Friday, January 29, 2010

Tobacco Plants Used to Grow Cheap Solar Cells [Solar Energy]


Scientists have discovered that they can coax a tobacco plant into growing temporary solar cells by injecting it with a genetically engineered virus. Freaky, but the process may provide us with cheaper synthetic photovoltaic cells once quirks are sorted out.

At a quick glance, "hacking" tobacco plants to grow these solar cells sounds like it's full of benefits:

Using live organisms to create synthetic solar cells has several advantages over traditionally made solar panels. No environmentally toxic chemicals are required to make biologically derived solar cells, unlike traditional solar cells. Growing solar cells in tobacco plants could put farmers back to work harvesting an annual crop of solar cells.

There's just one rather big catch:

[S]cientists haven't even demonstrated that the cells can turn light into electrical or chemical energy yet. But they hope to do soon.

They can grow the cells, but they can't do too much with them yet. Geez. Let's hope they get around to sorting that part out, because until that happens this will be yet another way-too-good-to-be-used-in-real-life concept. While waiting around for that to happen though, you can read more about the details of the process over at Discovery and Treehugger. [Discovery via Treehugger]


Monday, January 25, 2010

Better Place Raises $350 Million To Make This World A Better Place


I’ve been quite fascinated by electric car firm Better Place since I read up on how the company was founded by former SAP executive Shai Agassi in the excellent book ‘Start-up Nation’, which tells of Israel’s historical entrepreneurial DNA and tech success stories.

Basically, Better Place aims to reduce global dependency on petroleum through the creation of a market-based transportation infrastructure that supports electric vehicles, relying on renewable energy from solar arrays and wind farms instead of oil. The startup, founded just 2 years ago, is currently building its first electric vehicle network in Israel, and plans to deploy the infrastructure in other nations on a country-by-country basis with initial deployments beginning this year, and commercial sales beginning in 2012.

As of April 2009, it had already raised $400 million, with several countries offering tax breaks in favor of the ambitious venture. This morning, Better Place announced that it has raised a massive $350 million follow-up venture funding round to lay the groundwork for these deployments, valuing the company at a whopping $1.25 billion.

HSBC led the round with a $125 million capital injection (buying them approx. 10% of the company), with eight other investors participating, including Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Lazard Asset Management, Israel Corp., VantagePoint Venture Partners, Ofer Hi-Tech Holdings and others.

Better Place says it intends to expand into markets where the business model economics and investor returns are “optimized”, citing Europe and Asia specifically. The company also reaffirmed its original target to begin full commercial operations at the end of next year, when industry partner Renault plans to offer the first car with a replaceable battery.


âTrexa EV Platformâ; Design your Own Electric Vehicle


Trexa is aiming to make electric car designing as easy as simply picking up parts and plugging them in your dream machine. The company has unveiled the world's first fully electric vehicle development platform that lets users design the vehicle on their own.
The platform includes everything from a battery to power electronics. For starters, the standard platform has an acceleration of 0-60mph in 8 sec, a top speed of 100mph, a 105 mile range, and a charge time of 4 hours (based upon an efficiency of 200Wh per mile — comparable to a Prius in electric mode).The on-board batteries can be recharged in just four hours.

Via [Inhabitat]


Friday, January 22, 2010

Norway's Turbine City Concept Should Be The Future of Energy and Tourism [Architecture]


Norway already boasts the world's first floating wind turbine, and is apparently the windiest coastline in Europe, making it perfect for even more turbines. Or a turbine city, like On Office's proposal which shows a stunning vision of the future.

The Turbine City concept from the architectural firm not only harnesses all that valuable wind, it also shows a smart tourism scheme housing a hotel, spa and museum. The offshore wind turbines would be connected together like an archipelago of islands, and would provide a base for passing sailors and holidaymakers. If this is the future, I've got to find myself a cryogenic freezer. [On Office via Designboom]


Ontario and Samsung seal $6.7 billion renewable energy deal


Need to know how much it would cost you and your town to generate 2,500 megawatts of pure green energy? Your wind and solar farm infrastructure costs will come to 7 billion CAD (just under 6.7 billion in US currency), which includes a 437 million CAD "sweetener" to get Samsung on board. Plenty of curmudgeons have emerged from the woodwork to trash the deal as costing above market prices, but this appears to be the largest venture of its kind, so we're not entirely sure "market prices" exist yet. For its part, Samsung will create 16,000 jobs in the area, 4,000 of them permanent, as it builds toward the stated goal of providing enough energy to fully power 4 percent of Ontario's population.

[Thanks, Dan]

Ontario and Samsung seal $6.7 billion renewable energy deal originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 22 Jan 2010 02:21:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Self-assembling solar cells built using ancient wisdom, modern technology


Alright, so self-assembling electronics are hardly new in and of themselves, and nanoscale tech tends to always come with bombastic promises, but you don't wanna miss how this latest innovation is built. Two professors from the University of Minnesota have successfully demonstrated a self-assembly technique that arranges microscopic electronic elements in their proper order thanks to the absolute enmity that exists between water and oil. By coating elements with a hydrophilic layer on one side and some hypdrophobic goo on the other, they've achieved the proper element orientation, and the final step in their work was the insertion of a pre-drilled, pre-soldered sheet, which picks up each element while being slowly drawn out of the liquid non-mixture. The achievement here is in finding the perfect densities of water and oil to make the magic happen, and a working device of 64,000 elements has been shown off -- taking only three minutes to put together. If the method's future proves successful, we'll all be using electronics built on flexible, plastic, metal, or otherwise unconventional substrates sometime soon.

Self-assembling solar cells built using ancient wisdom, modern technology originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 15 Jan 2010 09:14:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Wooden Humidifier That Requires No Electricity [Humidifier]


If you live in a place that is cold and dry right now, do yourself a favor and pick up a humidifier. This particular model from Japan definitely has an elegant "ancient tech" kind of charm.

Carved out of Japanese Cypress, the Mast Humidifier absorbs water from the hull and diffuses it through the air—along with the natural lemony-scent of the wood itself. Its rot resistant and, naturally, electricity free. Plus it's really nice looking. [Masuza via Spoon and Tamago via Mocoloco]


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

uPrint 3D Printer Gets Faster But Still Can't Print Time [3dPrinting]


If you're a designer with a need for three-dimensional printing and $20,000 to spare, the uPrint Plus is right up your alley—it's 33% bigger, 69% faster, and 40% more efficient than its predecessor.

It may not play Daft Punk like the MakerBot—and it costs a whoooole lot more— but Dimension's uPrint Plus is professional grade, small enough for desktop use and gives users resolution settings of either .010 inches or .013 inches and prints materials in nine colors. It'll ship in March, hopefully by which time they'll have figured out how to get me that 4D support I've been holding out for.

World's Best-Selling 3D Printer Line Expands

Dimension uPrint Plus offers material colors, larger build volume, resolution options, and more

MINNEAPOLIS—(BUSINESS WIRE)—One year after introducing what has become the world's best-selling 3D printer - the Dimension uPrint - Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS) says it has expanded the product line with the uPrint Plus – an enhanced version with lots of new features – while still keeping the price under $20,000 (USD).

Like the Dimension uPrint personal 3D printer, the uPrint Plus has a small footprint for true desktop use [25 x 26 in (635 x 660 mm)]. uPrint Plus can print in eight colors of Stratasys ABSplus material, making it easier for designers to differentiate individual assembly components and better depict their product. The printer has a build envelope of 8 x 8 x 6 in (203 x 203 x 152 mm) – 33 percent mo! re volum e than the uPrint, enabling larger models. uPrint Plus offers two resolution settings – 0.010 in (0.254 mm) and 0.013 in (0.330 mm) – to give users additional print options.

uPrint Plus also features two support-material enhancements that reduce material consumption and modeling time. The first, Smart Supports, is a software enhancement that reduces material usage by 40 percent, cutting costs. The second, SR-30, is an improved soluble support material that dissolves 69 percent faster, to speed the modeling process. Smart Supports and SR-30 enhancements are available for both uPrint and uPrint Plus.

"When the uPrint was introduced one year ago, it quickly became the best-selling 3D printer worldwide, with 1,000 units sold in the first 9 months," says Dimension Product Manager Mary Stanley. "Based on its success and customer requests for expanded features, the uPrint Plus was created. Now designers, engineers and architects have expanded options for building models based on proven FDM technology."

uPrint Plus material colors include red, blue, olive, black, dark gray, nectarine, fluorescent yellow, and ivory. The new 3D printer will be available for shipment in March through authorized Stratasys resellers.


Monday, January 4, 2010

I Daresay⦠SNAP!


No foolies, this concept vehicle right here is called the “SNAP.” This is the first time I’ve seen a transport vehicle that not only offers single-person transportation, but also a multi-singular long-range option. What I mean is this is basically a three-wheel single passenger vehicle until it’s time to get on the train. Each SNAP vehicle is able to simply connect to the main SNAP train, one next to the other, offering private mass transit with ease!

And once you’re on that train, you can open your door and talk to your fellow SNAP pilot along the way to your train’d location. Or keep it closed. Eat your sandwich in there in peace, probably.

What’s more? The SNAP singular vehicle option is similar to a two-wheel motorbike, shelling out tight turns like they were french fries. Adjustable track width back wheels for stability, giant front wheel for ease in leaning. Moveable chassis allow for connection to the locamotive. The train travels with multiple SNAPS at a time for a slightly more gas-friendly and environmental option.

SNAP races are a definite must when these fabulous machines come to fruition. I say so.

Designer: Vít Bechynský




SNAP concept vehicle by Vít Bechynský



Horizon's Hydrofill converts water to hydrogen, hydrogen into juice for your gadgets


Horizon's Hydrofill converts water to hydrogen, hydrogen into juice for your gadgets
Could 2010 finally be the year of the fuel cell? Horizon thinks it will be. The company has been teasing us with products for years, and while this latest one is also just a promise at this point, Horizon says it will be for sale by the end of the year. Hydrofill is a "personal hydrogen station" capable of converting water into hydrogen gas, which then gets stored in small cartridges called Hydrostik -- apparently in a crystalline structure to prevent your fanny pack doing a Hindenburg. Those cartridges will be usable in rechargers, like the Minipak, which provides USB output to recharge smaller gadgets on the go. It'll surely be a little more powerful than the toy kit Horizon released back in 2008, but we're bummed this one won't run on vodka like that one did. We tend to have plenty of that lying around this time of the year.

Horizon's Hydrofill converts water to hydrogen, hydrogen into juice for your gadgets originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 04 Jan 2010 11:26:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Thorium, the Next Uranium [Science]


Wired has a fairly epic look into a material that could make nuclear power both clean and safe called thorium—named after the Norse god of thunder. Of course, scientists recognized its promise back in the 1950s.

Whereas uranium is extremely rare, requires purification and creates waste that will be with us for hundreds of thousands of years, thorium is extremely common, burns more efficiently in reactors and leaves less, less radioactive waste (that can't be turned into a nuke).

In fact, if it weren't for the Soviet Union building uranium reactors in the 60s (and us responding in typical Cold War fashion), we'd probably be using thorium today.

But as Wired explains, thorium may be poised for a comeback. [Wired and Image]