Solar Energy Boost

So we are all know that solar energy is an alternative energy source, but it really hasn’t been able to produce large enough results that we can use on a big scale. Fortunately, Swedish researchers have produced new nanotechology that improves solar power.

Solink — an ink made from nanowires that, when rubbed onto existing solar panels, can boost efficiency by 25%. This will allow solar power the efficiency boost that will enable it to finally compete with other energy sources. Previously, solar energy panels could not harvest the necessary amount of energy that would be capable of independently powering anything on a large scale without there being an enormous amount of solar panels.

nano wires

So back to this new ink. The nanotech ink is added to conventional solar cells towards the end of the production process, which acts  additively with the contents of galium arsenide (GaAs) nanowires. Galium arsenide is one of the most efficient photovoltaic materials, meaning can transfer solar energy into electric energy easily, out there — but it’s much more expensive than the typically used silicon. In essence, Sol Voltaics, building on advances made by Lars Samuelson’s research group at Lund University in Sweden, has found a way of cheaply producing large quantities of galium arsenide nanowires, and then producing an ink that is easy to apply to existing solar cells.

Adding this to the list of growing alternative fuels is going to greatly decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, lowering greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful by products of some energy sources. Our world is definitely finding ways get by under more difficult circumstances, showing our human resilience and ingenuity.


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Real “Green” Energy

So what have we defined as clean and green energy these days? Something that runs without releasing harmful emissions into the atmosphere. I’ve got some news, there’s some new clean energy in the fields. Scientists have found a way to generate hydrogen, a useful and powerful energy source, from plants! How much greener can you get?

A team of scientists recently discovered a way to isolate one of the main sugar in plants, xylose, and use it to generate the hydrogen fuel. Before this, producing hydrogen from anything wasn’t impossible, it was simply either too expensive to make it a worthwhile gain in energy over price, or the hydrogen that was produced was too few to power anything. Now, researchers managed to extract enzymes, the chemicals in organisms that complete life processes, and mix different ones together with the xylose in order to generate the hydrogen. The process that has been discovered works at lower temperatures, which actually increases efficiency. The efficiency boost comes from the hydrogen not “burning off” or being consumed if it were exposed to warm temperatures. Impressively, there is a 100% gain in energy, meaning nothing produced is lost.

Percival Zhang

The good news is that this technology is not far from being commercially available! The researchers at Virginia Tech project that they will have the process refined well enough for consumer use in three short years. This is an extremely short amount of time considering that enormity of what they have accomplished.

What does this mean for the world? No more dependence on fossil fuels for one! I guess that means we won’t overuse the Earth’s resources and go back to being in the stone age with no power. This also leaves room for an extremely cheap source of energy, allowing families and companies to much more with their investments, rather than worry about their heating bill as we typically do in the winter.

 So if all this works out, it might end up being that we plug all of our devices in a cable that leads out to the garden. Think about that for a moment, seems like life really does function because of plants.


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Overcoming Water Scarcity

Oddly enough, a large portion of the human population have a hard time locating safe drinking water. Last year, the United Nations reported that about 780 million people around the world do not have access to clean drinking water. Because of this, access to clean drinking water is increasingly seen as a major global security issue. How can this be true though? Isn’t the majority of Earth covered in water? Well yes, but due to the salt levels in most of the water, it is unable to be consumed.

FEAR NOT! A new project by Lockheed Martin hopes to change that, and do it cheaply. Using a graphene filter, Lockheed hopes to transform salt water into drinking water by the end of the year.

So what is graphene you might ask. Graphene is an extremely thin material made entirely of carbon. When I say thin, I mean on the nano level. The bonds that hold the material together are only 0.14 nanometers a piece. Keep in mind that a nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Because of its small size, the graphene material can be shaped into many different useful configurations.

The timing of graphene’s newly discovered use couldn’t be better. Ending water scarcity is one of the United Nations’s millenium development goals. While there’s enough freshwater for everyone on earth, it isn’t evenly distributed. This makes it difficult for the 44 percent of the world’s population that lives within a hundred miles of coasts to obtain fresh clean water sometimes. Graphene technology that can convert salt water into fresh water is an important alternative for those that live in these areas.

The graphene development could spare underdeveloped countries from having to build exotic, expensive pumping stations needed in plants that typically employ much more expensive processes to filter the water. Graphene filters will make these pumping stations unnecessary. John Stetson, the engineer who has been working on the idea, describes graphene as “500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger.” He explained that, “The energy and pressure that’s required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less.” This means that it is extremely more efficient, easier to use, and less expensive than any other current water filtration methods.

Once constructed, a graphene water purification system would be fairly simple to function, at least when it comes to energy consumption. Modern desalination techniques, removing salt from the water, require large amounts of energy to force water through porous membranes at very high pressures. However, a graphene sheet would filter the water passively, interacting with salt ions in the saltwater. When the water is pushed through the membrane, the salt, which has a larger molecule than water, is left behind. According to Jeffrey Grossman, a scientist at MIT working with graphene, “…with the same water pressure as regular desalination plants, the graphene system would be hundreds of times faster — or it could work at much lower pressure, and therefore lower cost.”

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Shifting Gears Toward Green Driving

Everyone wants to go green these days with well…everything. One particular focus has been on those pesky gas emissions. Well it finally seems like Hyundai has made some progress!

Hyundai has began the first production of hydrogen fuel cell cars. The production line in Korea has created cars that no longer need gas. They are able to run off of a hydrogen fuel cell for 370 miles. Hyundai projects to produce 1,000 of what they are calling the ix35 Fuel Cell vehicle by 2015. So far though, they are only available in Copenhagen, Denmark, and in Skane, Sweden. Hopefully they reach America and other countries in the near future.

So what is a hydrogen fuel cell and why is it greener you might ask? A hydrogen fuel cell is something that converts hydrogen atoms into electricity while the current travels from the negative end to the positive end of the cell. The cell basically acts like an extremely powerful battery. In fact, there is a lithium ion battery that support the hydrogen fuel cell to keep it running smoothly. Now as to how it is greener, gas produces harmful vapors into the air upon consumption by your vehicle. These new fuel cells, however, only release water vapor into the air! No more worries about that black smog we see pumping out of big mac trunks and other cars.


America would be so much better off with these cars. Between the amount of driving we do every day for work, vacations we take, and simple recreational driving, we abuse what we have. These fuel cells would cut down on the gas emissions that we in America greatly contribute. Maybe in the future, these fuel cells could be adapted to airplanes and other machines. That would surely drop the price of a flight. The potential could be endless.

Unfortunately the regular consumer isn’t going to be able to get their hands on one of these cars anytime soon. “‘Today, they’d cost in ‘the upper $100,000s per car,’ Frank Ahrens, a Hyundai spokesman, told US News & World Report. By the time Hyundai shifts from fleet sales to individual buyers, around 2015, the price might fall to $50,000.”

The main point, our world is definitely make the right progress to go green thanks to companies like Hyundai. The good news is that with one major competitor having results like this, it will force other companies to try to keep up or surpass the competition. So if this keeps up, perhaps we will see things like this sooner!


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Through the Looking Glass

When we think of Google, most thoughts jump straight to the search engine. Since it’s original inception, Google has since grown into the Google Chrome web browser, cell phones, and even some laptops. This time, however, they’ve reached an entirely new level. GLASS.

Wait…What? They’ve gotten into glassware? No, actually it’s just their latest project involving a headpiece that is akin to a pair of glasses. Only difference, its small transparent screen covers a single eye where the lens would be normally. Glass has many innovative functions, it allows you to take pictures and videos, run Google searches, send messages, act as a GPS device, and translate your voice into another language. The best part though is that it’s all hands free AND voice activated! I guess Siri better take a hike…


So what does this mean for us? Finally, true ease of use! No more manuals or how-to guides. So no worries about not being able to operate your awesome new tech. Glass works just like a conversation between another person, except it’ll do whatever you tell it. Who wouldn’t want that? I would love to have something take a picture on command, I’d never miss another amazing moment that would previously have been undocumented and forgotten. Another simple problem taken care of; you’re driving down the highway and realize you have no idea where you are or where you’re going. You’ve got it covered though, slip Glass on and ask it to direct you to your real destination and it’ll send you there. No more fumbling around with a GPS and dialing in the address. Glass will do it all for you.

Currently Google is on the search, ironic I know, for some creative individuals to join them in the development of Glass. They are currently accepting applications to give out a limited amount of prototypes to users to test them and offer feedback. Hit up your Google+ account or Twitter feed and tell them what you would do if you had Glass for your shot at getting one. More info on their main page posted below. The way things are looking, the final price for these is going to be around $1,500 according to Google’s projections and advertisements.

To get more of a taste for what Glass can do, check it out here!

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Face-Time in No Time

So these days it seems like there is no way to escape the streamline of social media, among other things, that keep us constantly updated and connected. I can tell you that the world is definitely growing ever smaller. Phone calls, text messages, emails, etc., all allow us to contact one another from afar, and recently Skype has broken their track record.

Skype has been growing as a service to consumers over the past few years. Whether you’ve always lived away from your loved ones, the kids are going to college, or your business partners are in another country, Skype has offered the ability to video chat with your recipient from your computer.


Skype seems to now be moving at a breakneck pace, managing to reach unparalleled results versus the competition. According to Microsoft’s data, “Skype voice and video traffic grew 44 percent to 167 billion minutes in 2012.” The following graph illustrates how Skype compares to regular phone traffic internationally.


So why are these numbers climbing so rapidly? Perhaps it is the increase in students going to college, or maybe the capability of cell phones being able to complete Skype calls. Technology is always advancing, allowing our world to share more with each other. Who knows, maybe we’ll be up to holographic images in the near future. One thing’s for sure, you’ll never be able to outrun the world and its ever growing connections.

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Having Trouble with the Curve?

The world is always turning right? Well that’s exactly what is happening with technology these days. It’s always evolving, changing, developing…you name it! Which for some people makes it hard to keep up with if they are not involved in the tech world.

So how do we remedy this? Well the answer comes in many forms. Do you prefer having paper in your hands, a small gadget, or a larger electronic device, or maybe just phoning a friend? There is a plethora of ways to use each of these conduits to find the information that you want or need.

Let’s start at home. If you’re in an older generation that didn’t necessarily have all of these gadgets growing up, you might feel a little behind. The easiest way to remedy this is to simply ask one of your children who has grown up with all the tech. I have been able to direction my parents in their learning of cell phone, computer, and dvd player use. If you’re stuck without that help though, it is easy to pick up the phone and call a customer service representative, the number is usually found on the users manual of a device or on the company’s website. Simply going through their automated call menu until you reach the proper department for your question and then they can usually provide the caller with answers.

customer service

If you’re in the running for keeping up with the current topics or technology in the world, there are countless computer and phone applications that allow users to keep up to date on information. Things such as Flipboard, and iPhone app, allow you to customize a screen filled with World News, Style, Sports, Travel, Science, Film, Politics, etc., that you simply navigate by sliding your thumb up the screen, which changes the page in “flip board style”. When something catches your eye, you simply tap the article title, which opens the main article in your web browser. Other web browser options, are simply going to and using their search engine. Capabilities of using the advanced search tool enable you to make the search run more specific options such as for sites with images or results in your nearby location.


However, if you’re not one for keeping with technology and events with devices, the ease with which you can keep up with things by subscribing to magazines or the newspaper is impressive. Time Magazine and Popular Science are both magazines that keep subscribers in the know. These magazines both monthly issues that cram loads of information into their pages.

If you’re interested in these magazines you can subscribe via their websites: