Complete instructions for this Weekend Projects can be found at http://makeprojects.com/Project/BEAM-Solar-Chariots/1939/1 BEAM is a type of robot design tha…Related Posts:
When we do eventually reduce the Earth to an uninhabitable wasteland through our careless consumption of natural resources and inevitable nuclear wars, we’ll need someplace else to go. We haven’t picked a successor yet, but a new candidate has been identified a mere 44 light years away, orbiting dwarf star HD 40307. The super-Earth orbits its host star right at the edge of the so-called habitable zone, where a stable atmosphere and liquid water are possible. We don’t know for sure the planet is, in fact, capable of supporting life, but there’s at least a chance. And given that it’s roughly seven-times the mass of Earth, it shouldn’t have much trouble playing host to our exploding population.
Harnessing the awesome power of the Sun isn’t just dependent on the efficiency of solar cells, but also on making them affordable. Current techniques aren’t exactly cheap, but researchers from Stanford University think they’ve made a bit of a breakthrough by producing a relatively inexpensive photovoltaic cell using nothing but carbon. We’re sure other scientists might disagree with the ‘world’s first’ claim, but those at Stanford think it’s a matter of language, and that these other pretenders are “referring to just the active layer in the middle, not the electrodes.” The team selected a trio of carbon types to use in their cell: a mixture of nanotubes and buckyballs make up the light-absorbing layer, while graphene is being utilized for the electrodes.
The carbon amalgam can be applied from solution using simple methods, meaning the flexible cells could be used to coat surfaces, although you won’t be seeing it smeared over anything too soon. The prototype only touts a “laboratory efficiency of less than 1 percent,” so it can’t compete with traditional solar cells just yet. Also, it only absorbs a slither of the light spectrum, but the researchers are looking to other forms of the wonder element which could increase that range. They are hoping that improving the structure of the cells will help to boost their efficiency, too. They might never generate the most energy, but the all-carbon cells can remain stable under extreme conditions, meaning they could find their calling in harsh environments where brawn is a little more important than status, or looks.
Inhabitat is always interested in finding innovative uses for old technology, and this week we saw artists and designers from around the world produce new things from old, unused or outmoded gadgets. In Osaka, a local goldfish club has been transforming old phone booths into gigantic public fish tanks. In another large-scale art installation, Babis Panagiotidis used 18,000 recycled computer keys to make a life-size rocking horse. London artist Leonardo Ulian also makes beautiful, ornate mandalas from bits and pieces of old circuitry. And Benjamin Yates makes his unique coffee tables from recycled circuit boards, old VCRs and computer components.
For the past two weeks Inhabitat has been reporting live from the Solar Decathlon Europe in Madrid, where 18 student teams from around the world have been competing for the title of the world’s most efficient solar-powered prefab house. As usual, suspense was running high in the final days of the competition, and we’re excited to announce that Team Rhône-Alpes’ Canopea House has been named this year’s winner! The beautiful modular house took top honors in the architecture and sustainability categories, and it features a 10.7 kW photovoltaic array on the roof that produces more than enough energy to power the home.
Some of the other standouts at the Solar Decathlon Europe include Germany’s ECOLAR House, which features a flexible, modular design that can expand or shrink to accommodate the needs of its owners. It came as no surprise that the German team was tops in the engineering category, and the team incorporated hemp insulation in the floors, walls and ceiling to prevent thermal loss. Team Andalucia’s Patio 2.12 House, which consists of four separate prefabricated modules built around an interior courtyard, scored high marks for energy efficiency and innovation. And although Italy’s MED in Italy House might not look like much on the outside, step inside and you’ll enter a different world altogether. The highly efficient home features a central courtyard and a rooftop photovoltaic array that generates about 9.33 kWh of energy per year — roughly double what it needs. Team Rome also added wall layers that can be filled with heavy materials to provide high thermal mass once the home is installed.
We’ve seen Apple’s North Carolina data center in various states of undress, but never before have we seen its associated solar farm looking so complete. That sure is a lot of solar panels. We’re not all that surprised though, with the intense thirst for energy from the servers that it feeds. In fact, initial reports indicated that — although impressive — the solar farm would still only be supplying 60 percent of the sites requirements. No fear though, as the remaining 40 is said to come from other equally eco-friendly sources. We’d be happy with enough to keep our iPad permanently juiced.
Filed under: Misc
Did you know earth is that small compared to the sun? Oh you did? Well did you know earth really isn’t that close to the sun? You knew that too, huh? Well excuse me for trying to educate, Mr. Smarty Pants. MASSIVE SOLAR ERUPTION!:
This “long filament of solar material,” as NASA calls it, was spotted tearing away from the Sun at upwards of 900 miles per second.
“It is hard to easily judge the size of this 3D event with a 2D image at this angle, but this filament is probably on the order of 30 Earths across, 300,000 kilometers or 186,000 miles,” explained C. Alex Young, a solar physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Hit the jump for a video of the action, which I’m still having a hard time believing is real and not just a cutscene from the Mass Effect franchise. Hey, I’m just glad we survived the thing and my satellite television never went out. FUN FACT: Did you know the sun is the ruling sign for Leos like myself? That might explain why I’m so pale. “You get inside and you f***ing stay there!” it’s always yelling at me.
Hit the jump for various shots of the eruption taken at different wavelengths, as well as the video.
Because there’s jackshit on the internet today but a guy who bit a snake, here’s a graphic depicting all our solar system’s planets to scale (come on — would it have killed you to still include Pluto?). As tipster Chris pointed out, all the terrestrial planets could fit comfortably inside Uranus. Inmyanus? The rest of them too. :/
Thanks to Chris, who heard there are people out there that can fit entire galaxies up there.
There have been more than a few solar power efficiency records set in the past few months, let alone years. What makes IBM, DelSolar, Solar Frontier and Tokyo Ohka Kogyo think they can just waltz in and claim a record of their own? By using more commonplace elements in the periodic table, that’s how. The partnership’s new photovoltaic cell based on copper, zinc and tin (CZTS for short) can convert light rays to electric power with a 11.1 percent efficiency rate — still nothing to upset traditional silicon power, but a large 10 percent more efficient than anything else in the class. In its early form, CZTS can already be manufactured through ink printing and could be produced in quantities equivalent to about 500 gigawatts of power per year, or five times more than some of the next-closest alternatives. The group wants to improve CZTS’ efficiency over the course of the next several years, ideally reaching the point where it’s useful as a truly cheap, ubiquitous source of power. We’re looking forward to the day when there’s a little slice of solar energy in just about everything, hopefully including a few more hybrid cars and private aircraft.
Filed under: Science
Hear those school bells in the distance? It’s hard to believe, but the start of the school year is just a few weeks away — and all week we’ve been rounding up some of our favorite eco-friendly back-to-school essentials. From green school supplies to sustainable backpacks, we’ve got all your back-to-school needs covered. And to top it off, we’re giving away a laptop-charging Voltaic solar-powered backpack (worth $ 389) stuffed with green school supplies for a total prize package worth over $ 500. If we could go back to school and live in any dorm, we’d probably choose Copenhagen’s Tietgenkollegiet dorm, a circular building with community kitchens, cafes, music rooms and a central courtyard. And if we could choose any gadget to take with us, it would have to be the P&P Office Waste Processor, which can transform a basket full of waste paper into fully-formed pencils.
Filed under: Misc. Gadgets