Tag: solar energy (page 1 of 3)

5 Countries That Prove the World Doesn’t Need Fossil Fuels

Jake Anderson, GuestA decade ago, the renewable energy movement faced an uphill battle. Today, environmentally-minded nations of the world increasingly embrace alternative energy sources. These countries now lead the way toward a future free of petroleum and dirty energy. In the process, they save significant amounts of money on national energy costs while preserving and protecting the world’s natural resources.Despite powerful corporate disinformation campaigns meant [...]

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Rosetta Coming Closer to Comet 67P ~ Philae Lander Still Snoozing Away

Rosetta photo of Comet 67P/C-G.
March 9 Rosetta was 45 miles from Comet 67P/C-G when it photographed the comet’s head ringed with a halo of gas and dust. These jets extend from active areas of the comet’s surface and will become much more prominent over the next few months as the comet approaches the sun.

Excerpt from dailytimesgazette.com

Astronomers have been on a mission to tail a slow moving comet in the outer space. Their mission started early last 2014, and they are getting better observations than they thought they would.
The comet, Comet 67P, would take 12.4 hours to complete one rotation in the circular path it’s moving in. Controllers of Rosetta are noticing that the icy ball approximately a second every day before it completes a rotation. The flight director of Rosetta – Andrea Accomazzo, said that, “The gas jets coming out of the comet, are acting like thrusters and are slowing down the comet.”
During the Royal Aeronautical Society in London earlier this week, the European Space Agency officially revealed some juicy details on how their team learned to maneuver Rosetta to fly precisely around the massive astral body. Comet 67P is said to weigh 10-billion tons with 4-km size in width.

The controllers and navigators use the landmark-method on the comet to understand its rotation. The team is moving around the outer space relying only on the information provided by the model. Both the model and information guides them in accurately projecting the trajectory of the satellite in the best position.

As they were trying out the model, the ESA team noticed that the landmarks were not following the usual track at the expected time.
During September 2014, the team were determined and very convinced that comet’s rotation period lengthen by 33 milliseconds per day. At present, the comet is approaching the Sun. As it does, it releases great volumes of gas and dust as a result of the so-called Spin-Down effect; further lengthening the rotation period to a second per day.

Accomazzo clarified that Comet 67P is not going to slow down in a slow motion. But its current speed allows them achieve the great magnitude of accuracy in navigating the spacecraft around the comet.

Rosetta made significant observations of the comet last December and January as it moves like an orbit within 30 km distance from the comet. However, this movement is no longer going to happen because Rosetta has retreated from the comet as the gas and dust are being released.

But it does them well as Accomazzo said that, “The aerodynamic effects are now more and more important. The jets are getting stronger and stronger… To give you an idea, these gases come out of the comet for a few kilometers and are moving at 800 meters per second. We definitely have to take this into account. We are a big spacecraft with 64 square meter s of solar panels. We’re like a big sail.”

The trackers were confused during the recent weeks because they have mistaken the dust particles for stars. It was due to the fact that the dusts in the atmosphere were moving around the comet.

Now, Rosetta is using its propulsion system to move in a hyperbolic orbital rotation around Comet 67P. It approaches the comet no closer than 60 to 70 km. With the slowdown of the comet, the ESA team is planning to fly closer.

They were estimating a flight as close as 20 km to get a better look at the surface of the comet and find their lost landing probe, Philae. They lost contact with the robotic probe since November 12 due to lost battery power only days after it successfully landed on the comet.

The slowdown gives them an opportunity to search for Philae. As it moves closer to the Sun, lighting conditions are definitely better than their previous runs. The controllers are now calling onto Philae using radio shout outs.

Philae is solar powered so the team hopes that enough solar energy falls on the panels awaking the probe. But one problem still persist, “The problem is that even if Philae hears Rosetta, it has to have enough charge to turn on its radio transmitter.”

The flight director is quite doubtful if Philae will be awakening. Andrea suggested, “I put it at 50-50, but I will be the happiest person in the world if it happens,”

Their mission achieved great progress and observation of a comet. The team is wishing for better things as the 67P slow down leaving them with more advantage

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How Quantum Physics will change your life and amaze the world!

 Excerpt from educatinghumanity.com "Anyone not shocked by quantum mechanics has not yet understood it."Niels Bohr10 Ways Quantum Physics Will Change the WorldEver want to have a "life do over", teleport, time travel, have your computer wor...

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Japan comes closer to beaming solar power from SPACE: Mitsubishi makes breakthrough in sending energy wirelessly

Japanese scientists say they have successfully transmitted energy wirelessly in a breakthrough for future solar space power systems. While the distance was relatively small, the technology could someday pave the way for mankind to tap the vast amount of solar energy available in space and use it here on Earth
Japanese scientists say they have successfully transmitted energy wirelessly in a breakthrough for future solar space power systems. While the distance was relatively small, the technology could someday pave the way for mankind to tap the vast amount of solar energy available in space and use it here on Earth

  • Excerpt from dailymail.co.uk
  • By Ellie Zolfagharifard
  • Microwaves delivered 1.8 kw of power - enough to run an electric kettle
  • Power was sent through the air with to a receiver 170ft (55 metres) away
  • Technology may someday help tap vast solar energy available in space
  • Jaxa's plan is to eventually have sunlight-gathering panels and antennae set up about 22,300 miles (36,000km) from the Earth

Japanese scientists have successfully transmitted energy wirelessly in a breakthrough that could pave the way for space-based solar power systems.

Mitsubishi researchers used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power - enough to run an electric kettle - through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver 170ft (55 metres) away.

While the distance was relatively small, the technology could someday pave the way for mankind to tap the vast amount of solar energy available in space and use it here on Earth.

'This was the first time anyone has managed to send a high output of nearly two kilowatts of electric power via microwaves to a small target, using a delicate directivity control device,' said a spokesman for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) said.

The test, which took place at Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagoya, Japan, will help Jaxa devise its long-awaited space solar power system.

Solar power generation in space has many advantages over its Earth-based cousin, notably the permanent availability of energy, regardless of weather or time of day.

While man-made satellites, such as the International Space Station, have long since been able to use the solar energy that washes over them from the sun, getting that power down to Earth where people can use it has been the thing of science fiction.

The test, which took place at Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagoya, Japan, will help Jaxa devise its long-awaited space solar power system. Mitsubishi used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power - enough to run an electric kettle - through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver (right) 170ft (55 metres) away
The test, which took place at Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagoya, Japan, will help Jaxa devise its long-awaited space solar power system. Mitsubishi used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power - enough to run an electric kettle - through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver (right) 170ft (55 metres) away
The test, which took place at Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagoya, Japan, will help Jaxa devise its long-awaited space solar power system. Mitsubishi used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power - enough to run an electric kettle - through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver (right) 170ft (55 metres) away

In a separate project, a Japanese firm last year revealed plans to cover the moon in a huge swathe of solar panels and use them to power homes here on Earth
 In a separate project, a Japanese firm last year revealed plans to cover the moon in a huge swathe of solar panels and use them to power homes here on Earth

But the Japanese research offers the possibility that humans will one day be able to farm an inexhaustible source of energy in space.
The idea, said the Jaxa spokesman, would be for microwave-transmitting solar satellites - which would have sunlight-gathering panels and antennae - to be set up about 22,300 miles (36,000km) from the Earth.

'But it could take decades before we see practical application of the technology - maybe in the 2040s or later,' he said.

'There are a number of challenges to overcome, such as how to send huge structures into space, how to construct them and how to maintain them.'

The idea of space-based solar power generation emerged among US researchers in the 1960s and Japan's SSPS programme, chiefly financed by the industry ministry, started in 2009, he said.


Space-based solar power – once the stuff of science-fiction – could be available sooner than expected if Japan has its way
Space-based solar power – once the stuff of science-fiction – could be available sooner than expected if Japan has its way

Solar power has had a difficult start on Earth thanks to inefficient panels and high costs. But in space, scientists believe it could transform the way we generate energy.

Now, the space-based solar power – once the stuff of science-fiction – could be available sooner than expected if Japan has its way.

Within 25 years, the country plans to make space-based solar power a reality, according to a proposal from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa).

In a recent IEEE article by Susumu Sasaki, a professor emeritus at Jaxa, outlined the agency's plans create a 1.8 mile long (3 km) man-made island in the harbour of Tokyo Bay.

The island would be studded with 5 billion antennas working together to convert microwave energy into electricity.

The microwaves would be beamed down from a number of giant solar collectors in orbit 22,400 miles (36,000 km) above the Earth. 
Resource-poor Japan has to import huge amounts of fossil fuel.
It has become substantially more dependent on these imports as its nuclear power industry shut down in the aftermath of the disaster at Fukushima in 2011.

In a separate project, a Japanese firm last year revealed plans to cover the moon in a huge swathe of solar panels and use them to power homes here on Earth.

Shimizu Corporation's Luna Ring project would stretch almost 6,790 miles (11,000km) around the moon's equator and a field of solar panels would form a belt.

Energy captured by these panels would then be sent to Earth using microwaves and laser lights could be beamed directly to countries where it is needed.

According to the plans, the project would produce around 13,000 terrawatts of continuous solar energy. At present, the world's population consumes about 15 terawatts of power each year.

The company claims the plans would not only provide an 'almost inexhaustible' energy supply, it would stop the rise of global warming caused by carbon dioxide from current energy sources. 

Shimizu Corporation's Luna Ring project would stretch almost 6,790 miles (11,000km) around the moon's equator and a field of solar panels would form a belt
Shimizu Corporation's Luna Ring project would stretch almost 6,790 miles (11,000km) around the moon's equator and a field of solar panels would form a belt

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A ‘bionic leaf’ that turns sunlight into fuel

Excerpt from cnbc.com

By Robert Ferris

The invention could pave the way for numerous innovations—by converting solar power into biofuels, it may help solve the vexing difficulty of storing unused solar energy, which is one of the most common criticisms of solar power as a viable energy source.
The process could also help make plastics and other chemicals and substances useful to industry and research.

The current experiment builds on previous research led by Harvard engineer Daniel Nocera, who in 2011 demonstrated an "artificial leaf" device that uses solar power to generate usable energy. 

Nocera's original invention was a wafer-like electrode suspended in water. When a current runs through the electrode from a power source such as a solar panel, for example, it causes the water to break down into its two components: hydrogen and oxygen. 

Nocera's device garnered a lot of attention for opening up the possibility of using sunlight to create hydrogen fuel—once considered a possible alternative to gasoline. 

But hydrogen has not taken off as a fuel source, even as other alternative energy sources survive and grow amid historically low oil prices. Hydrogen is expensive to transport, and the costs of adopting and distributing hydrogen are high. A gas station owner could more easily switch a pump from gasoline to biofuel, for example.

Now, Nocera and a team of Harvard researchers figured out how to use the bionic leaf to make a burnable biofuel, according to a study published Monday in the journal PNAS. The biologists on the team genetically modified a strain of bacteria that consumes hydrogen and produces isopropanol—the active ingredient in rubbing alcohol. In doing so, they successfully mimicked the natural process of photosynthesis—the way plants use energy from the sun to survive and grow.

This makes two things possible that have always been serious challenges for alternative energy space—solar energy can be converted into a storable form of energy, and the hydrogen can generate a more easily used fuel.

To be sure, the bionic leaf developments are highly unlikely to replace fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas any time soon—especially as the prices of both are currently so low. But it could be a good supplemental source. 

"One idea Dan [Nocera] and I share, which might seem a little wacky, is personalized energy" that doesn't rely on the power grid, biochemist Pamela Silver, who participated in the study, told CNBC in a telephone interview. 

Typically, people's energy needs are met by central energy production facilities—they get their electricity from the power grid, which is fed by coal- or gas-burning power plants, or solar farms, for example. Silver said locally produced energy could be feasible in developing countries that lack stable energy infrastructure, or could even appeal to people who choose to live off the grid.

"Instead of having to buy and store fuel, you can have your bucket of bacteria in your backyard," Silver said. 

Besides, the experiment was an attempt at proof-of-concept—the scientists wanted to demonstrate what could be done, Silver said. Now that they have mastered this process, further possibilities can be explored.  

"No insult to chemists, but biology is the best chemist there is, so we don't even know what we can make," said Silver. "We can make drugs, materials—we are just at the tip of the iceberg." 

The team hopes to develop many different kinds of bacteria that can produce all sorts of substances. That would mean, potentially at least, setting up the bionic leaf device and then plugging in whatever kind of bacteria might be needed at the moment.

For now, they want to increase the efficiency of the device, which is already much more efficient at photosynthesizing than plants are. Then they will focus on developing other kinds of bacteria to plug into the device.

"The uber goal, which is probably 20 years out," Silver said, "is converting the commodity industry away from petroleum."

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6 Supermaterials That Could Change Our World


Excerpt from gizmodo.com

Graphene isn't the only game-changing material to come out of a lab. From aerogels nearly as light as air to metamaterials that manipulate light, here are six supermaterials that have the potential to transform the world of the future.

Self-healing Materials — Bioinspired Plastics

6 Supermaterials That Could Change Our World 
Self-healing plastic. Image credit: UIUC

The human body is very good at fixing itself. The built environment is not. Scott White at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champlain has been engineering bioinspired plastics that can self-heal. Last year, White's lab created a new polymer that oozes to repair a visible hole. The polymer is embedded with a vascular system of liquids that when broken and combined, clot just like blood. While other materials have been able to heal microscopic cracks, this new one repaired a hole 4 millimeter wide with cracks radiating all around it. Not big deal for a human skin, but a pretty big deal for plastic.

Engineers have also been envisioning concrete, asphalt, and metal that can heal themselves. (Imagine a city with no more potholes!) The rub, of course, lies in making them cheap enough to actually use, which is why the first applications for self-healing materials are most likely to be in space or in remote areas on Earth. 

Thermoelectric Materials — Heat Scavengers

6 Supermaterials That Could Change Our World 
Power blocks with thermoelectric material sued inside Alphabet Energy 's generator. Image credit: Alphabet Energy

If you've ever had a laptop burn up in your lap or touched the hot hood of car, then you've felt evidence of waste. Waste heat is the inevitable effect of running any that device that uses power. One estimate puts the amount of waste heat as two-thirds of all energy used. But what if there was a way to capture all that wasted energy? The answer to that "what if" is thermoelectric materials, which makes electricity from a temperature gradient.

Last year, California-based Alphabet Energy introduced a thermoelectric generator that plugs right into the exhaust pipe of ordinary generator, turning waste heat back into useful electricity. Alphabet Energy's generator uses a relatively cheap and naturally occurring thermoelectric material called tetrahedrite. Alphabet Energy says tetrahedrite can reach 5 to 10 percent efficiency.
Back in the lab, scientists have also been tinkering with another promising and possibly even more efficient thermoelectric material called skutterudite, which is a type of mineral that contains cobalt. Thermoelectric materials have already had niche applications—like on spacecraft—but skutterudite could get cheap and efficient enough to be wrapped around the exhaust pipes of cars or fridges or any other power-hogging machine you can think of. [Nature, MIT Technology Review, New Scientist]

Perovskites — Cheap Solar Cells

6 Supermaterials That Could Change Our World 
Solar cells made of perovskites. Image credit: University of Oxford

The biggest hurdle in moving toward renewable energy is, as these things always are, money. Solar power is getting ever cheaper, but making a plant's worth of solar cells from crystalline silicon is still an expensive, energy-intensive process. There's an alternative material that has the solar world buzzing though, and that's perovskites. 

Perovskites were first discovered over a century ago, but scientists are only just realizing its potential. In 2009, solar cells made from perovskites had a solar energy conversion efficiency of a measly 3.8 percent. In 2014, the number had leapt to 19.3 percent. That may not seem like much compared to traditional crystalline silicon cells with efficiencies hovering around 20 percent, but there's two other crucial points to consider: 1) perovskites have made such leaps and bounds in efficiency in just a few years that scientist think it can get even better and 2) perovskites are much, much cheaper. 

Perovskites are a class of materials defined by a particular crystalline structure. They can contain any number of elements, usually lead and tin for perovskites used in solar cells. These raw materials are cheap compared to crystalline silicon, and they can be sprayed onto glass rather than meticulously assembled in clean rooms. Oxford Photovoltaics is one of the leading companies trying to commercialize perovskites, which as wonderful as they have been in the lab, still do need to hold up in the real world. [WSJ, IEEE Spectrum, Chemical & Engineering News, Nature Materials]

Aerogels — Superlight and Strong

6 Supermaterials That Could Change Our World 
Image credit: NASA

Aerogels look like they should not be real. Although ghostly and ethereal, they can easily withstand the heat of a blowtorch and the weight of a car. The material is almost what exactly the name implies: gels where where the liquid has been replaced entirely by air. But you can see why it's also been called "frozen smoke" or "blue smoke." The actual matrix of an aerogel can be made of any number of substances, including silica, metal oxides, and, yes, also graphene. But the fact that aerogel is actually mostly made of air means that it's an excellent insulator (see: blowtorch). Its structure also makes it incredibly strong (see: car).

Aerogels do have one fatal flaw though: brittleness, especially when made from silica. But NASA scientists have been experimenting with flexible aerogels made of polymers to use insulators for spacecraft burning through the atmosphere. Mixing other compounds into even silica-based aerogels could make them more flexible. Add that to aerogel's lightness, strength, and insulating qualities, and that's one incredible material. [New Scientist, Gizmodo]

Metamaterials — Light Manipulators

If you've heard of metamaterials, you likely heard about it in a sentence that also mentioned "Harry Potter" and "invisibility cloak." And indeed, metamaterials, whose nanostructures are design to scatter light in specific ways, could possibly one day be used to render objects invisible—though it still probably wouldn't be as magical as Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. 

What's more interesting about metamaterials is that they don't just redirect visible light. Depending on how and what a particular metamaterial is made of, it can also scatter microwaves, radiowaves, or the little-known T-rays, which are between microwaves and infrared light on the electromagnetic spectrum. Any piece of electromagnetic spectrum could be manipulated by metamaterials. 

That could be, for example, new T-ray scanners in medicine or security or a compact radio antennae made of metamaterials whose properties change on the fly. Metamaterials are at the promising but frustrating cusp where the theoretical possibilities are endless, but commercialization is still a long, hard road. [Nature, Discover Magazine]

Stanene — 100 percent efficient conductor

6 Supermaterials That Could Change Our World 
The molecular structure of stanene. Image credit: SLAC

Like the much better known graphene, stanene is also made of a single layer of atoms. But instead of carbon, stanene is made of tin, and this makes all the difference in allowing stanene to possibly do what even wondermaterial extraordinaire graphene cannot: conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency.

Stanene was first theorized in 2013 by Stanford professor Shoucheng Zhang, whose lab specializes in, along other things, predicting the electronic properties of materials like stanene. According to their models, stanene is a topological insulator, which means its edges are a conductor and its inside is an insulator. (Think of a chocolate-covered ice cream bar. Chocolate conductor, ice cream insulator.) 

This means stanene could conduct electricity with zero resistance even, crucially, at room temperature. Stanene's properties have yet to been tested experimentally—making a single-atom sheet tin is no easy task—but several of Zhang's predictions about other topological insulators have proven correct.

If the predictions about stanene bear out, it could revolutionize the microchips inside all your devices. Namely, the chips could get a lot more powerful. Silicon chips are limited by the heat created by electrons zipping around—work 'em too fast and they'll simply get too hot. Stanene, which conducts electricity 100 percent efficiency, would have no such problem. [SLAC, Physical Review Letters, Scientific American]

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Future Tech Watch ~ High-tech mirrors to beam heat from buildings into space ~ May replace air conditioning

illustration of reflective panel on building


By Chris Cesare

A new ultrathin multilayered material can cool buildings without air conditioning by radiating warmth from inside the buildings into space while also reflecting sunlight to reduce incoming heat.

Stanford engineers have invented a material designed to help cool buildings. The material reflects incoming sunlight, and it sends heat from inside the structure directly into space as infrared radiation (represented by reddish rays).

Stanford engineers have invented a revolutionary coating material that can help cool buildings, even on sunny days, by radiating heat away from the buildings and sending it directly into space.

A team led by electrical engineering Professor Shanhui Fan and research associate Aaswath Raman reported this energy-saving breakthrough in the journal Nature.

The heart of the invention is an ultrathin, multilayered material that deals with light, both invisible and visible, in a new way.

Invisible light in the form of infrared radiation is one of the ways that all objects and living things throw off heat. When we stand in front of a closed oven without touching it, the heat we feel is infrared light. This invisible, heat-bearing light is what the Stanford invention shunts away from buildings and sends into space.

Of course, sunshine also warms buildings. The new material, in addition dealing with infrared light, is also a stunningly efficient mirror that reflects virtually all of the incoming sunlight that strikes it.

The result is what the Stanford team calls photonic radiative cooling – a one-two punch that offloads infrared heat from within a building while also reflecting the sunlight that would otherwise warm it up. The result is cooler buildings that require less air conditioning.

"This is very novel and an extraordinarily simple idea," said Eli Yablonovitch, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a pioneer of photonics who directs the Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science. "As a result of professor Fan's work, we can now [use radiative cooling], not only at night but counter-intuitively in the daytime as well."

The researchers say they designed the material to be cost-effective for large-scale deployment on building rooftops. Though still a young technology, they believe it could one day reduce demand for electricity. As much as 15 percent of the energy used in buildings in the United States is spent powering air conditioning systems.

In practice the researchers think the coating might be sprayed on a more solid material to make it suitable for withstanding the elements.

"This team has shown how to passively cool structures by simply radiating heat into the cold darkness of space," said Nobel Prize-winning physicist Burton Richter, professor emeritus at Stanford and former director of the research facility now called the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

A warming world needs cooling technologies that don't require power, according to Raman, lead author of the Nature paper. 

"Across the developing world, photonic radiative cooling makes off-grid cooling a possibility in rural regions, in addition to meeting skyrocketing demand for air conditioning in urban areas," he said.

Using a window into space

The real breakthrough is how the Stanford material radiates heat away from buildings.

researchers Linxiao Zhu, Shanhui Fan, Aaswath Raman
Doctoral candidate Linxiao Zhu, Professor Shanhui Fan and research associate 
Aaswath Raman are members of the team that invented the breakthrough energy-saving material.
As science students know, heat can be transferred in three ways: conduction, convection and radiation. Conduction transfers heat by touch. That's why you don't touch an oven pan without wearing a mitt. Convection transfers heat by movement of fluids or air. It's the warm rush of air when the oven is opened. Radiation transfers heat in the form of infrared light that emanates outward from objects, sight unseen.
The first part of the coating's one-two punch radiates heat-bearing infrared light directly into space. The ultrathin coating was carefully constructed to send this infrared light away from buildings at the precise frequency that allows it to pass through the atmosphere without warming the air, a key feature given the dangers of global warming.

"Think about it like having a window into space," said Fan.

Aiming the mirror

But transmitting heat into space is not enough on its own.
This multilayered coating also acts as a highly efficient mirror, preventing 97 percent of sunlight from striking the building and heating it up.

"We've created something that's a radiator that also happens to be an excellent mirror," said Raman.

Together, the radiation and reflection make the photonic radiative cooler nearly 9 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the surrounding air during the day.

From prototype to building panel

Making photonic radiative cooling practical requires solving at least two technical problems.

The first is how to conduct the heat inside the building to this exterior coating. Once it gets there, the coating can direct the heat into space, but engineers must first figure out how to efficiently deliver the building heat to the coating.

The second problem is production. Right now the Stanford team's prototype is the size of a personal pizza. Cooling buildings will require large panels. The researchers say there exist large-area fabrication facilities that can make their panels at the scales needed.

The cosmic fridge

More broadly, the team sees this project as a first step toward using the cold of space as a resource. In the same way that sunlight provides a renewable source of solar energy, the cold universe supplies a nearly unlimited expanse to dump heat.

"Every object that produces heat has to dump that heat into a heat sink," Fan said. "What we've done is to create a way that should allow us to use the coldness of the universe as a heat sink during the day."

In addition to Fan, Raman and Zhu, this paper has two additional co-authors: Marc Abou Anoma, a master's student in mechanical engineering who has graduated; and Eden Rephaeli, a doctoral student in applied physics who has graduated.

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Rosetta mission: Philae lander bounces twice, lands on side ~ Cliff face blocking solar power

How Esa scientists believe Philae has landed on the comet – on its side
How Esa scientists believe Philae has landed on the comet – on its side. Photograph: European Space Agency/Reuters

Excerpt from

Rosetta mission controllers must decide whether to risk making lander hop from shadow of cliff blocking sunlight to its solar panels.

The robotic lander that touched down on a comet on Wednesday came to rest on its side in the shadow of a cliff, according to the first data beamed home from the probe.

Pictures from cameras on board the European Space Agency’s Philae lander show the machine with one foot in the sky and lodged against a high cliff face that is blocking sunlight to its solar panels.
The precarious resting place means mission controllers are faced with some tough decisions over whether to try and nudge the spacecraft into a sunnier spot. If successful, that would allow Philae to fully recharge its batteries and do more science on the comet, but any sudden move could risk toppling the lander over, or worse, knock it off the comet completely.

The washing machine-sized lander was released by its Rosetta mother ship at 0835am GMT on Wednesday morning and touched down at a perfect spot on the comet’s surface. But when anchoring harpoons failed to fire, the probe bounced back off into space. So weak is the gravitational pull of the comet that Philae soared 1km into the sky and did not come down again until two hours later. “We made quite a leap,” said Stephan Ulamec, the Philae lander manager.

In the time it took the probe to land for the second time, the comet had rotated, bringing more treacherous terrain underneath. The spacecraft bounced a second time and finally came to a standstill on its side at what may be the rim of an enormous crater.

“We bounced twice and stopped in a place we’ve not entirely located,” said Jean-Pierre Bibring, Philae’s lead scientist. Teams of scientists are now trying to work out where the probe is. What mission controllers do know is that they are not where they hoped to be. “We are exactly below a cliff, so we are in a shadow permanently,” Bibring added.

With most of Philae in the dark, the lander will receive only a fraction of the solar energy that Esa had hoped for. The spacecraft needs six or seven hours of sunlight a day but is expected to receive just one and a half. Though it can operate for 60 hours on primary batteries, the probe must then switch to its main batteries which need to be recharged through its solar arrays. If Philae’s batteries run out it will go into a hibernation mode until they have more power.

The spacecraft was designed with landing gear that could hop the probe around, but from its awkward position on its side the option is considered too risky.

Though caught in a tight spot, the Philae lander’s systems appear to be working well. The Rosetta spacecraft picked up the lander’s signal on Thursday morning and received the first images and more instrument data from the surface of the comet.

One of Philae’s major scientific goals is to analyse the comet for organic molecules. To do that, the lander must get samples from the comet into several different instruments, named Ptolemy, Cosac and Civa. There are two ways to do this: sniffing and drilling. Sniffing involves opening the instruments to allow molecules from the surface to drift inside. The instruments are already doing this and returning data.

Panoramic view around the point of Philae's final touchdown on the surface of comet 67P, taken when Rosetta was about 18km from centre of comet. Parts of Philae's landing gear can be seen in this picture.
Panoramic view around the point of Philae’s final touchdown on the surface of comet 67P, taken when Rosetta was about 18km from centre of comet. Parts of Philae’s landing gear can be seen in this picture.Photograph: European Space Agency/AFP/Getty Images

Drilling is much riskier because it could make the lander topple over... Pushing down into the surface will push the lander off again. “We don’t want to start drilling and end the mission,” said Bibring.
But the team has decided to operate another moving instrument, named Mupus, on Thursday evening. This could cause Philae to shift, but calculations show that it would be in a direction that could improve the amount of sunlight falling on the probe. A change in angle of only a few degrees could help. A new panoramic image will be taken after the Mupus deployment to see if there has been any movement.

Meanwhile, the Rosetta orbiter team will continue to try to pinpoint Philae’s position.

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World’s First ‘Solar Battery’ Captures and Stores Sun’s Energy


Researchers have created a "solar battery" by combining the energy-harvesting panel with the energy-storing medium at a microscopic level. The device could change the way solar power is used, though it still has much to prove. Ohio State's Yiying Wu, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, led the team that made the breakthrough, which was reported this week in Nature Communications. The panel, like any other solar cell, produces electrons when struck by sunlight. But then, instead of having those electrons piped to a separate battery unit and leaking as much as 20 percent of them in the process, they built the battery right into the panel. The solar-sensitive part is porous, and gives access to a battery layer that attaches and detaches oxygen from lithium ions to store energy. "Basically, it's a breathing battery," Wu explained in a news release. And, strangely enough, the panel is tuned to a certain wavelength of reddish light by using iron oxide as a dust — also known as rust. Combining the production and storage of solar power could potentially reduce costs and make solar-powered devices compact.

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10 Real-Life Places Ripped Straight Out of Science Fiction



Sci-fi gives us the strangest, most memorable places in all of fiction. Whether it’s the sky-high city of The Empire Strikes Back, the gritty streets of Blade Runner, or the desert kingdoms of Dune, sci-fi always immerses its fans into incredibly unique worlds. It seems a shame that these places are just made-up—no matter how hard you wish, you’ll never end up on Gallifrey or aboard Serenity.
But if you know where to look, you’ll find plenty of real-life places that look like they were dreamed up by George Lucas or Philip K. Dick. There’s the apocalyptic Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic, the flying saucer–shaped Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria, and the depressing dystopia of the Tower of David. And then there are the following places, some creepy, some gorgeous, some downright weird, and all looking ripped straight out of a sci-fi story.

10  New York’s Floating Cities

Photo credit: reivax/Flickr1
From the Nautilus to Snowpiercer, sci-fi has long loved tricked-out vehicles. They’re moving cities, sustaining life wherever they go, and while they don’t exist (yet), a couple of ships off the coast of New York City are the next best thing.
More Silent Running than Waterworld, the Science Barge is operated by the NY Sun Works, a group dedicated to building sustainable greenhouses. Drifting in the Hudson River, the ship is a farm on the water. Totally self-sustaining, it relies on wind and solar energy for its power, vegetable oil for its heat, and rainwater for its crops. So when the apocalypse starts, this is the place you want to be, especially if you’re a salad fan.
A much scarier ship is floating near the Bronx in Long Island Sound. Resembling a fortress made of oversized Legos, the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center is the world’s largest prison ship, housing 800 felons in medium to maximum security. Built to relieve overcrowding on Rikers Island, this $161 million vessel boasts 100 cells, a law library, and a basketball court on top of the ship.

9  The Glow-In-The-Dark Highway

We’re always trying to build the car of the future. Strangely, none of us think about road on which this car will drive—none of us but Daan Roosegaarde. This Dutch artist figured it was time to advance highway technology. Inspired by bioluminescent jellyfish, Roosegaarde created the world’s first glow-in-the-dark road.
Working with the civic engineering firm Heijmans, Roosegaarde converted Highway N329 in Oss into a radiant roadway. The road’s paint is made from photo-luminizing powder, which captures sunlight during the day and lets off a light-green glow at night. When you drive in the dark, the stripes along the road take the place of streetlights. Roosegaarde hopes this 500-meter (1,600 ft) stretch of highway outside Amsterdam will save energy, and he wants other countries to follow his lead.
However, Roosegaarde isn’t anywhere near finished with his project. Next, he wants to use his glow-in-the-dark powder to create weather symbols that show up on the street. For example, he might paint a snowflake that lights up when the weather gets cold, warning drivers about snowfall or ice on the roads. Right now, these icons are still in the development phase, but if the paint on N329 can stand up to the daily onslaught of cars, perhaps Roosegaarde’s powder will revolutionize the way we drive at night.

8  Gardens By The Bay

Photo credit: Craig Sheppard

Judging by box office numbers and online movie reviews, it seems there are two kinds of people in the world: those who loved Avatar and those who hated it with every fiber of their being. But regardless of your opinion on the storytelling of James Cameron’s space epic, Pandora looks like a lovely place to visit—if you wipe out those rhino monsters and wolf creatures, anyway. Unfortunately, Pandora doesn’t actually exist, a sad reality that left some film fans with suicidal thoughts.
While those people probably need counseling, less hardcore fans can satisfy their Avatar obsession with a trip to the Gardens by the Bay. Located in central Singapore, this amazing park is the closest thing we have to a luminescent alien forest, thanks to the 18 supertrees that dominate the landscape. These artificial giants measure 25–50 meters (80–160 ft), and while they don’t sport any vegetation of their own, they’re covered in 200 different species of ferns and flowers. Eleven of these steel trees contain photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into energy for the rest of the park. The trees also collect their own rainwater, are interconnected with bridges, and light up in the dark.
Elsewhere in the park are the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, enormous biomes that house over 200,000 different plants, including olive groves, baobabs, and fynbos. These modern-day arks are climate-controlled and generate their own power by processing horticultural waste in steam turbines. Looking at pictures of Gardens by the Bay, you get not only an Avatar-vibe but a sense of technology and nature merging in the best possible way.

7  The National Radio Quiet Zone

Photo credit: NRAO/AUI

The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope is truly a special piece of equipment. Located in the eastern half of West Virginia, this telescope is the size of the Washington Monument, weighs 8 million kilograms (17 million lb), and takes up 8,000 square meters (2 acres) of land. This observatory wasn’t made for stargazing. Instead, Green Bank tunes into the music of the universe. A radio telescope, this giant wiry dish listens to radio waves from faraway stars and galaxies.
By the time extraterrestrial energy reaches the Earth, it’s weaker than a snowflake tumbling to the ground. To pick up these faint frequencies, the telescope is extremely sensitive. Anything that generates radio waves is either banned from the Green Bank base or highly controlled. Even the cafeteria microwave is kept inside a special, shielded cage.
Scientists took extra steps to block outside electronic pollution. In 1958, the Federal Communications Commission declared the 34,000 square kilometers (13,000 sq mi) surrounding Green Bank to be a “National Radio Quiet Zone.” Roughly the size of Connecticut and Massachusetts combined, the Quiet Zone is a huge chunk of land almost completely free of cell phones and Wi-Fi. All power lines are buried 1.2 meters (4 ft) below the ground, people use dial-up telephones and ham radios, and every radio station but one (which broadcasts at a low frequency) is banned. There’s even a group of radio wave police who arm themselves with antennas and track down any rogue interference.
Blocking 21st-century technology from the region is getting harder and harder, but for now, the National Radio Quiet Zone is a throwback to a 1950s way of life—with a sci-fi space dish at the center.

6  The Soviet Lightning Machine

Hidden away in the forests outside Moscow is a strange collection of tubes, coils, and wires. It looks abandoned now, but gigantic gadgets such as this were built to make lightning—a lot of lightning.
The Soviets built this Marx generator decades ago, and it’s said to have produced as much power as all other generators in Russia. That’s more power than every nuclear, thermoelectric, and hydroelectric plant combined, though Marx generators can only run for a small fraction of a second at a time.
The Russians used the crazy contraption to test materials’ resistance to lightning strikes. For example, they once reportedly shocked a Sukhoi Superjet.

5  Rjukan, Norway

For over a century, the citizens of Rjukan lived in the dark. Founded in the early 1900s by Sam Eyde, the village was built for people working in his Norsk Hydro factories. Rjukan is totally surrounded by mountains, so from mid-September to early March, the town was completely covered by gloomy shadow.
The locals weren’t pleased with their situation, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. Sam Eyde tried to compensate by building a cable car to carry people to the top of the mountain. During those dismal months, it was the only way anyone could spend a few minutes basking in the sunlight. After all, you couldn’t actually bring sunlight into the valley—at least not until Martin Anderson showed up.
A traveling artist, Anderson built three solar-powered heliostats on top of the mountain. Sitting 450 meters (1,500 ft) above Rjukan, these computer-operated mirrors track the Sun as it travels across the sky and reflect the light down into the town square, creating 600 square meters (6,500 sq ft) of beautiful light for Rjukan’s sunlight-starved citizens.
Rjukan isn’t the only town that relies on mirrors for sunlight. Viganella, Italy uses a single steel mirror to warm its town, but while it captures more sunlight, it isn’t as strong as Rjukan’s sci-fi heliostats.

4  Hong Kong’s AI Metro

With an on-time record of 99.9 percent, the Hong Kong subway is the best in the world. Its success is thanks to a computer program created by Hong Kong engineer Andy Chun. Using a special algorithm, his program quickly calculates the best way to keep the trains running, and it’s way more efficient than any feeble-minded human.

Each week, 10,000 workers keep the tracks in tip-top shape. Night after night, they descend into the tunnels after the trains stop running, and they only have a few hours to carry out 2,600 engineering jobs per week. Before the computer program came along, experts had to hurriedly plan who would go where and do what, and it took far too long. Then Chun’s program changed everything.
After interviewing numerous engineering experts, Chun transformed their wisdom into a series of rules for his AI. Before the repair teams get busy, the AI pores over a model of the subway system and identifies what needs to be done. Next, it compares solutions against one another until it finds the best way to accomplish everything neatly and quickly. It even knows to check its plans against city regulations to make sure everything is safe and legal.
Chun’s AI is so effective that it cuts out two days’ worth of planning a week and gives workers an extra 30 minutes each night to fix up the tracks, saving the metro $800,000 per week. With a program this efficient, it might not be long before computers are running the subway entirely—and as sci-fi fans know, that’s probably not going to end well.

3  The Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

Photo credit: Library of Congress

Take a road trip across North Dakota, and you’ll see whole stretches of vast, grassy nothing. But pass through the sleepy little town of Nekoma, and you’ll spot something incredibly bizarre and totally alien rising up out of the ground: a giant concrete pyramid.
While it’s missing the pointy top we associate with Egyptian pyramids, this obelisk makes up for its flat roof with four creepy eyes. There are two circles on each side of the pyramid, one inside the other, almost like a pupil inside an iris. And if you drive up closer, you’ll find the pyramid is surrounded with checkpoints and buildings such as an office, a church, and a gym. But chances are good that you won’t pay too much attention to this abandoned community. You’ll probably just stare at the pyramid. What is this thing, and what is it doing in the middle of nowhere?
The focal point of the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, this misplaced monolith was constructed back in the 1970s. Costing a whopping $6 billion, this concrete pyramid was made for one purpose—to watch out for incoming Soviet missiles. Those creepy eyes on all four sides of the pyramid were radars watching the skies for sneak attacks. And if the Russians ever did launch a nuke, officials inside the pyramid would shoot it down with one of their Spartan anti-ballistic missiles.
In addition to silos all over the complex, a massive labyrinth of tunnels ran under the pyramid itself. And in true bureaucratic fashion, the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex was operational for less than a year. After it opened in April 1975, the government started worrying about safety issues, so in February 1976, they flooded the tunnels and shut the whole thing down. So, that was $6 billion down the drain. 

The pyramid was later bought for $530,000 by the Spring Creek Hutterite Colony, an Amish-like community of pacifists.

2  Americana, Sao Paulo

Photo credit: Carlosar/Wikimedia
Alternative history is one of the biggest sci-fi subgenres. These stories deal with the big “what ifs” of history. Take for example Philip K. Dick’s novel The Man in High Castle, which asks, “What if the Nazis had won World War II?” Similarly, quite a few wonder, “What would’ve happened if the Confederacy had won the Civil War?” Well, if you’re curious, you can head on down to Americana, Sao Paulo and find out.
After Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, sore losers in the South weren’t crazy about rejoining the US. Sensing their frustration, Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil invited irate Southerners to pack up their bags and move even further south. Ten thousand people accepted his offer, and while most eventually went back home, 40 percent stayed in Brazil and established the town of Americana.
Nicknamed the “Confederados,” these immigrants set up a surreal little world of good old Southern values. They built Baptist churches, flew the Stars and Bars, and ate biscuits and black-eyed peas. And when they weren’t using forced labor to work their new cotton plantations, they were throwing antebellum balls and singing old-fashioned Southern ballads.
While the town has toned down its Dixieland vibe, the Confederados’ descendants still speak fluent English and throw an annual festival where people dress up in Southern costumes, have grand parties, and unfurl the Confederate flag—all in the middle of Brazil.

1  Monkey Island

From Doctor Moreau to King Kong to Jurassic Park, islands have always had a special place in science fiction. These little land masses are perfect for creating weird worlds and strange situations that wouldn’t happen on the mainland. But while you probably won’t find a real-world island populated with polar bears, magical wells, and time travel, quite a few in the ocean have their own mysterious stories.
Take Monkey Island for example. Deep in the jungles of Liberia, in the middle of the Farmington River, is an island populated with over 60 chimpanzees. Surrounded by water, these apes spend their days hidden in the trees but rush down to the beach whenever white-clad workers show up with food and medicine.
The story of Monkey Island (chimps aren’t monkeys, but it’s a local nickname) starts back in 1974, when the New York Blood Center opened a research facility in Liberia. Named “Vilab,” the facility was dedicated to curing deadly diseases. That meant infecting over 100 apes with viruses like hepatitis because chimps are the only non-human species susceptible to the illness.
The facility closed down in 2005 thanks to changing attitudes toward animal testing, raising the question of where the infected chimps were going to go. That’s where Monkey Island came in. The apes were placed on an island where they would spend the rest of their lives in relative comfort.
Today, the chimps are cared for by local teams working with the New York Blood Center. Most of the animals are completely healthy and show no signs of plotting a revolution.

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Power Path ~ New Moon/Partial Solar Eclipse Update May 20, 2012


17 May 2012

Channeler: Lena Stevens


Dear Friends,

The New Moon and partial solar eclipse is Sunday May 20, at 5:48 PM Mountain Daylight Time. This is a very intense time that can bring breakage, conflict...

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16 April 2012


A Hathor Planetary Message Through Tom Kenyon

Note:This message deals with the KA body (a term from ancient Egyptian Alchemy), and discusses how you can utilize this unique energy-bo...

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HILARION’S WEEKLY MESSAGE 2012, April 15-22, 2012


April 15-22, 2012

Beloved Ones,

The challenges that have beset you for such an extended period of time are now in their completion stages and the end is in sight of these rather disempowering situations. Your tenacity and sinc...

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