Researchers in California have developed sheets of piezoelectric viruses that, when pressure is applied, generate an electrical current. In one experiment, the viruses power a small LCD.
Archive for the 'Alternative Energy' Category
From the linked article: “3M has developed a see-through film that turns ordinary windows into solar panels. … A square meter of the film can generate roughly enough electricity to charge an iPhone under peak sunlight, but still allows for high visibility.” It’s an easy, do-it-yourself install and will go on sale sometime this year.
One of the problems with alternative energy sources such as wind and solar is their intermittent nature. Sometimes the wind is blowing and sometimes it isn’t. And the sun goes down every night. This is one of the reasons why fossil fuel plants are still a mainstay for any major power utility.
This problem has led to a quest for ways to store energy such that an alternative fuel power plant can supply energy on demand. One such method uses compressed air, while another has large batteries. More recently, a company named SolarReserve has received a $737 million loan guarantee from the US government for the construction of a round-the-clock solar power plant in Nevada—a plant that uses molten salt to store energy accumulated during daylight hours.
Here at Chad’s News, we’ve previously covered one of the problems with intermittent energy sources like solar and wind: how to store the power so that it can be used on-demand. Until that happens, the need for traditional fossil fuel plants will remain.
The linked article describes a large battery nicknamed BOB, that will provide reliable power to the town of Presidio, Texas. The battery is expensive ($25 million), and the town is small (pop. 4167), so I’m not sure how well this would work on a larger scale. But it’s a step in the right direction.
Here’s an alternative to burying nuclear waste in the ground for thousands of years. Scientists in France and Texas are developing technologies to destroy the the radioactive by-products of nuclear power plants. The article isn’t clear about the method used by the French scientists, but the researchers in Texas are working on a hybrid fusion/fission reactor.
One of the major problems with alternative energy sources such as solar or wind power is that they’re intermittent, while demand is continuous. All the turbines in the world are useless if the wind isn’t blowing. So alternative energy has been delegated to a role where it only supplements traditional power plants.
A possible solution to this problem is compressed-air energy storage (CAES), where energy is stored as compressed air then converted to electricity as needed—thus providing a steady power supply. And CAES doesn’t only apply to alternative energy. It can be used to store energy from traditional, coal-powered generators, allowing them to run more efficiently.
CAES is not a new technology, but it’s gaining popularity because of the growing use of alternative energy sources. Let’s hope we see more of it.
As I grow older, I’m amazed to see the creation of technologies that I once read about in science fiction books. The Japanese government is spending $22 billion on a project to put a large solar panel array in orbit that will generate energy and beam it down to the Earth.
I’ve heard some of the US Presidential candidates talking about “clean coal,” which could cause one to infer that there is some special type of coal that, when burned, does not produce pollution. As far as I know, this is not the case, and the linked article has an example of what “clean coal” really means.
Although it would be really nice if we could get rid of nuclear waste just by incinerating it, I think someone’s been watching a bit too much Lord of the Rings. Wonder what would’ve happened if the One Ring was made of Plutonium? Alternatively, sending the waste into the Sun would actually be an effective (but hideously expensive) solution.
I like seeing this type of energy production. Hopefully it will gain popularity.
Toshiba is creating micro nuclear reactors that are capable of powering a single building (or a city block). They’re self-contained and totally automatic, and last for about 40 years.