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

NASA debuts KRUSTY nuclear reactor for future Mars residents

January 19, 2018 by  
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Researchers at NASA , Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Department of Energy announced they have successfully tested a small nuclear reactor that may someday provide power to human habitats on Mars and beyond. Called Kilopower, or KRUSTY (Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology), the reactor comes in several versions to meet certain power needs, from 1 kilowatt (enough to power a small kitchen appliance) to 10 kilowatts, four or five of which would be required to provide power for a habitat on Mars. “Kilopower’s compact size and robustness allows us to deliver multiple units on a single lander to the surface that provides tens of kilowatts of power,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, during a press conference on Thursday . Kilopower could support manned missions to Mars in several ways. “We would need power on Mars for two primary reasons,” said Patrick McClure, Project Lead for Reactor Development at Los Alamos, in the video above . “The first is that astronauts need power for their habitat, so that they can make oxygen , purify water, but prior to their arrival, we need to make liquid oxygen and propellant so that they can get off the Martian surface.” Kilopower provides a fairly straightforward solution, requiring a minimal number of parts and thus lightweight, for the power needs of any planet-bound mission. Related: MIT’s winning solar-powered dome tree habitats for Mars mimic earthly forests The system works by incorporating steam-pipe technology, in which a sealed tube in a heat pipe circulates fluid throughout the reactor while generating heat . The heated fluid then travels to a Stirling engine, where it pressurizes gas to power a piston connected to a motor that generates electricity . Combining these parts makes for a reliable, simple device for providing power for all kinds of space missions. As for next steps, the research team intends to conduct a full-power test of their device in March. If all goes well, the sky may well be the limit for this compact powerhouse. Via Engadget and Space.com Images via NASA (1)

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NASA debuts KRUSTY nuclear reactor for future Mars residents

Scientists just created a new type of battery inspired by electric eels

January 18, 2018 by  
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Electric eels inspired an international team of researchers to develop soft power cells that could one day run pacemakers, health monitors, or one day even augmented-reality contact lenses. Their power source – which Smithsonian.com described as a foldable battery – can generate around 110 volts. Although that’s far less than an eel could produce, the researchers say their work could offer important insight into soft power sources. Electric eels can deliver a shock strong enough to knock a horse right off its feet, according to Smithsonian.com. This new soft power source isn’t that strong – but it could pave the way for powering devices without the concerns over toxicity or size associated with common batteries. University of Michigan , Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg , and University of California, San Diego researchers developed the power cell that “moves charged ions across a selective membrane to produce power.” Related: This robotic “eel” hunts down the source of water pollution The team made their foldable battery by printing different kinds of drops – composed of sodium and chloride dissolved in water-based hydrogel – on sheets. One sheet has salty and pure water drops alternating, while the other has charge-selective hydrogels, allowing “either positively charged sodium or negatively charged chloride to pass, excluding the other.” Pressing the sheets together generates power by connecting “saline and freshwater droplets across the charge-selective droplets in series. As the salty and fresh solutions mix, the charge-selective droplets move the sodium and chloride ions in opposing directions, producing an electric current.” The team improved on their work by incorporating a Miura fold, an origami technique. The Miura fold is in use today to transport solar panels in satellites so they can be easily unpacked into big sheets once they arrive in outer space. The team printed all four droplets on a sheet, laser-cut in a Miura fold pattern, that could then be folded to stack the droplets to generate electricity . University of Michigan professor of materials science and engineering Max Shtein said in a statement , “The eel polarizes and depolarizes thousands of cells instantaneously to put out these high voltages. It’s a fascinating system to look at from an engineering perspective – its performance metrics, its fundamental building blocks and how to use them.” The technology is still preliminary, but the team is working on boosting the power source’s efficiency. The journal Nature published the research online in December. + University of Michigan (1, 2) Via Smithsonian.com Images via Biophysics group, Adolphe Merkle Institute ; Caitlin Monney ; and Scott on Flickr

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Scientists just created a new type of battery inspired by electric eels

US CO2 emissions declined during Trump’s first year as president

January 16, 2018 by  
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What were United States carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions like in 2017, the first year President Donald Trump was in office? Based on preliminary estimates, the Rhodium Group said US emissions declined by just below one percent , thanks to changes in the energy sector. Electrek crunched the numbers and found 94.7 percent of net new electricity capacity came from renewables . But emissions from buildings , industry, and transportation increased – and America has a ways to go to meet Paris Agreement goals. Nearly 80 percent of reduction in American energy-related CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2016 are thanks to the electric power sector, according to the Rhodium Group. They said in an article, “Improved efficiency of buildings and appliances has helped flatten electricity demand, and coal has lost market share to lower-carbon natural gas and zero-carbon renewables. That trend continued in 2017.” Related: A ‘giant leap backward for humankind’ as CO2 emissions rise after years of stability The group said coal lost ground to other power sources. Solar , wind , and hydropower generation growth displaced coal and natural gas. Between January and October generation from the two more-polluting fuels fell by 138 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) compared against the same period the year before – and renewable generation increased by 75 million kWh. But energy-related CO2 emissions increased in other sectors – “offsetting more than one-quarter of the gains made in electric power,” according to the Rhodium Group. Even though Trump yanked America out of the Paris Accord , many states and cities said they’d stay in and work towards the United States’ goals. The Rhodium Group said, “Recent climate and clean energy policy developments at the state and city-level policy developments could potentially accelerate last year’s pace of emission reductions, while recent federal regulatory changes could slow that progress.” They said America seems to be on track to reach the 2009 Copenhagen Accord goal of 17 percent reduction under 2005 levels by 2020, as long as the country keeps up the one percent energy-related CO2 emissions decline and there are no big changes in other emissions. The Paris Agreement pledge was 26 to 28 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2025. America is not on track to achieve that – the country would need an average annual reduction of 1.7 to two percent in energy-related CO2 emissions over the upcoming eight years. Via the Rhodium Group , Electrek , and Engadget Images via Depositphotos and Thomas Richter on Unsplash

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US CO2 emissions declined during Trump’s first year as president

New infrared communications channel is 300X more energy efficient than WiFi

January 9, 2018 by  
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ARON – or Augmented-Reality Optical Narrowcasting – is a new communications channel that operates without relying on cellular networks or the Internet , instead depending on infrared light. SureFire , a tactical equipment company, is debuting the technology that could be groundbreaking at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show . The company says ARON is “300 times more energy efficient than Wi-Fi , and can operate on solar power .” ARON could change the way humans interact with the world, according to SureFire. The new communications system sends data via infrared light waves, using “a patented combination of optical beacons and signals.” Users can send any kind of digital information such as high-definition videos on the optical communications channel – as far away as 400 meters, or around 1,312 feet, in the daytime and 1,200 meters, or around 3,937 feet, at night, according to Engadget . Related: Ericsson’s new mixed-reality platform envisions urban design in “real life” ARON acts as an alternative to radio frequency waves, already used by smartphones , and is said to be secure and fast. The communications platform is as of now unregulated, potentially opening up a lot of opportunities for companies. SureFire’s video shows people utilizing the communications channel for augmented reality on smartphones, glasses, and car windshields. The company is also marketing ARON as useful during a natural disaster – it allows public information to flow even if the power is down, so first responders could reach trapped people, for example. Engadget pointed out it will take a while to deploy ARON on a large scale – someone would have to install sensors on buildings, freeways, or any other object or person needing to send data. They said the technology currently exists in demo form. SureFire’s video says the system can be installed in any car or mobile device, and “is inexpensive to deploy and use.” + ARON Via SureFire/PRNewswire and Engadget Images via Depositphotos and ARON video

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New infrared communications channel is 300X more energy efficient than WiFi

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