Ultra-Low-Power Wireless Networks Developed

kristy Trendspotting

Ultra-Low-Power Wireless Networks Developed

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 08:10 AM PDT

The National Science Foundation is funding a project to create distortion-tolerant communications for wireless networks that can work with very little power. The aim of the research is to improve the wireless sensors deployed in remote areas where the wi-fi is reliant on batteries or energy-harvesting devices for power.

“Ultra-low power consumption is one of the most formidable challenges faced by the next generation of wireless sensing systems,” said Jingxian Wu, assistant professor of electrical engineering. “These systems will need to operate without interruption for multiple years and with extremely limited battery capacity or limited ability to scavenge energy from other devices. This is why the NSF was interested in our research.”

Since batteries or energy-harvesting devices such as solar panels are usually the power source of ultra-low-power wireless communication devices, lower power consumption is greatly desired. One of the main uses of power in wi-fi is to limit or minimize distortion.

So the researchers decided to allow for controlled distortion rather than limiting or minimizing it — this would allow their wireless systems far less power than conventional technologies.

“If we accept the fact that distortion is inevitable in practical communication systems, why not directly design a system that is naturally tolerant to distortion?” Wu said. “Allowing distortion instead of minimizing it, our proposed distortion-tolerant communication can operate in rate levels beyond the constraints imposed by Shannon channel capacity.”

“Shannon channel capacity is the maximum rate at which distortion-free information can be transmitted over a communication channel.”

“The researchers’ work will accelerate the widespread deployment of ultra-low power wireless networks used for surveillance, environmental and structure monitoring, and biomedical sensing. These applications have the ability to provide early warnings to prevent catastrophic events, such as structural failures, to improve public safety and homeland security and to promote the health and well being of the general public.”

Source: University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Image Credit: Wi-Fi via Wikimedia Commons

Wind Power Study Says Criticism of the Technology Is Unfounded

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 07:27 AM PDT

A new study that investigated the efficiency and reliability of wind farms has found that the common criticisms of wind energy used by politicians aren’t supported by the evidence.

The study comes from the think tank IPPR in cooperation with the leading energy consultancy GL Garrad Hassan. They concluded that “there is no technical reason why turbines should not be supported.”

Reg Platt, an IPPR fellow, said that it was right to scrutinise costs and planning issues, but that the report showed “unequivocally that wind power can significantly reduce carbon emissions, is reliable, poses no threat to energy security and is technically capable of providing a significant proportion of the UK’s electricity with minimal impact on the existing operation of the grid.”

The common criticisms that are used are not supported by the evidence, said Platt, also pointing out that the study was peer-reviewed by Nick Jenkins, the head of the Institute of Energy at Cardiff University.

“The economic model GL Garrad Hassan adopted showed that every megawatt-hour of electricity wind power produced led to carbon savings of a minimum of 350kg.”

“On that basis, it said, the increasing number of wind farms both on and offshore saved 5.5m tonnes in 2011, at a time when the UK is committed to meeting EU carbon reduction targets in a bid to counter climate change.”

Even though wind energy is somewhat variable, because of changes in its speed, it is predictable because of weather forecasting technology and the varied locations of the turbines around the country averaging out.

“Our ability to ‘keep the lights on’ during ‘cold, calm spells’ is secure at the levels of wind power projected for the UK by 2020,” said Oscar Fitch-Roy and Paul Gardner, the authors of the technical aspects of the report, entitled Getting “Beyond the Bluster.”

“The Department of Energy and Climate Change has predicted it could need up to 30 gigawatts (GW) of wind power in place by 2020, compared with the current operational level of less than 7GW.”

Source: Guardian
Image Credit: Wind England via Wikimedia Commons

India Approves $4.1 Billion Investment in Electric Vehicles over Next 8 Years

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 07:20 AM PDT

The government of India has decided to approve a $4.13-billion plan to stimulate the production of electric and hybrid vehicles over the next eight years. The country is setting for itself the target of 6 million vehicles by the year 2020.

There isn’t really an electric and hybrid vehicle industry in India currently. Most car manufacturers in India focus on low-emission cars, because of the “prohibitively high costs of new technologies and an almost non-existent support infrastructure.”

“The question is the viability… The cost of the car and how much the consumer can pay, there is a gap,” said Pawan Goenka, chairman of Mahindra Reva, India’s only electric-focused carmaker.

The announced target of 6 million green vehicles by 2020 (most of which are expected to be two-wheelers) is arriving on the heels of China’s announcement that it aims to have 500,000 electric and hybrid cars in use by the year 2015.

“Reva, controlled by Mahindra & Mahindra, aims for sales of 30,000 of its battery-run cars a year by 2016.”

The secretary of India’s Heavy Industries ministry is quoted as saying that New Delhi itself will provide “around 130 to 140 billion rupees of the total investment in the plan,” the remainder will be provided by private companies.

“We will put in some specific schemes with regard to subsidy element, R&D, demand creation and infrastructure,” the secretary told reporters. ”More individual schemes will come out at a later date.”

The growing market for electric vehicles in India crashed in April when the government withdrew its subsidies “worth up to 100,000 rupees (roughly $1800) per vehicle.”

Source: Reuters
Image Credit: Reva via Wikimedia Commons

First of 8 Hawaiian Solar Projects Launched

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 07:00 AM PDT

Earlier this month, SolarCity and the Hawai‘i State Department of Transportation (DOT) celebrated the completion of a 112-kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) system at the Kona International Airport with a traditional Hawaiian blessing.

The system is set to provide the airport wastewater treatment plant with power and is the first of eight SolarCity projects planned to be completed as part of the DOT’s renewable energy efforts.

There are currently seven other DOT sites being developed in addition to the eight SolarCity-specific projects, with all 15 projects totalling 3.4 megawatts of solar electricity generation capacity, which could produce enough renewable electricity to power up to 630 homes and reduce the need for 15,000 barrels of fuel every year.

“This initiative advances the state’s continued leadership in reducing our dependency on imported fossil fuels and moves us toward Hawai‘i’s goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030,” said DOT Director Glenn Okimoto. “The solar projects at our state airports, highways, and harbors are a win-win situation for both the DOT and state taxpayers. Using renewable energy to power state facilities is a smart investment that will pay off for years to come.”

SolarCity’s other projects with the DOT include:

§ Maui Highway Baseyard. The recently completed 88-kilowatt system on the roof of the administration building at the Maui Highway Baseyard powers the building, adjacent workshops, and a truck storage facility.

§ Kahului Harbor. The soon-to-be-completed 78-kilowatt system will help power lighting and air conditioning for the cruise ship terminal.

§ Lihue Airport. The airport’s cargo will be powered by a 56-kilowatt system that is currently being installed on its building rooftop.

§ Lanai Airport. Construction is underway on a 117-kilowatt system on the airport terminal’s roof.

§ Hilo Highway Baseyard. Construction is underway on a 35-kilowatt system on the design and lab building. Once completed, the installation is expected to offset most of the electricity used by the design and lab facility.

§ Keanae Highway Baseyard. Construction is under way on a 16-kilowatt system on the administration building. Once completed, the installation will provide power to the administration building and detached garage.

§ Waimea-Kohala Airport. A 21-kilowatt system will be installed on the roof of the main terminal.

“The state of Hawai‘i is a national leader in developing clean, homegrown energy and the DOT is making a significant contribution to a cleaner environment through its many solar installations across the state,” said Jon Yoshimura, SolarCity’s director of government affairs in Hawai‘i. “We’re pleased to do our part in helping the DOT, and Hawai‘i as a whole, reach its sustainability goals.”

Source: SolarCity

Massachusetts’ Clean Energy Economy Grows 11.2%, Creates 71K+ Jobs

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 06:59 AM PDT

Government investment and support for clean, renewable energy development is paying off handsomely in Massachusetts, where the clean energy economy grew 11.2% between July 2011 and July 2012. The state’s fast-growing clean energy sector now employs 71,523 people at 4,995 clean energy businesses across the state, according to a Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) report released Aug. 16.

“I have said from the beginning of this Administration that, if we get clean energy right, the world will be our customer,” Governor Deval Patrick, who’s serving his second term in office, stated in a press release. “This past year’s 11.2 percent increase in clean energy jobs means that we are getting it right and the world knows it.

“Investing in our nation-leading clean energy agenda is the right thing to do for our environment, our energy independence, our public health and our economic vitality. We owe it to our future to keep this momentum going strong.”

Investing in Clean Energy Paying Off for Massachusetts
The 11.2% economic growth rate for Massachusetts’ clean energy sector is well above that of even rapidly industrializing countries, such as China. The 71,523 people employed at clean energy businesses recorded by MassCEC in its latest annual report are working in jobs directly related to the state’s clean energy sector. Signs indicate the growth will continue.

“Employers surveyed are optimistic about the coming year and expect to hire more workers in 2013,” MassCEC states in its press release. “Clean energy continues to maintain its place as one of the Commonwealth’s marquee industries, with 1.7 percent of the total Massachusetts workforce.”

MassCEC found that the state’s clean energy sector is a diversified one, with businesses involved in construction and manufacturing to research and development. In its “2012 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report,” MassCEC also “identified a large number of companies that don’t necessarily identify themselves as clean energy companies first, but directly engage in activity related to the clean energy sector — showing that clean energy penetrates numerous sectors of the Massachusetts economy.”

“This report is proof that Massachusetts’ innovation economy is succeeding,” said incoming MassCEC Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Alicia Barton McDevitt, who begins her term on August 20.

“The report affirms Massachusetts’ role as a national and global leader in clean energy development and deployment, and a success made possible by our talented workforce, world-class academic and research institutions, and Governor Patrick’s vision for a clean energy future in Massachusetts.”

For the report, a clean energy business “is defined as an employer engaged in whole or in part in providing goods and services related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, alternative transportation, and carbon management. Clean energy workers are defined as spending at least a portion of their time supporting the clean energy aspects of their businesses.”

Prepared by BW Research Partnership on behalf of MassCEC, the Massachusetts “2012 Clean Energy Industry Report” includes breakdowns of companies and employment by technology sector and geographic region, as well as information on workforce trends.

Photo Credit: Borrego Solar

Time-Scale Map of Boston’s Subway System Done in Synchronicity by Peter Dunn

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 06:53 AM PDT

“I don’t know about you, but find that stuff beautiful.”

I have to agree with Michael Graham Richard of Treehugger for sure. Peter Dunn’s time-scale maps of the Boston subway of Stonebrown Design are an impressive slideshow: synchronicity, flow, color, and form. Art meets environment with this work.

Of course, projects like this are more than art, too — they connect people to clean transportation, and they encourage a love of clean transport. That is highly needed today!

These are only two slides of many. Check out more at Peter’s Stonebrown Designs or on TreeHugger.

Escolas de Bicicletas — Bicycle Schools in Sao Paulo — Light Up Kids’ Lives

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 06:49 AM PDT

“Bicycle empowerment, indeed.”

Copenhagenize Consulting and the Education Department of Sao Paulo’s Escolas de Bicicletas (Bicycle Schools) program makes the community stronger with bamboo and local employment.

“The Escolas de Bicicletas programme… involves the production of 4600 bamboo bicycles for the children. A world unto itself in the project, far removed from the development of the curriculum, training the educators and monitors and collaborating with 46 schools.”

Like Bamboo, which used as a nutritional supplement is an Ayurvedic herb to support healthy bone growth, bamboo bicycles are insuring planetary health. “In convoys from their local community and participating in the curriculum about bicycle culture and history,” children on bamboo bikes will experience pragmatic educational expansion in this program.

One thing that is significant to the work of this is that the locals are the workforce.

“True to the nature of the project and the spirit inherent in it, the people who are working to construct and assemble the bicycles are locals from the surrounding community,” Copenhagenize writes.

Flavio, a Brazilian designer, has his own brand, Bambucicletas, which is “up and running in Brazil and South America, with plans to expand into Europe.”

Here’s more from Copenhagenize on how the project started and what its goals are:

In July 2011, Copenhagenize was invited by the City of Sao Paulo to speak about Copenhagenize Consulting’s Four Goals for Promoting Urban Cycling. On that visit we had the opportunity to meet with the Secretary of Education for the city – Alexandre Schneider and his advisor Daniel Guth, who is the coordinator for the project. The Education Secretariat is responsible for the education of 1.2 million children in Sao Paulo. We pitched them the idea of placing bicycles in their schools as a way for the Education Secretariat to be the ‘missing link’ for childrens’ relationship to the bicycle. Most of them still learn to ride but their options for continuing to do so are limited because of lack of safe infrastructure and the explosive and continuing growth of car culture.

We’re moving full steam ahead towards planting the fertile seeds of bicycle culture in the hearts and minds of not only the children but the communities around the schools. The Education Secretariat is collaborating with the NGO Parada Vital, who have a team that will run the project. Copenhagenize Consulting, based on our original proposal, are senior consultants.

The project – Escolas de Bicicleta or ‘Bicycle Schools’ – is huge. It revolves around the 46 CEUs in the city. These CEUs – Centros de Educação Unificados – are extraordinary in their own right. Schools for 0-14 year olds but also comprehensive community centres for the surrounding neighbourhoods with amazing facilities for the children and everyone else. Swimming pools, theatres, sports facilities, computer facilties for the locals, you name it. They are the centre of cultural activity in the communities and draw people from all classes to gather under one umbrella, as it were. They are often impressive architecturally and rise up proudly at the heart of the communities in which they are placed.

World’s Largest EV Charging Network Surpasses 100,000 Users (+ Top 10 EV-Ready US Cities)

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 05:57 AM PDT

The world’s largest electric vehicle charging network system has passed 100,000 users and 11,000 charging stations across North America, up from its initial starting point at 500 stations when the service launched last year.

Xatori Inc. is the owner of the application, PlugShare, which allows users to log on via their smartphone, tablet, or computer to find and share public and private EV charging stations.

Available on both the iTunes and Google Play app stores, PlugShare allows users to find public charging stations, share private charging spots, add and edit information, check-in, add photos, and review various locations.

PlugShare also has a sister application, GreenCharge, which allows owners of the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, or Plug-in Prius the ability to log in and connect with your vehicle, check the car’s charging status, enable or disable climate control, and turn on or off the charging. The app is only available in the iTunes App Store, but is free.

To celebrate its milestone user numbers, Xatori released statistics gathered from both PlugShare and GreenCharge which show the top 10 “electric vehicle–ready” cities in the US, based on public charging locations.

The leading cities based on public charging locations per 100,000 residents are:




SF Bay Area






Washington D.C. Area

“PlugShare’s success is largely thanks to the EV community at large, and we’re committed to helping provide new products and services that help engage with them,” said Xatori Founder and CEO Forrest North. “With the information we gather on charging stations and driving behaviors, we hope to inform the EV industry to continue to develop solutions that support and further the shift to electric vehicles.”

Source: Xatori

Japan’s First Floating Wind Farm Gets Going

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 05:49 AM PDT

Add Japan to the list of countries setting up innovative wind farms. On Wednesday, Japan’s first floating wind turbine began operation about half a mile off the coat of the Nagasaki prefecture. The 100-kilowatt turbine will be replaced with a 2-megawatt turbine next summer, once data regarding performance and maintenance is collected.

After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster and subsequent multi-reactor shutdown, government officials are looking for safer, cleaner forms of energy. Wind energy is clearly one of those. And given that all of Japan’s wind farms held up fine to last year’s earthquake and tsunami, it’s no wonder the country is turning more to wind.

Source: UPI Asia
Image: DJ Mattaar via Shutterstock

‘Nano Machine Shop’ Made that Can Shape Nanowires and Ultrathin Films

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 05:43 AM PDT

Researchers have created a “nano machine shop” that is able to shape nanowires and ultrathin films into exact forms. This new method could represent a revolutionary future manufacturing method for tiny structures.

The manipulated structures could be fine-tuned for diverse applications such as high-speed electronics and solar cells. Their real potential, though, lies in their greater strength compared to conventionally formed structures, and their unusual traits, such as ultrahigh magnetism and “plasmonic resonance.” These traits could lead to great improvements in optics, computers, and electronics.

“The researchers used their technique to stamp nano- and microgears; form tiny circular shapes out of a material called graphene, an ultrathin sheet of carbon that holds promise for advanced technologies; and change the shape of silver nanowires, said Gary Cheng, an associate professor of industrial engineering at Purdue University.”

“We do this shaping at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, like a nano-machine shop,” said Cheng, who is working with doctoral students Ji Li, Yiliang Liao, Ting-Fung Chung and Sergey Suslov and physics professor Yong P. Chen.

Materials such as graphene and nanowire (filaments 1,000 times thinner than a human hair) have numerous potential applications, but they are difficult to work with because of their small size. This new method, named “laser shock-induced shaping,” solves that by making it possible to tune nanowires by “altering electrical and optoelectrical properties that are critical for electronic components.” Or, by using laser shock-induced shaping to change the properties of graphene. That brings graphene even closer to its potentially revolutionary role in electronics.

Source: Purdue University
Image Credits: Purdue University / Gary Cheng

Antenna Developed that Makes Wi-Fi 200 Times Faster

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 05:30 AM PDT

A high-performance, silicon-based, cavity-backed slot (CBS) antenna has been developed that will enable Wi-Fi speeds up to 200 times faster than the fastest speeds of today.

The antenna has demonstrated a 30-times-stronger signal transmission over on-chip antennas at 135 GHz. It’s also tiny, approximately the size of a sesame seed, making it is the smallest silicon-based CBS antenna to date. And with the cheap price, there’s not much downside — it’s almost two-thirds cheaper than a conventional CBS antenna.

Dr Hu Sanming, a key researcher from IME leading the antenna project, said, “The novel use of polymer filling enables >;70% antenna size shrinkage and a record high gain of 5.68 dBi at 135 GHz. By filling the antenna cavity with polymer instead of air, we can achieve a flat surface for subsequent processing by standard technology that is amenable to mass production.”

“The team has also designed a three-dimensional (3D) architecture to integrate the antenna with active circuits to form a fully integrated wireless millimetre-wave system-in-package solution with high performance, reduced footprint and low electromagnetic interference,” commented Dr Je Minkyu, Principal Investigator of the Integrated Circuits and Systems Laboratory at IME.

The work was done by the Institute of Microelectronics (IME), a research institute of the Science and Engineering Research Council of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Built to bridge the R&D gap between academia and industry, “IME’s mission is to add value to Singapore’s semiconductor industry by developing strategic competencies, innovative technologies and intellectual property; enabling enterprises to be technologically competitive; and cultivating a technology talent pool to inject new knowledge to the industry.”

Source: Agency for Science, Technology and Research
Image Credit: Copyright by Agency for Science, Technology and Research

“Bogotá Change” Reveals a Refreshed Bogota in Film

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 05:07 AM PDT

Passionate film is documentary film. Documentary film is concerned, is about educating, and, in this case, about applauding the overcoming of the old. The recently released Sundance film Bogotá Change, part of Cities on Speed (trailer above), is the documentary I’m talking about, and it looks like a must-watch.

“Bogota has transformed from one of the early ’90s’ worst cities into a successful metropolis.”

Andraas M Daalsgard’s film ”forms a narrative from archived footage and expert interviews” and shows “the break from traditional politics…. as a case study of how a community and its leaders can change habits and take on corruption, violence, and the task of modernizing a city.”

Photo by Andreas Møl Dalsgaard via the Danish Film Institute

The film incorporates beautiful time-lapse displays of demolitions and renewal in the city.

Enjoy making sense of such political transformation in this hour-long film.

TheCityFix seems to hit the real heartbeat of this film, and the group of films it is a part of: “The real class conflict today, is not the one predicted between a few billionaires and the rest of the [workers]. No, the real class conflict in developing countries is between those with cars and the rest of society…. A bicycle lane is a powerful symbol of equality. It shows that a citizen on a $30 bicycle is equally important to one in a $30,000 car” – Enrique Peñalosa

Ultra-Thin Liquid Crystal Displays Nearing Viability

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 05:00 AM PDT

Many modern digital devices rely on thin, efficient, and low-cost light-emitters for their displays and applications. The pixels that generate the different colors on the display are usually wired to very complex electronic circuits, but now a display has been developed that works with a much simpler architecture.

By simply combining a thin perforated gold film with a layer of liquid crystal, a much more efficient color filter results.

“Our color filters are a lot thinner and more compact than conventional thin-film-based color filters,” says Teng. “The colors of these filters can be tuned with ease so they are very versatile in applications.”

“The color selection of the devices comes from the patterned gold film. The collective motions of the electrons on the film surface — the so-called surface plasmons — absorb light at wavelengths that depend on the details of these patterns. In the present case, the patterns are narrow, nanometer-sized rings cut out of the films (see image). As the diameter of the rings changes, so does the color of the metal film. Pixels of a different color can be realized simply by patterning rings of different sizes across the same gold film.”

The device still has some kinks to work out before commercial use though: optimization of the switching speed, the contrast between ‘on’ and ‘off’ state, serving a larger area, and producing the fundamental colors. The researchers are confident these problems can be addressed in the near term though.

Source: The Agency For Science, Technology, and Research
Image Credits: Y. J. Liu

Gargantuan Bus (Largest in World) Transports 256 Passengers

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 04:50 AM PDT

The macdaddy of buses has hit the scene. Meet the AutoTram Extra Grand: a 98-foot, 256 passenger carrier. The bus, which concept developer Fraunhofer IVI hails as the largest bus in the world, has some green features, including a battery storage system that enables all-electric operation for up to 8 kilometers.

The prototype of the beastly bus is expected to be tested in Dresden in late 2012.

Source: inhabitat
Image: Courtesy of Fraunhofer IVI

SMA Solar’s Hybrid System to Target Huge Off-Grid Market

Posted: 31 Aug 2012 04:44 AM PDT

SMA Solar has announced that it would enter the market of solar-diesel power networks with a new product line of solar panels. This has left analysts hopeful that sales at the company will be boosted.

CIX Diesel Generator.

This new solar panel product line allows diesel generators to draw power from solar panels. It is called the Fuel Save controller, and SMA Solar says the company will start producing it in 2013.

A diesel generator consumes a large amount of expensive diesel fuel, so using it alone is not economical. Solar electricity is cheaper, but is intermittent, and diesel generators are only needed to compensate for this intermittency by generating electricity when the sun isn’t shining, or when the weather is too cloudy.

This system is built to utilize solar energy to reduce the fuel consumption of diesel generators. SMA Solar has not stated how much the controller will cost.

SMA Solar is a manufacturer of inverters, which are devices that convert the DC current that solar panels generate into AC current that household appliances can use (which is normally 120 volts AC).

“Potentially, this is a gigantic market. But you need to differentiate between potential and reality,” said Matthias Vetter, an expert in autonomous power supplies at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems.

According to GlobalData research, the market for diesel generators will almost double from $12 billion USD in 2011 to 22.3 billion in 2020.

Rivals of SMA Solar, including off-grid power specialist Elgris and unlisted German firm Juwi, have also begun to develop systems that are intended to enable solar and diesel generators to run efficiently side by side.

Source: Reuters
Photo Credit: Tom Raftery