 2017 by  
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As urban farming becomes increasingly popular, people are finding new, unexpected ways of incorporating agriculture into cities. From rooftops and community gardens, urban farming has descended to waterways and lakes – as in this solar-powered floating farm that doubles as a restaurant. Lotus is designed to grow fresh produce with a vertical hydroponic garden and then serve it in indoor and outdoor dining areas where visitors can enjoy waterside views and learn more about the production of the food. Lotus is a future-oriented farming system that aims to solve problems relating to the production, sale and distribution of crops and produce in urban areas. Its design also addresses the issue of global warming exacerbated by increased emissions of methane and carbon dioxide. Related: Could solar-powered floating farms provide enough food for the entire world? Designers Taeung Kim, Sunae Shin, Sungho An, Seungjun Lee & Mirae Park conceived the structure for client HYDROKOREA, and they were recognized by this year’s K-Design Award – an international design contest held by DESIGNSORI . Via Yanko Design

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This solar-powered floating farm combines agriculture and dining under one roof

Sandia solar glitter can fit into and power devices of any size or shape

February 9, 2017 by  
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Small, lightweight, flexible: these attributes when applied to solar cells hint at a far-off clean-powered future to come. But Sandia National Laboratories is now one step closer to seeing the tiny bendy solar cells they’ve developed, which they call solar glitter, on the market. These energy-generating cells could easily be integrated in small gadgets like drones , satellites , or smartphones. Former Sandia scientist Murat Okandan started his own company, mPower Technology, Inc. , and recently signed a licensing agreement with Sandia for microsystems enabled photovoltaics (MEPV), the technology that makes solar glitter possible. Okandan described the moment as a key milestone, saying, “It is an extremely exciting time in the solar industry with the upcoming critical, rapid change in the worldwide energy infrastructure .” Related: Amazing Glitter-Sized Photovoltaic Cells Look Like Golden Snowflakes MEPV draws on microdesign and microfabrication techniques to create the tiny solar cells that are then are released into a solution much like printing ink. The mix is then printed onto an inexpensive material. mPower will commercialize MEPV as Dragon SCALEs, which Sandia says will “fit into and power devices or sensors of any shape or size.” Dragon SCALEs fold like paper for easy transportation, and could be utilized as portable energy generators. They could be installed more rapidly and cheaply than typical solar power systems. Okandan said Dragon SCALEs are more reliable, with lower energy costs, than the silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells common today. In a statement he said, “The key limitation to silicon is that if you bend and flex it, it will crack and shatter. Our technology makes it virtually unbreakable while keeping all the benefits of high efficiency, high reliability silicon PV. It allows us to integrate PV in ways that weren’t possible before, such as in flexible materials, and deploy it faster in lighter-weight, larger-area modules.” Via Treehugger Images via Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories and Sandia National Laboratories

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Tesla to start test-building the Model 3 this month

February 9, 2017 by  
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Now that the Chevy Bolt has officially arrived, the attention is now on Tesla to see if it can meet its production deadlines for the Model 3. According to Reuters, Elon Musk’s company is now one step closer to the start of the official production as the automaker plans to test-build the Model 3 later this month. Tesla hasn’t confirmed how many Model 3 vehicles will be produced this month, but it will likely be a small number. In part this will allow the automaker test the existing assembly system, and quality test the Model 3 . It’s rumored that the pilot production will kick off on February 20, which will also give Tesla the ability to share the news and potentially reveal pre-production models two days later when it shares its four-quarter 2016 results on February 22. Related: Tesla just introduced the world’s longest range electric car Tesla is expected to shut down production at its California plant for a week later this month to prepare for the high-volume Model 3. The brief shutdown will enable Tesla to make some necessary changes to the paint shop and other maintenance upgrades, both prerequisites for kicking off production of the Model 3 later this year. If all goes as planned, this should happen in July, and Tesla hopes to ramp up production significantly by 2018. + Tesla Via Reuters All images © Tesla

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Green-roofed music center built of natural materials harmonizes with the landscape

January 13, 2017 by  
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Tranquility is at the heart of the handsome Sunbeams Music Center , where music is used as therapy to soothe the souls of the disadvantaged. Designed by Newcastle-based studio Mawson Kerr for the Sunbeams Music Trust charity, the music therapy center visually harmonizes with its bucolic lake landscape in Cumbria, England. The building is sensitively placed on the landscape and incorporates environmentally friendly design including photovoltaics , locally sourced natural materials, and passive design principles. The 600-square-meter Sunbeams Music Center caters to disabled children and adults with a variety of music therapy rooms. The building includes four such rooms as well as recording studios, an exhibition space, concert hall, and administrative offices. To minimize site impact , the architects shaped the building along the landscape’s natural contours, which resulted in a building’s horn-like shape. “The building is designed as a home and advert for the amazing work Sunbeams do working with disadvantaged members of society,” writes Mawson Kerr. “Bringing music into the building was on of the key drivers alongside harmonising the building with the natural surroundings and wider environment.” Related: Green Covered Taipei Music Center by Mario Bellini Architects The building was largely constructed from locally sourced timber and features a glue-laminated timber structure, cedar shingles, and exterior oak slats. Skylights punctuate the building’s green roof . The music center was also built with ground-source heat pumps and sheep wool insulation. + Mawson Kerr Via Dezeen

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