green tech

MIT's iPhone-Linked Copenhagen Wheel Makes Your Bike Smarter While Giving You A Boost

The Copenhagen Wheel:  MIT Senseable City Lab
The innovation slingers from MIT Senseable City Lab have shown up at the Copenhagen Conference, and they’ve brought an idea with them that’s actually worth talking about. The Copenhagen Wheel – named not just for the city of its unveiling but also for Copenhagen’s role in a biking renaissance over the past several years – employs regenerative braking, an electric motor and even a Bluetooth connection to your iPhone for real-time data display.

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Bad Bottles of Wine Can Be Used for Energy

A bad bottle can throw a wrench in your dinner party, but researchers in the U.S. and India say it could also lower your energy bills. Using the leftover vinegar and sugar in improperly fermented wine, those scientists are devising novel methods to turn wastewater from vineyards into electricity and hydrogen, cleaning the water in the process.

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Chinese "Sun Dial" is the World's Largest Solar-Powered Office Building

China, constantly straddling the line between super-polluter and clean tech pioneer, has unveiled what for the time being is the world’s largest solar-powered office building . The fan-like roof of the 800,000 square-foot facility located in Dezhou in Shangdong Province was cleverly designed to resemble an ancient sun dial, though rather than ticking off the passing hours, the building houses exhibition centers, research facilities, meeting and convention spaces and a hotel, all of which are powered by the hundreds of solar panels adorning its roof.

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Bacteria-Busting Genetic Bombs Make Biofuel Processing a Blast

Generating biofuels from bacteria would be easier and potentially more efficient than producing it from plant matter -- if it weren't for the energy-intensive chemical reactions needed to extract the fuel from the bacteria after they've manufactured it. But the most promising sources of bacterial fuel, like cyanobacteria, are wrapped in multiple layers of protective membranes that make it difficult to get at the fatty material.

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Danish Island Becomes One of the First Energy-Self-Sufficient Places On Earth

For centuries now, civilization has been working toward an unsustainable future, burning fossil fuels for heat and electricity and creating a way of life that is a model of inefficiency. The tiny Danish island of Samso is leading the way back to sustainability, becoming the one of the first industrialized places in the world to qualify as completely energy self-sufficient.

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New Reactor Uses Sunlight to Turn Water and Carbon Dioxide Into Fuel

Talk about a Eureka moment. Scientists at Sandia National Labs, seeking a means to create cheap and abundant hydrogen to power a hydrogen economy, realized they could use the same technology to "reverse-combust" CO2 back into fuel. Researchers still have to improve the efficiency of the system, but they recently demonstrated a working prototype of their "Sunshine to Petrol" machine that converts waste CO2 to carbon monoxide, and then syngas, consuming nothing but solar energy.

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Containing the Sahara with Bacteria-Built Walls

Bacteria that construct walls out of sand could save a third of the world's population from desertification

The Sahara, as well as other deserts around the world, is growing, in a process called desertification that ends up displacing people and crops. The situation has become drastic in a number of sub-Saharan countries. One suggestion from architect Magnus Larsson at the recent TED Global conference suggests constructing a massive wall, 3,700 miles long -- built from the sand itself. The trick would be to use bacterial labor to build it.

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New Solar Cells Adjust Sensitivity According to Latitude

Because solar intensity increases as you get closer to the equator, the same solar cell normally can't be equally effective in any given location. The UK firm Quantasol has devised a way of allowing solar cells to be fine-tuned according to their positional latitude, providing a substantial bump in efficiency.

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Presidential Power

Four energy solutions for an eco-friendlier White House

"Absolutely." That's what Barack Obama told Barbara Walters last November when asked if he would make the White House more environmentally friendly. Of course, he wouldn't be the first.

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The Future of the Environment

A blueprint for the eco-tropolis of the future with fresh air, pristine water and cheap energy. Plus, 48 audacious ideas to save the planet

The Green Megalopolis: An eco-savvy blueprint for tomorrow's megacity  Kevin Hand
In our annual Future of the Environment issue, we take a look at the monumental problems facing our world as we continue into the 21st century, as well as solutions ranging from the audacious to the everyday to, quite literally, save the planet.

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City Dwellers Are Greener

A study shows urban life produces less carbon per capita, but some cities are greener than others

New York Skyline:  William Warby (CC Licensed)

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Green Until The Very End

An assortment of green burial options, from high-concept to just-plain-gross, are becoming a reality for the environmentally conscious

Worried that embalming fluids or emissions from cremation will pollute the earth after your death? There may be a more eco-friendly albeit somewhat grisly alternative—dissolving the body in lye. The process, which has been used to dispose of animals and lab specimens for many years, is now being considered more seriously for human use. Called alkaline hydrolysis, the method uses a steel cylinder that dissolves the body in lye with 300-degree heat and 60 pounds of pressure per square inch. The result is a sterile, coffee-colored liquid with the consistency of motor oil that can be safely poured down the drain. A small amount of bone residue that can be scattered like cementation ashes is the only solid byproduct.

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A Peek Inside PARC

Silicon Valley’s fabled invention machine shows its latest tech

If technology were a religion, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center would be one of the holiest shrines on any pilgrimage. So much of our modern computer world was invented at this freewheeling innovation lab (and largely given away). Prefer your mouse and point-and-click graphical interface to a UNIX-style command line? Thanks PARC. Think laser prints look better than dot-matrix scrawl? Thanks again.

Some say the glory days have passed. PARC today is a more-focused operation that has to turn quick profits (no more open funding from its owner Xerox). But its still a well-staffed corporate research lab in an era with ever-fewer of those creatures. On Monday, its staff opened the doors to the press to show off the latest gizmos.

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