New Process Transforms Waste Sulfur into Plastic

Credit: Jared Griebel/ Pyun lab, University of Arizona department of chemistry and biochemistry.

Research into methods for integrating the large amounts of waste sulfur generated in fossil fuel production into making better batteries has led to a new lightweight plastic that could improve electric car energy storage. A team of researchers, led by Jeffrey Pyun of the University of Arizona, has developed a new chemical process that takes cheap abundant sulfur and turns it into a versatile lightweight plastic that can be used to make the next generation of lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries. “We’ve developed a new, simple and useful chemical process to convert sulfur into a useful plastic.” – Jeffrey Pyun According to… read more

LED Lights Could be Broadband Transmitters


LED lights have made a pretty big splash in lighting tech, as they are bright, long-lasting, and use much less electricity than alternatives, and they may soon also be components used for high-speed internet. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) have been developing a method of using off-the-shelf LED lights to transmit data, which means that in the future, your wireless network could be using the lights in your home. This optical WLAN technology from HHI has reached data rates of up to 800 Mbit/s in their labs, and rates of 500 Mbit/s in real-world installations, using standard… read more

Billboard Pulls Drinking Water Out of Thin Air

UTEP Potable Water Generator

Advertising is something we love to hate, but sometimes there’s an ad campaign that is so brilliant that you have to stop and take notice. Like this one, which can pull drinking water out of the air. A billboard in Lima, Peru, is harvesting water from the humidity in the air and filtering it, providing as much as 26 gallons each day. That may not seem like that much, considering the amount of water that most of us use every day, but in a city that only receives about 2 inches of rain per year, it’s pretty significant. While it… read more

Largest Indoor Vertical Farm in U.S. Opens in Chicago


Growing food near where it’s sold or consumed is getting to be a bigger trend in the U.S., and the opening of a 90,000 square foot indoor vertical farm near Chicago is testimony to the demand for these types of operations. The FarmedHere growing operation in Bedford Park, IL, is inside of a previously abandoned warehouse, and it uses a combination of aquaponics and aeroponics to produce fresh greens for area stores. The plants are grown in stacks of beds six feet high, and are illuminated by artificial lighting and fed with nutrient-rich water from tanks of tilapia fish. According… read more

Making Solar Cheaper

Cost of Solar

Recently a California-based company named Alta Devices announced the news that it had achieved a record for the efficiency of an individual solar cell. Alta Devices have broken their own previous record of 23.5% and the new efficiency levels of 27.6% has been verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Alta Devices makes solar panels using gallium arsenide. Gallium arsenide is a more efficient material than the silicon-based cells which are currently more prevalent. To keep prices down the company uses remarkably small amounts of gallium and arsenic. This is done by creating layers of gallium arsenide only a micron thick. The development… read more

Whole Foods to Build Rooftop Greenhouse on New Brooklyn Store


Whole Foods’ new store in Gowanus, Brooklyn will have the capability for year-round production of vegetables and produce due to the integration of a rooftop greenhouse, which will be the first commercial-scale installation in the U.S.. With the growing interest and demand for local food, installing a greenhouse as a part of a retail grocery operation is starting to look like the next big thing, and Whole Foods Market is taking the plunge, in a big way. The grocery giant is partnering with Gotham Greens to operate a 20,000 square foot greenhouse currently being built on the rooftop of their… read more

Smart Foam Could Grow Furniture “Like Popcorn”


Instead of companies and consumers footing the bill for transporting large or bulky pieces of furniture, one day we could be buying flat-pack furniture made from “smart foam” that can be compressed down to 5% of its original volume. Belgian designer Carl de Smet uses “shape memory” polyurethane to build his creations, which can then be flattened down to just a small fraction of the original size for shipping and storage. De Smet is only working with scale models right now, so don’t pull out your wallets just yet, but the BBC reports that he “is close” to building the… read more

It’s Ions To Mars


When ion thrusters were first imagined in the 1960’s, they were little more than a pipedream curiosity. Now, NASA has logged over 43,000 continuous hours with their current model of the futuristic propulsion system. This is a new world record, and a sign that NASA is headed in the right direction. Ion propulsion differs from traditional chemical thrusters in that it doesn’t burn fuel. Instead, the thruster’s energy comes from solar panels or a nuclear-powered system. In the case of the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) ion engine, xenon molecules are ionized and then accelerated electrostatically using a cathode. The molecules… read more

Losing the Car Keys is Not Smart

Losing The Car Keys

Have you ever lost your car keys at an extremely bad time? Don’t despair because the age of lost car keys could finally be coming to a close. Car manufacturer Hyundai believes that the next generation of automobiles should move away from keyed entry systems and towards an all-in-one solution: your mobile phone. Almost all current and planned smartphones have what’s called Near Field Communication (NFC) chips built into them, which can be used for everything from swiping a card reader to pay for lunch, to sharing music playlists and pictures from phone-to-phone by touch. In essence, Hyundai is creating a test… read more

Turning Sewage into Paper


Can you imagine writing something on sewage? An Israeli researcher, Dr. Refael Aharon of Applied CleanTech, has developed a new system that is capable of turning stinking sewage into scentless paper. So how is sewage turned to paper? Domestic waste water contains solid substances in the form of food leftovers, used toilet paper and fiber from clothes as they are laundered. These solid substances contain cellulose which can be used for paper production after drying. Treatment of the solids currently found in waste water is a challenging and expensive activity for the effluent management industry. Dr. Aharon’s system can reduce solids… read more