Water Purifier Made of Paper is Almost 100% Efficient

As someone engaged in water research, it’s difficult to break records when there’s already news of an Indian startup producing water from thin air or an Australian team modifying a metal that can clean water super quickly. But that’s exactly what researchers at the University of Buffalo did when they tested out their innovative device that uses sunlight and black carbon-dipped paper to purify water — its nearly 100% efficiency rate appears record-breaking indeed.

“Our technique is able to produce drinking water at a faster pace than is theoretically calculated under natural sunlight,” said lead researcher Qiaoqiang Gan in a statement . . . “Usually, when solar energy is used to evaporate water, some of the energy is wasted as heat is lost to the surrounding environment . . . Our system has a way of drawing heat in from the surrounding environment, allowing us to achieve near-perfect efficiency.”

The sloping carbon-dipped paper is crucial to the device’s efficiency. The bottom edges of the water purifier soaks up water while its outer coating absorbs solar energy to facilitate evaporation. This makes way for the purification process. The structure seems simple enough. And according to the scientists, incredibly accessible too.

According to them as well, what set their device apart from those of other groups that try to develop a water purifier with solar tech is that they didn’t prioritize finding advanced materials such as carbon-based nanomaterials and other expensive metals. Instead, the researchers wanted to focus on creating something that was extremely low-cost yet efficient.

This is consistent with their ultimate goal, which is to make the water purifier device useful to regions that need it the most, including disaster-stricken areas. To achieve it, the researchers also made their own startup called Sunny Clean Water.

“When you talk to government officials or nonprofits working in disaster zones, they want to know: ‘How much water can you generate every day?’ We have a strategy to boost daily performance,” said Haomin Song, an electrical engineering PhD graduate, in a statement. “With a solar still the size of a mini fridge, we estimate that we can generate 10 to 20 liters of clean water every single day.”

I always knew writers like me could use our medium to promote causes like sustainability, water conservation, and the like. But who knew paper could literally purify water, especially at this speed and efficiency?

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Costa Rica to Eliminate Fossil Fuels by 2021

In recent years, there have been multiple known alternatives to using fossil fuels, and some countries have already began using them and lobbying for them. I dare say it’s now a matter of legislation and execution in various institutions so that they may all follow suit in this turn to renewable power. For instance, solar energy powers schools in Denmark, villages for the homeless in the Netherlands, and the entirety of Diu in India. Meanwhile, wind energy is to run millions of homes in the UK, some states in America, and about 70% of Australia.

And now, Costa Rica announced a pledge to become the first entirely decarbonized country in the world by 2021.

Carlos Alvarado, [Costa Rica’s new president and] a 38-year-old former journalist, made the announcement to a crowd of thousands during his inauguration on Wednesday.

“Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first,” Mr. Alvarado said. “We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies.”

The president even seems to live consistently to his words, arriving at the ceremony aboard a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle. In addition to decarbonization, the country has previously declared plans to entirely eliminate single-use plastics by the same year. That’s right — Costa Rica wants to lead a lot of environmental endeavors by 2021.

But what’s so special about the target date?

“When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate … that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation,” [Mr. Alvarado] promised during a victory speech.

Right. By that time, Costa Rica will have celebrated its 200th year of independence. I suppose it’s part of the same push and momentum that they were able to gain a record in 2017 for producing more than 99% of the country’s electricity using only renewable sources.

Perhaps acknowledging that the history of the people is also the history of their land, Costa Rica wants to celebrate the anniversary of their independence with a healthier, greener, and cleaner environment.

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Smart Solar Greenhouse Grows Healthy Crops

Step aside, fossil fuels — everyone is going solar. With eco-houses and trains now on the market, we might as well redesign as much as we can into solar. This is where electricity-generating greenhouses are stepping in.

Electricity-generating solar greenhouses utilize Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs), a novel technology that generates electricity more efficiently and at less cost than traditional photovoltaic systems… WSPVs absorb some of the blue and green wavelengths of light but let the rest through, allowing the plants to grow.

In testing a variety of plant species, researchers at UC Santa Cruz found that 80% remained unaffected by changes. The remaining 20%? They actually grew better under the building’s bright magenta windows.

“If greenhouses generate electricity on site, that reduces the need for an outside source, which helps lower greenhouse gas emissions even more,” said [professor Michael] Loik. “We’re moving toward self-sustaining greenhouses.”

The greenhouse uses 5% less water — a success, taking into account that greenhouses occupy 9 million acres of land. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, the system costs 40% less than traditional means. Clearly, percentages have demonstrated a win-win situation for these buildings, which will hopefully bring users 100% satisfaction.

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Tesla Restores Power To Puerto Rico Hospitals

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.

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Solar Sidewalk Can Charge E-Vehicles

Much is on the horizon for the up-and-coming solar industry. For e-vehicles in particular, perks such as recharging solar highways and free energy are on the market. But as technology continues to remodel itself, owning an electric SUV isn’t easy as pie. Hoping to relieve the hassle of scant charging ports, startup Platio is building solar-powered sidewalks.

“It is important for us to find key partners who support innovative technologies and can give us a chance to try new fields of applications,” Miklós Illyés, co-founder of Platio. “With the help of Prologis, we managed to install our first solution for EV charging stations, which is a significant milestone for us and our mission to contribute to e-mobility.”

The 50 square foot structure can generate up to a peak of 720 watts. When not in use, it conveniently powers adjacent office buildings. Despite other pressing development issues regarding mass production, passersby seem most concerned about slipping.

Aluminum oxide provides plenty of friction in both hot and cold areas. Clear hydrophobic polymer can also be used to prevent water from forming between the person’s shoe and the surface of the sidewalk.

And there you have it, folks. A simple, non-slip solution to an everyday, clean commute.

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China Builds Air Purification Tower To Reduce Smog

In its last-ditch effort to combat smog with air-purifying bicycles, China has moved onto greater endeavors. Ensuing a promise to plant an Ireland-sized forest, Shaanxi province is tackling air pollution head-on with a giant air purifier.

The system works through greenhouses covering about half the size of a soccer field around the base of the tower.

Polluted air is sucked into the glasshouses and heated up by solar energy. The hot air then rises through the tower and passes through multiple layers of cleaning filters.

Since its recent launch, the 100-meter edifice has produced over 10 million cubic meters of clean air. As one of the most heavily-polluted regions in China, Xian is the perfect guinea pig for purifying technology. The gargantuan spire is still experimental, but may soon swarm the nation.

“It barely requires any power input throughout daylight hours. The idea has worked very well in the test run,” [said head of research Cao Junji.]

Cao’s full-size tower will span 500 meters. If its dwarfed prototype remains as promising as it seems, sunset-gazing in China may just become a popular weekend activity.

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Chernobyl Wasteland To Boast Solar Farm

Solar power exists everywhere — in highways and even infrastructure. It can withstand extreme conditions, or at least as far as we know. Now, two Chinese companies are testing that theory, setting out to build a solar farm on the remains of Chernobyl.

“It is cheap land, and abundant sunlight constitutes a solid foundation for the project,” says Ostap Semerak, Ukraine’s minister of environment and natural resources.

After years of battling radiation, Chernobyl has apparently become a breeding ground for new possibilities. Golden Concord Holdings and Sinomach will be spearheading the formidable project, which will cover 2,500 hectares.

“There will be remarkable social benefits and economical ones as we try to renovate the once-damaged area with green and renewable energy,” says Shu Hua, chairman of the GLC subsidiary.

As it welcomes hundreds of tourists a year, Chernobyl’s progress is slow but steady. Home to dozens of animal species, the once-toxic ghost town is finally making its comeback.

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Panasonic’s CityNow Is A Futuristic Metropolis

While the UAE is prepping for life on Mars, Panasonic is keeping it down-to-earth. Taking a more optimistic approach to the future, the electronics company is erecting a smart city. That means self-driving vehicles, clean energy, and free wifi all in one!

“Since early 2016, when we started on Denver CityNow, we’ve vetted 11 technology suppliers, developed an open API, established a carbon-neutral district, got approval from the public utility and installed the first microgrid, with solar panels on Denver Airport property, in partnership with Xcel Energy, which can power this area for 72 hours in the event of a natural, or manmade, disaster.” [said EVP Jarrett Wendt.]

Panasonic is pulling from its previous success with Fujisawa’s Sustainable Smart town, which took 8.5 years to build. The tech metropolis saw a 70% reduction in carbon dioxide and 30% energy return. In essence, it pays to be green. As for Denver becoming its futuristic breeding ground? A lack of legal setbacks did the trick.

“At Panasonic, we’re not political, we just want to get things done,” said Wendt.

Granted, a 400-acre tech-forward city may be something to look forward to — let’s just hope they pull it off!

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China’s Solar Highway Recharges Electric Vehicles

Solar energy is taking over the power grid. It’s in building materials and even wallpaper, allowing homes to become more efficient and eco-friendly. For Chinese development group Qilu, the power of solar stretches beyond the comfort of a household. It recently tested its first solar road — and saw it through to success!

The solar road is made up of an insulating layer on the bottom, photovoltaic panels in the middle, and transparent concrete on top.

The road itself will power street lights, signs, CCTV cameras, toll gates, and even recharge e-vehicles. Extra produced energy (which it apparently is capable of generating) will go to the state grid. The project cost Qilu well over 50 million euros, but considering its expertise in solar, China will likely bounce back.

Xu did not reveal the cost of the Jinan solar road but said it was half of similar projects in other countries. “With the development of solar power in China, the cost can be further reduced,” he said.

Looks like EV enthusiasts won’t have to worry about running on empty! (Except, maybe, iPhone carriers…)

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Concrete Structure Can Harness Solar Energy

Running on solar may seem simple enough, but it isn’t always the most affordable option. Some institutions, such as the famed solar high school in Copenhagen, can afford to maintain thousands of panels. But for those on a budget, alternatives such as solar blocks may be a more suitable option. Either way, engineers continue to develop more efficient methods for going solar. Designed in Zurich, this concrete roof prototype can generate solar power.

The self-supporting, doubly curved shell roof has multiple layers: the heating and cooling coils and the insulation are installed over the inner concrete layer. A second, exterior layer of the concrete sandwich structure encloses the roof, onto which builders install thin-film photovoltaic cells.

The fully-developed prototype will create more energy than it consumes. The structure’s components are reusable and the concrete itself is highly robust. The team considers its success a milestone — and rightfully so.

“We’ve shown that it’s possible to build an exciting, thin concrete shell structure using a lightweight, flexible formwork, thus demonstrating that complex concrete structures can be formed without wasting large amounts of material for their construction.”

There isn’t yet word on recreating the roof commercially, but after four years of research, the wait shouldn’t be much longer.

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