Tag Archives: technology

Finally, A Solar Panel That You Can Actually See Through!

Solar power technology has been advancing rapidly in recent years. The rapidly decreasing cost and increasing efficiency of solar power has set off a solar revolution worldwide.

Germany, which is currently using solar to produce 50% of its total energy, has led the charge, along with the rest of Europe.

Other countries, like India, have made the expansion of solar infrastructure a primary focus.

The growth of solar power in the last 15 years. Click to enlarge

Now, there’s a new advancement which could end up being the tipping point in the solar revolution: a totally transparent solar concentrator.

The “transparent luminescent solar concentrator” can be placed over windows to gather solar power while still allowing people to actually see through the window.

The concentrator, which was designed by a team of researchers from Michigan State University, can also be used on cell phones or pretty much anything with a clear surface.

Other people have tried to design transparent solar concentrators before, but the materials they used were inefficient (in terms of energy  production) and created some pretty obvious tints on the window.

“No one wants to sit behind colored glass… It makes for a very colorful environment, like working in a disco. We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent,”

said Robert Lunt, an engineering professor at MSU who led the research.

A close up of the solar concentrator (Photo: Yimu Zhao)
A close up of the solar concentrator (Photo: Yimu Zhao)

This new solar concentrator uses tiny organic molecules that were specifically designed by Lunt and his team to absorb wavelengths of light that are invisible to the naked eye.

“We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared,”

said Lunt while explaining the process. This infrared light is then directed to the edges of the concentrator, where tiny strips of photovoltaic cells convert it into electricity.

Since the molecules used to capture the energy are specifically designed to not absorb or emit light within the visible spectrum, the concentrator appears to be almost completely transparent to the naked eye.

The electromagnetic spectrum. Click to enlarge

The technology is innovative, functional and versatile. Lunt believes it could ultimately become a huge part of our lives:

“It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

Read the original story from Science Daily here.

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Deaths That Don’t Have to Happen: The Relationship Between Knowledge and Health

Editor’s note: As part of  a writing class I took this summer, I had to do a group project addressing a social issue within our society.

Part of that assignment was writing an essay that promotes activism to address the issue.The research inspired me, so I decided to share that essay with you. Hope you enjoy! 


Knowledge, and the desire to use it to better our own lives, as well as the lives of everyone else. This is what has made our species so great.

Fire, the wheel, internal plumbing, electricity, refrigeration. All of these creations were the result of intelligent people with an insatiable drive to solve major problems that affected everyone within their communities.

As the world progressed into the modern era, more and more of these advancements came from the realm of medicine. For thousands of years, smallpox was a scourge that regularly plagued populations all over the world.

A close-up of the smallpox virus. Click to enlarge. Magnification: x28,500

In the 19th century, the disease was killing 400,000 Europeans every year. In the 20th century, it accounted for an estimated 300 million deaths worldwide.

Now, consider this: the vaccine for smallpox was discovered, by a man named William Jenner, in 1796. However, it took more than 160 years for the World Health Assembly to pass a worldwide resolution to eradicate the disease in 1959, and another 20 years for the disease to be completely eradicated.

There hasn’t been a single documented death from smallpox since 1980, but it took nearly 200 years to make that happen.

Click to enlarge

Our modern world is no different. Every year, 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases, half of that being children 5 years old or younger.

Other preventable diseases, like diarrhea and pneumonia, claim the lives of another 2 million children who are simply too poor to afford things like clean water and basic treatment.

If you’re keeping track, that’s 3.5 million children dying every year from basic problems that we solved ages ago. Another way to think of it: imagine every kid enrolled in public school in New York City, Los Angeles and Houston dying this year. Imagine, just for a second, all the human potential that we are losing along with these children.

I know you may be thinking that it’s somewhat inevitable that developing countries lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to new vaccines, treatments or procedures, so chew on this for a second: out of a list of 18 developed countries, the United States was at the very bottom when it came to deaths from preventable causes.

For people under the age of 75, these preventable causes account for 23% of total deaths for men and 32% of total deaths for women.

Preventable disease per 100,000 citizens. Click to enlarge

How many more people are we going to let die simply because they lack access to resources that are so plentiful that they are taken for granted by the rest of us?

We have to always remember that the position of privilege we find ourselves in only exists because someone at some point in history fought for our right to good healthcare.

So now, it is our responsibility, our duty, to use this position of privilege to extend this same basic human right to health to the countless people still living without it, not only in our country but across the globe.

Beijing’s Simple Yet Effective Idea to Get People to Recycle (Video)

China has become notorious in recent years for its high levels of air pollution. This, however, is only one of many issues facing China as the country’s middle class continues to grow.

Beijing, China’s capital city, is home to around 20 million people. As a result, the city produces a lot of trash.

On a number of occasions, academics have attempted to estimate just how much trash Beijing produces. They have all failed, due in large part to the fact that the massive trash collection industry in China is extremely unorganized.

So back in 2012, the government of Beijing came up with an innovative solution to their trash problem: reverse vending machines that reward people who recycle with credits that can be applied to phone cards or public transit costs.

A woman uses one of the new kiosks in a Beijing subway station (Courtesy of CCTV)

The machines are equipped with scanners that can identify what type of bottle you are recycling to determine its value. More valuable bottles get you more credit.

Beijing has contracted Incom, the company building the kiosks, to build 100 of the machines across the city (Incom thinks the number will eventually be in the thousands).

34 kiosks have been built so far. Check out the video below to see one of the machines in action and hear how local people are responding to them:

(h/t Pangea Today, The Guardian)

How To See A Map of Every Location Where Google Has Tracked You

I’m not here to bash Google or Google Maps. I use both regularly and I definitely appreciate the convenience they’ve added to my life (the time before Google Search seems more and more like the dark ages these days).

But with added convenience often comes added cost. One of those costs is allowing Google to track your movements using GPS satellites.

This allows them to give you a very high level of accuracy during navigation, but it also allows them to store your movement history, just like they’ve stored every Google search since the website launched. We can only speculate on what they do with that data.

The good news is, there’s a way to see everywhere that Google knows you’ve been: an interactive map that allows you to see your tracking history.

The map includes a timeline (below it) that you can scroll over to see exactly where you were at certain times, as well as how far away you were from your home base at that time.

But the coolest feature: the map can be “played” as an animation, allowing you to go back in time and watch your movements as they unfolded.

Login to whichever Google account you use the most (or if you have a specific one for your phone, use that one), and then click on the picture below to try it out.

Tip: Use the calender to the left of the map to select a wider range of days and see a more complete picture of your movements:

For any of you that are familiar with Austin, Texas, I promise I don’t go to 6th as often as the map above makes it seem. Apparently, I just always seem to need my location services when I’m there for some reason…

What things will you learn about yourself when you check out your own tracking history?

BONUS: While doing research for this post, I tried to find the total number of Google searches since Google’s official first year in 1998.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that number, at least not from a credible source. But I did, however find some statistics about recent years.

In 2013, for example, there were nearly 6 billion Google searches every day, for a total of about 2.16 trillion searches for the year.

Source: Google Official History, Comscore. Click to enlarge (Courtesy of statisticsbrain.com)

(h/t Business Insider)

A Look Inside The World’s Most Expensive RV (Video)

Recently an RV sold in Dubai for its asking price of $3.1 million. This hefty price tag put the RV on record as the world’s most expensive RV ever sold.

But why would someone pay so much for an RV?

Well for starters, the outside of the record-setting RV is covered in gold. Also, the RV is a double-decker that has tons of amenities, including a pop-up rooftop terrace, fireplace, master bedroom, underfloor heating, self-cleaning technology, a top speed of 93 mph, and much more.

The RV may look like a weird prehistoric creature from the outside, but the interior is lavish and fit for a king. Take a look inside the the 40-foot-long eleMMent Palazzo, from Austrian company Marchi Mobile:

So if you’d like to travel with the family in style one day, you may want to start saving up now!

Mesmerizing Visualization Shows the Spread of Western Culture Over the Past 2,000 Years (Video)

Dr. Maximilian Schich is a professor of art and technology at the University of Texas at Dallas. His current research focuses on how the spread of the arts and sciences affected the spread of culture.

To illustrate this process, he decided to map the movements of 100,000 of the most influential figures of western culture from the past 2,000 years.

Among the names were people like Apple founder Steve Jobs, Pride and Prejudice author Jane Austen, and the famous artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci.

Schich gathered information about the birth and death places of all these great figures, and plotted it on an interactive map. Being able to actually see culture as it spreads over time is a truly fascinating experience:

(h/t Quartz)