Breathing wall

‘Breathing wall‘ is a future-oriented and wall integrated air cleaning concept for people who live in urban areas and want to relax and rest in a home with fresh air. The creator Jeabyun Yeon, a young product designer from Korea, presented his concept of “Breathing wall” to the Electrolux Design Lab and was voted to be one of the 8 Finalists.

breathing wallThis is how he explains his interesting concept: “Those of us living in modern times become stressed easily and we tend to generally accept its threat. However, these stresses become the cause of various psychological illnesses that at times lead to physical illnesses. That’s why people that take preventive measures against stress seek to heal their minds and bodies through yoga, exercise, meditation, etc. Based on this fact, the type of environment needed to heal one’s body and mind was examined.

Based on this context, these things were incorporated in the Breathing Wall. In specific, the focus of the Breathing Wall was placed on indoor air, namely, indoor atmosphere. People can exercise efficiently and take high-quality rests by recollecting their good memories through the changes in the indoor atmosphere.”

The “Breathing Wall” contains nano-technology, Graphene LED, polished aluminium and robotics. For more information visit his blog at Electrolux Design Lab.

Posted in Environment, Home |

Hybrid battery derives energy from waste water

It might seem unlikely that waste water can be used as an energy reservoir for power production, but Xing Xie et al. have created a hybrid battery device that derives energy from waste water.

This is how it works:

hybrid batteryAt the battery’s anode, microorganisms oxidize organic matter that has accumulated in the water, releasing electrons. The electrons pass through an external circuit, where they are available for use as electrical energy, and then return to a solid-state electrode within the battery. Once the electrode has filled with electrons, the user can remove and recharge the spent portion by exposing it to oxygen.

The authors report a net efficiency of about 30%, on par with the best commercial solar cells. These devices require low-cost materials that is attractive for large-scale use. The results of the study show that the microbial battery concept can safely and efficiently turn “waste” organic matter into usable energy.

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Life saving innovative auto steering device

computer mediated steeringRene Guerster, who has been concerned with steering improvement since he was a child, proposes an alternative steering device that could help to prevent hazards such as rear-end collisions and rollovers caused by panic over-steering. He will present his work on October 4 at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel.

It can take up to two and a half turns to steer a modern vehicle. While turning, the driver must release the wheel in the necessary hand-over-hand movement, which is unsafe. Additionally severe sudden turns are extremely difficult with today’s steering systems.

What is Guerster’s idea? He developed what he calls “computer-mediated steering”. His proposed technology, already common in engine controls, would enable steering around a suddenly-appearing obstacle without hand-over-hand fumbling.

The yoke-like device, currently in the concept stage, requires only a quarter turn in either direction from the straight-ahead position, enabling the driver to keep his or her hands in the same position on the device at all times. A computer records the degree to which the device is turned, the speed at which it is being turned, and the vehicle speed. It determines how far the front wheels should be turned and then turn them via an electric motor.

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Urban agriculture: should we produce food in cities?

There is no question about the benefits of urban agriculture. Urban gardens are often built on unused lots, thereby increasing the beauty and value of the neighborhood. They provide recreation opportunities and a social network for the gardeners.

urban agricultureOn the other side urban food production also means that healthy, fresh produce is readily available to city dwellers. In many cities patrons of high-end restaurants want fresh and flavorful quality food. To satisfy their guests, chefs are looking closer and closer to home – to locally grown produce from neighboring farms or even from their own, restaurant-owned gardens.

“You can’t find fresher food anywhere,” says Sam Wortman, assistant professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Chefs are literally picking produce the same day they’re cooking it in the restaurants.”

People should though be aware of the challenges that organizers and growers face. These challenges must be understood and addressed if urban gardens are to become widespread and even profitable. Several obstacles face planners and growers including soil contaminants, water availability, and changes in climate and atmospheric conditions.

Looking ahead, Wortman and his colleagues hope to further the development of urban agriculture by optimizing the ways in which crops and soils are managed in urban areas. Finding more efficient ways to produce food in cities will help control costs. Research to increase both the productivity and profitability of urban farming is necessary.

Posted in Economy, Environment |

World’s thinnest wireless touch surface

Bluetooth Smart innovator CSR has developed the world’s thinnest wireless touch surface. The flexible device, less than 0.5 mm (0,02 in) thick, can turn any area into a touch surface. Combining CSR’s low-power wireless technology with the latest in printable, flexible electronics and touch screen sensing, the device can be used to extend the touch interface of tablets and smartphones.

CSR ultra-thin keyboard“Consumers want innovative, portable wireless accessories that just work with their mobile devices,” says Paul Williamson, Director of Low Power Wireless at CSR.

As light weight and flexible the device is, it can be integrated into a protective cover or used to create large touch zones on a desktop. A full keyboard experience can be added to a tablet without taking up valuable screen area. Thin enough to slip behind the pages of a notebook, it can be used to pick up handwriting and sketches from the nib of a modified pen.

CSR’s ultra-thin touch surface was unveiled to customers for the first time at IFA Berlin  September 2013.

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How about printable or spray-on solar cells

solar cellUniversity of Alberta researchers created nanoparticles that could lead to printable or spray-on solar cells. They have found that abundant materials in the Earth’s crust can be used to make inexpensive and easily manufactured nanoparticle-based solar cells.

These nanoparticles absorb light and conduct electricity from two very common elements: phosphorus and zinc. Both materials are more plentiful than scarce materials such as cadmium and are free from manufacturing restrictions imposed on lead-based nanoparticles.

This new discovery is an important step forward in making solar power more accessible to parts of the world that are off the traditional electricity grid or face high power costs. The researchers are now experimenting with the nanoparticles, spray-coating them onto large solar cells to test their efficiency.

They support a promising approach of making solar cells cheaply using mass manufacturing methods like roll-to-roll printing (as with newspaper presses) or spray-coating (similar to automotive painting). Nanoparticle-based ‘inks’ could be used to literally paint or print solar cells or precise compositions.

The team has applied for a provisional patent and has secured funding to enable the next step to scale up manufacture.

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , |

Hydrogen fuel from sunlight: artificial photosynthesis

artificial photosynthesisEarth receives more energy in one hour’s worth of sunlight than all of humanity uses in an entire year. Through the process of photosynthesis, green plants harness solar energy to split molecules of water into oxygen, hydrogen ions (protons) and free electrons. The oxygen is released as waste and the protons and electrons are used to convert carbon dioxide into the carbohydrate sugars that plants use for energy. Scientists aim to mimic the concept but improve upon the actual process.

No sustainable energy technology yet matches the ultimate potential of artificial photosynthesis. Bionic leaves that could produce energy-dense fuels from nothing more than sunlight, water and atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide, with no byproducts other than oxygen, represent an ideal alternative to fossil fuels but also pose numerous scientific challenges.

At least one step toward meeting these challenges has been achieved by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) working at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP).

While artificial photosynthesis can be used to generate electricity, fuels can be a more effective means of storing and transporting energy. The goal is an artificial photosynthesis system that is at least 10 times more efficient than natural photosynthesis. “In coupling the absorption of visible light with the production of hydrogen in one material, we can generate a fuel simply by illuminating our photo-cathode,” Moore says. “We look forward to adapting our method to incorporate materials with improved properties for converting sunlight to fuel. We believe our method provides researchers at JCAP and elsewhere with an important tool for developing integrated photo-cathode materials that can be used in future solar-fuel generators as well as other technologies capable of reducing net carbon dioxide emissions.”

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Electrolux Design Lab: Semifinalist idea “The Air Drop”

Each year, Electrolux Design Lab inspires design students all over the world, by painting a picture of the future as a starting point for their creative process. Calling for inventions that are unseen and unheard of, this year’s overarching theme is Inspired Urban Living. It features 3 focus areas: Social Cooking, Natural Air and Effortless Cleaning.

One of the 20 semifinal ideas is The Air Drop from Jillian Tackaberry, USA:

The Air Drop is a solar powered air filtration system that uses sunlight for energy like plants do.

the air drop

“Looking around at air purifiers has brought a new source of inspiration to this project. Many existing products run off of home electricity. The generation of this electricity is one of the major reasons the air is polluted in the first place. This is where I ask, why contribute to the problem?”, explains Jillian Tackaberry.

The plant in The Air Drop is an air plant (tillansias) that takes nutrients from the air as opposed to soil. They are low maintenance and can be grown indoors or outdoors. These plants can grow to be 3ft across. Tillandsias, of all plants on earth, take more particulates out of the air than any other plant.

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Weathering-resistant and long-term stable solar film

solar filmThe Fraunhofer Institutes FEP, ISC and IVV launched the project »flex25« to develop a solar encapsulation film for light-weight, flexible solar cells. These solar cells would allow those unused parts of a building such a s flat roofs, facades or large window areas to be exploited for generating electrical energy.

Buildings have so far been used only by a small percentage to produce energy. But facades, window panes, sunshades or flat roofs offer huge open spaces in which photovoltaic modules could be integrated. It is expected that up to 50% of the energy demand could be satisfied with building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) in the long term.

Thin-film photovoltaics open up whole new ways of integrating photovoltaic elements in the building envelope on account of their flexibility, low weight and the possibility of adjusting different levels of transparency and colors. Flexible solar cells to date often lack weathering-resistance and a satisfactory service lifetime.

Currently an encapsulation film that is suitable for outdoor applications is not available anywhere in the world. However, such a film would be a key enabling technology for building-integrated photovoltaics.

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LED innovation for more energy savings

Thanks to a high performance LED driver that was newly developed by researchers from the Department of Electronic and Information Engineering of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University LED light bulbs can be brighter and more energy efficient than ever.

The new driver powers LED light bulbs with an innovative approach which is called multi-level PWM (Pulse-Width-Modulation) thus delivering remarkable improvements in light quality and energy efficiency. The PWM was redesigned in a way to maximize light output while minimizing wasted energy in the form of heat.  The result is higher lumen per watt.  Dr Loo Ka Hong said they achieved additional energy saving by up to 15%.

Another advantage are the lowered cooling requirements allowing smaller size heat sink compared to conventional methods.  That means LED systems can be made smaller.  With excellent dimming capability, the new MPWM driver allows manufacturers to create fully dimmable LEDs, that can be dimmed down to zero watt power.  These superior qualities pave way for brighter, smarter and more versatile LED lighting solutions.

One Times SquareTheir impressive example is the LED billboard on One Times Square in New York.  The math goes like this: The giant display uses 12 million bulbs and 250 KW power.  If the billboard is on for 16 hours a day, the energy bill comes to US$18,000 a month.  A 12% drop in energy consumption means US$2,160 in energy savings.

 

This innovative new technology has already aroused the attention of the international market.  Recently it has won a Gold Award at the 41st International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, Switzerland in April of 2013.

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