If all it takes to generate energy nowadays is a walk and a bit of sweat, it should come as no surprise that it’s also possible to create electricity out of thin air. Or, rather, air that is slightly humid.
[Biophysicist professor Ozgur Sahin’s] laboratory has developed one kind of ‘evaporation engine’, which works by using the movement of bacteria in response to changes in humidity.
Shutters either opened or closed to control moisture levels, prompting bacterial spores to expand or contract. This motion is then transferred to a generator and turned into electricity.
With technologies to convert wind, water, and heat into energy, it seems anything has the potential to do the same. As with anything in its early stages, researchers are treading carefully so as not to affect water resources. However, the machines may be a saving grace to drought-prone areas, as they reduce water loss.
“Some… regions suffer from periods of water stress and scarcity, which might favour implementation of these energy harvesting systems due to the reduction of evaporative losses.”
According to recent calculations, the technology could save 25 trillion gallons of water a year. It’s a godsend, considering how many people aren’t willing to give up hot, hourlong showers. It’s also a harsh reminder that we ought to do our part as consumers.
It’s not only cars that are getting a sustainable makeover — manufacturers are also developing new tires. From self-healing rubber to airless frames, consumers are in for a smooth ride. What we can expect next is a smart adaptable tire that can easily adjust to road conditions.
Specifically, this is all about two technologies called ContiSense and ContiAdapt. In simple terms you are looking at a tire that (1) could monitor and report on its health and (2) adjust its characteristics to road conditions.
Monitors measure tread depth and temperature, and its electrically-conductive rubber adjusts accordingly. It’s also completely wireless (can we get some wifi on there?).
“Depending on the tire pressure and rim width, different tread zones are activated and the concept tire adopts the required ‘footprint’ in each case.”
Like the Michelin projects, it’s going to be some time before the tires roll in. But with all this new technology, I can’t imagine slowing down would be too much of a bad idea.
Due to shortages of natural resources like oils and fossil fuels, researchers are creating energy with alternative sources. From what it seems, our bodies may be more useful than we give them credit for. As a matter of fact, our sweat can power various electronics, including radios. In this case, so can our tears, as they have been found to contain a protein called lysozyme.
Lysozyme has an innate antibacterial property, as its main role is to protect against infection by breaking down bacterial cells. While many other known piezoelectric materials contain toxic elements like lead, Stapleton says lysozyme’s nontoxic, organic quality could make it useful to biomedical technology.
Big words aside, applying pressure to the protein creates a small electrical charge. That electrical charge can power medical devices such as pacemakers, and can eventually be used to replace old batteries. Head of study Aimee Stapleton explained that lysozymes crystallize, which make them hassle-free and thus make their usage relatively easy to develop.
“I was interested in lysozyme because it can be crystallized really easily, which makes it easier to study,” she says, “because crystallized structures tend to show piezoelectricity.”
The protein is apparently more conductive than other materials, which makes them a good alternative to replace old batteries with, but don’t worry — scientists aren’t going to start making people cry. Lysozymes are apparently also present in egg whites. Maybe chicken farmers are the ones who should be stoked.
With climate change ascending into an all-time high, communities are making the most out of the searing heat. In fact, 800,000 homes in the U.K. are running entirely on the sun’s rays. However, Diu in India recently beat them to the punch, becoming the first Union territory to run completely solar-powered.
“The population of Diu is only 56,000. For water and electricity, the Union territory was solely dependent on the Gujarat government. To overcome this limitation, the administration of the Union territory decided to set up solar power plants in Diu.” [said executive engineer Milind Ingle.]
The city generates 13 megawatts a day, covering 42 square kilometers. Even so, manufacturers have installed plants over some 50 acres. Bill charges have since dropped by 12%, a great relief to locals.
“Diu’s peak-time demand for electricity goes up to 7 MW and we generate about 10.5 MW of electricity from solar energy daily. This is way more than the consumption demand requirement.”
Now that I think about it, an Indian summer may be worth your while.
For Puerto Rico, tech giants Tesla and Alphabet are easing the struggle of getting back on the grid. While one group is providing Powerwall batteries, the other is supplying an Internet connection. Even so, the hurdles have just begun, and so has Tesla, now restoring power to hospitals with solar energy.
The hospital’s new system allows it to generate all the energy it needs… The facility has 35 permanent residents with chronic conditions; it also offers services to some 3,000 young patients.
Due to the gravity of the energy crisis, the system is a donation — for now. Since it began to recuperate, Puerto Rico’s power service has risen to 25%. Though many have been reaching out to the territory, complete recovery of losses will cut $5 billion deep into budgets. At this point, it seems Puerto Rico is accepting any bit of help it can get.
The territory’s electric and power authority signed a $300 million contract with Whitefish, a small and relatively young Montana company, to restore the power grid.
The nation is months away from a breakthrough in terms of improvement, but with Tesla to count on, might be worth the wait.
At this point in time, we are all familiar with the potential of solar power. It can run anything from trains to villages, which makes home installations a no-brainer. However, the devices don’t come cheap, which is why the U.K. government aims to build free solar panels in 800,000 homes in the next five years.
The deal “is set to create over 1,000 new jobs for people”, many of whom “will be tasked with installing and maintaining the panels”. These positions will first be “offered to military veterans”, who will also receive training “for new maintenance careers”.
Energy firm Solarplicity is donating the panels to low-income households, which could save families £240 on bills per year. But that isn’t where the fun stops. Residents will also receive smart meters that indicate energy usage throughout the day.
It’s “by far and away the largest renewable energy scheme of its kind in the UK”… and has been bolstered by a £160m investment from Dutch firm Maas Capital.
It’s a charitable move by the U.K. government that I hope successfully sees the light of day (pun entirely intended).
Solar farms are becoming a country staple. They exist in China, in the playful shape of a panda. You’ll also find them in the Middle East. What we haven’t seen is a solar farm from one continent hooked up to another. Now, a solar farm in Africa may be lighting up Europe.
Tunisia-based TuNur filed a request in the North African country to export 4.5 gigawatts of solar energy to Europe, enough to power 5 million homes or 7 million electric cars.
If my understanding is correct, we now have the technology to import power from other countries. Way to drop a bomb, TuNur! The project is also moving at a fast pace. By 2020, it will connect solar plants in Tunisia with Italy and France.
This link will form part of the EU’s Project of Common Interest plan, which funds infrastructure developments that benefit the EU as a whole.
Vital to the success of the project is cost — reducing rates per megawatt hour. That and a number of border disputes. Despite the struggle, supporters of the project remain hopeful for energy cooperation.
With the rise of solar power comes a great hurdle — bringing it into households. While scientists at the University of Exeter have masterminded glass solar blocks, those at UC Berkeley are working down to the atom. To bring cheaper options to the table, UCLA research teams are testing a solar gadget that creates hydrogen and electricity.
Along with the usual positive and negative electrodes, the device has a third electrode that can either store energy electrically or use it to split water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms – a process called water electrolysis.
The pocket-fitting tool produces clean energy to power appliances and vehicles. It also incorporates nickel, iron, and cobalt into hydrogen production, replacing platinum, which is scarce.
“Hydrogen is a great fuel for vehicles: It is the cleanest fuel known, it’s cheap and it puts no pollutants into the air – just water,” says [study head Richard] Kaner.
With a lot of work, UCLA’s newest contraption could do wonders for infrastructure and hydrogen cars. It may even bring a little sunshine to rural communities.
Every country has its own version of pollution patrol. Bogota has vertical gardens. China has a purification tower. Debuting its most exciting decontamination technology yet, Poland is ahead of the game with a “smog vacuum” that turns dirty air into jewelry.
The tower-like device essentially sucks up smog from the top and then releases the filtered air through its six-sided vents. It can clean more than 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour and uses no more electricity than a water boiler, according to [designer Daan] Roosegaarde.
After three years of research and development, the tower made initial headway in Rotterdam. To encourage other countries to adopt the device, Roosegaarde started pressing collected dust particles into rings and cufflinks. A single gem stone is equivalent to 1,000 cubic meters of air, which sounds like a whole lot, but deceptively so.
“The fine dust that would normally harm us, is collected together with the ions and stored inside of the tower. This technology manages to capture ultra-fine smog particles which regular filter systems fail to do.”
Never did I believe anything remotely attractive could come of city smog. But I like it, and I’m putting a ring on it.
New Zealand’s 1 billion tree-planting goal is proof that society is recognizing nature’s benefits. Anyway, city trees do cut down community expenses by up to $500 million. Besides producing oxygen, plants reduce air pollution and carbon emissions — and can now light up in the dark.
A team of MIT engineers have created living bioluminescent lamps out of watercress plants with the goal of one day replacing conventional electrical lighting with the glowing greenery.
The enzyme responsible for the Green Lantern glow is luciferase, active primarily in fireflies. For now, the plants glow dimly for around 4 hours at a time. With the project continuing to progress, scientists are hoping to at least pull leafy desk lamps from the experiment.
“The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don’t have to plug in. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself,” says Michael Strano, a Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT.
If MIT is drafting a customer waitlist, I’m definitely first in line. My electricity bill could use one less zero!