Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Green Tech: New Engine's Powered By Shock Waves!

          Michigan researchers have built a prototype of a new auto motor that does away with pistons, crankshafts and valves, replacing the old internal combustion engine with a disc-shaped shock wave generator. It could slash the weight of hybrid cars and reduce auto emissions by 90 percent.  This is an enormous improvement compared to conventional vehicles, where about 85 percent of fuel simply blows out the back end.
        The new generator is about the size of a saucepot, and would replace the 1,000-pound power train in most cars — no transmission, cooling system, emissions regulation or fluids needed. 
 The generator would also use about 60 percent of fuel for propulsion, which is a dramatic improvement over typical car engines, which use only 15 percent of fuel for forward movement. The system could also make cars 20 percent lighter, improving fuel economy even more.
The keyword for the research team is shock. Their generator’s heart is a rotor that contains wavy radial channels. This construction allows for a much better exploitation of energy. After ignition, an air-fuel mixture enters the chambers of the generator. Due to the rotating model, the outlets and subsequently the inlets, too, are blocked, so the mixture can’t escape as it would in other engines. The resulting high pressure induces shock waves that rip through the car, and keep the engine roaring. Compression, temperature, density – everything is used in a more sustainable way, while pistons, camshaft and valves become superfluous.
The "shock wave" prototype, a project made possible with funding from the US Department of Energy, can replace nearly 1,000 lbs. of engine, transmission, cooling system, emissions, and fluids. Companies could consider building vehicles that are lighter, smaller, and—greener.  And with an overall larger awareness from the population to save energy rising, the demand is definitely there. The team in Michigan hopes to have an even larger 25-kilowatt prototype by the end of this year.

Green Tech: Harvesting Our Own Energy!

I find myself thinking about alternative energy sources a lot and one idea that constantly pops into my head when thinking about future technology is the idea of using the things we do every day to store up usable power.  It’s a fascinating area of Green Tech, the harvesting of energy from our own bodies to power devices. Most of us create quite a bit of energy everyday whether it’s running, biking, swimming, skiing, even walking, etc.
 There has been a steady stream of concepts from designers and prototypes from labs lately though few are really viable. Fujitsu’s latest breakthrough in harvesting energy from both light and heat could be the next big thing for micro-energy harvesting via wearable technology. Without the need for electrical wiring or battery replacements, the company hopes it could be part of commercial products by 2015.
                Fujitsu’s hybrid device does what normally requires separate devices, one to harvests heat, one for vibrations, one for only light, etc. The company recognizes that alternatives for generating micro-energy are going the increase in demand in the next few years, and so they’re working to get ahead of the curve. It also recognizes that harvesting ambient energy from light, vibration, heat and so forth yields minute results, so hybrid devices are a smart way to go.
Fujitsu Laboratories writes that it has "successfully developed an organic material that is suitable for a generator in both photovoltaic and thermoelectric modes.
               The organic material features a high generating efficiency that can produce power from even indoor lighting in photovoltaic mode, and it can also generate power from heat in its thermoelectric mode. Since the organic material and its process cost are inexpensive, production costs can be greatly reduced
The company notes that the device will be perfect in the medical field, gathering energy from patients and their environments to run small life-saving devices, or it can be used for tasks like remote sensors for weather forecasting, or monitoring the integrity of structures like bridges, and other needs.
I’m not expecting it to be the biggest miracle breakthrough device that could power every handheld gadget, but it is a very interesting progression of renewable energy harvesting technology that could be very useful if it pans out.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Future Tech! Three Dimensional Printers...!

Future Tech! 3D Printing...!
3D printing used to construct houses and buildings!

Changing the Automotive Industry

Human Civilization is entering the newest phase of our technological evolution where our computer technology completely transforms the way think about the production process of the goods we buy.  Now a new manufacturing technology has emerged which uses Three-dimensional printing to create the actual item and can be used to create a potentially unlimited variety of items in the future. It may have as profound of an impact on the world as the creation of factories and assembly lines did during the industrial revolution in creating a mass production of goods and changing society in ways that nobody could have imagined at the time.
             The 3D printer works like this. First you upload the blueprint for the product you wish to make, (iPod, computer parts, car parts, even highly technical objects such as a Stradivarius violin!) pulling up a 3 dimensional version of it on your computer screen you can adjust the settings such as its shape, color, etc. Then boom! Press print. The 3D printer builds up the object gradually by depositing material from a nozzle making a thin layer of plastic or metal dust using tiny drops of glue or a tightly focused beam. Products are built up by progressively, adding material one layer at a time. Eventually your item solidifies and is ejected!
Seriously! A Violin, that plays just as well as the real thing!
          The obvious benefits of this technology are that manufacturing no longer needs to happen in a factory, the costs of production will drop off, and efficiency will increase greatly. Small items can be made by in a an office or shop while larger items such as bike frames, metal parts for transportation vehicles, even construction materials to build houses and  buildings, need a larger machine and more space.
             At the moment the 3D printing process is possible only with certain materials such as plastics, certain resins and metals but it is spreading fast as that drives the technology to improve and costs fall. A basic 3D printer, also known as a fabricator or “fabber”, now costs less than a laser printer did in 1985. And what’s Amazing is if you buy a “fabber” you can actually print the parts to build another 3D fabricator so you can give them to friends and print backup and replacement parts!
             3D Fabricators also will reduce waste enormously, requiring as little as one-tenth of the amount of material.(Imagine how much that adds up to when doing a job like building a house or large building, where there is sometimes hundreds of tons of waste.) It allows the creation of parts in shapes that conventional techniques cannot achieve, resulting in new, much more efficient designs for example in the area of aircraft wings or heat exchangers.3D printing will also promote innovation. If you can design a shape on a computer, you can turn it into an object. You can print a dozen, see if there is a market for them, and print 50 more if there is, modifying the design using immediate feedback from product users. This should be a boost for inventors and start-up companies because trying out new products will become less risky and costly.
The 3D printer, The Fabricator
        This new “Job-less” technological change is so profound that it will reset the economics of manufacturing. Think if every village has a fabricator that can produce items when needed how that will change how we do business. The technology will have implications not just for the distribution of money and jobs, but also for how we define someone’s intellectual-property. When the blueprints for a new video game, designer clothes, or any other creations are uploaded onto the internet how do we define the intellectual owner? (IP)
Nobody can fully predict the impact of this new technology but it seems that the long-term impact that 3D printing will bring will be a positive one. But one thing is clear, the technology is here, and it’s likely to influence every single area of industry it touches. It at the very least is forcing CEO, entrepreneurs, and inventors to start thinking about it now and with that 3D printing will most certainly expand the realms of innovation and imagination.
Household items including a Wrench!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Paradigm Shift!

       There’s a tectonic mindshift going on in the science of economics right now, but you probably wouldn't guess listening to economic professors, pundits, and politicians. Our whole Economic system is based on the idea that we live on a Planet with infinite resources. Oil reserves have dwindled and are likely even lower than we had been led to believe. Climate tipping points loom, melting glaciers, eroding coral reefs, and yet today’s economists argue incessantly about how economic growth can be sustained forever on a finite planet. 
      It's a similar situation as the one five hundred years ago when astronomers following Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the universe were tearing their hair out trying to make sense of all their calculations of the sun, moon and stars moving around above us in the night sky. It was only when Copernicus pointed out that we are not the center of the universe – the sun does not revolve around the Earth but rather the other way around – that all their convoluted calculations fell magically into place.
Today something eerily similar is happening in the science of economics: Economists and lay people alike are realizing that our human money economy is a subset of the Earth’s larger bioeconomy rather than the other way around. Over the next few years, as this monumental shift of perspective kicks in, all the economic, ecological and financial craziness of the industrial era will evaporate, and a new sustainable way of running our planetary household will have to magically fall into place.                                           Here's how that system will look.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Venus Project, Redisigning The Future!

The Venus Project culminates the life long work of industrial designer, social systems engineer, and inventor Jacque Fresco, now age 95 (as of 2011).
The Venus Project presents a bold, new direction for humanity that entails nothing less than the total redesign of our culture. There are many people today who are concerned with the serious problems that face our modern society: unemployment, violent crime, replacement of humans by technology, over-population and a decline in the Earth’s ecosystems.

As you will see, The Venus Project is dedicated to confronting all of these problems by actively engaging in the research, development, and application of workable solutions. Through the use of innovative approaches to social awareness, educational incentives, and the consistent application of the best that science and technology can offer directly to the social system, The Venus Project offers a comprehensive plan for social reclamation in which human beings, technology, and nature will be able to coexist in a long-term, sustainable state of dynamic equilibrium.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Astronomers' Say 3 Times as Many Stars as Thought!

             Scientists have recently discovered that the number of stars in the universe had been seriously undercounted, and they estimated that there could be three times as many stars out there as had been thought. The counting, of cooler, dim dwarf stars in certain galaxies gives astronomers’  an understanding of how galaxies formed and grew over the eons.
The conundrum is that astronomers cannot actually count the dwarf stars, which have masses less than a third of that of our Sun, in galaxies outside the Milky Way. So instead, they counted the brighter Sun-like stars and assumed that there were about 100 unseen dwarfs for each larger Sun-like star, as is the case in the Milky Way.
Yet obviously not every galaxy looks like the Milky Way, with its spiraling pinwheel arms. Some are blobby and elliptical, and it was just an assumption that the distribution of stars in other shaped elliptical galaxies is the same as in the Milky Way.


Astronomers are now taking an innovative approach to counting what they formerly could not see. Because the dwarfs are cooler, the fingerprint of certain colors they emit and absorb is different from that of larger stars. While they could not see individual stars, the astronomers could calculate the number of dwarfs required to produce the telltale color fingerprint they detected in the light coming from the whole galaxy.

They found that in eight elliptical galaxies, the ratio of dwarf stars to Sun-like stars was 1,000 or 2,000 to 1, rather than the 100 to 1 in the Milky Way. A typical elliptical galaxy, thought to consist of about 100 billion stars, would have one trillion or more stars. Ellipticals account for about a third of all galaxies, leading to the new estimate of at least three times as many stars over all.
Basically what this mean is that Astronomers have had to abandon this notion of using the Milky Way as a template for the rest of the universe.  Also if the findings are correct, an undercount of dwarfs would mean astronomers have underestimated the masses of galaxies, and that could mean that galaxies developed much earlier and faster than currently thought. I think it’s pretty interesting and important when papers like this are published, and it reminds us how much we need to continue working to expand our knowledge of the universe.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Plans for Solar Thermal in California

This past year represented a "sea change" as regulators ended a 20-year dry spell and fast-tracked solar-thermal plant approval helping drive the state's and nation's broader renewable-energy goals.
Developers were rushing to meet a December 31 deadline for federal incentives but Congress surprisingly extended that deadline for federal funding by another year.
The California Energy Commission approved nine solar-thermal plants, which are solar plants that concentrate heat before converting it into electricity. More commonplace photovoltaic plants typically use panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity.
Before 2010, government regulators had yet to approve any of the projects to build solar-thermal plant in California since a series of plants known as the Solar Energy Generating Systems, built mostly in the 1980’s. There are currently two solar-thermal projects under review. The 250-megawatt plants would eventually power at least 75,000 homes but environmental scientists need to conduct a two-year study of the rare Mohave Ground Squirrel at the site before proceeding with its application.
The second is under development by the city of Palmdale, north of Los Angeles. It would combine natural gas-fired turbine technology with solar technology, eventually generating 570 megawatts of power. Developers of many of the nine plants approved in 2010 haven't yet started construction as they wait to firm up environmental issues and financing.