New waterproof solar cell generates power even after it gets soaked

September 21, 2017 by  
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A new solar cell could go through the laundry and emerge still working. The photovoltaic cell, developed by Japanese research institution RIKEN and the University of Tokyo , is ultra thin and coated on both sides with waterproof film. The solar cell can be stretched or compressed or washed and continue to function. Researchers in Japan have created a waterproof solar cell able to withstand a wash and keep on generating power. They developed flexible, super thin, organic photovoltaic cells based on PNTz4T, a material they developed in the past. Both sides of the cell were covered with an acrylic-based elastomer that allowed light to reach the cells, but prevented air and water from leaking on to them. Related: This carbon nanotube yarn generates power when pulled The researchers then tested the waterproof solar cells to see if they’d retain efficiency. The initial device had an efficiency of 7.9 percent – per square centimeter it generated a current of 7.86 milliwatts. They soaked the cells in water for two hours and then found the efficiency had decreased by 5.4 percent. They also compressed the device by almost half for 20 cycles, while subjecting it to water, and found it had 80 percent of the initial efficiency. Photovoltaics integrated in textiles in the past have suffered from a lack of energy efficiency , or they weren’t robust and didn’t resist being deformed well, or they weren’t stable over the long-term in water or air – or some combination of those three. This new waterproof cell, that’s able to be compressed, could open up more options for wearables with solar cells. The photovoltaic cells could power sensors that record body temperature and heartbeats or provide early warnings of health issues, according to research group leader Takao Someya. The journal Nature Energy published the research online earlier this week. Via RIKEN Images via RIKEN

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New waterproof solar cell generates power even after it gets soaked

Grow your own mushroom lamp with this brilliant DIY kit

September 21, 2017 by  
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Ever wanted to grow your own lamp? Now you can, thanks to a brilliant collaboration between eco-designer Danielle Trofe and Ecovative . Recently launched on Kickstarter, the Grow-It-Yourself Lamp Kit lets you grow a beautiful lampshade by combining a mushroom substrate with a small amount of water and flour. The Grow-It-Yourself lamp kit includes one bag of mushroom mycelium substrate, a lampshade mold, a UL-certified pendant lamp set, and growing instructions. Using Ecovative’s patented Mushroom Material technology, the  mushroom mycelium – the root of the mushroom – is guaranteed to grow, making this a perfect project for those without any green thumb whatsoever. Related: Danielle Trofe’s Brilliant Mush-Lume Lamp is Grown From Fungi! Once the substrate is placed in the mold, you’ll just have to add tap water and a bit of flour. After a few more simple steps, including baking it in the oven for a bit, your new eco-positive lampshade is ready to go. The kit comes with basic hanging pendant set, but can be updated to include a table lamp stand made from sustainable wood . + Grow Kickstarter + Ecovative Design + Danielle Trofe Images via Kickstarter

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Grow your own mushroom lamp with this brilliant DIY kit

Megacities could save $505 million a year thanks to trees

August 30, 2017 by  
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Trees offer enormous monetary benefit to megacities , or those urban areas where over 10 million people reside. New research led by Theodore Endreny of SUNY’s College of Environmental Studies and Forestry highlights the idea that cities shouldn’t overlook the immense value of these plants: every year they could offer a payoff of $482 million in lowered air pollution , $11 million in stormwater remediation, $8 million in carbon dioxide sequestration , and $500,000 savings on heating and cooling costs. The researchers looked at Los Angeles, Beijing, Tokyo, Mumbai, Buenos Aires, Moscow, London, Istanbul, Mexico City, and Cairo. They built on estimates from the i-Tree model developed by the United States Forest Service , which analyzes environmental benefits from trees, with local data. They found median tree cover in all the cities was 21 percent, with potential tree cover at 19 percent. Tree cover varies by megacity – for example, in Cairo tree cover is just 8.1 percent while in Moscow it’s 36 percent. Tokyo claims the prize for greatest tree canopy cover per person, according to CityLab. Related: California street trees are worth $1 billion, says USFS and UC Davis The benefits each megacity reaps from trees varies some as well. Cairo doesn’t receive much precipitation so they don’t benefit that much from stormwater remediation. And Mumbai’s energy expenditures aren’t as high as other megacities’ so it doesn’t benefit as much in that area. Los Angeles got the most benefit from trees sequestering carbon dioxide. The researchers suggest cities plant more trees to nearly double the benefits gleaned from the leafy canopies. And as nearly 10 percent of humans live in megacities, the move could serve millions of people. The journal Ecological Modelling made the research available online at the end of July. Six researchers at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and the Parthenope University of Naples contributed to the study. Via CityLab Images via Laith Abdulkareem on Unsplash and Florian ? on Unsplash

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Fukushima robot finds lava-like deposits thought to be melted nuclear fuel

July 24, 2017 by  
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Six years after the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, there’s still a lot of cleanup to be done. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) deployed an underwater robot to assess damage inside the Unit 3 reactor in Japan last week, and the robot obtained images of debris that might be melted nuclear fuel. In some areas, the debris was around three-feet-thick. The robot captured eerie footage of the damaged reactor at Fukushima, spotting what could be melted fuel. It found what the Associated Press described as solidified lava -like lumps and rocks inside the pedestal that rests beneath the core in the Primary Containment Vessel. In some places the fuel was mixed with broken reactor pieces, hinting at a difficult cleanup to come. The multiple-day exploration started last Wednesday and finished over the weekend. Related: Fukushima radiation levels at highest since 2011 disaster TEPCO spokesperson Takahiro Kimoto told the Associated Press they now have to analyze the debris seen in the robot-captured images before they can figure out how to remove it. According to The Guardian, the reactor can’t be decommissioned until all the nuclear fuel has been found and removed – a process that could still span decades. It hasn’t been easy to search for melted fuel at Fukushima due to high radiation levels and damage. TEPCO said the expedition would help them gain a clearer picture of conditions at the damaged reactors that will aid them in cleanup efforts. The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning developed the robot, which was inserted into the Primary Containment Vessel through what TEPCO described as a pipe designed to guard against radioactive gas escaping. Thrusters on the robot enabled it to move around through the cooling water that’s accumulated inside the structure since 2011. The robot also had front and rear cameras. Via The Guardian and TEPCO Images via International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning/TEPCO

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Innovative retractable glass roof can convert a mall into an outdoor space at the touch of a button

July 11, 2017 by  
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Large complexes such as shopping centers, hotels, conference centers aren’t exactly known for their energy-efficient design , but it doesn’t have to be that way. Working under the motto of “indoor comfort, outdoor freedom,” Turkish company Libart has created an innovative retractable ceiling system helps large spaces conserve energy use by letting in natural light and air circulation during good weather and shutting out the harsh weather – essentially converting the complex into an outdoor space at the touch of a button. Large shopping malls and retail complexes have typically been dark, cave-like spaces that don’t allow for much natural light. Libart’s flexible architectural system changes that by bringing natural elements into virtully any space, or according to the company. Large glass panels flood the interior with natural light and illuminate the space naturally, drastically reducing the need for artificial lighting and air conditioning. Perfect for a variety of uses, the attractive sliding glass structures can cover the interior during inclement weather or completely open to enjoy sunny days. Related: Sliding Walls Transform This Tokyo House Into an Office The retractable glass ceiling, referred to as “modern architecture in motion”, is a clean, minimalist structure that enhances almost any interior space, large or small. Custom made, the glass ceiling can be used for any number of buildings, from shopping centers and luxury hotels to industrial warehouses and conference centers. + Libart Images via Libart

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Cleverly layered compact dirt walls mimic ice cream cakes in this Tokyo patisserie

June 21, 2017 by  
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Dirt may seem an odd material choice for an upscale patisserie in Tokyo , but design studio nendo playfully pulls it off with style. The Japanese designers layered compacted soils of varying colors to mimic the layers of an ice cream cake. The earth walls lend the “à tes souhaits!” shop a sense of warmth and contrast beautifully with the glass-and-steel facade. Located in the trendy Kichijoji neighborhood in Tokyo, à tes souhaits! is a small and elegant shop specializing in ice cream and chocolates . The earth walls comprise stacked soils of varying shades arranged in a staggered pattern to look like cut slices of ice cream cake with different flavors. “The wall guides people into the shop by the soft curvature from the outer wall, and then creates a gentle all-enveloping effect, like melted ice cream, all the way into the back of the shop,” writes nendo. “This created a relaxing ambience, taking advantage of the compactness of the space.” Related: Ancient Japanese tombs inspire nendo’s first public space design Since the new patisserie is the second location of à tes souhaits!, Nendo wanted to differentiate the two shops. The flagship uses bright lighting with mostly white surfaces and hard materials like marble and metal. In contrast, the new location uses a subdued color palette and softer lighting to complement the dominant use of wood and soil . + Nendo Images by Takumi Ota

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New Book and Bed hostel in Japan lets book lovers tuck in with their favorite novel

December 1, 2016 by  
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Travelers to Japan who love nothing more than curling up with a good book at bedtime, take note: the Bed & Book Hostel has opened a second location in enchanting Kyoto. The ‘accommodation bookshop,’ which first opened in Tokyo last November , allows traveling bibliophiles to cozy up with their favorite title in one of several beds hidden behind floor-to-ceiling book shelves. The hostel was conceived by Japan’s real estate website, R-STORE, which partners with local businesses to create uniquely designed spaces. Designed to be a welcoming haven for serious book worms, the minimalist reading space is aimed at creating that “blissful instant of falling asleep” while totally engrossed in a really good book. Related: Book and Bed offers a novel lodging experience for readers in Tokyo The Kyoto hostel offers two types of lodging arrangements for such sleepy heads: the “Bookshelf,” tucked in behind the book shelves, or the “Riverview,” a room with views of the adjacent Kamogawa River. Although guests will have to share a bathroom, each small bunk is equipped with book lights and WiFi connection. + Book and Bed Via Spoon & Tamago Images via Book and Bed

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High-tech Louis Vuitton building lights up like a giant lantern at night

November 3, 2016 by  
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Although the façade of the maison’s flagship store in Ginza appears as a deep multi-layered structure, in reality it is made of two layers of 5mm-thick modular aluminum panels. Characteristic star- and funnel-shaped elements are produced in five different sizes and clad the entire building. The LED lamps hidden behind the star panels are integrated in the funnel plates and further accentuate the three-dimensional impact of the building’s skin. The innovative bumpy LV façade is a great low-tech device that is also capable of capturing and reflecting the ever-changing ambient light. Thanks to the relief shape and the pearl paint finish, the iconic new Ginza store is equally appealing during the day. This breakthrough design developed by Jun Aoki for his regular client is the result of restrictions the architect had to follow during the renovation of an earlier project. During reconstruction, the steel structure that supported the previous building envelope had to be maintained such that the new skin could be no thinner than 24 cm and its weight had to stay below 40 kg/2. Related: Jun Aoki Hides Omiyamae Gymnasium Underground to Create a Green Oasis for Suginami, Tokyo This beautiful building illustrates why this is the eighth project Aoki has completed for the Louis Vuitton company, including one in Hong-Kong and New York City . Each provides a new and fresh interpretation of the classic chessboard pattern applied to the scale of architecture. + Jun Aoki Images via Maria Novozhilova for Inhabitat

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High-tech Louis Vuitton building lights up like a giant lantern at night

Japan builds controversial ice wall to solve groundwater issues at Fukushima

September 2, 2016 by  
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About two years ago, the Japanese government pledged millions of dollars for a huge ice wall designed to halt flowing groundwater at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power station after the 2011 meltdown. Now, $320 million later, the wall is nearly ready, but will it work? Critics wonder if the ” elaborate and fragile wall ” will last. Groundwater flowing into the plant’s reactor buildings has caused major issues. When it enters the buildings, it becomes radioactive, and Fukushima’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, has to put the water in tanks. They’ve had to build over 1,000 tanks and are now storing over 800,000 tons of the water. Meanwhile, every day around 40,000 gallons of groundwater continues to flow into the buildings. Related: Japan to Build Massive 1.5km Ice Wall in Order to Stop Radiation Leaks from Fukushima Nuclear Plant The controversial ice wall, known as the Land-Side Impermeable Wall, is supposed to halt the groundwater flow and stop radioactive water from leaking into the Pacific Ocean. The 100-foot-deep and nearly a mile-long ice wall is comprised of pipes filled with a brine solution. The pipes are meant to freeze the surrounding soil to create the wall. Still solidifying, the wall could be ready later this fall. 30 refrigeration units will solidify the wall; they will consume as much electricity as 13,000 homes in Japan could use for lighting in one year. Tepco said the seaside portion of the ice wall is ” about 99 percent solid ” this month. They’re working to fill a few places that haven’t solidified with cement. Engineers from Kajima Corporation, the company building the wall, say the soil around the pipes will likely only be frozen completely in around two months. So will the ice wall actually work? Some worry the brine solution will break down the pipes, and some say concrete or steel would have been a more simple, effective alternative. Radiation monitoring group Safecast researcher Azby Brown called the ice wall a “Hail Mary play.” He told The New York Times, “Tepco underestimated the groundwater problem in the beginning, and now Japan is trying to catch up with a massive technical fix that is very expensive.” Via The New York Times Images via IAEA Imagebank on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Airbnb launches nature-filled Tokyo office that feels like a beautiful cozy home

August 17, 2016 by  
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Located in the city’s busy Shinjuku district, Airbnb’s Tokyo office, like its other international offices, takes inspiration from real local Airbnb listings. Formerly a drab corporate environment, the newly renovated office boasts an airy and tranquil feel that was also informed by feedback and interaction with employees. “The main concept of this project was to recreate the feeling and vibe of a Tokyo neighbourhood,” said Makoto Tanijiri and Ai Yoshida of Suppose Design Office. “Instead of using simple walls, we laid out building-inspired volumes to articulate the space, dividing the various functions while keeping a continuity throughout the whole office .” Suppose Design Office collaborated with Airbnb’s in-house Environments Team to create the workspaces’ distinctly minimalist and Japanese character. Light-colored timber dominates the surfaces and live trees and foliage bring nature indoors. Staff members and visitors are immediately greeted by a double-height leafy atrium that serves as reception, but looks more like a modern cafe. The office then branches out to a variety of different rooms with diverse workspaces from communal worktables to private cubbies. Related: Airbnb’s Portland call center offers a beautiful and flexible work environment Japanese influences are most evident in the Engawa area, an elevated platform covered with tatami mats and cushions, allowing staff to sit or kneel on the ground and overlook cityscape views while working. Traditional tearooms also inspired the design for the office’s private Skype booths that are made from local white oak and rice paper film. + Suppose Design Office Via Dezeen

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