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Friday, February 27, 2015

5 WAYS THAT HIGH TECH PERSONAL WEARABLES WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE


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5 Ways That High Tech Personal Wearables Will Change Your Life
By Rob Nightingale,
Make Use Of, 26 February 2015.

Earlier this year, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt described his vision of the ‘disappearance of the Internet,’ in the near future. Schmidt’s comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland may sound like science fiction to some, but for those who keep abreast of progress in wearable technologies, the idea is far from surprising.
“There will be so many IP addresses…so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won’t even sense it,” he says. “It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.”
It’s the Internet Of Things that will be responsible for pushing the internet into the background of our world. One  of the most important areas of the Internet of Thing is Wearable Technology. Wearables take the things we already wear, like jewellery, clothes, and glasses, and makes them more useful with technology.

Apple’s iWatch, Google’s Glass, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the Fitbit3, Jawbone, Moto 360 are all impressive examples of current wearable tech. However, in terms of where the industry is going, we’ve only taken the first step down this path.

1. Healthcare


In 2013, Dr. Parekh used Google Glass in the operating room for the very first time. Since then, according to the New York Times, this pioneering surgeon has used the wearable headset to “record and archive all of his surgeries at Duke, and soon he will use it to stream live feeds of his operations to hospitals in India as a way to train and educate orthopaedic surgeons there.”

Since then, the use of smart watches and headsets has become increasingly popular in some of the world’s leading healthcare institutions. Wearables like smart watches help to ensure that nurses don’t miss vital steps via checklists and automatic logging of events. The possibilities don’t end there: a doctor could use Google Glass to scan a barcode at the end of your hospital bed (or a Motorola smart tattoo on your arm) to immediately pull up your medical records. Or, imagine a doctor being able to observe the vital stats of at-risk patients in real time, even when the patient is at home.

The improvements in efficiency and accuracy of treatment produced by just current wearable tech is staggering. “Some hospitals [are already] linking them with near complete elimination of bloodstream infections and lowering death rates by 10%,” says Michal Kubacki, CEO of the 5-Tiles Keyboard.

On the alternate side of the clipboard, what if that smart-watch on your wrist and the Fitbit clipped to your belt can offer offer your doctor all the data she needs for a more accurate diagnosis? Your doctor will instantly be able to see your calorific intake, heart-rate variability, stress levels, exercise regimes, sleep patterns, cholesterol, blood-glucose levels and more, instantly.

Back in January 2014, Google announced their first ‘Smart Contact Lens Project‘, hinting at a lens that can track blood glucose levels in real time. In the future, this could be a literal life-saver for the millions of diabetics out there.

The potential unlocked when a doctor, surgeon or even mobile app has access to this huge data-set is mind-boggling. This is an industry under constant pressure to improve survival rates, cleanliness, and accuracy. Could Wearable Tech be the magic bullet here? This is all without mentioning the richness of possibilities of crowd-sourcing medical knowledge and data.

2. Shopping

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Credit: Ian Fogg/Flickr

For better or worse, consumerism is a major factor in our lives - but how we experience that consumerism is about to change. We’re talking primarily about customer service, here. After all, with wearable tech leading to increased efficiency in the workplace, how can retail companies resist?

Imagine, Mr. Smith walking into his local department store. Around him, the service staff are wearing headsets and smart watches that can pick up on the NFC chips that are in his own smart watch. Based on the data they can receive (past purchases, browsing history, perhaps even the mood that he’s in), they can recommend something completely personal.
“Ah Mr Smith, welcome back! That lovely cashmere sweater you were looking on the site is just over here. As luck should have it, we’ve got one in your size!”
Mr Smith falls in love with his new cashmere sweater, and a few other items the sales assistant’s headset thought he’d like. When he gets to the checkout, he simply taps his watch against a sensor on the wall (which has detected which items he’s carrying around), payment is made automatically, and the receipt is sent via email.

This may seem a little too far in the future - but it really isn’t. The facial recognition software to know when a high-value customer walks into the door already exists. The chips are already in your phone to ensure that you receive relevant, timely coupons and vouchers when you walk into your favourite stores. The apps needed for this kind of customer service are already being developed by companies such as SalesForce. This is simply a logical extension of existing tech, and it may just be closer than we think.

3. Clothing


Last year, Ralph Lauren gave us a glimpse of the Polo Tech smart shirt. This (along with some other examples) are the impressive, sometimes confusing, early stages of truly wearable tech. That is to say, tech that’s inside your actual clothes and accessories.

According to Mashable, the Polo Tech smart shirt uses “biometric technology from OMSignal and the signature design of Ralph Lauren. Put it on and it reads activity (steps, how long you’re active), breathing and heart rate and delivers it all in real-time to your Bluetooth-connected smartphone.” Before long, this kind of kit may well be a necessity in your gym bag, logging your workouts automatically, and sending over the results to your personal trainer (if you’re more into jogging, check out the GPS enabled DShirt).
Underneath that back of fabric are silver-yarn-based sensors. This fabric, which is also anti-microbial, is conductive and can read the expansion and compression of the chest as you breathe and together read the electrical changes associated with heart rate.
But there are plenty of other examples that could be seen as technological prophecies of what’s to come. Take, for instance, Ring, which Kickstarter users went crazy for not too long ago. Think Adam Sandler’s favourite remote control in the movie Click, only smaller, and more aesthetically pleasing. Through small, physical gestures, you’re able to control home appliances (lights, heating, the TV, radio, bath, front door, etc.), all thanks to the ring on your finger.

And for neurotic parents out there, why not introduce your new-born baby to the wearable tech world with some smart nappies. By using sensors to sense the health of your young one’s poop, you can rest assured that your child has healthy kidneys, and plenty of hydration.

4. Travel

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Credit: Ted Eytan/Flickr

The time is approaching when backpacking and more general travel (especially in more developed countries) is transformed into something almost unrecognisable. The frustrations of not knowing which bus stop to alight at. The hassle of walking into hotels to ask for room rates. The inconvenience of needing to physically locate and read about buildings and sights of interest. The bewilderment of understanding precisely nothing of what the locals are saying. These are just a few of the travel challenges that may be erased thanks to wearable tech.

Before you even leave home-soil, passports may become a thing of the past, as border control scans your facial features and knows exactly who you are. From the moment you land at your destination, your connected headset (by then the entire world may be covered by 4G) knows where your hotel is (HotelNearMe). Directions to the nearest train station will be displayed literally in front of your face (Map2Glass). When there, you’ll receive a notification telling you which platform to head to, and what time your train will be departing. As you enter the train the Bluetooth in your smart watch is detected. When you alight, the system knows exactly what to charge your bank account.

As you leave the train station, you’re surrounded by historical buildings, each one with it’s own unique history. You simply ask your headset to give you an audio (and visual) tour of the immediate area (using incognito Dash headphones, of course), before you eventually arrive at your hotel, where the receptionist doesn’t speak a word of English. Luckily, you’ve installed an app that offers real time audio translation from a foreign language into your own. Checking in is seamless.

And finally, before you head out, your phone alerts you as to the best restaurant nearby to grab dinner based on your preferences and past habits, and reserves a table for you (OpenTable). The menu is translated right in front of your eyes with that swish new app you downloaded while waiting at the airport.

5. Law-Enforcement


Ah, the ever contentious issues of citizen and the police. Well, expect to see law enforcement officers ‘on the beat’ becoming far more connected and technologically advanced in the coming years. All things going well, this will help to ensure both police officers and members of the public are held accountable for their actions.

Back in 2013, NYPD obtained two pairs of Google Glass to see how they could integrate these into their day-to-day operations. According to TIME magazine, Byron Police Department in Georgia were also playing with the kit. “The wearable computer allowed the officer to record everything he was seeing for future reference, and because it was also linked to the department’s video system, it let his bosses back at the police station monitor how the traffic stop was going in real time.”

But these predictable uses are only a couple of examples. We can also envision police officers being able to pull up instant background checks (and license checks) of people and vehicles within their field of vision using facial and text recognition software, making your anonymity ever more elusive. One prediction from GovTech sees “the facial recognition camera technology that is already installed at most security gates at airports being integrated into smart glasses, so that a police officer walking down a crowded street would automatically be alerted to the presence of a suspect walking towards him.”

To expand on this, Motorola is also currently working on a “connected law enforcement officer of the future system, expected to boast a set of glasses with an integrated display for access to camera feeds, so an officer potentially can see around corners without having to be exposed to an ambush.”

Pretty neat, right? Combine this with the wearable video recording equipment that’s being developed with law enforcement very much in mind (such as the VieVu LE3 and Taser AXON), and you’ll have a pretty clear picture of what to expect on the street, and in the court-rooms.

In terms of relevant tech that you could be using yourself though, consider Artemis, a company producing jewellery that enables you to “instantly access a private security operator who can record and send help.”

How much this will affect your day to day life, is indeed arguable. Yet the use of wearable tech in law-enforcement seems high on the agenda, and something that we’ll all pretty soon get used to seeing, and perhaps rely on, if we’re ever the victim of a crime, or simply if we’re to avoid such rampant congestion on the way to work.

Summary

As mentioned, the wearable tech industry is very young. The future is entirely open to every possibility, with the clichéd limit being our imagination. The above are just a select few examples of how we might expect wearable tech to (mostly) positively infiltrate our lives.

Top image credit: COM Salud/Flickr.

[Source: Make Use Of. Edited.]

9 HISTORICAL MURDER MYSTERIES SOLVED MORE THAN A CENTURY LATER


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9 Historical Murder Mysteries Solved More Than A Century Later
By Lauren Davis,
io9, 25 February 2015.

While many historical whodunnits were solved not long after the supposed crime was committed, sometimes it's up to modern science and history to determine how and why a person died. Here are cases where murders were revealed or refuted decades or even centuries after the fact.

1. The Blood Transfusion Murder

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Jean-Baptiste Denys. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Decedent: Antoine Mauroy, a Parisian madman who died after receiving multiple transfusions of calf's blood in the winter of 1667.

The Mystery: Who or what was really responsible for Mauroy's death?

When blood transfusions first appeared on the medical scene, they were met with a great deal of controversy. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys, the personal physician to King Louis XIV, performed the first xenotransfusion in June 1667, transfusing blood from a sheep to a 15-year-old boy. The boy survived, and Denys later tried a similar procedure on Antoine Mauroy, hoping the infusion of animal blood might treat Mauroy's insanity. Mauroy died within a few weeks of the procedure, and Denys was tried for murder.

Denys was acquitted, and eventually suspicion fell on Perrine Mauroy, Antoine Mauroy's abused widow. Perrine was convicted of poisoning her husband with draughts of arsenic, but the judge suspected that she had help. And in her book Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution, historian Holly Tucker uncovered evidence that Perrine did, in fact, have help in the murder of her husband - help from Denys' scientific rivals, who hoped to discredit his work. And Mauroy's death did, in fact, put an end to Denys' blood experiments. He retired from medicine and blood transfusions were banned in France in 1670.

2. The Murdered Warlord

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Credit: Gino Fornaciari/Wikimedia Commons

The Decedent: Cangrande della Scala, ruler of Verona who took control of other Italian cities during the 14th century. He died suddenly in 1329 at the age of 38.

The Mystery: Did Cangrande die of natural causes? Or was he murdered?

After Guecello Tempesta, ruler of Treviso, surrendered his city to Cangrande, Cangrande fell deathly ill. The official account at the time was that Cangrande became ill because he had drunk from a polluted stream. However, there were rumours that he had, in fact, been murdered.

Recently, Cangrande's body was exhumed to determine whether those rumours could be true. An autopsy, which included testing faecal matter, found that Cangrande had consumed deadly digitalis, also known as foxglove. The researchers found that the amount of digitalis found was consistent with a deliberate poisoning.

We don't know who would have been responsible for this poisoning, but one suspect is Mastino II, Cangrande's nephew and successor, who had Cangrande's physician hanged following Cangrande's death.

3. Malaria, Not Murder Did in These Medicis

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The Decedents: Francesco I de' Medici and his second wife, Bianca Cappello, who died within a day of each other in 1587.

The Mystery: Did their near-simultaneous deaths mean they were murdered?

When a husband and wife die within a day of each other, it can seem a bit suspicious, and even though the deaths of Francesco I de' Medici and wife were initially attributed to malaria, it didn't take long for people to cry murder. The suspected murderer (or power behind the murder) was Francesco's own brother, Cardinal Ferdinando (above image).

While Francesco's remains do contain high levels of arsenic, forensic anthropologist Gino Fornaciari said that's consistent with embalming practices at the time. Fornaciari found P. falciparum proteins in fragments of Francesco's bones, which point to a death by malaria. Such proteins were not found in the bones of Francesco's father or his first wife. In Fornaciari's forensic opinion, Cardinal Ferdinando should be cleared of his brother's murder.

4. A New Assassin's Creed Character?

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Credit: Sandro Botticelli/Wikimedia Commons

The Decedent: Giuliano de' Medici (above), who was set upon by a gang of men with knives in the Duomo cathedral in Florence in 1478. His brother Lorenzo escaped the assassination attempt.

The Mystery: Who, besides Francesco de Pazzi, orchestrated the coup?

There's a reason it's called the Pazzi conspiracy; the stabbing of the two Medici brothers has long been linked to Francesco de Pazzi, member of a rival family. But one of the chief minds behind the plot wasn't connected to it for centuries. In 2004, historian Marcello Simonetta announced that he had deciphered an encrypted letter that revealed that Federico da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino, was a major player in the plot. In the letter, the duke insists on getting rid of the brothers and reveals that he provided his own military forces for the plot.

5. The Skeletons in the Well

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Image via YouTube

The Decedents: 17 people whose bodies were discovered in a Medieval well in Norwich, England.

The Mystery: Why were these bodies in a well instead of properly buried?

In 2004, the remains of 17 people were discovered while a site was being excavated in Norwich for a future shopping centre, and it presented Professor Sue Black, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Dundee's Centre for Anthropology and Human Identification (and star of BBC Two's History Cold Case), with a mystery: why were these people so disrespectfully disposed of?

At first, the archaeologists who led the excavation suspected these were the bodies of plague victims, but carbon dating placed the decedents in the 12th or 13th century, before the plague hit England. DNA expert Dr Ian Barnes was brought in, and he found a DNA sequence in five of the skeletons that traced them to a single Jewish family.

Although it's not clear exactly what happened to these people, the researchers who worked on the case suspect that their deaths were linked to religious persecution. Natural deaths were ruled out, and the likely cause of death was either a mass execution or a group suicide. The bones were later buried in a Jewish cemetery.

6. The Secret Assassination of an American President? Not So Fast.

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Credit: James Reid Lambdin/Wikimedia Commons

The Decedent: Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States, who suddenly fell ill and died in 1850.

The Mystery: Did Zachary Taylor die of a stomach ailment? Or was he murdered by anti-abolitionists?

On July 4th, 1850, President Taylor began to have stomach cramps and five days later he was dead. At the time, his doctors attributed his death to a stomach ailment, but historian Clara Rising, while working on a novel about Taylor, noted that his symptoms were consistent with arsenic poisoning. She speculated that anti-abolitionists, discontent with Taylor's opposition to slavery in the Western part of the country, had poisoned the president. Forensic anthropologist William Maples agreed it was a possibility, and Taylor's body was exhumed.

But anyone hoping to uncover a century-and-a-half-old murder was disappointed. Forensic pathologist George Nichols did detect arsenic in Taylor's remains, but not enough to indicate a poisoning. Rather, he ruled that Taylor's death was largely due to a natural ailment that led to gastroenteritis. That hasn't closed the book on Taylor's death for some, however; you'll still hear claims that the president was murdered.

7. The Boy in the Cellar

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The Decedent: An unknown boy, 15-16 years old, discovered in a 17th-century cellar in Maryland.

The Mystery: Who was this boy and why was he buried there?

When you find a body buried in a clandestine grave in someone's home, it's fishy right off the bat. The boy found by Erin Cullen as part of the Lost Towns project was probably buried between 1665 and 1675 in order to cover up the manner of his death. Forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley examined the body and found a fractured wrist that likely came before a violent death. Owsley's team surmised that the boy was likely an indentured servant who was abused, killed, and then awkwardly buried so no one would learn how he died. Around that time, laws were passed in the area forbidding private burial for this very reason, but this boy was an unfortunate victim of violence and was hidden away for centuries.

8. CSI: Napoleon

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Credit: Jacques-Louis David/Wikimedia Commons

The Decedent: Napoléon Bonaparte, two-time Emperor of France who died in exile in 1821.

The Mystery: Did Napoleon die of natural causes, or was he poisoned by his captors?

While Napeleon's physician ruled that the cause of the former emperor's death on Saint Helena was a stomach ulcer, there has been some suspicion that he was poisoned, perhaps by his British captors. In a 1961 paper in Nature, physician and amateur toxicologist Sten Forshufvud proposed that Napoleon's symptoms were consistent with arsenic poisoning, fuelling further speculation that the people charged with his care were to blame for his death.

High levels of arsenic have been found in Napoleon's hair, but that's not unusual for the period. Many cosmetics, including hair tonic, contained arsenic. And there is no evidence of haemorrhaging of his heart or other indicators of arsenic poisoning. Pathologists who have examine Napoleon's stomach, however, see little doubt of the cause: the body shows clear signs of stomach cancer and a grainy substance found in the stomach indicates gastrointestinal bleeding, which most likely did Napoleon in.

9. The Mercurial Mystery of Tycho Brahe

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Credit: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons

The Decedent: Tycho Brahe, 16th-century nobleman, astronomer, alchemist, duellist and all-around colourful dude.

The Mystery: There has long been a theory that Brahe, who seemed to die of a bladder infection in 1601, was actually murdered. The supposed culprits? Possibly the Danish King Christian IV, who wasn't a fan, or perhaps Brahe's own assistant Johannes Kepler. The supposed method? Mercury poisoning.

We don't know for sure what did in Brahe, but it probably wasn't mercury that did it. The most recent exhumation of Brahe's body allowed researchers to find that, while there were trace amounts of mercury in Brahe's beard, there wasn't nearly enough to indicate murder. They didn't find evidence of any other poisons, either. So Kepler's off the hook...for now.

Top image shows the death of Giuliano de' Medici.

[Source: io9. Edited. Some images and links added.]

8 UNBELIEVABLE NEW WAYS OF GENERATING ELECTRICITY


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8 Unbelievable New Ways of Generating Electricity
By Gavin Phillips,
Make Use Of, 25 February 2015.

The Earth is in trouble, and it’s definitely our fault. It seems clear at this point that traditional methods of generating electricity are unsustainable, and we must find new energy sources that do not produce as much carbon (or dust off old ones, like natural gas and nuclear power).

The recognized need for alternative power sources isn’t new. We’ve seen massive solar arrays unveiled in vast deserts, enormous on-and-offshore wind-farms, wave-beams converting the power of our oceans, and a host of biomass solutions arrive and disappear. However, these forms of alternative energy are not the only game in town: there are a number of weirder ways of generating power that scientists are investigating.

1. Harvesting Body Heat

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London Underground. Credit: Tom Page/Wikimedia Commons.

A number of major cities have begun harvesting the heat trapped in their vast metro systems. Millions of commuters (not to mention the trains themselves) sealed in the insulated environment of the metro can lead to an enormous temperature differential.

The heat produced can be converted into power and heat for local homes, apartments, and businesses. Five hundred homes in the London borough of Islington, offices parallel to the Stockholm metro, and a Parisian residential block are all harnessing human heat, with more buildings set to benefit in the near future.

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Credit: Cliff/Flickr

The 2.5 million square-foot shopping mecca, Mall of America, already utilises the heat generated by the sheer volume of people passing through it. This heat combats the usually harsh Minnesotan winter - so much so that the building has no traditional central heating system. Innovative thinking for the designers, way back in the early 90s.

2. Confiscated Alcohol

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Swedish biogas train. Credit: Barbarien/Wikimedia Commons.

When life gives you lemons, burn the lemons and use them to power trains.

Sweden’s national customs service confiscated 185,000 gallons of illegally smuggled alcohol last year. Rather than pour it all down the drain, the Scandinavian’s plan to convert the seized alcohol into enough biogas to fuel over 1,000 trucks and buses, and even a train.

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Fake Chartreuse liquors. Credit: TwoWings/Wikimedia Commons.

Working with Svensk Biogas AB, the Swedish customs agency aims to continue converting this free resource into power for as long as smugglers keep attempting to cross the border. By 2013, bus fleets in more than a dozen Swedish cities were running on biogas - though not all from the smuggled alcohol.

3. Used Adult Diapers

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SFD Recycling System. Credit: Super Faiths Inc.

Japan’s population is getting old fast. So old that in the near future, Japanese sales of adult diapers will outgrow sales of regular diapers. Seriously.

However, whilst the aging Japanese population may be of wider economic concern, Tottori-based Super Faiths Inc. innovative SFD Recycling System sees the burden as a power-solution.

The SFD Recycling System takes used diapers, then sterilizes, pulverizes and dries them in their patented machine, returning biomass pellets reading for burning in the appropriate furnace, returning around 5,000 kcal per kg recycled. Not a bad return for an entirely useless landfill article. Capable of “servicing” around 700lb of used diapers per day, the system could well make its way into retirement homes and large hospitals.

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Adults wearing diapers. Credit: Jere Keys/Wikimedia Commons.

In a nation still reeling from the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and the resulting Fukushima nuclear plant accident, alternative power solutions are gaining credibility as Japan seeks to become energy independent.

4. On the Dance Floor

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Piezoelectric dance floor. Image via Ecofriend.

More people power, please! The kinetic energy generated by our everyday tasks is under the spotlight as underground stations, nightclubs and gyms begin to utilise piezoelectric harvesting technologies. Piezoelectricity is generated in certain crystals in response to compression force. If you have a surface that’s moving for any reason, you can attach piezoelectric crystals to it, and get small amounts of energy out.

The accumulated electrical energy can be used to power services within the same building or area, or routed to a new location. Piezoelectricity isn’t an entirely new phenomenon, with DARPA evaluating piezoelectric generators in the boots of soldiers. However, we utilise piezoelectricity more often than you might think: electric cigarette lighters feature a piezoelectric crystal with sufficient voltage to ignite the gas, resulting in a flame.

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Piezoelectric lighter. Credit: Petteri Aimonen/Wikimedia Commons.

In the wild, we have seen Tokyo underground station power its ticket turnstiles, and the world’s first sustainable nightclub in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Piezoelectric energy-generation is also moving into the rail-sector.

Israel Railways, in collaboration with the Technion University and renewable energy company Innowatech installed 32 piezoelectric energy capture devices along a reasonably busy section of railway, harvesting some 120 kWh, enough to power signals, lights and track mechanisms.

5. Thorium Reactors

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Collider Detector at Fermilab. Credit: Fermilab.

Miniature nuclear reactors powered by just one ton of radioactive thorium could feature in a new generation of local power generation schemes. That said, thorium reactors would require high-energy neutrons to trigger their fissile activity, which has lead British scientists to begin work on miniature particle accelerators.

A prototype, the Electron Model of Many Applications, or EMMA, operates at around 20 million electron volts, or 20 MeV, which is a strong start. That said, a fair degree of scepticism remains around the use of thorium and the practicalities of building and maintaining a larger number of local nuclear reactors.

6. Solar Power in Space

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NASA Sun Tower concept. Credit: NASA.

What could be more exciting or futuristic than a massive solar array, floating on a platform above the planet, beaming wireless electricity toward the Earth’s surface. There are a lot of advantages to this option: no need to take up valuable real estate on Earth, and no energy fluctuations caused by weather.

That said, there is a long way to go with this form of alternative power. Wireless electricity transmission, long-term radiation shielding, meteorite protection, and the sheer cost of putting the equipment into orbit are just some of the stumbling blocks.

But John C. Mankins, President of the Space Power Association and Artemis Innovation, believes that just as nuclear power has received five decades of research, and billions of dollars of research funding to arrive at our current understanding, why shouldn’t there be a serious financial effort toward harvesting solar power from space?

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Photovoltaic tile. Image via Pixabay.

In practice, a space solar power project might work something like this:
  • A large geostationary array would collect and focus light from the sun.
  • Photo-voltaic cells would convert that light into electricity.
  • That electricity would be used to power a microwave laser, aimed towards a ground station on Earth.
  • Microwave energy would be received by the antenna array and converted back into electricity.

7. Solar Wind

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Model of IKAROS. Credit: Pavel Hrdlička/Wikimedia Commons.

While we’re on the subject of space, let’s talk about solar wind.

The solar wind consists of an enormous number of charged particles, emitted by the sun at very high speeds. In principle, these particles can be used to generate electricity by using an enormous solar sail and a charged wire, which generates energy from the solar wind passing along it. According to preliminary analysis by the University of Washington, the amount of power you can generate is essentially limitless, constrained only by the size of the solar sail you deploy.
  • 300 meters of copper wire, attached to a two meter wide receiver and a 10 meter sail could generate sufficient electricity for 1,000 households.
  • A satellite with a 1,000 meter of cable, and a sail 8,400km wide, could generate one billion billion gigawatt’s of power.
Sounds good? It would be - if such a solar sail could be produced and launched into an appropriate orbit.

It’s worth noting that that isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully launched IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun) in 2010, becoming the first spacecraft to utilise solar-sailing as its main form of propulsion. Their continued exploration is providing immensely valuable data to research scientists in a number of key areas.

That said, IKAROS is much smaller than the sails being considered, so don’t hold your breath for solar wind to become a practical option in the immediate future.

8. Jellyfish

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Aequorea victoria. Credit: Ssblakely/Wikimedia Commons.

Our oceans are becoming more acidic. As such, Jellyfish populations are soaring. Most of them aren’t for human consumption, but they may prove to be more useful for another global issue. Swedish researchers have been steadily liquefying large numbers of Aequorea victoria, a glowing jellyfish common to the shores of North America.

WHY? I hear you cry. For power, of course! The Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) contained within the jellyfish can be used to create miniature fuel-cells that could be used to power a generation of medical nano-devices.

GFP, applied to aluminium electrodes and exposed to ultra-violet light generates power measuring in the “tens of nano-amperes.”

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Green Fluorescent Protein. Credit: European Bioinformatics Institute/Wikimedia Commons.

It’s not insignificant. The development of biological fuels could enable further research into bio-nanotechnologies that require no external fuel or electrical current to continue functioning. If the technology could be scaled-up, it could be extremely useful in the long-run, especially if our oceanic acidity issue continues.

Roundup

Some of the energy sources we’ve looked at here are bizarre, but many may have practical applications down the line. Others are already around us, providing us with alternative energy in our day-to-day. This sort of energy research is critical, if we wish to continue to sustain our growing civilization without irreparably damaging the planet.

[Source: Make Use Of. Edited.]