June 2010

Combining clean coal and solar energy: the wave of the future?

clean Independently, solar energy and clean coal have both been explored extensively with the hope of some day offering a viable, global alternative energy solution. What if turns out, however, that the solution wasn't in either one, but both, collectively?

Many passionately believe that clean coal is not the answer to decreasing carbon emissions or increasing the supply of energy. In fact, since Obama's decision to set aside $2.4 billion dollars "to lead the world in CCS technologies," disagreements (and for that matter, debates) have surfaced about its legitimacy as a true carbon-fighting, energy-producing solution.

Smart appliances may be critical to future smart-grid in U.S.

Smart appliances may be critical to future smart-grid in U.S. Professionals are approaching energy efficiency in a multitude of ways ranging from hybrid or electric cars to energy generated by algae. Most of those methods are focused on ways to create greener energy or making vehicles and devices more efficient. Building on that, what if devices and appliances could monitor the electric grid and make adjustments as necessary to accommodate during peak usage times?

The energy industry wants to do just that and points out that appliances like water heaters and air conditioning units that monitor themselves could help avoid the need to build more power plants or temporarily open polluting auxiliary plants. The problem is that these appliances currently have no communications equipment and are one-way directed by consumers making thermostat adjustments. Installing communications equipment on those existing appliances would allow them to communicate with power companies and reduce energy consumption during peak demand hours.

T.25 City Car goes micro, greener than 2010 Toyota Prius

T.25 City Car goes micro, greener than 2010 Toyota Prius No doubt, the 2010 Toyota Prius is the mainstream hybrid vehicle and is nearly synonymous with fuel efficient, easy-to-use cars (despite Toyota’s recall woes). Toyota did a great thing with its hybrid synergy drive because it built a product that customers embraced - but naturally that begs the question how can we become even more efficient? British engineer Gordon Murray thinks it’s time to go micro to the extreme with his T.25 City Car.

Think the Smart ForTwo is small, the Toyota iQ? They are, but the T.25 is smaller. And yet, it’s capable of seating 3 people while averaging 74 mpg! Two T.25s can drive alongside each other in a single standard traffic lane, and Murray suggests cities may want to empower drivers to do so. It could increase traffic throughput threefold effectively reducing jams during peak travel hours.

Wedding industry awash in worry over BP Oil spill

Wedding industry awash in worry over BP Oil spill The BP Oil spill has impacted a way of life for the residents of the Gulf Coast for sixty-nine days. Fisherman can’t operate due to safety concerns, hotels aren’t getting their usual flow of reservations, and wedding related businesses are panicking.

Weddings are big business in the US and result in over $80 billion dollars a year for the industry. Just think of all of the people that you need to pull off a wedding like a photographer, caterer, DJ, seamstress, chair rental company, hairstylist, tuxedo rental, and even hotel rooms. On average, a typical American wedding costs about $20,000.

Genetic modification saves energy

Genetic modification saves energy

With thousands of gallons of oil being lost to the sea each day and causing widespread ecological damage in the Gulf of Mexico, alternative sources of energy need to be cultivated. Our dependence on oil won't change overnight, however. Devices that run on solar, wind and water-power represent only a small portion of our overall energy consumption and many products are manufactured using oil. A cleaner, safer source of fuel might be found in genetically modified algae.

New iPhone owners, recycle your old phone for a good cause

New iPhone owners, recycle your old phone for a good cause Thousands of people got lucky yesterday and can say that they now own the hottest gadget on the planet, the new iPhone. Now that you’ve got the latest and greatest from Apple, what should you do with your old cell phone? There are a lot of worthy organizations that could use your old phone to generate needed funds or even help a child in the classroom.

Recycled LCD component fights bacterial infections

YoRecycled LCD component fights bacterial infectionsur TV may someday save your life. Scientists in the United Kingdom have discovered a way to turn one of the chemical compounds used in LCD screens into an anti-microbial substance that has the potential to fight deadly infections and safely deliver drugs. Once altered, researchers report that the chemical compound polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA) is strong enough to kill E. coli and some strains of Staphylococcus aureus.

Liquid crystal displays, used in flat-screen televisions and digital clocks among other products, have become one of the fastest growing sources of waste in the United States and European Union. Finding ways to re-use chemicals like PVA once they've reached their end-of-life stage will be critical in reducing the waste produced by electronics. Less than 20 percent of electronic waste is recycled each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Vizio makes big 3D move - affordable 3D LED TVs and glasses

Vizio makes big 3D move - affordable 3D LED TVs and glasses Vizio has an intriguing position in the LED TV world: not a leader, but a follower that makes quality TVs for the commonman. With the belief that everyone is entitled to the latest TV technology, Vizio has created a model of high impact technology at affordable prices. The model, now, will not be limited to simple LCD TVs. The "Where Vision Meets Value" business model will now extend to 3D LED TVs.

Vizio doesn't claim to be the leading innovator in TV technology, nor does it claim to have the best product. What Vizio provides is affordability that translates into high TV sales volumes. Sure, Samsung controls the TV market, but in Q1 of 2010, right below Samsung was Vizio with a 16.7 % LCD TV market share, and in Q1 through Q3 of 2009, Vizio was the #1 shipper of LCD HDTVs; not Sony, not LG, not Sanyo, not even Samsung.

Tesla’s survival hinges on success of Model S electric car

Tesla’s survival hinges on success of Model S electric car Tesla is on the fast track toward an IPO and is betting future success on the upcoming Model S electric car. Companies like Toyota and Daimler are investors and customers, and they are already coming to Tesla with requests to build components for their vehicles. But what makes Tesla different from other car companies and why would anyone want to invest in it?

CEO Elon Musk is quick to point out that Tesla is not a car company . . . even though it’s building electric cars. Those cars may be the end result but he’s focused on branding Tesla as a tech company. Most of that is likely marketing spin but there seems to be some truth to it as well. From a marketing perspective Musk doesn’t want you to think of GM, Ford or Toyota and group Tesla in with them. Instead he wants to associate his company with the likes of Google and Microsoft – huge companies that are still seeing success where other industries are suffering.

Fresh price cuts for Amazon Kindle 2 and Barnes & Noble Nook

Fresh price cuts for Amazon Kindle 2 and Barnes & Noble Nook With Apple’s launch of the iPad, the e-book reader industry suddenly had a new and deadly competitor to deal with. Single function devices like the Kindle 2 and Barnes & Noble Nook appeal to an audience of power readers while the iPad appeals to readers + bloggers + web surfers + gamers etc. BUT are those multi-taskers willing to pay the premium for that functionality? Amazon and Barnes & Noble are betting they won’t and have cut prices again for the Kindle 2 and Nook.

The iPad starts out at about $500 for a Wi-Fi only connection and Barnes & Noble just debuted a similarly modeled Nook with Wi-Fi only for $150. That much of a price gap certainly warrants some thinking on what a device will primarily be used for. The Nook has some functionality built into its touch screen on the lower part of the device but nothing close to the iPad’s versatility.

Supplier gets nailed for millions in Chinese drywall trial

Supplier gets nailed in $2.4 million Chinese drywall trial Families in Virginia and the Gulf Coast have been dealing with a dangerous problem in the form of Chinese drywall. Like many, Armin and Lisa Seifart discovered that their home was built using the defective product and decided to remove it and investigate their legal options. They took their Miami based drywall supplier to court and won $2.4 million.

Sinks meld with toilets to save water

Sinks meld with  toilets to save waterEveryone has a routine. We tend to do the same things in the same way at approximately the same time. We don't even have to think about our actions because they become automatic. Pick up the toothbrush, turn on the faucet, brush the teeth, turn off the faucet. Inertia is a fundamental principle of physics, but it may as well be a fundamental principle of psychology. It often takes some other force, some outside energy, to knock us out of our patterns before we make the effort to change. Water shortages are forcing communities in arid regions to adapt - but we can make simple changes to our routines now, before we face high water bills and usage restrictions.

Honda has a go at hybrid cars again with the sporty CR-Z

Honda has a go at hybrid cars again with the sporty CR-Z Hybrid car makers invest vast amounts of money in new technology that will help them one-up the competition in the all-important MPG race. The car’s design isn’t their main concern and they often produce models that look more like a vanilla sedan than a car with sex appeal. Honda wants to change the hybrid market with their sporty new CR-Z that has slick features and questionable gas mileage.

Honda’s never had the level of success in the hybrid market that their arch rival Toyota currently enjoys with the Prius. The US sales numbers for their hybrid called the Insight stalled in 2009 and missed their target sales number by a wide margin.

Pollutants incubating in free-range eggs

Pollutants incubating in free-range  eggsIf a chicken could choose its coop, there's little doubt it would prefer one with plenty of space, sunshine and good grub. Most people would agree it's more humane to raise animals in their natural environment, without artificial hormones, cages and unsanitary conditions. When it comes to our own health, however, free-range isn't necessarily best.

Prices of Samsung LED TVs drop; Amazon and Buy.com wage war

Prices of Samsung LED TVs drop; Amazon and Buy.com wage war LED TVs are quickly gaining recognition and becoming hot commodities in a TV market that hasn't seen much change since the advent of slim plasma and LCD TVs. With improved picture quality and the addition of 3D to some models, LED TVs, with the backing of several major manufacturers, are now ready for the mainstream market.

So why are LED TVs ready for the mainstream market now?

A couple of factors. One, multiple manufacturers are now competing in the same LED TV and 3D market. As early statistics indicated, Samsung, completely controlled the market. In early June, Samsung sold 270,000 of the 300,000 total 3D TVs sold worldwide, controlling more than 90% of the market. Not to mention, at one point in 2009, Samsung controlled 94.8% of US LED TV market.

Chevrolet Volt blasted by Arizona heat in latest quality tests

Chevrolet Volt getting blasted by Arizona heat in latest quality tests It seems that GM is serious about delivering a vehicle that’s equal to the demands of a modern day driver, especially when it comes to the Chevrolet Volt. The company has conducted testing for some time now and its latest round is focused on determining how well the the car withstands heat.

Understandably, GM wants to emphasize that the Chevrolet Volt is capable of handling most any climate a driver lives in especially because of consumer uncertainty surrounding the new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technology. With enough testing (and publicity), GM may be able to convince cynical buyers to make the jump and buy a Volt sooner.

Cleaning animals coated from the BP oil spill may be pointless

Cleaning animals coated from the BP oil spill may be pointless As crude oil continues spewing from BP’s deepwater well in the Gulf of Mexico a debate is flickering between two camps in the scientific community. Those who see value in trying to clean oil off of coated wild animals, and those who consider it a waste of time that mostly just helps humans feel better by granting a false sense of accomplishment.

It’s a tangled web, but any way you look at it the numbers are gruesome. 1,282 seabirds have been rescued so far, and only 40 of those have successfully been returned to the wild. Sea turtles have even a worse ratio with 387 rescued and only 3 returned to the wild. All of the dolphins stranded in the oil spill died (statistics via Guardian). It’s no wonder humans want to help, the level of destruction creates an immense sense of guilt and every bit we can do helps, right?

Nissan’s Leaf gets noisy with a new sound system

Nissan’s Leaf gets noisy with a new sound system Whether you’re running errands or just walking to work, it’s hard to avoid the sound of passing traffic. Most everyone will react to the sound or sight of a nearby vehicle and make the necessary adjustments to stay out of its path. Combustion engines may give us clues of an oncoming car but what about quiet electric cars? Nissan has added audible alerts to their Leaf EV to protect pedestrians and those with vision impairments.

The issue with both hybrid and electric cars is that they rely on electricity when traveling at low speeds. So, if you’re still rocking your iPod while exiting the supermarket or are just plain oblivious, you might not hear the approaching car that’s relying on its battery.

Artists tackle toxic materials

Some say cArtists tackle toxic materialsreativity requires a touch of madness. The stereotypical artist is an irritable, unstable and depressed individual, perhaps an insomniac or prone to delirium. These traits also happen to be symptoms of chronic low-level poisoning, and many art supplies contain heavy metals and toxic chemicals such as arsenic, lead and mercury. Exposure to these materials was a frequent cause of accidental death in artists and craftsmen prior to the twentieth century.

Painters work with pigments that may contain heavy metals like lead, sculptors might inhale particles of plaster and clay, glass workers can be exposed to arsenic and photographers in dark rooms may work with chemicals like cyanide and mercury preservatives. Ceramic glazes sometimes contain cadmium, chromium, and lead and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, firing glazes in a kiln can further release toxins into the air.

Nokero combines solar energy and LEDs to light up the world

Nokero combines solar energy and LEDs to light up the world Americans take a lot of things for granted such as energy access. We think nothing of picking up a few CFL light bulbs at a home improvement store and rarely worry about power outages. This scenario is a dream for the 1.6 billion people worldwide that live without access to power. Nokero hopes that their solar powered LED light bulb called the N100 can be a safe and eco-friendly option for those that rely on unsafe kerosene lamps.

Kerosene is popular in the developing world because it is highly portable and easier to use than wood or other fuels. These factors have contributed to the popularity of kerosene lamps and some scary environmental facts. These lamps produce almost 190 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is akin to the output of 38 million cars.

New solar technology mimics mother nature

New solar technology mimics mother  natureIn 1941, clinging burrs inspired a Swiss engineer to create the fastener now known as Velcro. In recent years, scientists have developed more aerodynamic wind turbines based on whale fins, stronger adhesives based on gecko feet and even glow-in-the-dark aquarium fish using fluorescent jellyfish proteins. Nature is filled with simple, elegant innovations. This week, Swiss inventor Michael Graetzel won this year's Millenium Technology Prize of nearly 1 million dollars for his low-cost solar cells based on the process of photosynthesis. These cells may someday turn our windows into man-made leaves.

Sony dupes Samsung and LG by offering 3D TVs with 3D gaming

Sony dupes Samsung and LG by offering 3D TVs with 3D gaming Sony, coupled with the anxiety of Samsung's market dominance in LED 3D TVs and Panasonic's supremacy in Plasma 3D TVs, recognized the importance of distinguishing the Sony brand for exactly what it is: an expansive line of products.

In any one market, Sony may showcase glimpses of power, innovation, and superiority, but it is seldom that Sony ever completely controls one market.

With LCD TVs, LG just recently surpassed Sony as the second highest selling LCD supplier behind Samsung, who now controls a whopping 21.6% of the market. Sony controls just about half of that at 11.3% of the market. Not to mention, of the 300,000 3D TVs already sold, Samsung accounted for 270,000 of them, leaving just 30,000 spread out among the other 3D TV suppliers.

Solar cell in Apple iPhone 5, & next iPad may give Apple a leg up

Solar cell in Apple iPhone 5, & next iPad may give Apple a leg upSteve Jobs and Apple couldn’t be happer, everyone is talking about the iPhone 4 and it certainly has some features to be excited about. One problem it suffers from though - just like most other smartphones in the market - is battery life. Lithium-ion battery technology works well but it struggles to provide enough storage capacity in such a confined form factor. One way to solve that problem (at least partially) is by providing alternate energy sources, like the sun.

To use solar energy a device needs to absorb and adapt it to a compatible state, and that’s usually accomplished with solar panels. One of Apple’s recent patent filings indicates that the company is researching and wants exclusive rights to “media players with integrated touch sensor solar panel surfaces,” via GoodCleanTech.

Nissan LEAF EV looking hot with planned charging station network

Nissan LEAF EV looking hot with planned charging station network Electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF offer a compelling proposition for drivers because they eliminate the use of gasoline completely. There’s just one problem. When most drivers hear about an electric vehicle (EV) one of their first questions is “what’s the range?” Understandably, they don’t want to be stranded between two points without any means of locomotion. Initiatives focused on building out EV charging station networks in the US may be the solution.

Coulomb Technologies is working on one of those initiatives, ChargePoint America, which aims to build 4,600 EV charging stations funded by $37 million in grants. Those stations are targeted to parts of the United States and over half of them will go in public places, similar in accessibility to gas stations. The other portion will go into residential homes. So what’s the big deal?

A new power trip: Nokia reveals bike powered cell phone charger

A new power trip: Nokia reveals bike powered cell phone charger As new cell phones hit the marketplace so do cell phone chargers for your car, home, or even portable models for emergencies. Instead of relying on an outlet Nokia’s Bicycle Charger Kit uses green energy from your bike to power up your phone.

The Nokia Bicycle Charger Kit is really simple. It includes a mount for your cell phone, the charger, and a dynamo that fits on the front wheel of your bike. The dynamo uses the motion of the front wheel to create energy for your phone. The charger works with Nokia brand cell phones that have a 2mm charging jack.

Common houseplants cure sick building syndrome

Tightly seaCommon  houseplants cure sick building syndromeled homes save both energy and money, but without proper ventilation, they can become cesspools of dust, chemicals and toxic vapors. These pollutants can cause "sick building syndrome"and pose a hazard to human health, particularly for those with allergies or respiratory conditions. Even in central cities, the air quality inside homes can be lower than the air quality outside. People with green thumbs, however, can rest easy. Not only are plants relaxing to look at, they provide a simple air cleaning service.

Shrek glasses pulled from McDonald’s over cadmium fear

Shrek glasses pulled from McDonald’s over cadmium fearSince 1955, McDonald’s has served up burgers in a fun atmosphere that’s suitable for all ages. Their Playland areas, mascots, and movie tie-in’s have been a huge draw for families. A recall notice issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for McDonald’s “Shrek Forever After” glasses may tarnish their sterling reputation with parents. 

The Shrek glasses went on sale on May 21st and featured designs of the main characters such as Donkey, Princess Fiona, Puss n’ Boots, and Shrek. At least seven million of the $1.99 glasses have been sold so far in the US and 1.4 million in Canada. 

Weaving solar panels and nanofibers into our lives

Solar panels geWeaving solar panels and  nanofibers into our livesnerate some of the cleanest energy available. Drawing on the sun, they don't require drilling, filtering or factories. Even accounting for the fact that solar panels are made with silicon and eventually break down, the amount of non-polluting energy they produce throughout their lifetime outweighs the amount of waste they leave at the end of their lifetime. Many people use them to kiss electricity bills goodbye. Yet solar panels often share the same drawback: They can't follow you wherever you go.

Nissan Leaf and Ford Transit offer free charging. Is it enough?

Nissan Leaf and Ford Transit offer free charging. Is it enough? Early adopters of innovative technology often sacrifice price and quality to be the first to have a product. With some products, it works out while with other products, the technology either morphs into something better or is completely discontinued. With all electric, plug-in Nissan and Ford cars, early adopters will reap the rewards of something far better than improved gas mileage or innovative technology. Try free energy.

Plug-in electric cars present a unique challenge for consumers looking to save money by switching to electric batteries from the standard alternative, gas. While it may be enticing to dream of never filling up at the pump again, it certainly isn't all that cost effective or convenient.

The elevated price and increased electricity bills make plug-in cars a tough proposition for early adopters weighing out the cost and benefits.

China angering citizens with new electric & hybrid car subsidies

China angering citizens with new electric & hybrid car subsidies China is taking a cue from the Unite States, Japan, and Europe with newly announced subsidies for hybrid and electric cars. These handouts are intended to catalyze development of fuel efficient vehicles in the country, and they signal that China is serious about competing in the global electric and hybrid car industry. But, there’s problem with that approach according to the country’s own citizens.

A widening gap between rich and poor in China places electric, hybrid and even traditional gas-powered cars out of reach for many. Understandably, that raises some tension when public tax dollars are funneled into a program that rewards the wealthy further. China is likely hoping to duplicate the success it saw last year with tax incentives for people buying vehicles who lived in rural areas.