Spongelike Structure Converts Solar Energy into Steam

A new material structure developed at MIT generates steam by soaking up the sun.

The structure — a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam — is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water. When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light, the more steam is generated.

The new material is able to convert 85 percent of incoming solar energy into steam — a significant improvement over recent approaches to solar-powered steam generation.

“Steam is important for desalination, hygiene systems, and sterilization,” says Hadi Ghasemi, a postdoc in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, who led the development of the structure. “Especially in remote areas where the sun is the only source of energy, if you can generate steam with solar energy, it would be very useful.”


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Posted in: News, Energy, Energy Harvesting, Solar Power, Materials

Hurricane-Tracking Unmanned Systems Win NASA Challenge

NASA has selected three winning designs solicited to address the technological limitations of the uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) currently used to track and collect data on hurricanes. Engineering teams at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Purdue University, and the University of Virginia were named first- through third-place winners, respectively, of the agency's 2013-2014 University Aeronautics Engineering Design Challenge.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Aviation, Alternative Fuels, Environmental Monitoring, Automation, Robotics, Data Acquisition, Measuring Instruments, Monitoring, Test & Measurement

New Fuel Cells Increase Airplane Efficiency

Washington State University researchers have developed the first fuel cell that can directly convert fuels, such as jet fuel or gasoline, to electricity, providing a dramatically more energy-efficient way to create electric power for planes or cars.

Posted in: News, Energy, Energy Efficiency

New Study Uses Blizzard to Measure Wind Turbine Airflow

A study by researchers at the University of Minnesota using snow during a Minnesota blizzard is giving researchers new insight into the airflow around large wind turbines. This research is essential to improving wind energy efficiency, especially in wind farms where airflows from many large wind turbines interact with each other. As wind turbines have grown to more than 100 meters tall, field research in real-world settings has become more difficult.

Posted in: News, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Wind Power, Imaging, Video, Visualization Software, Optics, Photonics, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement

Gas Flow Measurement Technology Packs Hundreds of Sensors Into One Optical Fiber

By fusing together the concepts of active fiber sensors and high-temperature fiber sensors, a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh has created an all-optical high-temperature sensor for gas flow measurements that operates at record-setting temperatures above 800 °C. This technology is expected to find industrial sensing applications in harsh environments ranging from deep geothermal drill cores to the interiors of nuclear reactors to the cold vacuum of space missions, and it may eventually be extended to many others.

Posted in: News, Aerospace, Energy, Geothermal Power, Fiber Optics, Optics, Photonics, Detectors, Sensors, Measuring Instruments, Test & Measurement

Network-on-a-Chip Could Reduce Data-Farm Energy Use

Washington State University has developed a wireless network on a computer chip that could reduce energy consumption at huge data farms by as much as 20 percent. The wireless multicore chip design could also speed up data processing. The network-on-a-chip allows for wireless links between cores, resulting in less energy loss and higher data transfer speed.

Posted in: News, Electronics & Computers, Energy

New Supercapacitor Could Make Structural Energy Storage A Reality

Imagine a future in which our electrical gadgets are no longer limited by plugs and external power sources. This intriguing prospect is one of the reasons for the current interest in building the capacity to store electrical energy directly into a wide range of products, such as a laptop whose casing serves as its battery, or an electric car powered by energy stored in its chassis, or a home where the dry wall and siding store the electricity that runs the lights and appliances. It also makes the small, dull grey wafers that graduate student Andrew Westover and Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Cary Pint have made in Vanderbilt's Nanomaterials and Energy Devices Laboratory far more important than their nondescript appearance suggests.

Posted in: News, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Power Management, Energy, Energy Storage, Semiconductors & ICs

New Way To Make Sheets Of Graphene Discovered

Graphene's promise as a material for new kinds of electronic devices, among other uses, has led researchers around the world to study the material in search of new applications. But one of the biggest limitations to wider use of the strong, lightweight, highly conductive material has been the hurdle of fabrication on an industrial scale.

Posted in: News, Electronic Components, Electronics & Computers, Energy, Solar Power, Coatings & Adhesives, Materials, Semiconductors & ICs

Face-to-Face Molecular Orientation Improves Organic Solar Cell Efficiency

New research from North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill reveals that energy is transferred more efficiently inside of complex, three- dimensional organic solar cells when the donor molecules align face-on, rather than edge-on, relative to the acceptor. This finding may aid in the design and manufacture of more efficient and economically viable organic solar cell technology.

Posted in: News, Energy, Solar Power

Big Ideas for Small Spaces

Over 24 hours from April 4 to 5, six top French design studios conceived and presented new product concepts for urban environments during the Small Spaces Design Hackathon, presented by Cut&Paste in partnership with Hewlett-Packard. In dense city neighborhoods, homes are small and office space is at a premium, so urban dwellers must be more creative in how they use their space. The design concepts were presented at Cyclone Le Studio as part of ZED, HP’s creative popup space.

Posted in: News, Electronics & Computers, PCs/Portable Computers, Power Management, Energy, Displays/Monitors/HMIs, Imaging, Lighting, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE), Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM), Software, Monitoring, Test & Measurement

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