Archive for July, 2008
Jul 17, 2008 By Matt
PolyFuel announced yesterday that they have a working prototype of their methanol fuel cell laptop which they will demonstrating across the consumer electronics industry. The prototype is a Lenovo T40 that uses a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC). This technology converts methanol to electricity to run the computer.
As consumers are becoming more an more conscious of their impact on the world around us, they are demanding cleaner and greener technology. Fuel Cell technology will be a welcome alternative in the consumer electronics market helping replace those relics with their planned obsolescence and toxic materials.
The benefit of the of the DMFC is that it uses a renewable fuel, Methanol (aka wood or methyl alcohol) that can be refilled. The fuel cell can be made from biodegradable or recyclable material and when it has reached it’s end of life does not have to end up in a land fill or a costly hazardous waste processing facility.
A single cartridge can provide 10 hours of battery life and that is most likely not running at full capacity. Researcher’s theorize that if they can get the cell operating at 100% capacity they will be able to get 10 times the power of a similarly size Lithium Ion battery.
PolyFuel’s prototype battery is slightly larger than the OEM battery for the Lenovo, however it is considerably lighter and currently offers 3x the battery life. There is still no word when they expect these to be to market but they do say that fuel cell powered consumer electronics are feasible within 2-3 years. It is just nice to know that there is a working prototype and that this long anticipated technology is not merely vaporware.
sun whisper solar lawnmower by rd
A little company called Free Power Systems makes this solar-powered lawnmower. The Sun Whisper mower will save on gas, harmful emissions (lawnmowers are among the worst contributors to air pollution) and noise pollution. The 24V mower has a 19 inch cutting radius suitable for use on a 1/3 acre yard. Just add sun.$695 @ freepowersys.com
In a press release, MIT researchers have reported that they have developed solar power
concentrators that can be used to turn windows into solar panels.
Their new technique paints the window glass with a mixture of two or
more tranparent organic dyes that absorbs and transports the light to
solar cells that are positioned around the edges of the glass. By
using the dyes, the amount of electricity that could be produced by
each of the solar cells is increased by about 10 times, with much lower
amounts of solar cells and silicon needed
The head of the team, Professor Marc Baldo, says that it’s simple to
manufacture and could be implemented within three years. While this
technique has been around since the 70’s, the earlier versions lost too
much of the sunlight while transporting it to the edges. The MIT
technique used some of the same processes used in lasers and
light-emitting diodes so that the light can travel of much longer
distances. They also believe that this process can be used with
existing solar cell systems to increase the efficiency of current
systems 20-30%. Participants in the research are starting a company,
Covalent Solar, to commercialize and improve the technology.
Tags: solar, windows, energy, electricity
Sun Chairs are So Solar
by Bonnie Alter, London
Science & Technology (solar)
You wouldn’t want to waste your time just lying in the sun. Now you can make the sun work for you whilst you are soaking up the rays.
This chaise lounge has a panel over the head made of solar panel fabric that acts as a sunshade and moves to protect you from the sun. At the same time it collects solar energy. This is converted into electricity that can be used to charge all those essential gadgets needed for the beach such as a dock to download your digital camera pictures and load up MP3 players and even a GPS in case you get lost. It has a sliding laptop table so that you can read TreeHugger at the same time. Of course there are speakers and long-range WiFi antennae. Called the “Tech Chair”, the humble sun lounger has been transformed into an “advanced technological hub of summer entertainment”. Just pull on that solar bikini and you are ready to roll. :: PC World Via :: Hippyshopper
The ‘Hydrogen Fridge’: A Home-Based Hydrogen Refueling Station
by Matthew McDermott, Science & Technology
Hydrogen home concept drawing by ITM Power.
We reported on an Australian version of the home hydrogen refueling concept over a year ago. This time, a British company is pushing the same sort of idea forward: Enter the Hydrogen Fridge.
Hydrogen in Your Garage
The BBC is reporting that ITM Power of Sheffield, England has unveiled a hydrogen home refueling station which has been installed in showcase “hydrogen home”. The device works via and electrolyzer to produce hydrogen from water and electricity—so, still, if you’re using non-green energy your hydrogen really isn’t a clean source of energy.
Based on the fact that the device only makes enough hydrogen in a night to power a vehicle for 25 miles, the hydrogen fridge concept is still in a work in progress for practical use.
And as a version which could offer up enough hydrogen to go 100 miles on would cost £20,000, economies of scale afforded by mass manufacturing will have to be realized before the devices begin appearing in anyone’s home. ITM chief executive Jim Heathcote believes that if the units were mass produced they could be sold for as little as £2000.
Even at that price and even if integrated into ITM’s hydrogen home concept—why use solar energy for electricity to generate hydrogen, when the electricity could be used directly?— I’m not really sure that having a home hydrogen station is a better option than adapting the traditional petrol station to support hydrogen fueling.
BMW’s Cloth-Skinned Car Makes a Splash
Written by Hank Green
Thursday, 17 July 2008
BMW’s cloth car known by its concept name GINA is an amazing piece of design. The GINA philosophy is Geometry and Functions In “N” Adaptions; the “N” stands for infinite possibilities. I admit, I got so bedazzled by the video of the cloth car (after the jump), it took me a second to step back and think about why GINA is worth mentioning on ecogeek. The GINA model features a virtually seamless outer skin made of a textile fabric that stretches across a movable substructure. Functions are only offered if and when they are actually required. While BMW touts that reducing the car to its “essentials and adapting it to the driver’s requirements enhances the car’s emotional impact,” the reality is that the cloth car at its most basic is reducing the hard structure of the car to only what is necessary.
This brings into question all the current realities of what is set in stone in today’s car market. For example, does a car roof really need to rest on pillars and be bordered by pillars and are there any possible alternatives to the rigid body shell of steel or plastic?
By re-evaluating the hard body of the car, BMW figures that the lightweight design will require far less energy to produce than traditional BMW models. The overall car weight is significantly reduced, which in turns makes the vehicle far more fuel efficient.
A car of cloth is far off into the future, but BMW hopes that the philosophy behind its concept: of exploring new possibilities and focusing on actual function rather than relying on the tried-and-true model, that eventually cars can be made to suit individuals.
In an interview with Wallpaper magazine, Chris Bangle, head of design for BMW says GINA forces BMW designers to look at things differently.
“If we free our minds, then we can perhaps start to look at methods that use less energy, require less chemicals, cause less waste and are more flexible in getting products that customers want,” he says.
Via: Inhabitat and Wallpaper.com and
Home Solar, Minus the Cost, Effort, Worry
It seems these days you can’t throw a rock without hitting a story relating to solar power. So why haven’t you got it for your home yet? I bet you’ve already come up with a list of three reasons, without even thinking. My guess is they fall into these areas: Cost, efficiency (or lack of it) and aesthetics. Oh and let’s throw this one in for good measure: Who lives in their home for 15-30 years these days? Not you, and what good will those panels do you on your next home?
I found a solution to all of these concerns, and more: Sun Run. What they do is unique, and does quite a thorough job in allaying people’s fears. Rather than have you buy, lease, or take out a loan for the solar system, Sun Run retains ownership of the equipment. and guarantees a certain amount of power generation. Come again?
Yes. In conversation with Nat Kreamer, COO of Sun Run, I learned about a unique “solar as a service” model that had even I, chest deep in the latest green energy innovations, am considering using their service when I buy a home. Why?
On a basic level, it costs less, up front and in the long term. You pay an agreed upon amount up front, typically less then you would on an equipment purchase. Then it gets better: All you’re paying from there is a monthly utility bill, at a rate that’s fixed for, for example, 18 years. A rate which is already lower than what the utilities in California, where SunRun is based, charge.
It gets better. Built in to your agreement is service and maintenance. No additional charge. As Kreamer said to me, your average solar consumer doesn’t know the signs of a faulty system the way that you might be with something more familiar, like your car. SunRun, being the owner of the system, has it in their interest to make sure the equipment runs at optimum. Especially with a power generation agreement, for which they will reimburse you, plus interest, if your system doesn’t meet the amount they promise.
I’m having a hard time seeing a down side to this.
Being able to choose which panels you get, (ie the green built Evergreen, or the aesthetically minimal Sharp SRS) how much you pay up front, and know how much you’ll be spending, you can then get exactly the system you want. As in enough for 100% of your energy needs. Or more. As Kreamer said, electric cars are increasingly materializing these days, and with some coming from major car makers like GM’sVolt car and Nissan planning to create a broad fleet, starting in 2010.
Imagine being able to meet all your energy needs – automotive and household, with zero nonrenewable resources used to generate it. You’d sidestep the common argument of shifting energy/pollution to power plants and, according to Kreamer, run your car for 10 cents a mile, plugging in to your system. Even at today’s gas costs, bound to keep increasing, this saves you money, today, as compared to most gas powered cars.
And for those of you wondering about what happens to excess electricity generated? It’s yours. If your utility does net metering, you can sell it back to the grid.
Squashing another big concern is the fact that Sun Run takes care of the insurance for the system, effectively eliminating risk/cost to you as a home owner. Speaking of, what about if you decide to move before your agreement is done? You can either pass on the agreement to the next owner, or buy the system outright, building in this home value increasing option into your sale.
Readers: What’s your take on this? Seen any better/different arrangements to getting renewable energy for your home? Have any suggestions other than/in addition to solar for economically meeting your energy needs, locally and sustainably?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.