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A Stylish Solar Charger for Your Gadgets

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A few years ago, the company Rawlemon designed a spherical lens solar generator, which works better to capture solar energy than a regular solar panel array, and looks much better. The original Rawlemon spherical lens solar generator was created by a Barcelona designer and architect André Broessel of Beta Torics. The system basically uses a large glass ball that is filled with water to concentrate the sun’s energy onto a PV panel. In this way the suns energy is concentrated by up to 10,000 times. The ball can also be rotated and includes a tracking system, meaning that energy collection is maximized throughout the day. However, the design has some serious drawbacks, such as weight of the water-filled ball, which can’t really be supported by most roofs. Another drawback is the problem of producing the glass balls of sufficient quality and size.
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Build Your Own Wind Turbine

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Daniel Connell, the creator of the SolarFlower has released another very useful DIY tutorial. This one is for building a wind turbine from scratch for only about $30 in material costs. The solution he proposes is a vertical axis wind turbine based on the Lenz2 lift+drag design.
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Researchers Develop Semi-Transparent and Decorative Solar Cells

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A team of researchers at the University of Michigan has successfully developed a prototype of a semi-transparent photovoltaic solar cell, which they hope will make solar arrays more attractive to consumers and lead to a more widespread adoption. Existing solar panels are far from aesthetically pleasing, but this new invention could be used to cover the sides of buildings, window shades and even billboards without obscuring what lies beneath.
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Supercapacitors Made of Trees

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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.

How to Become a Tree After You Die

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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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A Glow In The Dark Plant to Replace Lights?

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The company Bioglow has successfully developed a plant that produces light in a completely natural process that requires no chemicals or electricity. These kinds of glowing plants were invented by molecular biologist, Dr. Alex Krichevsky and they are the result of his research into bioluminescent marine bacteria and the molecular biology of plants. Bioglow’s Starlight Avatar, as it is called, is the first light producing plant in the world, and it could become a sustainable replacement for traditional, electric lighting.
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