- In our look at technology this month, I focus on a group of energy-generating ideas and green-living stories that caught my attention recently. Pacemakers are currently powered by batteries which must be replaced every 5 to 7 years – a costly and potentially life-threatening procedure. Researchers at the University of Michigan are experimenting with technology that can convert the motion created by a heartbeat into usable electricity and thus eliminate the need to replace pacemakers regularly. Dr. Daniel G. Nocera and his team have improved upon their silicon wafer design which can be dropped into a glass of water and produce energy in the form of oxygen and hydrogen (i.e. a fuel cell). In the past, the artificial leaf required pure water but the redesign includes a catalyst-coating which denies bacteria the smooth surface they need to grow – as such, the wafer can now generate power even in a cup of dirty water. A team at the University of Utah has developed a way to generate electricity from a pot of boiling water – a technology with obvious implications in the developing world and for situations when you are ‘off the grid.’ A London-based company, Pavegen, has developed a power generating street tile that can produce between one and seven watts of energy for every footstep. Finally, scientists at the University of Arizona have found a way to convert the piles of waste sulfur produced by fossil fuel refinement into plastic that can be used to improve the next-generation lithium-sulfur batteries.
Now, a few green-living stories to close out this look at technology, starting with a solar-powered nano filter that can clean our world’s waterways. Over the years, our waterways have been polluted with many forms of toxins, including antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. The new nano filters developed by the University of Cincinnati use two bacterial proteins in combination with solar energy to filter out ~64% of the antibiotics versus only 40% with current technologies. Do you live in a rainy climate? If so, check out this super-fun green umbrella made by an Italian Designer, Gingko. This lightweight umbrella is made completely of plastic parts which are recyclable and the simple design features only 20 parts versus metal/fabric umbrellas with 120+ parts.
- In 2011 and 2012, the US Department of Energy (DOE) invested $200 million in grants to support offshore wind energy. The grants were given to either reduce market barriers or to develop technology. Currently available data suggests that the coasts of the US and the Great Lakes could generate more than 4,000,000 megawatts of power, or roughly four times the current generating capacity of the entire US. If you are interested to see where the $200 million in grants went and the energy potential along our shores, check out the map here.
- With the heat of the summer building here in Boulder, I was inspired to search for, ‘GIS and summer weather’, in Google. If you look through all of the hits, you might find this paper written by Bhamare and Agone on the rising summer temperatures in the Tapi Basin of India. In the study, the authors looked at Band 6 of Landsat-TM data dating back two decades and converted the raw pixel values to black body temperature. From May 1990 to May 2010, they found an increase in average surface temperature from 41.6°C to 44.1°C. These increased temperatures have important impacts on the local water cycle, for instance driving increased evaporation which depletes water levels basin-wide. Whatever you believe is at the root of these increased global temperatures, the negative impacts are real and they cannot continue to be ignored.
- From the northeast we travel to the mid-Atlantic shore and explore the GIS resources of Wilmington, Delaware, the largest city in the First State. Well by explore, I mean try to find the city’s GIS resources which definitely exist behind the scenes but has no publically facing website. The closest I could find was a list of maps in PDF format, including neighborhood, zoning and a parks map. Not very impressive GIS resources (to say the least) for Delaware’s largest city.
Brock Adam McCarty