Larry used recycled shipping containers to build for himself a self-sustainable, off-the-grid cabin, which he named Taj MaLodge. He wanted the cabin to be more than just a vacation home, though, so he equipped it with all the comforts needed for a longer stay of a year or more. The finished cabin measures 640 square feet, and was built by welding together two 40 foot by 16 foot used shipping containers. The energy needed to power his finished home comes from sunlight, and Larry build an innovative solar panel using cans for the purpose.
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Supercapacitors are high-power energy storage devices with far-reaching industrial applications, such as electronics, automobiles and aviation. However one of the main reasons why they have not been adopted more widely is the high cost and the difficulty of producing high-quality carbon electrodes needed to build them. But a team of scientists at Oregon State University has made a discovery that could change all that. They found a process by which cellulose heated in a furnace in the presence of ammonia can be turned into fundamental building blocks for supercapacitors. Cellulose is Earth’s most abundant organic polymer and one of the key components of trees. In other words, trees could one day be instrumental in creating high-tech energy storage devices.
The approach discovered by the scientists is capable of producing nitrogen-doped, nanoporous carbon membranes, which form the electrodes of a supercapacitor, in a cost-effective and rapid way. Furthermore, the only byproduct of this process is methane, which can be used immediately as fuel, making the method very environmentally friendly.
The carbon membranes produced with this method are extraordinarily thin at the nano-scale, meaning that one gram of them can have a surface area of nearly 2,000 square meters. This is what makes them so useful in supercapacitors. The process used to create them is basically a one step reaction, which is very fast and cheap to perform.
The scientists themselves were quite surprised at their discovery. As Xiulei (David) Ji, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science and a team member, put it: “For the first time we’ve proven that you can react cellulose with ammonia and create these N-doped nanoporous carbon membranes. It’s surprising that such a basic reaction was not reported before. Not only are there industrial applications, but this opens a whole new scientific area, studying reducing gas agents for carbon activation.”
Supercapacitors are needed primarily for devices where rapid power storage and short, but powerful energy release is required. These include computers and consumer electronics, but can also be used to power cranes, forklifts, and even defibrillators. They can also be used to open emergency slides on an aircraft and for improving the efficiency of hybrid electric cars. Supercapacitors are also capable of capturing energy that might otherwise be wasted, while their energy storage capabilities may also be used to assist the power flow from alternative energy systems, like, for example, wind energy.
Finding a cheap and environmentally benign way of producing these devices is, needless to say, a great breakthrough in the field.
More and more people are choosing to live frugally, which is why the tiny house movement has grown considerably in recent years. Tiny homes are affordable to build and maintain, highly sustainable, can often be designed and constructed by the owners themselves and, if mounted on a trailer, can literally be moved anywhere across the country. Something like that went through Art’s mind as he designed and built his tiny SIP (structurally insulated panels) Tumbleweed Walden Tiny House.
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The Danish architecture firm Lendager Arkitekter recently completed the experimental Upcycle House in Nyborg, Denmark. The goal with Upcycle House was seeing if carbon emissions of a home can be reduced through the use of recycled and upcycled building materials during the construction process. The end result was the reduction of CO2 emissions by 86% compared to a benchmark house. Upcycling is a sort of a next step in the recycling process, namely using recycled products and turning them into new materials or products of higher quality and greater value. In the case of Upcycle House, this reduced the need for new production and therefore reduced the CO2 emissions.
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The firm Estudimoline Barcelona, Catalonia recently came up with a very innovative product, the so-called Bios Urn. Basically, the special urn they sell will let you grow a tree from the ashes of your loved ones, and even your deceased pets. While this idea could be called a little macabre, it is also quite nice in the sense that after you die there will be one more tree in the world.
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Richard and Rachel decided to build a home on a bus soon after they met. This decision was born out of their shared desire to own their own home, have the ability to produce all they needed themselves, and have the option of going anywhere they wanted to.
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