Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cordless Reading Lamp Is Powered by Its Own Moving Parts [Beautiful]


Cordless Reading Lamp Is Powered by Its Own Moving PartsSummer is soon approaching, as does the occasional blackout when local power grids can't keep up with power-sucking air conditioners. And the next time your home loses electricity, you can at least stay entertained by reading—even in the dark—with this lovely lamp that runs completely off the grid.

While most cordless lamps rely on rechargeable batteries, or solar cells, to compensate for their lack of a permanent tether to an outlet, the First Light uses a series of gears, cogs, and weights to keep its LED bulbs (we're assuming) running day or night. Even if your power's out. Like a grandfather clock you will occasionally need to wind the lamp, which raises the weights infusing it with potential energy that's converted to electricity over time. But that's a small price to pay if it means never tripping over an errant power cord ever again. [Post Fossil via The Fancy]


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Anti-Plastic Bag Movement Just Scored Its Biggest Victory Yet


plastic bag fishLOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles is becoming the nation's largest city to ban plastic bags at grocery stores in an increasingly widespread move to conserve the environment.

The City Council voted 13-1 Wednesday to approve a policy that would ban single-use plastic bags later this year after an environmental impact report is completed and an ordinance is adopted.

The program would be modeled after bag bans in 48 other California cities that aim to prod consumers into using reusable bags in order to prevent plastic litter that clogs waterways, swells landfills and clutters streets.

After the ordinance is adopted, the city will require large stores to phase out plastic bags over six months, then provide free paper bags for another six months. Small retailers would have a year to phase out plastic.

After a year, retailers would be allowed to charge 10 cents for paper bags. Residents receiving government assistance would be exempt from the bag fee.

Los Angeles, with nearly 4 million residents, will be the nation's largest city to ban carry-out plastic bags, said Enrique Zaldivar, director of the city's Bureau of Sanitation. The city uses 2.7 billion single-use bags a year.

"It's important to conserve the environment. The reusable bag will do that," Zaldivar said.

The vote came after a lengthy public hearing in a standing-room-only council chamber. Activists presented recyclable bags holding thousands of petition signatures in support of a ban. One wore an outfit of plastic bags.

"Veep" and "Seinfeld" actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a board member of environmental group Heal the Bay, said it was vital for the city to ban plastic bags.

"I have a quiz for everyone to take today," she said.

"What is hideously ugly, gigantically dangerous and outrageously expensive, and yet we still use it every single day in Los Angeles? No, it is not the 405 (freeway), it is plastic bags," she said, holding one up. "And unlike most other ugly, dangerous and expensive things, we can get rid of these things overnight."

A large percentage of ocean pollution is plastic, she said, and that pollution damages ocean life and the jobs that depend on it.

The ban was opposed by lobbyists for manufacturers and union employees who produce the ubiquitous bagsand argued that a ban could cost several hundred local jobs.

Several dozen plastic bag industry workers in purple and blue -shirts told the council that their livelihood depends on the bag industry.

"Don't send my job to China," said Norma Fierro, an employee at bag-maker Crown Poly who held up a Chinese-made reusable bag. "Please save my job."

Others argued that the bags' impact on the environment was being overstated and that a ban would force consumers to buy paper and reusable bags that will wind up in landfills anyway.

Many stores already sell reusable plastic and cloth bags for a dollar or two, said Cathy Browne, general manager of Crown Poly. "The city council does not need to mandate consumer behavior," she said. "Let the market dictate consumer choice."

The city's bag policy is partially based on a Los Angeles County law enacted in November 2010 that covers about 1 million people in unincorporated county areas. County officials have estimated the ban has reduced the use of single-use plastic bags by 94 percent.

In February, San Francisco extended its plastic bag ban on large grocery stores and pharmacies to restaurants and smaller retailers. Santa Cruz County enacted a plastic ban bag last September.

Last year, the California Supreme Court ruled that the Southern California city of Manhattan Beach could enforce its 2008 ban without going through a lengthy environmental study. An industry group had sued to overturn the ordinance, arguing that paper bags have a greater negative effect on the environment thanplastic bags.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Scientists Invent Grow-in-the-Dark Plants [Science]


Scientists Invent Grow-in-the-Dark PlantsThe Sun's rays power virtually all vegetative growth on the face of the Earth, or at least they used to. A new discovery by a team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany will coerce plants into growing in total darkness.

Sunlight actually does more than simply provide plants with metabolic energy—it also activates photoreceptor cells called Phytochromes that, in turn, switch on physical processes like germination and blossoming. The study, which was just published in The Plant Cell journal, has devised an alternative means of jump-starting these same processes—relying on chemicals rather than the sun. The team discovered that feeding the substance "15Ea-phycocyanobilin" to seedlings chemically activates the same photoreceptors that natural light would, inducing the same development as those in a control group that were grown normally.

This discovery of course is still far from commercially viable but, if it does pan out, Tilman Lamparter, the director of the study, believes that it could have vast applications throughout the agriculture and research sciences. "Blossoming of flowers or development of the photosynthesis system may be controlled much better in the future," Lamparter told R&D Mag. "These findings would be of high use for agricultural industry in the cultivation of flowers or biomass production, for instance." I, for one, can think of at least a couple of specific applications where bigger, heavier flowers would be welcomed. [The Plant Cell via R&D Mag - Image (not of the actual sprouts): cmgirl / shutterstock]

Scientists Invent Grow-in-the-Dark PlantsThe seedling on the right opens after ingesting the 15Ea-phycocyanobilin. The control seedling on the left remains closed. (Image: T. Lamparter, KIT)


Monday, May 14, 2012

How Scientists Suck the Salt Out of Seawater With Electricity [Monster Machines]


How Scientists Suck the Salt Out of Seawater With ElectricityPotable water is both a finite and renewable resource. While it is infinitely recyclable, the Earth's stores of fresh water at any point are limited. So when humanity's booming populations drain these reserves faster than they can be replenished, shit gets real. And this is how we fix it.

The best way to overcome our water deficit? Make some of that undrinkable H20 drinkable. The conventional methods for extracting the salt from seawater—evaporation ponds (like those above) and reverse osmosis plants—are both time-consuming and energy-intensive. These technologies were eclipsed last year when a Stanford Research team discovered it could cycle salt and fresh water through an electrochemical cell. And if you run the same system in reverse—that is, pumping electricity in rather than out—you can extract semi-fresh water at a fraction of the cost of conventional means

The Stanford Study discovered that the salinity difference between seawater and river water can be leveraged as a huge, renewable source of energy—if they can efficiently extract that potential energy. To do so, the team devised and fabricated a "mixing entropy battery."

Per the study's summary:

Here we demonstrate a device called "mixing entropy battery", which can extract [the potential energy] and store it as useful electrochemical energy. The battery, containing a Na2−xMn5O10 nanorod electrode, was shown to extract energy from real seawater and river water and can be applied to a variety of salt waters. We demonstrated energy extraction efficiencies of up to 74%. Considering the flow rate of river water into oceans as the limiting factor, the renewable energy production could potentially reach 2 TW, or 13% of the current world energy consumption.

Basically, you take an electrochemical cell with a cathode made of silver and an anode made of manganese oxide nanorods. If you add some salt water to the cell and apply a current, that will attract and trap chlorine ions to the cathode and sodium ions (salt) to the anode. The desalinated water is then flushed from the system, more salt water is pumped in, and the current is stopped so that the chlorine and sodium ions slough off the electrodes, into the new batch water. This super-salty water is then disposed of as waste—presumably into the ocean—and the system is reset for the next round of desalinization.

Granted, even at 74-percent effectiveness, this system has a ways to go until it actually produces truly potable desalinated water (which has a maximum of 2 percent sodium). But it also doesn't require the massive pressures or temperatures other methods demand. And it may just be our best bet when Waterworld finally happens in real life. [ACS via Dvice - Image: Jorg Hackemann / Shutterstock]

How Scientists Suck the Salt Out of Seawater With Electricity


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

All The Water On Earth Can Be Represented In One Tiny Ball


Scientists say that if all the water on Earth were contained in a ball, it would have a diameter of only 860 miles.

That includes oceans, rivers, lakes, glaciers and even moisture in the soil. The water cycle keeps all our H20 fresh and replenished.

Jack Cook at the U.S. Geographical Survey created this illustration to show how little water we actually have:

globe water

SEE ALSO: Here's What You're Missing At The Galapagos Islands >

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This New Wind Turbine Produces Clean Drinking Water Out Of Thin Air



The Energy Report Is Brought To You By Toyota.


French engineering firm Eole Water has developed a wind turbine that can produce 1,000 liters of clean drinking water every day by filtering and collecting moisture out of the air.

Seeing how the U.S. expects upcoming wars to revolve around water, the WMS1000 wind turbine could be a huge benefit to the 885 million people that do not have access to clean water in regions in Africa, South America, India and Indonesia.

The turbines are designed to maximize water production and energy independence while reducing maintenance and environmental impact

Source: The Guardian

Air flows through the nose of the turbine and is directed to a cooling compressor

Source: CNN

The humidity is extracted from the air, condensed and collected

Source: CNN

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