Calculating Your Personal Nitrogen Footprint

nitrogen fertilizer

We’re pretty familiar by now with the concept of a carbon footprint, which is a measure of how much of certain greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide and methane, specifically) each person, company, event, or product is responsible for. But there’s another type of measurable footprint that some scientists believe to also have a profound impact on our environment, and that is the nitrogen footprint, which measures the impact of our activities and habits on the world’s nitrogen cycle. Nitrogen pollution doesn’t get nearly the amount of press that carbon (or pesticide/herbicide pollution) does, but excess nitrogen runoff from agricultural fields… read more

Smart Glass: Not Just For Windows

Smart Glass: Not Just For Windows

Over the past few years, glass used for windows has become increasingly more energy efficient due to new techniques and designs. Traditionally made windows can lose up to 30% of a home’s energy and cause heat fluctuations. Smart glasses are one innovative update in the window design world that considerably increases energy efficacy. Researchers have found that thinly coating vanadium dioxide nanoparticles with a specialized film helps windows function at a heightened level, therefore increasing energy saving capabilities. Applied to films and the materials used to make glass, smart glasses like BioGlass use this application. Glass for windows has customarily… read more

Scotland Opens Smart Grid Research Center


The future of electrical distribution will be a smart one. The smart grid is a great concept, but the integration and implementation of large-scale models needs a lot more research to bring it up to full potential. That’s where Scotland’s new Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC) comes in. This world-class smart grid research and testing hub will enable developers, engineers, researchers, and businesses to come together to accelerate the adoption of advanced grid technologies. The PNDC, at the University of Strathclyde, has a small-scale, independent power network (11kV/400V) that can be reconfigured for developing and integrating the newest research in… read more

Researchers Harvest Electricity Directly from Plants


In learning to efficiently convert sunlight into electricity, we’ve got a lot to learn from plants. Our best efforts with solar panels are only yielding efficiencies of around 17%, but plants are the ultimate solar harvesters, capable of turning sunlight into energy at an efficiency rate of nearly 100%. Photosynthesis allows plants to produce almost an equal number of electrons to the amount of photons they receive, which is far and above the level of power conversion that our most efficient technologies can hit. But thanks to the work of some researchers at the University of Georgia, we may someday… read more

Power Your Building With ‘Smart Windows’

Smart powered windows

With steep increases in the price of electricity a reality,  and ongoing concern about carbon emissions many homeowners around the globe have started to think about using solar power to keep their household costs down. People living in stand alone houses are able to use rooftop solar panels to generate their own power but what about people living in apartments? One solution may be to install “smart” windows. These are in development and integrate solar panel technology into window glass allowing you to power your house. UCLA’s Material Science and Engineering Department has come up with a solar cell made of polymer…. read more

Solar Panels May Someday be Applied as Easily as Paint


Most of us would love to have solar power feeding energy into our homes and cars and gadgets, but two big issues arise when we begin to entertain those ideas: The high price of photovoltaic panels keeps them out of reach of many household budgets, and the difficulty of mounting flat rigid panels on curved or uneven surfaces (especially those that may flex or move during use) is not an easy thing to overcome. However, in the next couple of years, we may start to see photovoltaic technology becoming as easy to apply as paint, thanks to work currently being… read more

Crowdsourcing “Game” Helps Map Global CO2 Emissions


In order to help inform researchers with global carbon modeling, a combination crowdsourcing app and game aims to get a better grasp of the impact of the world’s 30,000 power plants. When gathering data on something so obvious, such as large power plants, it’s not as easy as you’d think, and in order to better understand where carbon dioxide emissions are coming from, climate researchers are asking for help from the crowd. Researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) have launched what they’re calling the first of its kind – an online game that turns participants into citizen scientists by rewarding… read more

Researchers Use Microwave Oven to Produce Solar Cell Material


Metallurgists at the University of Utah have fabricated a nanocrystal semiconductor using a common household microwave oven and abundant and cheap metals, which could lead to advances in PV solar cells, LED lighting, and heat-to-electricity applications. The researchers were able to construct CZTS photovoltaic semiconductors using less expensive and more abundant metals than those traditionally used for semiconductors (currently gallium and indium), and the materials involved are considered “less toxic” than the arsenic and cadmium presently used. CZTS (copper, zinc, tin, sulfur) cells were first explored in 1967, but the methods found for producing them were complex and lengthy, taking… read more

Fluorescent Dye Increases Solar Cell Efficiency by 38%

Solar panel

The more recent innovation in polymer solar cells adds a layer of a fluorescent organic dye, squaraine, to boost the amount of light that gets absorbed by the cells, increasing their power conversion efficiency by 38%. Researchers at Yale used polymer solar cells for their project, which have the advantage of being relatively low-cost, but also notoriously inefficient, due their inability to effectively transmit electrons from the cells. However, by adding a layer of squaraine to Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based heterojunction polymer solar cells, the researchers found that the cells could not only absorb a wider spectrum of light,… read more

The CampStove – Portable, Efficient and Smart


While there exist many solar-feed beacons to provide efficient light and heat whilst indulging in the great outdoors, their productivity is often compromised when you need them most – as the sun sails vastly beneath the horizon and you find yourself shrouded in darkness. The CampStove, created by Biolite, is fueled by biomass, which is easily comprised of common woodland trimmings. These include twigs, wood pellets, and pine-cones. Such sources are abundantly scattered throughout woods and yards, and, as they require no tree chopping or other harmful practices, are considered renewable. Once trimmings are collected, they can be placed in… read more