It’s been a year of firsts for the railway system — from going solar to launching its fastest model. Pushing its limits even further, China is test-driving its Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit system, which is fully electric and trackless.
ART bears the physical appearance of a train but it doesn’t rely on following a track. Instead, it follows a virtual route using an electric powertrain and tires. It’s expected to function much like an urban train or a tram, but since there’s no investment cost in laying down rails, it should be much cheaper to implement.
The train can only travel 15 kilometers at a time, but can fully recharge in just 10 minutes. Environmentalists will likely tip their hats off to the new system — it’s entirely emissions free! Smoggy China could surely use more sustainable public transport alternatives. Thankfully, its government has been taking other measures to ensure that its locals don’t further experience pollution-caused health issues.
40 percent of China’s factories have been shut down, and authorities are reportedly working on a timetable to end the sale of gas- and diesel-powered cars.
A round of applause for China — sounds fresh!
From powering homes to treating cancer, the simple battery has come a long way. To up the ante of renewable energy sources, MIT has developed an air-breathing battery that stores energy at zero emissions.
“This battery literally inhales and exhales air, but it doesn’t exhale carbon dioxide, like humans — it exhales oxygen,” says Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.
Cost of production is 1/30th that of regular lithium-ion batteries. Over five years, researchers experimented with various materials such as sulfur and potassium permanganate. While its impact was a priority, pricing was also heavily considered.
“It’s a creative and interesting new concept that could potentially be an ultra-low-cost solution for grid storage,”
In the end, the battery is definitely the first of its kind and is not only unique, but highly efficient.
Engineers are always on the hunt for more efficient ways to power the humble double-A battery. So far, industry geniuses have tried unusual mediums such as air and even spit. Yet the search is far from over–as electronics innovator Juan Pablo Esquivel is testing a paper battery.
“We develop small, nontoxic, inexpensive fuel cells and batteries that don’t need to be recycled and could be thrown away with no ecological impact,” he explains.
The petite power cell will charge disposable devices and microelectronics. And no–we’re not talking Hot Wheels. Esquivel aims to make pregnancy, glucose, and and disease tests cheaper and more accessible.
“Esquivel is like Cristiano Ronaldo, and, like Ronaldo, he’s playing for an excellent team. That’s why he gets results,” jokes Antonio Martínez, a professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
With single-use devices hitting the bins before they lose charge, landfills could use a little less lithium.
As self-driving delivery vans hit the streets of England, Toyota is brewing up its own unique prototype. With no itinerary, the popular automaker has all the time in the world to be ambitious. (Maybe even a little over-the-top!) Over the weekend, the vehicle manufacturer announced the “e-Palette”, an autonomous vehicle that does… well, whatever you want it to do.
[Toyota] describes them as “fully-automated, next generation battery electric vehicle[s] designed to be scalable and customizable for a range of Mobility as a Service businesses.”
Essentially, the buggy is a self-driving cargo van that grows (or shrinks) depending on what it’s carrying. There’s no word on a launch date, or whether Toyota will actually build its formidable e-Palette. Still, makers are fixated on the idea — to suit millennials in particular.
“Just think how good e-Palette would be at Burning man,” quipped Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Company’s bespectacled president.
Whatever Toyota has up its sleeve next, it’s good to know that future technologies will match its ambition.
The era of Energizer batteries has climaxed. Nowadays, the electrochemical cells are powered by unusual sources, spit included. Other new devices don’t even need them. At any rate, updated technology can’t phase them out entirely — so inventor group Ossia has paved middle ground. The solution? A battery that only requires air to charge.
[Ossia’s Cota] transmitter broadcasts a directed and concentrated RF signal towards a given device in a room, which is absorbed by the gadget’s own RF antennas inside, and turned into usable power.
Alas, for gadgets such as iPhones and Fitbits, RF antennas will have to be external. But, as tech circles are, Ossia has an alternative up its sleeve: the Cota Forever Battery.
Featuring the exact same size, form factor, and power output of a traditional AA battery, it can be inserted into a battery-powered device to instantly and easily make it compatible with Cota wireless power transmitters.
Ever dream of never having to switch out obnoxious television remote batteries? It may be time to wake up — the future’s just arrived!
We are in the middle of a technological revolution. Machines are producing clean energy more efficiently than ever. Some are even using biological factors such as sweat to produce power. Now, researchers at Binghamton University have manufactured a saliva-powered battery that requires — you guessed it — your spit.
“The proposed battery has competitive advantages over other conventional power solutions because the biological fluid for on-demand battery activation is readily available even in the most resource-constrained settings, and the freeze-drying technology enables long-term storage of cells without degradation or denaturation,”
The bio-battery can create several tens of microwatt-level power for a few minutes — good enough in most cases. Meant for use in remote areas, the gadget could also be life-saving in terms of where light, heat, or communication is needed. Researchers are continuing to develop the device’s power density so it may be applied elsewhere.
“Now, our power density is about a few microwatts per centimetre square. Although 16 microbial fuel cells connected in a series on a single sheet of paper generated desired values of electrical current and voltage to power a light-emitting diode (LED), further power improvement is required for other electronic applications demanding hundreds of milliwatts of energy,”
If this battery is for you, it’s probably time to give those glands a workout!
Realizing the effects of climate change has encouraged new methods of producing clean energy. Kenya is turning human waste into cooking fuel. Michelin is manufacturing an airless, biodegradable tire. Now, an Italian startup is distributing an eco-box that provides water and power to remote areas across the world.
The box itself is a simple container, measuring six by six by six feet. With solar panels on top and water treatment inside, it can help remote communities with both off-grid energy and easily accessible filtered water.
Off Grid Box’s container can provide an entire family of four with filtered water for just 12 cents. A single unit can distribute battery packs to nearly 300 families. Each pack can run three LED lights for up to 4 hours and fully charge two mobile phones.
The new business model is getting a thorough test in Rwanda, where the startup plans to install units in 18 villages. The government has commissioned 14 contractors to work on rural electrification, and Off Grid Box is partnered with three of them so far. By 2020, it hopes to be serving 420,000 end-customers.
The company has yet to find its rhythm in terms of sales, but Off Grid Box’s future looks bright. Conceivably, it’s time for big buyers to care less about trivial machines and start thinking about the technology poorer communities need.
With the emergence of solar farms such as the Panda Power Plant in China, new methods of harvesting power are also manifesting. Tesla has engineered the solar roof, but the University of Exeter is not stopping there. We may now have the option to replace exterior walls with solar blocks made of glass.
Known as Solar Squared, the transparent blocks contain multiple optical elements that each focus incoming sunlight onto an individual solar cell. All of the cells within each block are linked together, and the blocks themselves can in turn be wired to one another, ultimately feeding into the building’s electrical grid or a battery.
Users can choose to have the block tinted to avoid overheating. They also provide quality thermal insulation, much better than that of a traditional glass block.
Build Solar is still conducting preliminary commercial testing. If successful, Solar Squared could be seeing the light of day (pun completely intended) as early as next year.
As a self-proclaimed techie, I am always on the hunt for the most efficient power bank. There is nothing worse than draining a smartphone, whether you’re waiting for a text or in the middle of a selfie. Of course, longer lasting batteries can serve more urgent needs such as emergency calls to the police or fire department. The University of Washington seems to have solved this problem with a cellphone that requires no battery. Instead, it harvests power from radio signals.
The battery-free cell phone saves on power by taking advantage of analog, as opposed to digital, voice encoding. The device’s range comes from tiny solar panels called photodiodes.
“A phone like this would never need to be recharged, and could still be used to make phone calls and send text messages,”
The current prototype has basic functions (such as texting and calling) but holds promise for more advanced models. Former student Vamsi Talla expounds on why the device is so important.
“The reason we chose to build a battery-free phone is because phones are one of the most important devices that virtually everyone uses,”
“Most of us have experienced the situation where our phone battery has died at an inopportune time, such as when we want to make an important phone call.”
Whether we like it or not, smartphones have become a vital part of our everyday lives. Everything, now, is in the palm of our hands, and accessible. We ought to give a standing ovation to the people who are keeping it that way.