Meet your gadget’s next power supply: you

February 13, 2018 by  
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No power outlet? No problem. Juicing up your gadgets may soon be as easy as lifting your finger. Scientists from the University at Buffalo and the Institute of Semiconductors at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a tiny metallic tab, known as a a triboelectric nanogenerator, that can generate electricity from simple bodily movements,” said Qiaoqiang Gan, associate professor of electrical engineering in the University of Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “No one likes being tethered to a power outlet or lugging around a portable charger. The human body is an abundant source of energy. We thought: ‘Why not harness it to produce our own power?’” Triboelectric charging, also known as the triboelectric effect, occurs when certain materials become electrically charged after rubbing against a different material. Most everyday static electricity, for instance, is triboelectricity, Gan said. As described in a study that was published online January 31 in the journal Nano Energy , the 1.5-by-1-centimeter tab comprises two thin layers of gold separated by a sliver of polydimethylsiloxane, the same silicon-based polymer found in contact lenses and Silly Putty. Stretching the layers of gold sparks friction with the PDMS. Relatd: 6 human-powered gadgets to improve your life “This causes electrons to flow back and forth between the gold layers. The more friction, the greater the amount of power is produced,” said Yun Xu, professor of IoP at CAS, one of the study’s authors. So far, researchers have been able to deliver a maximum voltage of 124 volts, a maximum current of 10 microamps and a maximum power density of 0.22 millwatts per square centimeter—not enough to charge a smartphone just yet, but a promising start nonetheless. Because the tab is easy to fabricate in a cost-effective way, Gan and his team plan to experiment with larger pieces of gold to generate more electricity. The scientists are also working on developing a portable battery to store energy produced by the tab. Their eventual goal? To create a power source for a raft of wearable self-powered electronic devices, Gan said. + University at Buffalo Lead photo by Unsplash

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Meet your gadget’s next power supply: you

Architects experiment with terracotta in the fight against climate change

December 26, 2017 by  
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Architects have drawn on terracotta for thousands of years – but are now exploring combating climate change with the ancient building material . Ceramicists, engineers, and architects converged on Buffalo this year for the Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop (ACAW) to investigate environmentally responsive terracotta designs . Terracotta is durable, breathes, offers a natural system to transfer water and heat, lasts for hundreds of years, and can be sculpted, transforming buildings into artwork, according to the University at Buffalo (UB). ACAW participants came together to work on terracotta facade prototypes with an emphasis on bioclimatic design. Workshop co-organizer and UB chair of architecture Omar Khan said in a statement, “Buildings account for two-thirds of final energy use and more than half of the world’s greenhouse gases . Yet the materials and assembly methods used for building facades have remained essentially the same since the 1950s. The skin of architecture must adapt to and mitigate such changes in our environment. Bioclimatic design invites us to change the paradigm from disposability to longevity.” Related: Brilliant zero-energy air conditioner in India is beautiful and functional Four research teams developed prototypes during the four-day workshop. Team UB/Alfred designed a terracotta shingle system with digital sculpting techniques that supports passive cooling . Team AECOM created a terracotta counter-current heat exchanger able to channel heat throughout a building using little to zero energy. A team from structural engineering and design firm Walter P. Moore explored a post-tensioned system of terracotta panels to answer questions on insulation, heating and cooling , and thermal mass and ventilation, as well as how different composite formulations would boost terracotta’s structural possibilities. And Team Morphosis worked on a facade system with ribboned terracotta panels for natural ventilation and evaporative cooling , while creating the feeling of movement. UB said the teams “are expected to advance results into full-scale projects, patented products, and actual buildings.” + Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop Via the University at Buffalo Images via Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo (1,3); Alexander Becker (2,4); and Laura Garófalo (5)

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Architects experiment with terracotta in the fight against climate change

Super-insulated modern log cabin withstands frigid Finnish winters in style

December 26, 2017 by  
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Winters in Finland can plunge to a freezling -22 degrees Fahrenheit, but those chilling temperatures are no match for this well-insulated log cabin. Crafted by Helsinki-based company Pluspuu , this Log Villa on the Coast was commissioned as a client’s second home on the Turku coast. The light-filled abode harnesses geothermal energy for heating and cooling, and boasts superior insulation as well as triple-glazed windows. Built by Ollikaisen Hirsirakenne Oy with the latest Finnish log construction technology, this modern log villa is a custom, site-specific build that gave rise to one of Pluspuu’s newest house models, the Kustavi 125. Topped with a mono-pitched metal roof, the 125-square-meter two-bedroom home is raised off the ground and wrapped in black-stained glue-laminated timber . Black-painted aluminum window frames surround the large triple-glazed windows. Two covered terraces extend living space outdoors. Related: This modern log home in Finland is heated by the earth The light-filled interior is lined with timber treated with white wood wax and special batten wall panels, while clinker is used for the floors. Sweeping landscape and sea views can be enjoyed from the open-plan living room, kitchen, and dining area, as well as from the sauna . For insulation, the architects used 202-millimeter-thick laminated log walls and 500-millimeter-thick wood fiber insulation for the roof. Pluspuu (Finnish for “plus wood”) provides high-quality log houses in a variety of models and promotes the use of timber as a “breathable material with indisputably positive health effects.” + Pluspuu Via ArchDaily Images © Samuli Miettinen

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Super-insulated modern log cabin withstands frigid Finnish winters in style

OLIO launches revolutionary food sharing app to reduce waste

December 26, 2017 by  
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OLIO  is an online app designed to reduce food waste through social networking . After creating an account, OLIO users can upload photos and descriptions of foods, such as extra vegetables, surplus canned goods, or leftover meals, that they wish to share. Since launching in the United Kingdom in early 2016, OLIO has gained 322,000 users, with more than 400,000 food transactions made on the app. A third of OLIO’s regular users are from low-income households. “[The food system] is clearly absolutely bonkers and needs to be fixed,” said OLIO co-founder Tessa Cook, who was inspired to create the app to deal with what she describes as “one of the biggest problems facing humanity today,” according to the Independent . One-third of all food produced globally is wasted, while in the United Kingdom, the average family discards £700 worth of food each year. Cook was inspired by one incident in which she sought to share leftovers on the street, but could not find someone. “I thought, this is perfectly delicious food . I know there is someone within 100 meters who would love it. The problem is they don’t know about it,” she said. Related: France is the world’s most sustainable food country When Cook realized there was no food-sharing app, she and Saasha Celestial-One, an American former investment banker, co-founded OLIO after raising £1.65 million (~$2.2 million) in investor funding. OLIO is now collaborating with cafes and supermarkets to reduce food waste , while positively impacting business and consumer behavior. Sharing apps like OLIO have highlighted the positive possibilities of a networked society. “These have made visible the kind of opportunity within all this stuff around us, and they can be really powerful,” said Joe Iles, editor-in-chief of Circulate , a magazine which promotes the idea of a circular economy, in which materials and products are reused . Via the Independent Images via OLIO and Depositphotos

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OLIO launches revolutionary food sharing app to reduce waste

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