Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jaguar C-X75 is the 780bhp electric supercar we've all been waiting for, likely to keep us waiting (video)


Ouch! It really stings to see the curvaceous spectacles that car designers can come up with, only to then find out the resulting electric speedsters are either far too expensive or nowhere near becoming a reality. Latest in this group of four-wheeled objects of desire is Jaguar's C-X75, which roars from 0 to 60mph in 3.4 seconds, cranks out 780bhp courtesy of a quartet of electric motors and a pair of micro gas turbines, and reaches a screaming 205mph at its absolute zenith. You can go for 68 miles just on electric juice or 560 if you let the gasworks recharge the Li-ion battery pack on the go. So it's gorgeous inside and out, it comes with swan doors, high-res LCD screens and an aluminum body, and it has less chance of being on sale than a dodo sandwich. Yep, it's an electric supercar alright. See the C-X75 on video after the break.

Continue reading Jaguar C-X75 is the 780bhp electric supercar we've all been waiting for, likely to keep us waiting (video)

Jaguar C-X75 is the 780bhp electric supercar we've all been waiting for, likely to keep us waiting (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 29 Sep 2010 20:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Kia Pop recharges in 6 hours with 87mph top speed and 100-mile range


After an August tease the all-electric Kia Pop concept car is now getting a proper reveal at the Paris Motor Show. Pop is a three-meter long three seater featuring a number of futuristic touches like rear-view cameras in each door, a full length glass roof, and an otherwise transparent OLED panel that displays all your instrument readouts only when the car is running. A second touch panel to the right of the steering wheel controls the vehicle's other functions including audio, sat-nav, and climate. Under the hood you'll find a 60-ps, 190-Nm motor powered by lithium polymer gel batteries capable of charging in just six hours. Combined we're looking at an 87mph (140kph) top speed and 100-mile (160-km) max range. Of course, knowing the auto industry, by the time it hits the assembly lines it'll likely resemble an unimaginative shoebox using whatever off-the-shelf parts Kia can find. But a boy can dream can't he?

Continue reading Kia Pop recharges in 6 hours with 87mph top speed and 100-mile range

Kia Pop recharges in 6 hours with 87mph top speed and 100-mile range originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 30 Sep 2010 05:11:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SNUPI's Smart-Home Sensors Communicate Via the Copper Already in the Walls


SNUPI's Sensor Gabe Cohn, University of Washington

Building smart homes that are networked to run as efficiently as possible is supposed to be one of the technological fixes to our current energy consumption problem. But what's often lost in all the heady talk about innovating our way to a greener future is the fact that those wireless networking technologies also consume power, reducing the net benefit. So a team of researchers came up with a novel fix: eliminate the power burn required by wireless technologies by using a home's copper wiring as a huge, building-wide antenna.

Sensor Nodes Utilizing Powerline Infrastructure, or SNUPI, is a system of tiny, low-power sensors that monitor a home for a variety of energy-sucking problems - moisture in the crawl space, heat escaping through a poorly insulated window, lights left on in an upstairs bedroom - and beams a signal back to a central hub via the copper wiring already installed in the home. Since the sensors don't have to communicate wirelessly with the base station - the copper does them the favor of ferrying the 27-megahertz signal - they don't need a large power source. In fact, a single watch battery can run each sensor for a decade or longer.

SNUPI's creators - a collaboration of researchers from University of Washington and the Georgia Institute of Technology - realized that most wirelessly transmitting sensor technologies were spending more than 90 percent of their energy on communications rather than monitoring. So the team set out to turn that number on its head.

What they came up with is a wireless sensor that consumes less than a single milliwatt when transmitting. The sensors must simply be placed within 10-15 feet of the home's existing network of copper wire, and that network is even larger that the researchers originally thought. For instance, a cord plugged into the wall extends the copper network the length of the cord, so even in large spaces sensors can transmit their signals through a lamp or other household item that's not necessarily close to the wall, where most of a home's copper wiring resides.

This isn't the first time someone has put forth the idea of using a building's own infrastructure as a transmission antenna, but its high degree of power efficiency and ability to cover almost every inch of a residence (in a typical 3,000-square-foot house, SNUPI can cover 95 percent of the area with sensors, versus only about 75 percent for other wireless sensor systems) make it ideal for wiring together the truly smart home. The next step: using solar power or even body motion to power the extremely energy-thrifty sensors so that batteries aren't even a consideration.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Three lightweight fuel economy meisters split $10 million in X Prize dollars


Three lightweight fuel economy meisters split $10 million in X Prize dollars
We're big fans of private entities giving away big chunks of cash to fund cool research, and the X Prize foundation seems to be making the most waves lately. Most recent is the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, a $10 million total purse going to cars able to score at least an equivalent MPG of 100. There were two main classes and three total prizes, all of which recently found winners. Besting them all was the Team Edison2 Very Light Car, taking home $5 million thanks to its four-passenger configuration clocking in at 102.5MPGe running on E85 ethanol. There were also two "alternative" winners, each scoring $2.5 million: Team Li-On's two-seater Wave-II EV (187MPGe) and Team X-Tracer Switzerland's E-Tracer, an awesome and electric two-wheeled enclosed motorcycle with auto-deploying outrigger wheels. That sucker, pictured above, managed 205.3MPGe and will do 0 - 60 in under seven seconds, something that certainly can't be said of the rest. But, none of them are exactly what you'd call four star safety rated nor can any be found on dealer lots. In other words: it remains to be seen when mere mortal commuters will get to be the winners of this contest.

Three lightweight fuel economy meisters split $10 million in X Prize dollars originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 19 Sep 2010 12:57:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Future Mars Colonists Could Learn To Terraform By Studying Darwin's Methods


Ascension Island Charles Darwin's artificial forest captures moisture from clouds that drift over the volcanic peaks on Ascension Island. Google Earth

The father of evolution apparently played God with a tropical ecosystem 160 years ago, and the results could inform future experiments to terraform Mars, botanists say.

The BBC recounts how Charles Darwin helped build an artificial forest on Ascension Island, one of his subjects of study from his trips on the HMS Beagle. Today, the island is home to species of plants that would not naturally co-exist. Darwin and his friends put them there, and nearly two centuries later, their grand experiment is living proof that we can transform natural environments.

Originally used as an outpost to keep an eye on Napoleon in exile, Ascension Island, between South America and Africa, was a busy Atlantic waystation in Darwin's day. It had meager fresh water supplies, however, so Darwin and his botanist friend, Joseph Hooker, set out to change things.

The BBC interviews Darwin biographer David Catling, a professor at the University of Washington-Seattle, who says he believes Darwin decided to build a lush "Little England" on the volcanic island after visiting it in 1836.

Darwin's friend Hooker explored Ascension a few years later, and in 1847, Darwin convinced Hooker to get his father -- director of the Kew Gardens -- to send trees, hoping they would capture rain, prevent erosion and reduce evaporation.

Beginning in 1850 and continuing each year, ships brought an assortment of plants from botanical gardens in Europe, South Africa and Argentina, the BBC says. By the late 1870s, eucalyptus, Norfolk Island pine, bamboo, and banana had taken hold.

Today, Ascension is home to a cloud forest that would have taken millions of years to evolve naturally, according to Dave Wilkinson, an ecologist at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK.

It's proof that humans can build a fully functioning ecosystem simply through trial and error, he said. As the BBC reports, the same principle could be used in future Mars colonies: "Rather than trying to improve an environment by force, the best approach might be to work with life to help it find its own way."

Intelligent design, indeed.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The 272,000 Mile Natural Gas Network Underneath Us Destroyed an Entire California Neighborhood [Explosion]


The 272,000 Mile Natural Gas Network Underneath Us Destroyed an Entire California NeighborhoodFifteen acres of San Francisco suburbs have been reduced to burnt rubble because of a glitch in the massive US natural gas pipeline infrastructure. How did this happen, and perhaps more importantly, what exactly is going on down there?

At the moment, authorities aren't entirely certain what sparked the explosion. But even before the final answers are uncovered, the catastrophe, already declared a state of emergency, should prompt us to look downward at the gigantic network of highly flammable (to say the least) gas that courses across the continent. Traversing the US like an interstate highway system is an intricate network of large-diameter pipes. Step upon any given square mile of this network, and you're standing on top of 4 million cubic feet of combustible gas. That's enough to keep a stove lit for 40 years straight.

The 272,000 Mile Natural Gas Network Underneath Us Destroyed an Entire California Neighborhood

To keep the gas flowing and stoves burning, vast numbers of "compressors" are employed to artificially shove gas through the pipes, creating pressures of up to 1,500 pounds per square inch. According to the American Gas Association, these pressure levels are maintained far lower than the pipes are designed to contain—but at these pressure levels, if there's a leak, gas will squirt out quickly.

And it appears that's just what happened, with local residents saying they smelled natural gas in the air for days before the explosion, which has so far killed four people, injured 52 more, and destroyed almost 50 buildings. Ignited leaked gas could have ruptured one of the pipelines, setting aflame a volume that, even at relatively-low residential pressures, is still thousands of pounds of explosive gas. Enough to destroy part of San Bruno.


Friday, September 3, 2010

MIT's Self-Assembling Solar Cells Recycle Themselves Repeatedly, Just Like Plant Cells [Republished]


MIT's Self-Assembling Solar Cells Recycle Themselves Repeatedly, Just Like Plant Cells Plants are extremely efficient converters of light into energy, setting the bar for researchers creating photovoltaic cells. A team of MIT scientists believe they've created a synthetic chloroplast that can be broken down and reassembled repeatedly, restoring sun-damaged solar cells.

While the leaves on a tree appear to be as static as the PV cells on a solar panel, they're not; sunlight is actually quite destructive, and to counter this effect leaves rapidly recycle their proteins as often as every 45 minutes when in direct summer sunlight. This rapid repair mechanism allows plants to take full advantage of the sun's bountiful energy without losing efficiency over time.

To recreate this unique regenerative ability, the MIT team devised a novel set of self-assembling molecules that use photons to shake electrons loose in the form of electricity. The system contains seven different compounds, including carbon nanotubes that provide structure and a means to conduct the electricity away from the cells, synthetic phospholipids that form discs that also provide structural support, and other molecules that self-assemble into "reaction centers" that actually interact with the incoming photons to release electrons.

Under certain conditions, the compounds assemble themselves into uniform structures suitable for harvesting solar energy. But in the presence of a surfactant (similar to the stuff used to disperse oil during oil spills) the structures break down into a solution of nanotubes, phospholipids, and other constituent molecules. By pushing the solution through a membrane to remove the surfactant, the elements once again assemble into working, rejuvenated solar cells undamaged by their prior exposure to the sun.

The cells are work at 40 percent efficiency, and researchers think with some tweaks they could push that efficiency much higher. And because they don't degrade over time – just give 'em a quick shake with the surfactant and they're essentially brand new – the tech could be the next big step forward for solar technology.


MIT's Self-Assembling Solar Cells Recycle Themselves Repeatedly, Just Like Plant CellsPopular Science is your wormhole to the future. Reporting on what's new and what's next in science and technology, we deliver the future now.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Electrified Cotton Filter Soaked in Nanotech Cheaply and Quickly Purifies Large Volumes of Water


Water, water everywhere, but in the developing world or in areas ravaged by natural disasters – like the ongoing flooding in Pakistan, for instance – there's often not a clean, purified drop to be found. Water is usually made potable in such places via filters that physically trap bacteria as water flows through, but researchers at Stanford have shown devised a high-speed filter composed of nothing but plain cotton cloth and nanotubes that can quickly filter nearly all bacteria from dirty water using less power than slower conventional water purifiers.

Most water filters simply trap living bacteria as it passes through a series of tiny pores, a method that is effective but prone to a variety of problems. For one, they are painfully slow, and in disaster situations that can lead to critical shortages as thirsty populations wait for the water to trickle through.

Further, the water must be driven through the filters with pumps, which themselves require a decent amount of electricity – a resource that can be in short supply in remote regions or at disaster sites. Such filters are also susceptible to biofouling, in which trapped bacteria form a film that clogs the pores of the filter.

The Stanford team's filter circumvents most of these problems by simply letting the bacteria pass freely through, zapping them with fatal doses of voltage as they go. By dipping plain cotton cloth procured at Wal-Mart into a solution of carbon nanotubes and silver nanowires, the team created a filter that can kill 98 percent of Escherichia coli bacteria in water with a mere 20 volts of electricity, less than is required to operate the pumps on conventional filters.

Addressing the problems with conventional filters noted above, the team knew that carbon nanotubes are efficient conductors of electricity and that silver has bacteria-killing chemical properties. So they went about figuring out how to get all these ingredients into a single, inexpensive filter (the amount of silver used is so small that it's negligible). The cotton simply serves as an inexpensive platform on which to lay their nanotube/nanowire structure.

Plugged into a couple of 12-volt batteries or a hand cranked generator, the filter can run until the energy runs out, its larger pores letting vast volumes of water pass quickly, and cleanly, through. No pump is needed because the pores are large enough that gravity does the trick.

The next step is trying the filter on various other bacteria to see how universal the silver-carbon combo really is. One filter can kill 98 percent of the Escherichia coli in water, but a compound filter with layers of different materials might be able to push that number even closer to 100 percent for a variety of bacteria known to cause water-borne illnesses.



Use the 97.4% of Your Incandescent Light Bulb's Waste Energy to Heat Your Tea [Concept]


Use the 97.4% of Your Incandescent Light Bulb's Waste Energy to Heat Your Tea Like an Easy Bake Oven, this tea kettle concept uses a 100W light bulb to heat its contents. Albeit inefficient, its designer claims it can heat to the near boiling temperature of 90°C, which is perfect for tea. [Dezeen]