4 Clever Innovations for a Greener Future

Black Hole: This is just an ordianry solar cell that reflects about a third of the light hitting it at any angle, the cell is coated with anti reflective film, and absorbs approximately 96 percent.

A Funnel For Sunlight

Without a direct stream of light on a solar panel, the efficiency of a the power generated lets up once the sun does as well.   A new invention to fix this is a anti reflective film coating that may help panels collect sun at 96 % efficiency from almost any angle. Developed by at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the film consists of seven layers of nanoscopic silicon and titanium-oxide rods arranged in increasing densities, with the topmost nearly as porous as air. This funnel-like setup captures light from almost every direction and focuses it onto the photovoltaic panel while also inhibiting reflection. The film, which is about one hundredth as thick as a human hair, could easily be applied to any solar panel, says lead researcher Shawn-Yu Lin, and would help collect 20 percent more light while eliminating the need for the expensive hardware usually used to rotate solar panels as the sun moves. Before Lin can sell the film, he must find a way to protect the outermost layers from the wind and heat, a process that he says may take another year.

Diesel Diet

Green Streets: This device saves truckers fuel, California based Save the World Air, Inc, came up with iStock., they say their Elektra fuel pump add-on can improve a big-rig truck’s highway fuel economy by as much as 10%.  That could cull a trailer truck’s diesel intake by more than 2,000 gallons a year, says Joe Dell, the company’s vice president for marketing, saving a typical 1,000-truck fleet two million gallons. The thermos-size device is based on technology from Temple University that thins fuel with an electric field, creating smaller droplets that burn more thoroughly, which yields more energy and pumps less unburned fuel from the exhaust pipe. The company will test a refined, smaller version of the device this year and could have a model ready for diesel cars by 2011.

Turning The Tide

Engineers at the University of Oxford recently tested a 1.5-foot-wide prototype turbine that generates energy by spinning in the tide like the blades of a push lawn mower. The cylindrical turbines could be roughly 10 percent less efficient than fan-shaped turbines, but each rotor’s size—the full-size versions will be 33 feet in diameter and 200 feet long—and the ability to link multiple units means they can harness more energy for less money. Spanning an entire river with the six-megawatt turbines could save 40 percent per megawatt on manufacturing and 60 percent on maintenance. The engineers are lining up funding and plan to evaluate a full-scale device next year.

Roll With It: Several linked push-mower turbines could span a river courtesy Ross McAdam/Dept. of Engineering Science/University of Oxford


The problem with wind turbines? Often, it’s just not windy enough to get them turning. It’s not really the lack of wind that is the problem, but the friction in the turbines themselves. Chinese scientists may have cracked this problem with the first “magnetic levitation” (or MagLev) wind turbines, which replace ball-bearings with the technology used in advanced monorails, making a frictionless turbine that can generate electricity from winds as low as 1.5m per second. They’re ideal for low wind areas, such as mountain regions and small islands. The MagLev wind turbines could also use the airflow caused by passing cars to generate roadside lighting.shutterstock_13590982


6 thoughts on “4 Clever Innovations for a Greener Future

  1. This article has given me some ideas. Why can’t the United States develop an awareness of these new technologies and develop a way to mass produce them as a way to generate new jobs? Once the solar technology mentioned in the article becomes “doable,” this certainly can be used in the solar panel industry in the U.S. The Elektra fuel pump sounds like it could be introduced in a big way to trucking companies throughout the U.S. The cylindrical turbine technology sounds promising for use in our major rivers. And finally, frictionless wind turbines could change the face of our wind turbine industry. All of these new tecnologies are “home runs” in the sense that they can help make us less reliant on oil AND can put thousands and thousands of people to work—without harming the environment.

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