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Biomechanical Energy Harvester Converts Human Motion Into Electricity

September 4, 2008 7:22 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

The inherent weakness of any portable device is its isolation from a constant power source, such as electricity. Thus, battery technology has evolved alongside the iPod and laptop computer. But batteries themselves are inefficient, because they either deplete themselves, or in the case of rechargeables, require electricity supplied from a power grid. But what if you could harness the energy produced by the natural motion of the human body? Bionic Power is endeavoring to accomplish that with its “Biomechanical Energy Harvester.”

The Mathworks Kicks Off EcoCAR Competition

August 25, 2008 9:19 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

On August 14th, 2008, The Mathworks held the kick-off to “EcoCAR,” a collegiate advanced technology vehicle competition (ATVC). EcoCAR’s subtitle (“The NeXt Challenge”) says it all- this is the spiritual successor to “Challenge X,” a similarly-themed ATVC contest that, last year, ended with Mississippi State University taking home the gold. In speaking with personnel from the DOE, The Mathworks, and GM (all event sponsors), I concluded that the biggest obstacle to ATV’s greater viability is a lack of young, qualified engineers.

“Green” Project Aspires to Reduce IT's Carbon Footprint

August 7, 2008 11:42 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

According to Doug Ramsey of UC San Diego, “The information technology industry consumes as much energy and has roughly the same ‘carbon footprint’ as the airline industry.” This is because of the unparalleled growth in high-speed electronic equipment, and the corresponding electricity requirements. Not only is energy necessary for the systems themselves, but as IT equipment blossoms, so does their cooling requirements.  It’s an implacable scenario that currently plagues the IT industry. Similar to hipster environmentalist celebrities who globe-trot on private jets, how do you conduct scientific research into efficiency issues when your investigative process gobbles up energy?

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Energizer Stays One Step Ahead by Catering to Diminutive Device Trend

July 31, 2008 9:55 am | by by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

“Quad A” may soon become part of the common vernacular. Although the AAAA battery (or Quad A) has been commercially available since 1989, it’s mostly been a niche product, difficult to find on shelves. But with consumer electronics moving towards smaller, more lightweight devices, with decreasing power requirements, the battery industry is adapting. Quad A has long been an internal industry standard for 9 V batteries (6 Quad A’s linked together, each generating 1.5 V, equals 9 V), but it could soon displace the AAA as the battery of choice for portable electronics.

EPA Creates Bedlam With Amendment for Residential Light Fixtures

July 22, 2008 5:17 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Ayn Rand, one of capitalism’s greatest proponents, once said, “I am an innovator. This is a term of distinction, a term of honor, rather than something to hide or apologize for. Anyone who has new or valuable ideas to offer stands outside the intellectual status quo.” Governmental interference in private enterprise is always disastrous. What’s worse is when innovation is stifled by bureaucratic finagling and pc notions of impartiality (or as some would say, preventing a “competitive disadvantage”). You can’t give a chimp a skateboard and call him Tony Hawk.

Report Suggests Plug-in Hybrids Threaten to Strain Freshwater Resources

July 9, 2008 10:47 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Advanced technology vehicles are the wave of the future, but they aren’t the elegant solutions advocates posit them as. The conservation of one resource inevitably comes at the expense of another resource. A report by Carey W. King and Michael E. Webber of the University of Texas suggests that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) will place a strain on the nation’s freshwater resources. The research compares miles driven with a conventional internal combustion engine vs. a PHEV.

New Study Calls for World-Wide Reduction in Energy Consumption

July 3, 2008 8:42 am | by Jason Lomberg | Blogs | Comments

A Swiss Academic Study, “The 2000 Watt Society,” is gaining a lot of traction in the environmental movement.  First developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, the latest treatise ("Smarter Living") was coordinated by Novatlantis, and is an urgent call to action.  In short, it proposes an overall reduction in energy consumption to the world-wide average of 2,000 watts per capita by the year 2050.  Naturally, the US bears the brunt of the scorn.

Innovative Technology to Maximize Output of Solar Panels

July 1, 2008 6:14 am | by Jason Lomberg | Blogs | Comments

In 1839, French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the “photovoltaic” effect, or the natural phenomenon which allows the conversion of solar into electrical energy. Over the next 150 years, this inexorably led to solar-powered satellites, solar cars, and solar-panel technology for domestic use. Among their many strengths, financial savings (after the initial investment), environmental conservation, and minimal upkeep, solar panels always suffered weaknesses inherent in a technology that relies on a giant ball of ionized gas 150 million kilometers away.

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Nextreme Strives to Increase Efficiency of Heat-to-Power Conversion

June 30, 2008 10:47 am | Blogs | Comments

With soaring energy costs, all sectors are feeling the crunch, including the thermoelectrics industry. But Nextreme Thermal Solutions has a plan to stem the tide. One potential solution is to convert a system’s thermal energy byproduct into a functional resource. Using a grant from the North Carolina Green Business Fund, Nextreme plans to optimize their thin-film growth process with the goal of doubling the power output of a single device from 250mW to 500mW.

Chip Uses Novel Sleep Mode to Set Low-Power Record

June 24, 2008 4:23 am | Product Releases | Comments

A low-power microchip developed at the University of Michigan uses 30,000 times less power in sleep mode and 10 times less in active mode than comparable chips now on the market.The Phoenix Processor, which sets a low-power record, is intended for use in cutting-edge sensor-based devices such as medical implants, environment monitors or surveillance equipment. The chip consumes just 30 picowatts during sleep mode.

Researchers demonstrate 'avalanche effect' in solar cells

June 12, 2008 10:55 am | Blogs | Comments

Researchers at TU Delft (Netherlands) and the FOM Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter have found irrefutable proof that the so-called avalanche effect by electrons occurs in specific, very small semiconducting crystals.

“Challenge X” Vehicles Strut Their Stuff In Manhattan

May 19, 2008 6:56 am | by Alix Paultre | Blogs | Comments

It may have been a cold and damp morning in Manhattan, but that didn’t damp the passions of the participants in the Challenge X national collegiate engineering competition. This year’s challenge, sponsored by the US Department of Energy and General Motors, focuses on technology integration and full-vehicle development of advanced alternate-technology drivetrain and subsystems. By participating in the Challenge X program, the students gain real-world engineering skills and hands-on learning to better prepare them for a future career in engineering.

Printed Flexible Solar Cells Provide Embedded Renewable Power

May 12, 2008 6:43 am | Blogs | Comments

With the cost of energy approaching the insane, new and improved methods of creating better and more easily deployable solar power cells are very welcome. This advance in manufacture by Konarka Technologies promises to deliver cheaper power cells in large quantities. I hope they can commercialize the technology to the point we can use solar as a tricke-charge backup in every powered application exposed to the sun.

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Green is also the Color of Money

April 9, 2008 10:08 am | Blogs | Comments

Improving the environment is always a good idea, but wireless companies are finding ways to go green while bringing more “green” to their bottom lines.

New Record: Wind Powers 40% Of Spain

April 4, 2008 11:50 am | Blogs | Comments

Wind power is breaking new records in Spain, accounting for just over 40 percent of all electricity consumed during a brief period last weekend. As heavy winds lashed Spain on Saturday evening wind parks generated 9,862 megawatts of power which translated to 40.8 percent of total consumption.

X PRIZE Group Offers $10 Million Challenge to Auto Industry for 100-MPG Car

March 21, 2008 10:54 am | Blogs | Comments

The goal is to inspire a new generation of viable, super fuel-efficient vehicles that offer more consumer choices.

One Step Closer to Making OLEDs a Viable Option

March 12, 2008 7:46 am | Blogs | Comments

GE Global Research announced the successful demonstration of “roll-to-roll” manufactured OLEDs. The company claims that this process is a key step toward lower costs of the technology.

On the Spot: Digital Power Management Drives Energy Efficiency

February 27, 2008 11:27 am | by Jim MacDonald, Zilker Labs, Inc. www.zilkerlabs.com | Blogs | Comments

Jim MacDonald, Zilker Labs, Inc. comments "The need for higher energy efficiency in embedded systems continues to rise on the priority list of systems developers and end users alike"

Trend Report: Energy Conservation and Sustainable Design

February 27, 2008 11:23 am | by by Jeff Uden, Newark, www.newark.com | Blogs | Comments

The concept of sustainable design started, not as a way of conserving the environment, but to prolong battery life in portable consumer goods such as cell phones, laptops and PDAs.

MIT and Texas Instruments Develop Energy-Efficient Microchip

February 4, 2008 9:45 am | Blogs | Comments

Researchers at MIT and Texas Instruments (TI) unveiled a new chip design for portable electronics that can be up to ten times more energy-efficient than present technology.

Free Patents, Pending Members and Fees

January 14, 2008 10:54 am | Blogs | Comments

Energy News: IBM is leading a charge of freely available energy efficiency patents, as part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's new Eco-Patent Commons, officials said today. So far the commons has 31 patents, 27 being from Big Blue (not the football team). Nokia, Pitney-Bowes, and Sony also joined.

Daydream or Wild Fantasy, But Still a Good Idea

January 7, 2008 5:14 am | Blogs | Comments

Productive Product: Sometimes technology ideas are so good and so obvious that we don't even dare to suggest them, for fear of being rebuffed with a sarcastic, "Yeah, right!" An example is the idea that all of life's gadgets could connect to a single universal power supply -- no more jumble

Global CFL Maker Ready to Shine

December 27, 2007 10:46 am | Blogs | Comments

Productive Product: The Wall Street Journal (may require site registration) has a story about Aurora, Ohio's TCP Inc., the world's largest manufacturer of spiral compact-fluorescent light bulbs. TCP was the idea of a Chinese immigrant who is now benefitting from the Western energy-efficiency push -- they had sales of $300 million this year

It's Good to Drop the Ball!

December 27, 2007 5:10 am | Blogs | Comments

Energy News: What's worth $1 million, shines with 9,576 Philips Luxeon LEDs, and is built from 672 Waterford crystals? It's the 2008 New Years Eve ball to be dropped in New York's Times Square next week. This year is the 100th anniversary of the famed ball, now controlled by computers

Last-Minute Green Holiday Gifts

December 21, 2007 5:48 am | Blogs | Comments

Op-Ed: We searched and searched, and came up with perfect holiday gifts for environmentally conscious technophiles. Here are 10 in no particular order. It doesn't matter if you celebrate a belated Bodhi, Chanukah, Christmas, Diwali, Eid-Ul Adha, Festivus, HumanLight, Kwanzaa, or anything else -- every earthy engineer loves a present. Try LED holiday lights, solar chargers, practical books, recycled wrapping, a high-tech energy meter, low-power PC, or digital ornaments.

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