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Scientists Power a Computer Using Only Algae and Daylight to Make the Electricity

in Technology 78 views

Researchers have used a widespread species of blue-green algae to power a microprocessor continuously for a year—and counting—using nothing but ambient light and water.

Their system has potential as a reliable and renewable way to power small devices.

Comparable in size to an AA battery, the system contains a type of non-toxic algae called Synechocystis that naturally harvests energy from the sun through photosynthesis. The tiny electrical current this generates then interacts with an aluminium electrode and is used to power a microprocessor.

The system is made of common, inexpensive, and largely recyclable materials. This means it could easily be replicated hundreds of thousands of times to power large numbers of small devices as part of the Internet of Things.

The researchers say it is likely to be most useful in off-grid situations or remote locations, where small amounts of power can be very beneficial.

“The growing Internet of Things needs an increasing amount of power, and we think this will have to come from systems that can generate energy, rather than simply store it like batteries,” said Professor Christopher Howe in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, joint senior author of the paper.

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Turning Seawater Into Drinking Water – With the Push of a Button

in Enviroment/Health/Technology 318 views

MIT researchers have developed a portable desalination unit, weighing less than 10 kilograms, that can remove particles and salts to generate drinking water.

The suitcase-sized device, which requires less power to operate than a cell phone charger, can also be driven by a small, portable solar panel, which can be purchased online for around $50. It automatically generates drinking water that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards. The technology is packaged into a user-friendly device that runs with the push of one button.

Unlike other portable desalination units that require water to pass through filters, this device utilizes electrical power to remove particles from drinking water. Eliminating the need for replacement filters greatly reduces the long-term maintenance requirements.

This could enable the unit to be deployed in remote and severely resource-limited areas, such as communities on small islands or aboard seafaring cargo ships. It could also be used to aid refugees fleeing natural disasters or by soldiers carrying out long-term military operations.

“This is really the culmination of a 10-year journey that I and my group have been on. We worked for years on the physics behind individual desalination processes, but pushing all those advances into a box, building a system, and demonstrating it in the ocean, that was a really meaningful and rewarding experience for me,” says senior author Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering, and a member of the Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE).

Filter-free technology

Commercially available portable desalination units typically require high-pressure pumps to push water through filters, which are very difficult to miniaturize without compromising the energy-efficiency of the device, explains Yoon.

Instead, their unit relies on a technique called ion concentration polarization (ICP), which was pioneered by Han’s group more than 10 years ago. Rather than filtering water, the ICP process applies an electrical field to membranes placed above and below a channel of water. The membranes repel positively or negatively charged particles — including salt molecules, bacteria, and viruses — as they flow past. The charged particles are funneled into a second stream of water that is eventually discharged.

The process removes both dissolved and suspended solids, allowing clean water to pass through the channel. Since it only requires a low-pressure pump, ICP uses less energy than other techniques.

But ICP does not always remove all the salts floating in the middle of the channel. So the researchers incorporated a second process, known as electrodialysis, to remove remaining salt ions.

Yoon and Kang used machine learning to find the ideal combination of ICP and electrodialysis modules. The optimal setup includes a two-stage ICP process, with water flowing through six modules in the first stage then through three in the second stage, followed by a single electrodialysis process. This minimized energy usage while ensuring the process remains self-cleaning.

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Munich’s First Solar Bus Technology Will Hit the Road to Reduce Emissions and Pollution

in Transportation 294 views

Saving fuel, slashing emissions, and cutting pollution are just some of the benefits of installing solar panels on public transportation buses—and the city of Munich is buying a ticket to the future by doing just that.

Founded by a trio of German friends in 2016, Sono Motors went public in 2021, selling their Sion solar-paneled car, which is also a home energy storage system.

Now, in partnership with the Munich Transport Company (MVG), a novel solar bus trailer will soon hit the roads, carrying passengers in daily operation.

The Sono Solar Technology is offering possible savings—per bus—of up to 2,500 liters of diesel each year and a reduction of 6.5 metric tons local CO2.

The bus trailer will be pulled by a conventional bus, to provide extra capacity on busy routes. Normally, these huge trailers are powered by diesel fuel.

“In summer, when the air conditioning is in full use, the trailer consumes more electricity than the towing vehicle can supply,” a Sono spokesperson told GNN.

The 20 photovoltaic modules on the roof provide over 2,000 watts to power the vehicle’s battery and electrical loads such as heating and air conditioning, as well as the trailer’s steering system.

“In addition to saving diesel, the additional electricity ensures the stabilization of the battery’s energy supply, thus extending its service life and reducing maintenance costs.”

“Apart from this specific case, Sono Motors Solar Technology can also be integrated into the Bus itself—for supporting the high voltage battery of an electric bus.”

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New Concept Lets Elon Musk’s Cybertruck Drive on Water

in Technology 176 views

A James Bond-inspired concept will allow Elon Musk’s Cybertruck to be driven on water.

The Cybercat idea is designed to quickly transform Tesla’s vehicle into an all-electric high performance amphibious catamaran.

It sees the addition of electric outboard motors, pontoons, and optional hydrofoils in the Foiler model, which fold or collapse into parts to be stored in the vehicle.

They can then be installed “by a single person in less time than it takes to launch a boat.”

Elon Musk has previously said the Cybertruck design “influenced partly by The Spy Who Loved Me”, and even bought the 1976 Lotus Espirit featured in the film.

Now Cybercat creator Anthony Diamond believes that taking the vehicle onto the water will “pay homage to this passion.”

He explains, “We believe that with more than 1.3 million Cybertruck reservations, the market potential for Cybercat is immense and total gross margins comparable to those generated from the Tesla Model S and X vehicle lines combined are achievable.”

The Cybercat has estimated pricing of between $22,900 and $32,900, while the Foiler would market at $35,400 to $42,900.

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First Time Someone With Cut Spinal Cord is Able to Walk Freely, Thanks to New Swiss Technology

in Health/People/Technology 323 views

Michel Roccati was paralyzed in a motorbike accident which completely severed his spinal cord. Unlike some other forms of paralysis, there’s no therapy for him, and absolutely no sensation whatsoever in his legs.

An hour after receiving a new medical implant that emits electrical signals into his spinal cord however, he was able to take some steps supported by a wheeled-walking aid.

“I used to box, run, and do fitness training in the gym. But after the accident, I could not do the things that I loved to do, but I did not let my mood go down. I never stopped my rehabilitation,” Roccati told the BBC. “[Now] I stand up, walk where I want to, I can walk the stairs—it’s almost a normal life.”

In various cases of paralysis, damage to the spinal column prevents signals from the brain from reaching the extremities, but like a WiFi repeater, the implant carries the signals further down the body. The surgery to install the device is complex, and requires fibers to be attached to individual nerve sections.

It also contains powerful artificial intelligence software, and emits signals like nervous system biology would. Controlled by software on a tablet, pre-set programs train the electrodes on the implant to command the trunk and legs to perform certain kinds of movements.

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