- From our May 2015 set of random technological innovations, in June we pivot our attention to one of my favorite topics, solar energy. First, here is a set of advancements in solar cells that are likely to increase the value of your home while making it more efficient. While this article is a bit dated now as it is from 2012, it was the first mention I had found of solar cells that could also be used as nearly transparent windows. The same research group that announced the breakthrough for solar cells used as windows doubled the efficiency of their original design about a year later. Give it another year and this advancement made by Michigan State University researchers is a nearly 100% transparent solar cell coating for windows, walls, cell phones and more. Perhaps your next home will be covered in energy-producing, cost-saving solar shingles? It appears that much like with material goods there is a similar ‘keeping up with the Jones’ affect to the installation of solar panels. This set of technological advancements in solar energy are all taken from nature. Glass can be produced in many ways such as with carbon-based materials that could be used in solar panels produced at lower costs. Similar to blades of grass, this research proposes organic solar cells made of carbon nanopillars which are extremely efficient at converting light to energy. Compounds found in the shells of shrimp may hold the key to inexpensive solar cells. Finally, can researchers copy the photosynthetic properties of hornets’ exoskeletons?
- The April 2015 NOAA climate report shows that the 12 month stretch from May 2014 to April 2015 is tied for the warmest stretch in 106 years of record keeping. In general, it is ocean temperatures that are driving the record warmth, but much of the global land surface was at least warmer to much warmer than average. Two notable exceptions were Australia and eastern India where temperatures were cooler to much cooler than average. You can read more of the April 2015 NOAA climate report here
The NOAA land and ocean temperature percentile departure map for April 2015. You can see warm conditions across much of the world with cool pockets over Australia and India.
- On June 14, 1900, the great ocean state of Hawaii was organized as a territory, and in honor of this my Google search for the month was, “GIS and Hawaii.” This short piece put together by USDA researchers, Fischer and Dunlevy, caught my attention about the eradication of rats on Lehua Island, Hawaii with the assistance of GIS. This small island has been infested by invasive plant and animal species, such as rats, so this step is an important to returning a flourish community of endemics species.
- From the East Coast of the USA, we travel south and west to the Land of Enchantment for a review of the GIS website(s) for the largest city in the state, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The City of Albuquerque features one of the best GIS websites we have seen, covering all the major bases one would expect. For beginning users, there is an online webmap full of features and layers, the only drawback is the need to install Silverlight. There is also a set of predefined map themes accessed here as well as maps for mobile devices. Address reports can be created here and then for advanced users, GIS vectors and rasters can be downloaded here.
Brock Adam McCarty