Tag: electricity

New Solar Panel Design Could Charge Your Phone With Ambient Light

These days, we use our cell phones for a lot more than just making calls.

Smartphones have become essential tools for monitoring our health, interacting with our vehicles, and entering the world of augmented reality.

But these expanded smartphone functions have brought with them the need for us to find new ways to keep our cell phones charged.

Recently, some have attempted to power smartphones through wireless power transmission or by capturing the kinetic energy of the user’s movements.




Now, researchers have devised a method to charge cell phones with ambient light.

Scientists at Dracula Technologies, a French solar energy company, have developed “LAYER” technology — short for “Light As Your Energetic Response.

Essentially, LAYERs are thin, flexible solar cells that can be manufactured using an inkjet printer.

These cost-effective, foldable sheets are composed of a unique conductive plastic that can capture energy from both solar and artificial light — making this technology much more versatile than many of its predecessors.

A LAYER could either be printed onto the electronic device itself, or a larger sheet could be fixed to something that might capture more light, such as a backpack.

That object, then, would be hooked up to the device.

These solar cells only take about an hour to print and can be customized in shape and color, or even transparent.

While the researchers are still looking for ways to shorten the time it takes the solar cells to charge cell phones, they are confident that the technology is almost ready for real-world applications.

In a few months’ time, we should be able to charge a smartphone,” Ben Dkhil said in the interview.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Why Are We Still Using Electroconvulsive Therapy?

The idea of treating a psychiatric illness by passing a jolt of electricity through the brain was one of the most controversial in 20th Century medicine.

So why are we still using a procedure described by its critics as barbaric and ineffective?

Sixty-four-year-old John Wattie says his breakdown in the late 1990s was triggered by the collapse of his marriage and stress at work.

We had a nice house and a nice lifestyle, but it was all just crumbling away. My depression was starting to overwhelm me. I lost control, I became violent,” he explains.

John likens the feeling to being in a hole, a hole he could not get out of despite courses of pills and talking therapies.




But now, he says, all of that has changed thanks to what is one of the least understood treatments in psychiatry – electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

“Before ECT I was the walking dead. I had no interest in life, I just wanted to disappear. After ECT I felt like there was a way out of it. I felt dramatically better.

The use of electricity to treat mental illness started out as an experiment. In the 1930s psychiatrists noticed some heavily distressed patients would suddenly improve after an epileptic fit.

Passing a strong electric current through the brain could trigger a similar seizure and – they hoped – a similar response.

By the 1960s it was being widely used to treat a variety of conditions, notably severe depression.

But as the old mental asylums closed down and aggressive physical interventions like lobotomies fell out of favour, so too did electroshock treatment, as ECT was previously known.

The infamous ECT scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest cemented the idea in the public’s mind of a brutal treatment, although by the time the film was released in 1975 it was very rarely given without a general anaesthetic.

Perhaps more significantly, new anti-depressant drugs introduced in the 1970-80s gave doctors new ways to treat long-term mental illness.

But for a group of the most severely depressed patients, ECT has remained one of the last options on the table when other therapies have failed.

Annually in the UK around 4,000 patients, of which John is one, still undergo ECT.

It’s not intuitive that causing seizures can be good for depression but it’s long been determined that ECT is effective,” says Professor Ian Reid at the University of Aberdeen, who heads up the team treating John.

In the 75 years since ECT was first used scientists have argued about why and how it might work. The latest theories build on the idea of hyperconnectivity.

This new concept in psychiatry suggests parts of the brain can start to transmit signals in a dysfunctional way, overloading the system and leading to conditions from depression to autism.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

According To Stephen Hawking, We Have Less Than 100 Years To Save The Human Race

The human race is entering the most dangerous 100 years in its history and faces a looming existential battle, Stephen Hawking has warned.

The theoretical physicist identified artificial intelligence (AI), nuclear war and genetically-engineered viruses as just some of the man-made problems that pose an imminent threat to humanity.

And the 74-year-old said that as we rapidly advance in these fields, there will be “new ways things can go wrong”.

We are at a point in history where we are “trapped” by our own advances, with humanity increasingly at risk from man-made threats but without technology sophisticated enough to escape from Earth in the event of a cataclysm.




He warned: “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or ten thousand years.

By that time we should have spread out into space, and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race.

However, we will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period.

He added that humans do have a knack of “saving the day” just in time, and urged fellow scientists to continue trying to make advances in their respective fields.

Prof Hawking said: “We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we have to recognise the dangers and control them. I’m an optimist, and I believe we can.

It’s important to ensure that these changes are heading in the right directions. In a democratic society, this means that everyone needs to have a basic understanding of science to make informed decisions about the future.

So communicate plainly what you are trying to do in science, and who knows, you might even end up understanding it yourself.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Artificial Intelligence Can Stop Electricity Theft And Meter Misreading

Many developing countries like Brazil, India, Bangladesh, UK have to deal with the electricity crisis. There could be many potential reasons behind this but one of the major ones is electricity theft.

According to a research, UK loses more than 400 million pounds every year due to such malpractices. There are many people who try to save money by stealing electricity.

This kind of practice is mainly adopted in rural areas or in some big factories or mills. But soon this problem could be solved by a team of software developers in Brazil.




The developers tested an AI algorithm on several household’s and the results were very promising.

The developers are not only aiming at stopping electricity theft but they also want to get some crucial information like the peak electricity usage, the general trend in the electricity usage over the course of the year.

All this information could be very useful for the local government and can help them tackle the problem of the electricity crisis.

The algorithm can recognize when energy use at a property was suspiciously low. Developers used the past 5 years electricity consumption data to train the AI.

The algorithm will use the past data against the current consumption. This could help better target physical inspections of properties which could be a hectic process.

According to the researchers, the current algorithm detects the malpractice with a 65% accuracy rate.

Now, researchers are aiming to implement this technology in commercial software that will be used in Latin America.

If the algorithm could work as suggested by the researchers in real life then this could help developing countries boost their development rate.

This would also mean that countries could use the extra money in another task like education, healthcare.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Hydrogen Energy And Fuel Cell Technology

hydrogen

Hydrogen is the simplest element. An atom of hydrogen consists of only one proton and one electron. It’s also the most plentiful element in the universe.

Despite its simplicity and abundance, hydrogen doesn’t occur naturally as a gas on the Earth – it’s always combined with other elements. Water, for example, is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O).

Hydrogen is also found in many organic compounds, notably the hydrocarbons that make up many of our fuels, such as gasoline, natural gas, methanol, and propane.




Hydrogen can be separated from hydrocarbons through the application of heat – a process known as reforming. Currently, most hydrogen is made this way from natural gas.

An electrical current can also be used to separate water into its components of oxygen and hydrogen. This process is known as electrolysis.

Some algae and bacteria, using sunlight as their energy source, even give off hydrogen under certain conditions.

Hydrogen is high in energy, yet an engine that burns pure hydrogen produces almost no pollution. NASA has used liquid hydrogen since the 1970s to propel the space shuttle and other rockets into orbit.

h20

Hydrogen fuel cells power the shuttle’s electrical systems, producing a clean byproduct – pure water, which the crew drinks.

A fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat, and water. Fuel cells are often compared to batteries.

Both convert the energy produced by a chemical reaction into usable electric power. However, the fuel cell will produce electricity as long as fuel (hydrogen) is supplied, never losing its charge.

Fuel cells are a promising technology for use as a source of heat and electricity for buildings, and as an electrical power source for electric motors propelling vehicles.

Fuel cells operate best on pure hydrogen. But fuels like natural gas, methanol, or even gasoline can be reformed to produce the hydrogen required for fuel cells.

Some fuel cells even can be fueled directly with methanol, without using a reformer.

In the future, hydrogen could also join electricity as an important energy carrier. An energy carrier moves and delivers energy in a usable form to consumers.

Renewable energy sources, like the sun and wind, can’t produce energy all the time. But they could, for example, produce electric energy and hydrogen, which can be stored until it’s needed.

Hydrogen can also be transported (like electricity) to locations where it is needed.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

What’s Really Killing King Coal?

Coal’s prices will soon be so noncompetitive that coal-fired power will drop 51 percent by 2040, according to the latest electricity sector forecast.

Coal is dying. Even in China and India and total global greenhouse gas emissions from electrical generation will peak in 2026, according to a bullish report released Thursday by respected independent energy consultants.

“This year’s report suggests that the greening of the world’s electricity system is unstoppable,” said Seb Henbest, lead author of the New Energy Outlook forecast.

The report is published annually by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), an independent energy research firm, and is based on eight months of analysis and extensive market modeling.




Around the world, solar has become a formidable opponent to coal, BNEF said. That’s because the price of solar, which already costs roughly one-fourth of what it did in 2009.

Coal power generation in China has been growing but will reach a peak in 2026, the report says. Already, many planned coal plants are being cancelled.

solar panel

Wind costs are also dropping fast. Offshore wind costs are falling faster than onshore and are expected to skid 71 percent by 2040.

Land-based wind energy, which has already dropped by 30 percent in the last eight years, will continue to fall by 47 percent by 2040, the report says.

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Pass it on: New Scientist