Wednesday, February 24, 2010

America's First Wave Power Farm Consists of Ten Buoys, Costs $60 Million, Powers 400 Homes [Energy]


Ten 200 ton buoys—each measuring 150 feet by 40 feet—are being installed off the coast of Oregon to build America's first wave power farm. They'll power 400 homes by harnessing "the energy of wave motion." Worth $60 million?

Of course, of course. Clean, renewable energy is almost always worth it. The trouble with wave farms is that they haven't shown much success yet. They're currently about six times as costly as wind farms, are easily damaged by large waves, and the first ones didn't work out so well:

The world's first commercial wind wave farm opened in 2008 in Portugal, but power production was suspended due to financial difficulties. Moreover, two years ago, a Canadian-produced wave power device sank off Oregon's coast.

Yikes. I'm sure that in the long run we'll start seeing positive results, but it looks like the path there will be long and expensive. [USA Today via Good via InhabitatThanks to GitEmSteveDave for catching the typo!]


MIT jumps straight to wirelessly powering multiple devices


Ah, wireless power. One of those mythical mysteries that are far more likely to remain "something to strive for" rather than "the next big thing." Oh sure, we've got Palm's Touchstone and the Powermat, but until we can hang a 50-inch plasma from our bedroom ceiling and power it up without a single wire, we'll remain firmly unsatisfied. Thankfully for those of us in that camp, MIT exists, and a few of the school's best and brightest are toiling around the clock in order to develop a technology that would power not one, but multiple devices sans cabling. Thanks to the wonders of coupling resonance, we're told that the "overall power transfer efficiency of the wireless system could be increased by powering multiple devices simultaneously, rather than each device individually." In theory, the system could be implemented by "embedding a large copper coil in the wall or ceiling of a room," but there's obviously no set time frame for release. We'll be looking for you geeks at CES next year, okay?

MIT jumps straight to wirelessly powering multiple devices originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 24 Feb 2010 00:40:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

United Nations identifies e-waste as an urgent and growing problem, wants change


E-waste might be one of the biggest misnomers in the history of nomery -- the image it creates in the mind is of a bunch of email and document files clogging up your local internet pipes. The reality of it is that electronic waste is rapidly populating ever-growing landfill areas in so-called developing countries (they're poor, just call a spade a spade) and the issue has now garnered the attention of the United Nations. The UN Environment Programme has issued a wideranging report warning that e-waste in China and South Africa could double or even quadruple within the next decade, whereas India could experience a five-fold rise. Major hazards exist in the unregulated and informal recycling of circuit boards and techno gadgets, as processes like backyard incineration for the retrieval of gold generate toxic gases while also being wildly inefficient. The whole point of the report is to encourage some global cooperation in setting up modern and safe recycling facilities in the affected countries to ameliorate the problem, though being generally more careful in our consumption and disposal of electronics wouldn't do the environment's chances any harm either.

United Nations identifies e-waste as an urgent and growing problem, wants change originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 23 Feb 2010 05:40:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bloom Box: a power plant for the home (video)


Those two blocks can power the average high-consumption American home -- one block can power the average European home. At least that's the claim being made by K.R. Sridhar, founder of Bloom Energy, on 60 Minutes last night. The original technology comes from an oxygen generator meant for a scrapped NASA Mars program that's been converted, with the help of an estimated $400 million in private funding, into a fuel cell. Bloom's design feeds oxygen into one side of a cell while fuel (natural gas, bio gas from landfill waste, solar, etc) is supplied to the other side to provide the chemical reaction required for power. The cells themselves are inexpensive ceramic disks painted with a secret green "ink" on one side and a black "ink" on the other. The disks are separated by a cheap metal alloy, instead of more precious metals like platinum, and stacked into a cube of varying capabilities -- a stack of 64 can power a small business like Starbucks.

Now get this, skeptics: there are already several corporate customers using refrigerator-sized Bloom Boxes. The corporate-sized cells cost $700,000 to $800,000 and are installed at 20 customers you've already heard of including FedEx and Wal-mart -- Google was first to this green energy party, using its Bloom Boxes to power a data center for the last 18 months. Ebay has installed its boxes on the front lawn of its San Jose location. It estimates to receive almost 15% of its energy needs from Bloom, saving about $100,000 since installing its five boxes 9 months ago -- an estimate we assume doesn't factor in the millions Ebay paid for the boxes themselves. Bloom makes about one box a day at the moment and believes that within 5 to 10 years it can drive down the cost to about $3,000 to make it suitable for home use. Sounds awfully aggressive to us. Nevertheless, Bloom Energy will go public with details on Wednesday -- until then, check the 60 Minutes sneak peek after the break.

[Thanks, Abe P.]

Continue reading The Bloom Box: a power plant for the home (video)

The Bloom Box: a power plant for the home (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 22 Feb 2010 01:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Breakthrough Danish Enzymes to Lower Biofuel Price Point To Petroleum Levels


Producing a biofuel cheap enough to compete at the pump with oil has remained as elusive as a ghost on the walls of Elsinore castle. But this week, two Danish companies announced they had developed enzymes capable of breaking down cellulose into ethanol cheaply enough to produce $2-a-gallon gas.

The two companies, Genencor and Novozyme, both announced different cost-cutting enzymes at the 15th Annual National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Florida. Obviously, the exact recipe of either enzyme remains a proprietary secret, but the fact that both multiple companies came out with cost-cutting enzymes at the same time represents a larger shift towards affordability in the ethanol market.

One of the major complaints about alternative energy is that their high price wards off consumers who can't afford to switch, and unnecessarily punishes those who do. By lowering production costs, this advance could help make biofuels as affordable as they are sustainable.

[Green Tech Media]


Scientist Discovers Fruit Peel and Newspaper Can Be Turned Into Ethanol Fuel [Science]


Rubbish powered the DeLorean's Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor power source in Back To The Future, so it makes sense that now we're in the future we can make ethanol fuel from fruit peel.

It's the work of professor Henry Daniell at the University of Central Florida, who can also turn newspaper into fuel fit for running a car with—using more than 10 enzymes from plants to break the rubbish into sugar that is then fermented into the ethanol fuel, producing less greenhouse gas emissions than electricity or gasoline. Plus, it decreases the pressure put on landfills—and might help stave off the "iPad effect" and keep newspapers in print for a while longer. Zing! [PhysOrg]


Sunday, February 14, 2010

MIT Wireless Power Discovery Proves Two Is Better Than One [Wireless Power]


Wireless power? Nothing new. It's been around for at least 100 years, although only recently has it reached the point where a completely wireless future was believed possible. Now, an update of sorts from MIT WiTricity means it's even closer.

Previously, an MIT WiTricity team, led by physicist Marin Soljacic, powered a 60-watt light bulb from across the room using a magnetic coil. That was 2007.

Today, that MIT team has shown it is possible to power two devices, wirelessly, when the are placed on either side of a single 1-sq. meter coil. The effective distance from coil to device was anywhere between 1.6 to 2.7 meters. Cooler still, the researchers discovered that by using two devices the power transfer was 10% more effective than using just one. Additionally, the researchers' models suggest that the efficiency would increase even more should they try and introduce more devices into the mix. The New Scientist article detailing the technology says this occurs because "more of the broadcasting coil's field falls on receptive receivers."

The end game is a wall or ceiling-mounted coil that would wirelessly power an entire room of gadgets. One remaining issue is distance: When the devices are moved outside the 1-2 meter range, the signal deteriorates rapidly, as would be expected. Fortunately for wireless power buffs, MIT is working on a specialized antenna to counter the weakening signal.

Note: Image is Intel's similar wireless tech. [New Scientist]


TED Talks mischief: lasers killing mosquitoes by the hundreds


Malaria is a huge problem worldwide, so it's no surprise to anyone that plenty of people spend lots of time trying to think of ways to rid the world of mosquitoes, prime movers of the disease. Nathan Myhrvold's company Intellectual Ventures Labs (and former chief technology officer at Microsoft) is focusing on just that. Using widely available and common electronics parts, Intellectual Ventures has made lasers which can kill mosquitoes mid-flight -- at a rate of about 50 to 100 per second. Myhrvold first publicly demonstrated this laser (which is made of parts of printers, digital cameras, and projectors) at the TED conference the other day, using hundreds of mosquitoes in a clear glass case to make his point. The laser's software determines the size and shape of the target before deciding whether or not to shoot, so, for instance -- it wouldn't take aim at a person or a bumblebee. The lasers could be used to protect hospitals and clinics in areas with high mosquito populations and in areas with a high rate of malaria infestation. Now, this is surprisingly not the first time we've seen such a trick -- though it is the first time we've seen video evidence of it working. There are some insanely informative (and murderous) videos at the source link. Be sure to check them out.

Update: Video is after the break.

Continue reading TED Talks mischief: lasers killing mosquitoes by the hundreds

TED Talks mischief: lasers killing mosquitoes by the hundreds originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 14 Feb 2010 09:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

HP opens wind-cooled, rain-collecting data center


You know, as much as we love our complex high-minded gadgets, we've always had a soft spot for simple, low-tech solutions to the problems posed by modernity. To wit, check out HP's latest data center, which is strategically located in a blustery part of northeast England and avoids costly and energy-sapping cooling systems in favor of good old wind cooling. Equipped with eight 2.1-meter (just under seven feet) intake fans and a bank of contaminant filters, the Winyard facility is purpose-built for the circulation of cold external air through and around the servers within. It's said to be HP's most efficient data center yet, and its natural cooling solution is estimated to save a healthy £2.6 million ($4.07 million) in annual energy bills. A couple other optimizations bear mentioning too -- such as the rainwater collection which is used to humidify the air if it's too dry, and the choice of lighter-colored servers racks, which saves on lighting costs inside. Hit the source link to learn more.

HP opens wind-cooled, rain-collecting data center originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 11 Feb 2010 09:23:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Penn State busts out 100mm graphene wafers, halcyonic dream inches closer to reality


Yes, we've been marching on this road to graphene-based superconductive electronics for a long, long time. But in the space of one week, we've now seen two significant advancements pop up that rekindle our hope for an ultrafast tomorrow. Hot on the heels of IBM's recent bandgap achievement comes Penn State University with a 100mm wafer of pure graphene gorgeousness. Built using silicon sublimation -- a process of essentially evaporating the silicon away from the carbon layer -- these are the biggest graphene wafers yet, and field effect transistors are being built atop them now to start performance testing early this year. Naturally, nobody's sitting on this laurel just yet, with further plans afoot to expand beyond 200mm wafers in order to integrate fully into the semiconductor industry, whose current standard wafer size is around 300mm in diameter. On we go then.

Penn State busts out 100mm graphene wafers, halcyonic dream inches closer to reality originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 03 Feb 2010 10:17:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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