Green Gadgets part two

Here are some good examples of green design done right vs. completely misguided.

A computer made from light weight reusable and recyclable materials.  Also if you are tech savvy at all you can just buy new components instead of a whole new system.

The Takeup:

takeup

A computer made out of cardboard.  It’s true cardboard is easily recyclable but how long can a cardboard computer last?  I certainly wouldn’t buy a computer that can be turned into mush by water.

Cardboardcase:

cardboard-case

Blight the lighting shades

Today was the annual Green Gadgets Design competition.  I think it’s fantastic that people are excited about being innovative for a positive purpose.  Many of these products will contribute to a better world and others will simply waste time and money.  We should be skeptical of these new inventions because while they all have good motives, some may do more harm than good.

Blight.  I’m not behind the idea. 

Taking the sunlight that shines on high tech venetian blinds and turning the shades into lamps at night seems like a great idea until we consider the cost of producing these complicated machines.  Motors, circuitry, mini solar panels, paper thin lights are just a few of the things that go into the design.

I can also tell you based on long experience selling and owning Venetian blinds that they break easily, particularly when rolled up and down every day (yes even the high quality blinds).

These would do well marketed to the wealthy chic as an interesting lamp and conversation piece.  I don’t think it should be widely implemented because the construction would be a waste of resources for incomparable gain.

Imprimer

Space Based Solar Power and Microwave transmission

A company called Space Energy Inc. has plans to collect solar enery in space and beam it back down to earth via microwave radiation.  They are currently trying to secure more funding for a prototype to prove the concept works.

In theory this is something that can be done.  We know the physics of the sun’s radiation and have been able to convert and transmit the energy from the radiation for some time.  You may have seen that I am a huge proponent of Space based Solar and Orbiting Solar Arrays.

We should understand, however, that this is a very long term goal.  Space energy inc does say that this energy supply will only become cost effective as the world’s fossil fuels run out and the prices go up. As such it may be difficult to raise the appropriate amount of investment because people generally want to see a return in their lifetime.  It may be up to far thinking governments to shoulder the development costs.

The basic technology has been around since the sixties but it will take some serious commitment to make this a valuable alternative energy.

sbsp

Space Energy Inc.

LED lights, Theory vs Practice

LED technology is the current favorite for lighting in the future. They use less energy than fluorescent lights and can emit more pleasing light.  They also in theory do not need to be replaced for many years.

I worked at a hardware and furniture store when I was in college and we carried many different LED desk lamps over the years.  That experience showed me that LED light bulbs break all the time and are often very difficult to replace.

Now it is certainly possible that these were cheap lights not on par with the LEDs of today but given the simple construction of the diode, I don’t think it should matter.

I understand why in theory these light would last longer, IE there is no filament to burn out etc.   So are some types just better than others?

led

CO2 + H2O = energy

This is well written article on converting Carbon Dioxide and water into energy using nanotubes.  The potential of nanotechnology often seems to good to be true and I really hope the promise pans out.

 

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16621-sunpowered-device-converts-co2-into-fuel.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=environment

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl803258p

My question about clean coal

What happens when the ground moves?

Quick background on clean coal (many seem confused by the ads):  The idea is to pump the CO2 emitted by the burning of coal underground and keep it there forever.  The underground storage containers would ideally be already existing geologic formations.

Say we found enough natural underground airtight spaces to put all our CO2 emissions, at what point does it leak back into the atmosphere? The earth’s crust will move as it inevitably does and decades of carbon emissions will go up all at once.

We should start accepting the fact that humans will eventually burn all the coal and oil and natural gas on the planet. We should strive to slow the pace at which we burn through all the life that existed before us but should also realize that we are rebooting the carbon cycle.

All the CO2 will go into the air eventually and given the extremely high costs of underground carbon storage, perhaps we should let it go up now and focus our energy on dealing with the consequences.

clean-coal

save the rainforest

If we run our cars on biofuels produced in the tropics, chances will be good that we are effectively burning rainforests in our gas tanks,” warned Holly Gibbs, of Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Nano Solar and nanoimprint lithography molds

nanosolar20powersheet

Nanotechnology is great despite what you may have read in the Michael Crichton novel “Prey”.  I suppose the only problem is that our hands are too big.

There has been a new breakthrough in the manufacturing of nano particles and by breakthrough I mean research by college students.  Metallic glass can be used to create a mold that is very durable and suited to casting nano size particles.

The most immediate application for this technology (aside from a space elevator)  would be their use in making nano solar panels.  These nanosolar panels are already being mass produced worldwide but are obviously limited by the time is takes to create atom sized machines.

This is a good segue into why certain kinds of patents are bad.  The worst kind, I just have to mention, is the patenting of Genes and the reasons are endless and I would have thought obvious.  The more relevant kinds of bad patents are the ones that stifle the use of innovative new technologies.  Lets say that this nanoimprint technology discovered by Yale is licensed to an established solar power company.  This seems fine except they didn’t license the technology to use it, they just don’t want to compete with it.

Call it a pre-emptive strike on progress. The new technology will sit on the shelf so the old technology can continue turning a profit.

Oddly enough the same thing often happens in Hollywood.  A major studio will often buy scripts that are similar to something they are producing so as to avoid competition at the box office.

nanoparticles

References:

http://www.technologyreview.com/business/22167/?a=f

http://www.nanosolar.com/index.html

Tidal Power barrages and ebb generation

marine_tech_018

It’s such a simple concept I wonder why it’s not a “popular” idea for alternative energy.

Exploit the difference in potential energy between high tide and low tide.  Dig a ditch or basin into a beach or cliff and then make a dam with flood gates and put some turbines where they will be turned by releasing the trapped water.

The main advantages of this kind of tidal power vs the more popular idea of turbines trapping underwater currents are environmental. When we look at the design of these windmills under the sea, they are very similar to food processors in that any wildlife coming close will be chopped into slurry.  Not to mention the fact that they would only capture a small fraction of the tidal power compared to a tidal barrage.

It is important to distinguish between tidal barrages created on rivers or estuaries and totally man made barrages.  The former types of barrages have the same kind of environmental problems because they interfere with extablished marine ecosystems.  Creating a new inlet would allow for a screen-like divider that would exclude animals that could be harmed by the turbines or other mechanisms.

The potential is almost unlimited for countries like the united states due to our extremely large coastlines.  The construction of these barrages would also creates lots of jobs a la the Obama plan for saving the economy. 

In the coming years we will have to make important decisions about which technologies we chose to implement for a sustainable future.  If we choose without full disclosure as to the dangers and benefits of each technology, the results could be disastrous.  If we were to make huge investments into bio-fuels instead of more truly sustainable technologies, at some point we will have food and water supply problems.  I understand the appeal of bio-fuels because they use already existing technologies and thus can be immediately implemented.  I also understand the desire for a quick fix but long term thinking is the only way we will survive peacefully into the next century, after oil has run out.

Radiation from the sun, Gravitational pull from the moon (ocean Power), Geothermal from plate tectonics and volcanic activity, and wind power are the areas we should be putting massive investment into.  Other technologies may serve as a fine transition between fossil fuels and true sustainability but we must plan for the long term using inexhaustible sources of energy.

Why we need a Space Elevator

It can be done, we have the technology.

and if that’s not reason enough…

The launching of a Satellite will be a simple and relatively inexpensive proposition. No more Giant expenditures of rocket fuel so comcast can have more premium channels.

Space exploration will be come much less expensive and maybe we can reduce NASA’s budget as well. As interesting as space exploration is, I really don’t see any practical benefits to it, at least not until someone figures out how to travel faster than the speed of light.

The largest benefits is that Orbiting Solar Arrays could be put into place inexpensively.  These are basically solar panels in space, satellites and the space station are power by the same technologies.  The difference in terms of producing power for earth is that the amount of energy is increased enormously because there is no atmosphere to block the radiation, as well as the fact that they get sun twenty four hours a day.

The elevator would be made of carbon nanotubes and would operate on the principles of centripetal force.

nasasolararray1

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