The companies storing energy in cold air

March 16, 2018 by  
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Renewable sources of energy are getting more efficient by the day – yet energy storage remains an obstacle standing in the way of wide adoption. To fill this gap, some companies are thinking outside the box and investing in developing energy storage that relies on cold air. “Compressed air is an interesting technology,” Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at Greentech Media told the BBC . “It can be a form of bulk storage.” Alacaes in Switzerland is one company that has explored cold air energy storage by drilling a hole in the side of the mountain, in which compressed cold air is stored until needed to drive a turbine. Read on to learn more about this and other efforts to hold energy in cold air. Alcaes’s mountain drilling technique may prove effective, though it is limited in its applications. “The downside is it has to rely on specific geological formations… It needs underground caverns which in itself is a limitation,” said Manghani. The United Kingdom-based Highview Power Storage is pioneering an alternative method for cold air energy storage by using refrigeration to cool air to -196 degrees Celsius, at which point air becomes liquid. This liquid air is then held in low pressure environments until it is needed. Related: New rooftop cooling tech beams excess heat into outer space Highview has constructed a facility near Manchester that uses heat generated by burning waste gas from a landfill to expand liquid nitrogen in the stored air. The expanded air is then channeled through a turbine, which generates electricity. Highview expects this facility to be connected to the UK energy grid in spring 2018. Highview hopes their facility will serve as a model for a planet that desperately needs clean energy storage solutions. “Globally the world is realizing that true grid scale, long duration storage is a requirement if we’re to go for a decarbonised future,” Stuart Nelmes, Highview’s engineering director, told the BBC , “and this tech will play a key part in that.” Via BBC Images via Gasworld and Highview Power Storage

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The companies storing energy in cold air

The Indian city of Diu is 100% powered by the sun

March 13, 2018 by  
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The city of Diu has become India ‘s first and only municipality that receives all of its energy needs from solar power. Located in the southern region of the Indian state of Gujarat, Diu is governed directly by the Indian federal government, which has prioritized the growth of solar energy throughout the country. In only three years of focused development, Diu has installed enough solar capacity to serve the energy needs of the city’s nearly 22,000 residents. It is also in competition to be selected as a finalist in Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘s Smart Cities Mission initiative, in which 100 cities across India will receive funding and support to become more sustainable and livable. In previous years, residents of Diu received their power from the Gujarat state grid system, through which electricity was lost. Today, the locally-owned and operated power systems transport energy much more efficiently. Despite a land area of only 42 square kilometers, Diu is taking full advantage of its limited land resources. Solar power plants have been built on 50 acres throughout the city, which produces a capacity of 13 megawatts, 10 of which are from ground-based systems while 3 megawatts are sourced from rooftop systems . This is more than enough to meet Diu’s peak power demand of 7 megawatts. Related: Natural wetland in India filters 198 million gallons of wastewater a day with zero chemicals The switch to solar has also proven to be economically advantageous for consumers in Diu, as monthly electric bills have fallen by around twelve percent since the new energy system has been operating. To cope with nighttime power needs, Diu may transfer surplus energy to the larger grid, then source energy as needed when the sun is not shining. Diu is only one example of India’s solar push. Much further south, the Kochi International Airport holds the distinct honor of being the world’s first solar-powered airport . Via Clean Technica and Times of India Images via Depositphotos and  Flickr/poida.smith  

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The Indian city of Diu is 100% powered by the sun

MIT’s thermal resonator generates power "out of what seems like nothing"

February 27, 2018 by  
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A brand new power-generating system from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers creates energy “out of what seems like nothing,” according to chemical engineering professor Michael Strano in a statement . Their system, which they’re calling a thermal resonator, harnesses daily swings in ambient temperature , potentially enabling remote sensing systems to operate for years — no batteries or other power sources required. Nine MIT scientists from the chemical engineering department envisioned a new way to transform temperature changes into electric power. Their system doesn’t need two different temperature inputs simultaneously; it simply draws on fluctuations in the temperature of the air. Strano said, “We basically invented this concept out of whole cloth. We’ve built the first thermal resonator. It’s something that can sit on a desk and generate energy out of what seems like nothing. We are surrounded by temperature fluctuations of all different frequencies all of the time. These are an untapped source of energy.” Related: MIT battery that inhales and exhales air can store power for months MIT said the power levels the thermal resonator can generate are modest at this point, but the system’s advantage is that it isn’t affected at all by short-term changes in environmental conditions, and doesn’t require direct sunlight. It could generate energy in oft-unused spaces like underneath solar panels . The researchers say their thermal resonator could even help solar panels be more efficient as it could draw away waste heat . The thermal resonator was tested in ambient air, but MIT said if the researchers tuned the properties of the material used, the system could harvest other temperature cycles, such as those of machinery in industrial facilities or even the on and off cycling of refrigerator motors. The scientists created what MIT described as a “carefully tailored combination of materials” for their work, including metal foam, graphene , and the phase-change material octadecane. MIT said, “A sample of the material made to test the concept showed that, simply in response to a 10-degree-Celsius temperature difference between night and day, the tiny sample of material produced 350 millivolts of potential and 1.2 milliwatts of power — enough to power simple, small environmental sensors or communications systems.” The journal Nature Communications published the work online in February. + MIT News + Nature Communications Images via Melanie Gonick and Justin Raymond

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MIT’s thermal resonator generates power "out of what seems like nothing"

Viruses and bacteria are falling from Earth’s atmosphere

February 27, 2018 by  
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It’s something you might expect Chicken Little to say: bacteria and viruses are falling from the atmosphere. But five scientists in Spain, the United States, and Canada found viruses are circulating in the atmosphere of our planet – and falling down on Earth . University of British Columbia (UBC) virologist Curtis Suttle said in a statement , “Every day, more than 800 million viruses are deposited per square meter above the planetary boundary layer – that’s 25 viruses for each person in Canada.” This is the first time researchers have measured how many viruses are carried from the planet’s surface into the free troposphere, where they can be transported for thousands of miles before being deposited down on the surface. The scientists discovered “billions of viruses and tens of millions of bacteria are being deposited per square meter per day” up into the atmosphere, according to UBC’s press release. “The deposition rates for viruses were nine to 461 times greater than the rates for bacteria.” Related: Scientists warn thawing soil could suddenly unleash deadly pathogens unseen in centuries Sea spray or dust particles sweep the bacteria and viruses up into the sky – then they tend to be deposited down to Earth with the help of rain or Saharan dust intrusions, according to Universidad de Granada microbial ecologist Isabel Reche. Suttle said, “Roughly 20 years ago we began finding genetically similar viruses occurring in very different environments around the globe. This preponderance of long-residence viruses travelling the atmosphere likely explains why – it’s quite conceivable to have a virus swept up into the atmosphere on one continent and deposited on another.” The journal International Society for Microbial Ecology published the research, led by the Universidad de Granada, online late January. + University of British Columbia + International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal Images via NASA Visible Earth, provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE and Good Free Photos

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Viruses and bacteria are falling from Earth’s atmosphere

Researchers charge phone from across the room using freakin’ laser beams

February 21, 2018 by  
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Let’s face it, the way we charge our phones hasn’t evolved much over the years. You plug your phone in, or place it on a precise place on a wireless charging pad , and then you wait. But the genius researchers over at the University of Washington have developed a way to charge your phone from across the room using freakin’ laser beams! Researchers developed a cell that can power a smartphone using energy from laser beams – and it charges just as quickly as a direct connection with a USB cable. A focused near-infrared beam, which can extend up to 40 feet, delivers power, while several “retroreflectors” around the power cell reflect the guard beams back to the charging unit. Related: China wants to destroy space junk with giant lasers You might be thinking that this sounds as dangerous as sharks with laser beams on their heads, but the researchers designed a bunch of safety features, like a heatsink to help dissipate the heat and an automatic shut-off if a human moves into the beam’s path. To accomplish this, the aforementioned retroflectors act as a trip wire, terminating the charging beam if something enters the path. “The guard beams are able to act faster than our quickest motions because those beams are reflected back to the emitter at the speed of light,” said Shyam Gollakota, one of the co-authors of the study. Gollakota and co-author Arka Majumdar published their research recently in Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable & Ubiquitous Technologies . Sometime it could totally change the way we charge our devices – no sharks needed. Via Phys.org Images via Mark Stone for UW

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Researchers charge phone from across the room using freakin’ laser beams

Moya Power tests sheeting material to harvest wind power from London’s Crossrail

February 14, 2018 by  
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We can harness the power of wind in a field or on the ocean, but what about in drafty train tunnels? 27-year-old Charlotte Slingsby’s startup Moya Power seeks to generate electricity capturing wind in existing infrastructure, Wired reported . The company employs a lightweight sheeting material to harvest low grade wind power. They have a pilot project underway on the London Crossrail . Slingsby pioneered Moya Power as part of an Innovation Design Engineering master’s program at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art (RCA); the description on RCA’s website describes Moya as a building material able to harvest wind energy in a variety of locations, like bridges or building facades. The statement on the project said, “The printed, semi-transparent sheets are light, low cost, versatile, and scalable.” Related: Pavegen unveils world’s first energy-harvesting smart street in London Wired described Moya as lamellae-covered plastic sheets. Moya Power’s website said the energy harvesting material “is designed to scavenge-off low grade wind energy, which is abundantly found against existing infrastructure . This involves vibrations and low speed, turbulent winds generating power 24 hours a day, which can be mounted on otherwise unused surfaces, hidden from public view.” One of those areas is the London Crossrail . The Moya material has been installed in tunnels , where wind from trains causes protrusions on the sheeting to move to generate electricity. According to Wired, the system is able to generate 10 percent of the power per square meter a solar panel can. Slingsby sees her product as one piece of a future mixture of urban power sources. She told Wired, “If we all live in cities that need electricity, we need to look for new, creative ways to generate it. I wanted to create something that works in different situations and that can be flexibly adapted, whether you live in an urban hut or a high-rise .” + Moya Power Via Wired and Royal College of Art Images via Transport for London Flickr and Moya Power/Royal College of Art

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Moya Power tests sheeting material to harvest wind power from London’s Crossrail

Cable railing expand the view in your favorite spaces

January 31, 2018 by  
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When you picture your dream home, what comes to mind? Lots of open, connected spaces, tons of natural light, a gorgeous view from your deck? If so, then you should think about incorporating cable railing into your exterior and interior spaces. Not only is cable railing an excellent sustainable product option – it’s made with eco-friendly stainless steel – but it also has a minimalist vibe that makes any space feel welcoming and more expansive. Seeing Between the Lines Traditional railings can make a room feel closed and separate from adjacent spaces, creating a visual barrier. That’s not the case with cable railings. For outdoor applications, cable railing is perfect for framing an eye-catching panoramic view or stunning landscape. It’s a popular choice for decks, terraces and backyard settings because it optimizes the view – especially important for homeowners, since their families and guests are frequently seated on the patio or deck. Cable railings use slender horizontal (or vertical) stainless steel cables in place of bulky spindles and pickets for infill to create nearly unimpeded views and a very open, clean-lined aesthetic that preserves the intrinsic beauty of a space. In fact, the cables “trick the eye” and virtually disappear as your field of vision focuses beyond the cable rail toward the view. Natural Connections Because of its sleek, streamlined appearance, cable railing enables spaces to seamlessly flow into one another for a sense of continuity that is difficult to achieve with other types of railing infill. For outdoor applications , cable railing is perfect for framing an eye-catching panoramic view or stunning landscape. It’s a popular choice for decks, terraces and backyard settings because it optimizes the view – especially important for homeowners, since their families and guests are frequently seated on the patio or deck. When used indoors , rather than visually breaking up spaces, cable railing helps to subtly connect them and make them appear larger. And, in the case of stair railings, it beautifully showcases the different levels within a home without calling too much attention to itself. The ultimate effect is a look that is at once understated and modern with just the right touch of elegance. Durable, Low-Maintenance Beauty In addition to being an aesthetically-appealing design option, cable railing has lots of other things going for it. In the case of exterior applications, it’s rugged enough to stand up to corrosive coastal environments and other harsh conditions. Its minimal footprint allows full airflow across a deck or balcony area, minimizing wind exposure and the stress it can inflict on an outdoor railing system, and maintenance requirements are minimal. Only a periodic treatment with a stainless steel cleaner and protectant is recommended along with occasional cable tightening. Unmatched Versatility Compatible with most architectural styles – from rustic to transitional to contemporary, to name just a few – cable railing is easy to install and can be used with existing wood, metal or composite railings to achieve the desired look. In addition to these options, Oakland, California-based cable railing provider Feeney, Inc., offers its CableRail stainless cable rail infill in both standard and low profile options for maximum design flexibility. The brand also offers convenient kits that make it easy to install its CableRail products – even for newly minted weekend warriors and DIYers. Sustainable Style Thanks to its durable steel construction, cable railing can last a lifetime – making it a sustainable option, too. It’s reusable and can be recycled at the end of its useful life, reducing the use of non-renewable resources and helping to limit the waste stream. Companies like Feeney take sustainability one step further, producing their cable railing products out of post- and pre-consumer waste. Feeney also powers its California production facility using a 5,000-square-foot solar array. When it’s time to build or remodel, check out cable railing for its longevity, versatility, sustainability, and ability to open up the view – both indoors and out. No matter what size or style your home is, cable railing has the power to transform your spaces from bland to breathtaking. + Feeney, Inc.

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Cable railing expand the view in your favorite spaces

Instead of fighting, Georgia businesses work with environmental groups to save gopher tortoise

January 30, 2018 by  
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350 species of animals reside in burrows created by gopher tortoises,  but the tortoises are in trouble. Protecting them under the Endangered Species Act in Georgia could create red tape and extra costs for Georgia businesses, so they’re taking what NPR described as an unusual approach: not fighting the listing but joining forces with several environmental groups, wildlife agencies, private foundations, and the Department of Defense to save the keystone species. Over 80 percent of gopher tortoise habitat is privately or corporately owned, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Georgia . The reptile is already considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act in its western range in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and environmental groups aim to protect at least 100,000 acres of the creatures’ habitat in Georgia so the reptile won’t need to be listed under the Environmental Species Act there under a project called the Georgia Gopher Tortoise Initiative. Related: This flipped-over giant tortoise gets by with a little help from his friend The tortoises – which are Georgia’s state reptile – flourish in longleaf pine forests. In the Southwest, there was once around 90 million acres of longleaf pine – today, there’s around three million acres. Habitat destruction hasn’t helped the gopher tortoise population. NPR reported the state’s biggest electric company Georgia Power is the largest business involved. Georgia Power is a major landowner, per the publication, and gopher tortoises reside at some of their plants. The company’s wildlife biologist, Jim Ozier, told NPR, “We’re glad to have them here. Gopher tortoises do very well right next door.” He said the company, in addition to planning around gopher tortoises so they’re not impacted by maintenance, is restoring longleaf pine forests. According to the Georgia Conservancy , protecting the species could help protect water sources, create new public recreation areas, and “provide assurances for a more compatible economic environment for Georgia’s business community.” The state, federal government, and private foundations and donors are, per NPR, raising $150 million for the initiative to protect healthy populations where they are. Funding could go towards acquiring new public lands or “conservation easements on private lands.” Via NPR Images via Depositphotos and U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.

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Instead of fighting, Georgia businesses work with environmental groups to save gopher tortoise

Stockton, California is launching the first basic income experiment in the US

January 30, 2018 by  
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Stockton, a city of 300,000 located in California ‘s Central Valley, will soon become the first city in the United States to launch a universal basic income experiment. Certain citizens will receive $500 a month, no strings attached, with the idea of helping people who are struggling economically to thrive. One in four people in Stockton live below the poverty line, thanks to wage stagnation, job loss and rising housing costs, and this move will be an experiment in seeing how a little help can make a big difference in the lives of people who need it. With support from the Economic Security Project (ESP), a basic income advocacy group co-led by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, Stockton is starting a trial program known as  Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration  (SEED) to test how basic income may impact city residents and the local economy. Stockton’s 27-year-old mayor Michael Tubbs first encountered basic income in the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who supported a guaranteed income . Elected in November 2016, Tubbs is the city’s first Black mayor and its youngest mayor ever. “I can see the radicalness, but I’m trying to solve the questions that every community has,” Tubbs told Business Insider. Tubbs envisions universal basic income as one component of a local economic development plan, including investments in education, to empower workers to get ahead in an economy that has otherwise been skewed against working-class Americans . Related: Cities in Scotland to start universal basic income trials Tubbs is skeptical of the idea that basic income would cause people to become lazy and inactive. “In our economic structure, the people who work the hardest oftentimes make the least,” Tubbs said . “I know migrant farm workers who do back-breaking labor every day, or Uber drivers and Lyft drivers who drive 10 to 12 hours a day in traffic. You can’t be lazy doing that kind of work.” The specific structure of Stockton’s basic income program is still being developed. However, Tubbs has said that he wants the trial to include people with middle-class and upper-middle-class incomes as well as those in need. He believes that what’s happening in Stockton reflects a broader movement in the United States . “For whatever reason, in this country, we have a very interesting relationship with poverty , where we think people in poverty are bad people,” Tubbs said . “In the next couple years, we’ll see a larger national conversation.” Via Business Insider Images via Deposit Photos ,  Jason Jenkins/Flickr and  Michael Tubbs for Mayor

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Stockton, California is launching the first basic income experiment in the US

Newly-discovered dinosaur species was as long as a school bus – and could help solve a mystery

January 30, 2018 by  
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Fossils in Africa from the Late Cretaceous time period – around 100 to 66 million years ago – are rare. Scientists have been largely kept in the dark about the course of dinosaur evolution on the continent, but a new dinosaur species, Mansourasaurus shahinae , recently unearthed in the Sahara Desert in Egypt , now offers some clues. Carnegie Museum of Natural History dinosaur paleontologist Matt Lamanna said in a statement , “When I first saw pics of the fossils, my jaw hit the floor. This was the Holy Grail – a well-preserved dinosaur from the end of the Age of Dinosaurs in Africa – that we paleontologists had been searching for for a long, long time.” A team led by Hesham Sallam of Mansoura University in Egypt unearthed the fossils. Mansourasaurus shahinae was a long-necked dinosaur with bony plates in its skin, and consumed plants. According to a release from Ohio University, the new species belongs to a group of sauropods , Titanosaurs, which includes the largest land animals we know about. But Mansourasaurus was a moderate-sized titanosaur, weighing about as much as an African bull elephant. Ohio University said its skeleton is “the most complete dinosaur specimen so far discovered from the end of the Cretaceous in Africa” – parts of the skull, lower jaw, ribs, neck and back vertebrae, shoulder and forelimb, hind foot, and dermal plates were preserved. Related: How scaly dinosaurs turned into feathery birds – new gene study offers clues While it’s thrilling to find a new dinosaur species, there are other reasons why paleontologists are so excited about this find. During the Cretaceous Period, the continents joined together as the supercontinent Pangea started to split apart. The lack of a fossil record in Africa from the Late Cretaceous Period has been maddening for researchers who want to know how well-connected Africa was to Europe and Southern Hemisphere landmasses. Sallam and his team scrutinized the bones to determine, per the press release, the dinosaur was “more closely related to dinosaurs from Europe and Asia than it is to those found farther south in Africa or in South America” – so some of the creatures could have moved between Africa and Europe. The Field Museum postdoctoral research scientist Eric Gorscak, who was part of the study, said, “Africa’s last dinosaurs weren’t completely isolated, contrary to what some have proposed in the past. There were still connections to Europe.” The journal Nature Ecology and Evolution published the work online yesterday. 10 researchers from institutions in Egypt and the United States contributed. + Ohio University + Nature Ecology and Evolution Images via Andrew McAfee, Carnegie Museum of Natural History; Mansoura University; and Hesham Sallam, Mansoura University

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Newly-discovered dinosaur species was as long as a school bus – and could help solve a mystery

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