Category Archives: Technical News

Low Power Computing A Green Wave in IT

IT or Information Technology and related services account for 2% of all Carbon emissions globally. The IMEC laboratory in Belgium has been developing microchips which can run on the tiniest amounts of power – like energy harvested from the slightest variations in the environment etc…

For any type of computing device to harvest this energy, its microchip must be able to work with so-called ‘sub-threshold’ voltages – voltages at which a normal transistor would turn itself off. The IMEC lab has come out with a prototype head band which monitors a patients vital signs and sends a wireless SOS in case of an epileptic seizure or a heart attack. Instead of being powered by batteries, it gets all the energy it needs solely from the warmth of the patient’s forehead. The thermoelectric generator is mounted on the forehead and converts the heat flow between the skin and air into electrical power.

Mr Gyselinkckx’s team expand the range of functions that can be achieved at sub-threshold voltages, they could revolutionize not only the market for niche headbands, but the entire world of computing.

“There is a tremendous drive today to reduce the power consumption of all kinds of electronics that we’re using – computers, cell phones, laptops”, says Mr Gyselinckx.

“The techniques we’re using to make ultra low power devices for body sensors could also be used in these applications.” It is an attractive idea – laptops that power themselves from the heat of your lap. But Mr Gyselinckx admits this is still some way off.

IMEC performs world-leading research in nano-electronics and nano-technology. Its staff of more than 1,750 people includes over 550 industrial residents and guest researchers. Imec’s research is applied in better healthcare, smart electronics, sustainable energy, and safer transport.

The idea is revolutionary and when fully viable will make a huge impact on the world of electronics.
A Video from the BBC

Read the entire article here

Source –

BBC

IMEC website

Portable Solar Desalination From MIT

Clean drinking water is a necessity for human survival. MIT researchers have come up with a mobile solar powered water desalination system which could help remote regions have access to clean water.

The Project

This graphic shows the team’s concept for a portable system that could be shipped to disaster zones.

The team consists of 3 Mechanical Engineering graduate students Amy Bilton (Cyprus Program Fellow), Leah Kelley (Presidential Fellow), Richard Heller MS Student, led by Steven Dubowsky, a professor in both the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Prof. Richard Wiesman.

Funded by MIT’s Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy in collaboration with the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), the research is aimed at designing small-scale systems for remote regions that don’t have access to vast amounts of electricity. The systems are also designed so that they can be cost-effectively assembled from standard parts and put into operation within hours using local human capital.

The team has built a working prototype that “is capable of producing 80 gallons of water a day in a variety of weather conditions.”

They estimate a larger version that could provide about 1000 gallons of water per day would cost about $8000 to construct. Size wise they believe a C-130 Cargo plane could deliver 2dozen desalination units, thereby providing enough drinking water for 10,000 people.

The supply of energy and clean water to remote locations, such as desert facilities, farming operations, resorts, and small villages in the developing world can be logistically complex and expensive. This project explores the feasibility, design and control of small smart power units to provide clean water and energy to remote sites by using solar power and reverse osmosis modules.

Watch the video about the product –

Opinion

When disasters strike basic necessities like drinking water made available sooner makes recovery faster and manageable. For remote locations too this might be a viable alternative as a fresh water source provided the solar panels becomes viable cost wise.

Read the full article HERE

For more details on the Project check their Website

$10million X Prize Shared by 3 Ultra-efficient Cars

Progressive Auto Insurance the 4th largest Auto Insurance company in the US, got together with X PRIZE to inspire a new generations of super-efficient vehicles that help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change. The prize was $10 million which would be divided between the winners.

The main criteria for the winner of the ten million dollar cash purse was for the team to design a car that would win a long-distance stage race for clean, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 miles-per-gallon energy equivalent, they could be entirely new or modified existing models. Primary importance was that they be production capable not merely conceptual.

On September 16th 2010 in Washington DC the Progressive Auto Insurance X Prize was awarded to 3 teams –

  1. Mainstream Class – Edison2 and it’s “Very Light car no:98” Winner of $5Million
  2. Alternative Side by side Class – Li-ion Motors “Wave2” Winner of $2.5Million

  3. Alternative tandem Class – Winterthur teams “X-Tracer” Winner of $2.5Million

The Very light car no:98 lives up to its name by keeping its weight to 830 pounds which is around 1/4th the weight of a normal car. It seats four and is built on a steel frame of mostly aluminum parts. The Edison2 team is aiming at producing it for a market price of 20,000$.

The Wave2, a two-seat electric car that gets 187 miles on a charge, and The X-Tracer Team’s motorcycle-like electric mini-car, the E-Tracer 7009, gets 205 miles on a charge. Both of those companies are taking orders for their cars. X-Tracer Team says the electric E-Tracer will be available to U.S. consumers next year.

The X Prize, which is funded by Progressive Insurance, gave 111 teams 30 months to develop their vehicles and then put them through driving, safety and efficiency tests. All of the winners are now eligible for a U.S. Department of Energy program that will help ready the vehicles for introduction to the U.S. market.

Read the Entire AP Article HERE

Check  out the Progressive Automotive X Prize Here

Why the Teams Think it is Important?

What caught my eye was the fact that all the winners were electric vehicles. May be in the not too distant future there will indeed be green cars. Live Green!

The First EV Charging Station In North America

Edit August 18th 2010 – CORRECTION AS NOTED BY PGE – This is the first quick-charge station for electric vehicles in North America. There is already an established and growing network of standard charging stations in the Portland, Oregon area.

Oregon is for all practical purposes the Greenest state in the US and now it has the first Electrical charging station! I read in an Engadget.com article by Thomas Ricker that Oregon is touted to be where the most number of electric cars will make its debut. The charging station is located in the campus of Portland General Electric (PGE) in Downtown Portland and they are charging $3 for parking and the “Charging” is free to use as long as the automobile has a PGE sticker on it. The Takasago charging station manufactured by the NEC corporation can charge a Lithium Ion battery to almost full power in 20-30 minutes i.e. the time for a coffee break.

I have had this question in my mind about it being the first charging station, which is again based on a news bit from 2 years ago for Lake Oswego Oregon, a town outside of Portland where PGE had installed curbside charging stations in 2008. Read the article here just got me wondering whether they took it all down in the last couple of years, as this is now called the first one in North America.

The New charging station was inaugurated by Governor Ted Kulongoski,by charging a Nissan Leaf which he took for a drive and also put down a reservation for the Leaf. There are plans to install more than 2000 EV charging stations across the country, this is the first step in that journey.Looks like the EV’s will be on our roads soon.

Check out a video of the EV charging station on viddler

Check out the following articles for more details:

The was this article in Oregon live in 2008 about PGE charging stations in Oswego Lake just outside Portland, wondering what happened to it? Read the article here

The Oregon Live has a detailed article read it HERE

You can read the entire article on Engadget here

An article on inhabitat here

New Solutions For Blowouts In Oil Wells & Clean Up

It is said “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” right now It is “The Oil Spill”. Since the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill hit front pages the World Wide Web has been brimming with “Inventions” which would work better than the ones BP is out working on via trial and error. Good meaning people and the ones out to make a quick buck have been flooding youtube with ways to clean up the oil spill. On the web I have seen a guy using hay as the simplest solution and another saying dog hair etc etc… all of these experiments look like they work, but the sheer volume of oil needing clean up and the amount of hay, hair et al which would be needed to clean up all this oil!!At the same time there are some products which seem legit which I don’t know whether they are being used for e.g. A Peat Moss based product which was also covered by cnbc the other day, check this link

Today I read an article on the Nasa tech Briefs Magazine about The Create the Future Design Contest which was launched in 2002 to find the latest product design ideas from engineers, entrepreneurs and students world wide. The 2010 contest has a lot of very interesting products and because of the interest in what can be done to cap the oil spill under 5000 feet of water I zeroed in on these products;

1. George Karpati an Engineer from Horsham Pennsylvania  came up with a product called The Solution for blowouts in Oil wells!

The Solution for Blowouts in Oil Wells as the name suggests is supposed to do just that, it plugs the leaking pipe. George says all one needs to do is think outside the box. He says one solution to most underwater oil blowouts is to integrate two existing technologies such as the remotely piloted underwater vehicle and a retention clamp. With the integration of both technologies, the clamp embedded on the remote controlled vehicle can maneuver to the broken pipe and clamp over the leakage controlling the oil spill. He has taken into account different sizes of the pipes, strength of flow etc… Sounds very promising.
The picture below is a diagram of the product source http://www.contest.techbriefs.com
Read the details about the product and check it out at the Link to the Source for the pictures and details.

2. Open Water Containment Barricade – Created by John Nagle an Engineer from Cedar Park Texas is similar to the boom being used, but with provisions to keep the oil in check by weighing it down with a ballast attached to a hanging curtain like structure with excess material to keep the spill contained for siphoning.

Check out details about this product here

Until we reach a stage where we either run out of oil or decide enough is enough these kind of catastrophe’s will be literally around the corner… Hope for a better tomorrow and work for a Green future for the coming generations…
……………………………………………………………………………………………BP Updates on June 3rd 2010…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

BP was able to cute the pipe and now they are close to attaching a cap to the cut pipe. They are not sure it will stop the spill, but say it will collect oil (how much it will collect we will be able to know only once it is fitted). Keeping track below