Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
Non-profit organization INCLUDED has produced a new community center for Shanghai’s migrant worker community. Dubbed Community Cube, the two-storey 1,614 sq ft structure was completed in 2013 and comprises a number of used shipping containers as a primary building material.
Based in Shanghai’s agriculturally-focused Chongming district, the structure is joined together by metal plates which can be detached, allowing the separate containers to be transported more easily if the migrants need to move on. The interior space is also flexible, and contains a modest library, play area, a computer area, and a main large classroom which can be divided into two rooms using a sliding divider.
The room divider itself, and all suitable furniture sport a whiteboard finish for use as teaching surfaces, while the kids also have small whiteboard-surfaced furniture to draw on. Excess corrugated metal was cleverly re-used as a security fence that encloses the area…
The container doors were drilled with small holes in order to allow light to filter across the floor during sunny weather, and those using the center can open the doors to the outside if conditions allow.
Yes, I’m an enthusiast about re-purposing shipping containers.
What do stopping for your morning coffee, grabbing a sandwich at noon, filling up your gas tank, and making an after-work trip to the grocery store all have in common? Although we wish that was the intro to a really bad joke, the truth is they all expose you to concerning levels of bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical that acts like estrogen and harms everything from your brain and heart to your reproductive tract.
While canned food usually gets most of the blame when it comes to our contact with the hormone-altering chemical, more studies are finding that skin exposure to BPA is a real threat, too.
The latest research, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that handling thermal paper used for movie and airline tickets and ATM, gas-pump, and store receipts reliably leads to BPA transfer into your body…
While the average person can cut down on this unnecessary BPA exposure by saying no to trivial receipts, the researchers are even more concerned about cashiers who may spend 40-plus hours a week handling chemical-coated receipts.
Heat-sensitive thermal paper is coated in colorless BPA powder because it helps bind to dye to form the letters and numbers you see on receipts. “When you touch thermal paper, you’re getting exposed to massive amounts of BPA,” explains veteran BPA researcher Frederick vom Saal…”Until recently, we didn’t know that. It’s just one example of BPA being used in a way that I never would have thought about.”
RTFA for more ways to worry about BPA. China has banned its use in a number of products. So has Canada. And a few local initiatives in the United States. The FDA is “studying”.
We need a few markets to convert to the SQUARE system used at my favorite coffee shop in Santa Fe. After sliding your credit card and doing all the magic calculations including tip – they send the receipt to your smartphone. I worry less about low level RF than BPA.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, every year approximately 455,000 tons of discarded eggshells must be transported and disposed of in the US alone. Now, however, scientists at the University of Aveiro in Portugal have developed a method of using such eggshell waste in the production of ceramic goods.
Although the specifics of the technology are still under wraps, it involves incorporating crushed eggshells into a ceramic slurry which is subsequently processed “according to a specific protocol that includes a 3-cycle cooking phase.” Samples of porous pavement made from the slurry exhibit desirable qualities such as porosity and water absorption, and are overall considered to be of sufficient quality to meet industry standards.
Besides keeping eggshells out of landfills, the process could also allow ceramics manufacturers to save money – the calcium in the shells would be a lower-cost alternative to calcite, which is traditionally used in the production of ceramic items. Additionally, calcite must be mined, with all the environmental consequences that doing so entails…
The process has been tested in the lab, and the university’s Technology Transfer Office is now seeking industry partners to help finance a large-scale pilot project. And should ceramics manufacturers not have a need for all of the world’s eggshells, scientists in India are working on a method of using them for carbon sequestration…
I’m not holding my breath waiting for carbon sequestration courtesy of Earth’s poultry. The ceramics project sounds like a solid idea – as anyone who’s ever tried to chew egg shells in a slip-shod omelet can attest.
When police arrived at the Weel Road Deli in Clallam Bay, Wash., to arrest a suspected shoplifter, they found the man duct-taped up into a neat little package outside the store.
After store clerk Cipriano Ojeda allegedly saw Alexander Greene, 28, walking out of the store with six beers and three bottles of malt liquor stuffed in his backpack, he confronted him.
The suspect wounded Ojeda, 46, in the forehead with a knife, but the clerk was able to restrain him and pin him to the ground.
When officers from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, they found Greene outside on the sidewalk with all four of his limbs bound with duct tape.
“We actually had help from another business’s employee down the sidewalk that helped duct-tape the suspect,” deli owner Marcia Hess told the Peninsula Daily News. “It was a team effort, [though] Cipriano definitely had him pinned down.”
Greene was arrested and is being investigated on charges of first-degree robbery, second-degree assault and third-degree theft.
Should be another exhibit in the Duct Tape Hall of Fame.
Aircraft windows have always been a sticking point in the bid to go faster, cheaper and safer. As well as creating drag, the additional structural support and parts required for windows add weight to the plane. Spike Aerospace is set to overcome these problems by doing away with cabin windows altogether in its S-512 jet, and replacing them with video screens embedded in the interior walls.
The S-512 is expected to be the first supersonic business jet, with a cruising speed of Mach 1.6 (1,220 mph/1,963 km/h) and a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 (1,370 mph/2,205 km/h). This will almost double the Cessna Citation X’s top speed of Mach 0.935…and will enable passengers to fly between New York and London in 3-4 hours instead of 6-7 hours, and between LA and Tokyo in 8 hours as opposed to 14-16 hours.
In place of windows, the S-512 will use video cameras on the fuselage to relay real-time panoramic video to the screens inside the cabin. According to Spike, passengers will be able to dim the screens when they need to sleep, and will also be able to change the content on the screens.
Cripes. What a terrific idea!
The spiritual among us will view Sumitomo and Nissan’s installation of its first-ever used-electric-vehicle-battery storage as a bit of divine reincarnation. But the idea is quite logical and practical. The two companies formed the 4R Energy Corporation in late 2010 and have now installed what they call the world’s first “large-scale power storage system” using exclusively used batteries from battery-electric vehicles in Osaka, Japan.
The system uses 16 electric-vehicle batteries to create what’s called a “smoothing effect” on the power output of a nearby solar farm by storing excess energy generated by the panels during sunnier times, then sending it back to the system when it is sun-constrained. Yes, that’s a fancy word for dark.
Spurred by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, Sumitomo and Nissan announced the collaboration, whose four Rs stand for “Reuse, Resell, Refabricate and Recycle,” in 2009 and launched it a year later. Nissan, which was obviously trying to boost resale value for its battery-electric Leaf at the time by finding a money-generating home for its used-up battery packs, estimated at the time that sales of the Leaf battery-electric would generate 50,000 battery packs available for the secondary market by 2020…
Toyota is also investing time and money towards similar low-carbon, recycling targets – from two different directions: selling disused Prius batteries for low-cost electricity storage and solar backup to their car dealers and a much grander project at Toyota City’s EcoFul Town in Japan. The latter a holistic solution involving home-building, transportation and solar-generated electricity.
Neither of which takes anything away from the Nissan-Sumitomo project.
Visitors to the ancient city of Teotihuacan—with its pyramidal structures arranged in careful geometric patterns, its temples, and its massive central thoroughfare, dubbed Street of the Dead — in Mexico may have the sensation they’re gazing at the remains of a society profoundly different from their own.
But new research from anthropologists armed with a bevy of recently derived mathematical equations shows that in some fundamental ways, today’s cities and yesterday’s settlements may be more alike than different.
In a new study led by a University of Colorado Boulder researcher and published in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists show that the same equations used to describe patterns of development in modern urban areas appear to work equally well to describe cities settled thousands of years ago.
“This study suggests that there is a level at which every human society is actually very similar,” said lead author Scott Ortman, assistant professor of anthropology at CU-Boulder. “This awareness helps break down the barriers between the past and present and allows us to view contemporary cities as lying on a continuum of all human settlements in time and place.”
Over the last several years, Ortman’s colleagues at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), including Professor Luis Bettencourt, a co-author of the study, have developed mathematical models that describe how modern cities change as their populations grow. For example, scientists know that as a population increases, its settlement area becomes denser, while infrastructure needs per capita decrease and economic production per capita rises.
Ortman noticed that the variables used in these equations, such as cost of moving around, the size of the settled area, the population, and the benefits of people interacting, did not depend on any particular modern technology…
To test his idea, Ortman used data that had been collected in the 1960s about 1,500 settlements in central Mexico that spanned from 1,150 years B.C. through the Aztec period, which ended about 500 years ago…
“We started analyzing the data in the ways we were thinking about with modern cities, and it showed that the models worked,” Ortman said…
In the future, the equations may also guide archaeologists in getting an idea of what they’re likely to find within a given settlement based on its size, such as the miles of roads and pathways. The equations could also guide expectations about the number of different activities that took place in a settlement and the division of labor.
I have serious questions; but, no interest in pursuing the answers – right now. They come back to that division of labor and the basis of the economy. Are there no qualitative differences between a slave-based economy, a feudal economy, either the pre-industrial or industrial version of capitalism?
How many slaves were necessary to provide Aztec aristocracy with a satisfactory lifestyle? How many serfs tilling the soil of agrarian feudalism – and how were they housed, where were they housed? Will the current generation of plutocrats maintain their disdain for 21st Century workers and diminishing opportunities, a diminishing middle class?
Even the contrast between European and American concepts of where to enjoy luxurious living – with appropriate servants and service doesn’t seem to be mentioned. Yet, here in the United States once you’re away from the unique environs of Wall Street, the suburbs are the accepted direction of growth for most of the upper class. In Europe, that’s considered exile.
Maybe my questions are as much a reaction to reporting as analysis. There are few intellectual bodies I respect more than SFI.
A startup called Axine Water Technologies has developed a new low-cost way to clean the waste water created by industries like oil and gas extraction, chemical processing and chip manufacturing. The idea is that if the waste water is cleaned at a lower cost and with a simple process it can be more easily reused, and thus less fresh water is required in the industrial processes.
Axine makes modules that are filled with cells that use electricity to create a reaction. The waste water flows across the electrified cell, and any particles in it are oxidized. The byproduct is pure hydrogen, which can be collected.
The startup, which is based in Vancouver, says the technology costs five times less than competitive solutions and is also beneficial because it uses no chemicals and doesn’t produce any sludge. The modules can scale up to create larger multiple container-sized systems.
The company is still in the ramp-up phase. Axine intends to deliver pilot projects to customer sites early next year, and this week announced that it’s raised a $5.6 million Series A funding round from new investors the Roda Group, and including current investors Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital and BDC Venture Capital…
While water technology hasn’t traditionally been easily funded by venture capitalists and investors, some promising water startups are finding backers, through accelerator programs like Imagine H20.
As usual, Katie Feherenbacher manages to find productive green tech which actually might be commercially affordable.
Less than a hundred miles from the rim of the Hoover Dam, just outside of Las Vegas at the edge of dusty San Bernardino County, sits a symbol of how the sun will some day provide copious amounts of electricity for entire cities. This is Ivanpah, the world’s largest operating solar farm, which uses 347,000 mirrors (173,500 heliostats) and three huge 450-foot towers to harness the sun’s heat to generate electricity.
Katie Fehrenbacher dissects the founding and future of the Ivanpah solar farm in the Mojave. And Google as one of the investors gets a few moments of identification in the field of heliostats.
Top U.S. arms maker Lockheed Martin Corp on Tuesday said it had signed an agreement with a unit of Ocean Power Technologies to harness the motion of ocean waves to generate electricity off the coast of Victoria, Australia.
The US$206 million deal will produce the world’s largest wave energy project using power buoys designed by Ocean Power Technologies that tap energy from the surface motion of waves.
Once completed around 2018 or 2019, the project will generate 62.5 megawatts of peak power, enough to meet the needs of 10,000 homes, Lockheed said. That is about one-third the capacity of a small coal-fired power plant in the United States…
Energy from ocean waves is more predictable than wind and solar energy, and can generate electricity for more hours in the year than other alternate energy sources, Lockheed said.
The power buoys to be used in this project will rise about 30 feet out of the water, far smaller than wind turbines, which are typically 130 feet tall and have drawn public resistance. Mostly from NIMBYs
Fuhr said Lockheed had worked with Ocean Power Technologies on several smaller projects for the U.S. Department of Energy since 2004, and kicked off initial work on this project about 18 months ago. Lockheed recently signed an agreement with Victorian Wave Partners, an Australian special purpose company owned by Ocean Power, to develop the wave project…
Fuhr said he expected it to take until the 2020s before different forms of ocean energy accounted for a significant percentage of world energy production. Countries such as Australia and Britain were among the most forward leaning at the moment, although there are some U.S. projects as well, he added.
Been writing about Lockheed’s hardware for wave-based electricity for a few years. Nice to see them trying it out in the Southern Hemisphere.
Unless American voters grow sufficient brains and backbone to vote out Congressional hacks beholden to fossil fuel barons, we’ll be next-to-last in the world when it comes to alt-energy production. Just ahead of Saudi Arabia.