In our continued survey of fun, cool and/or just weird technological advancements, here is what I found in June.
Batteries: Rose madder, a red dye made from plants, could help power some of the first commercial lithium-ion batteries. And who would have thought that cactus skin could improve fuel cells by helping them contain water more efficiently? No seriously, that seems obvious in hindsight.
Biofuels: These two green algae strains contain more than 50% dry-weight oil content making them perfect sources of biofuels; and then there is this blue-green algae which is also a good candidate. The US Army has lots of spent artillery shells so here is a cool way to turn the propellant in them into biofuel. This technique converts forest residues into biofuel by rapidly heating and cooling them in an oxygen-free environment.
Solar: Solar panels can have lots of glare which neighbors do not like, this moth eyeball idea could help to reduce the unwanted glare. Hydricity uses solar energy to produce superheated water which in turn generates power 24/7. This idea could store energy generated from renewable sources like solar in large underwater balloons. France is about to pave 1,000 kilometers of roads with solar panels.
Wind: Turbines in very cold environments have been plagued by ice buildup thus making little sense to install them there; that is until this idea came around. Some people suggest that wind farms drop property values but the evidence does not support this assertion. The Eiffel Tower had a green makeover that included hand-painted mini-turbines. The open oceans have lots and lots of wind blowing over them, so how about wind-powered freighters? In the USA alone, 110-meter turbines versus 80-meter versions will open up 54% more land for wind power generation; so you can see why turbine manufacturers are constantly trying to push the limits of turbine heights.
- As the saying goes, to all good things much come an end and well I am happy to report that at least one streak has been broken in the May 2016 NOAA global climate report. And while May 2016 was the hottest May on record since record keeping started in 1880, it was not the hottest month ever and in fact it had the lowest departure from average temperature that we have seen since August 2015. Now that is nothing to write home about certainly as May 2016 was the 12th hottest month ever recorded, but hey I guess we should be happy it was not the hottest – or should we?…
- The Fourth of July is upon us (or actually slightly past us) so the Google Search of the month was, “GIS and July 4th”. And much to my delight look at what I found, a project by Virginia Tech exploring the meaning of the Fourth of July during the Civil War. As the project should be online in Fall 2016, it is unclear how GIS will help but either way, this is one cool topic!
- We travel from the Lone State to the Beehive State for our monthly review of the largest city’s online GIS presence- i.e. Salt Lake City, Utah. And while the GIS landing page is not much to look at, it does allow users to download GIS vector datasets; further, the GIS team gives every level of user something to work with. For novice users, there is a large collection of online maps here. One downfall of the site is that aerial images cannot be downloaded directly, but you can email the GIS team to setup access to them.
Brock Adam McCarty