Green Business

Self-glowing Christmas trees may soon “lighten” your holiday stress

Self-glowing Christmas trees may soon “lighten” your holiday stressWith the holiday season fast approaching, many people are decking their halls and decorating their Christmas trees. One of the most joyless tasks during this season of joy, however, is untangling and hanging Christmas lights. And the frustration really increases when you plug in the Christmas tree after it is finally strung, and discover that half the bulbs don’t light. During such times, who wouldn’t want a tree that could make its own light? Such an idea is not as far-fetched as it might sound. Scientists are discovering how to make trees shine.

Taiwanese scientist Yen Hsun Su and coworkers are developing a “bio-LED (light emitting diode).” Current LED technology uses phosphor to emit light. Dr. Yen-Hsun Su wanted to find a substitute for phosphor because it is both expensive and toxic. To find safer alternative, his team tried implanting gold nanoparticles into Bacopa caroliniana plants (an aquatic herb).

Biofuels overshadowed by Nissan LEAF and other EV’s

Biofuels overshadowed by Nissan LEAF and other EV’sWith the buzz about EV’s such as the Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Volt, news about biofuels seems muted. Biofuels, however, remain an important component in the strategy to wean car drivers from fossil fuels. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act promoted the production of biofuels by providing subsidies and consumption requirements. The goal of the legislation is to increase the usage of biofuels from 4.7 billion gallons in 2007 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. But, unlike EV’s, biofuels have not been living up to their hype.

The most widely used biofuel in the US is ethanol, which is blended with gasoline to make gasohol (a blend of 10% ethanol with 90% gasoline). And ethanol is most commonly derived from corn, much in the same way that moonshine is made. The disadvantage of manufacturing ethanol from corn is that it competes with food production. To address the problem, the Energy Independence and Security Act also required that ethanol be produced from non-food crops, such as switchgrass or wood.

Want the first Chevy Volt? Bidding starts at $50k, school benefits

Want the first Chevy Volt? Bidding starts at $50k, school benefits GM is showing a bit of social web savvy and mixing that with a generous gift to education while also furthering the Chevrolet Volt’s already glowing reputation with the green community. It has decided to auction off the first Volt ever produced for retail online and plans to forward the proceeds to the study of math and science at Detroit Public Schools. It’s a powerful way of introducing the car with few advertising dollars spent.

Beyond the smartness of this move, GM is also generating a gift for a starving city. Detroit’s population has tumbled as the U.S. auto industry has struggled to ride through the recession. GM helped make the city during it’s most successful days by offering good jobs with excellent benefits, and current residents will likely be overjoyed at this new spurt of generosity.

Google buying Groupon: unconfirmed rumor with green potential

Google buying Groupon: unconfirmed rumor with green potential Printed paper takes energy and materials to produce and transport, and although electronic devices have similar costs, it’s a good bet that their total footprint is lower over the long run. Even if Google is thinking about buying Groupon its green credentials would be at best an incidental gain to the search giant. Regardless of that though, Google’s potential to increase electronic coupon adoption could have farther reaching green effects than just connecting consumers with sweet deals.

Companies and consumers are perpetually in an economic dance where companies want to charge the highest plausible price while still conveying real or perceived value, and consumers look for high quality at low prices. Coupons (and to a greater extent rebates) have always played the role of temptation because they offer excellent deals with a catch: the buyer must traditionally remember a paper voucher or a set of mail-in rules.

Breakthrough may make Kindle go the way of the 8-track

Breakthrough may make Kindle go the way of the 8-trackIt’s hard to believe now, but listening to music on 8-tracks once was the state of the art. The speed of technology often outstrips the capabilities of the latest gadgets and makes them obsolete. A recent innovation may make the Kindle the next victim. While Kindle vies against the Nook for supremacy, a new electrowetting technique may cast the current e-readers into the trash bin of technological has-beens.

The displays on most e-paper devices are based on electrophoretic technology. Millions of tiny particles are treated to have an electric charge and suspended in a solution between two parallel plates. The unit manipulates electric charge at precise points, making the particles migrate between the plates and resulting in words appearing on the screen. The most widely used e-paper devices, including the Kindle and the Nook, employ electrophoretic technology developed by E Ink.

Look out Chevy Volt: Nissan LEAF gets range anxiety relief

Look out Chevy Volt: Nissan LEAF gets range anxiety reliefAs automakers develop more innovative electric cars – such as the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i-MiEV – two issues still need to be resolved before EV’s can challenge hybrids such as the Chevy Volt. These issues are range anxiety and the speed of recharge. NRG, a power generating company based in New Jersey, is piloting the eVgo network in Houston to both solve these problems and expand its energy market.

The advantage electric cars have over other transportation alternatives such as hydrogen or natural gas is that the infrastructure to deliver electric charge already exists. Ideally, an EV would charge overnight in the garage, so it would be ready to go for the daily commute. But what if the commute exceeds the range of the car? And if drivers can stop somewhere to recharge, will it take hours?

Nissan LEAF rated 99 mpg by EPA, even though it’s all electric!

Nissan LEAF rated 99 mpg by EPA, even though it’s all electric! The Nissan LEAF is running at the front of a new set of cars powered completely by electricity. After generations of using combustion engine cars powered by gasoline, drivers in the U.S. are understandably programmed to evaluate the efficiency of vehicles based on their miles per gallon rating. But electric-only cars create a hiccup in that measurement because the main ingredient, gasoline, is missing.

To address that confusion, the EPA has announced a calculation that estimates how much electricity is necessary to power a vehicle for 100 miles. It determined that each 100 miles requires 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity and the Nissan LEAF stores 24 kilowatt-hours in its lithium-ion batteries.

Netflix streaming-only plan may mean lower carbon footprint

Netflix streaming-only plan may mean lower carbon footprint Consumption in most forms creates a balancing cost in the environment but the magnitude of those costs is largely governed by one thing: efficiency. Netflix is an old hand at efficiency, from its network of distribution warehouses to its DVD sleeve that’s used twice for each shipment. But consumer interest is moving away from receiving DVDs and toward content delivered through an Internet connection directly to big screen TVs. That in mind, Netflix just announced a change to its plan structure in the U.S. which allows customers to pay for streaming-only content, and that just might be a way to go green without sacrificing much.

Utilities aren’t using their smarts with smart meters

Utilities aren’t using their smarts with smart meters With rising energy costs, who wouldn’t want a better handle on their electrical consumption? Having that ability is the promise of the smart electrical meter. Smart meters provide electrical usage data to both consumers and electricity providers via wireless communication. This technology allows users to be more aware of – and perhaps to adjust – their consumption habits, as well as provides real-time data to utilities who then can allocate power more efficiently when demand peaks. However, in spite of the potential of the smart meter, complaints of health effects and other problems from smart meter installations are on the rise.

Mitsubishi delivering another electric car to U.S.: the i-MiEV

Mitsubishi delivering another electric car to U.S.: the i-MiEV Mitsubishi wants more action in the fledgling but growing electric car market in the United States, and with that goal in mind the company is developing a U.S. version of its i-MiEV model that’s a little more spacious and luxurious than its Japanese cousin. The company intends it to be a better fit for American customers, which may be consistent with a generally taller and wider population.

But other than space and standard features like tire pressure monitoring and traction control, drivers have a strong interest in being able to travel without running out of energy. That’s where the i-MiEV may run a bit short with estimates pegging it with a 60 to 70 mile range on a single battery charge.