Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How Rich Would You Be If You’d Bought Apple Shares Instead Of A PowerBook In 2003?

The Next Web co-founder, Patrick de Laive, has been working out how wealthy he’d have been if he’d bought Apple shares instead of a shiny new 17″ PowerBook G4 back in 2003, which cost US$3,299 then. His answer turns out to be he would have been US$216,678 richer today.

This is my calculation:
In 2003, each Apple share cost US$7.57. PowerBook G4's price in 2003 would be able to buy 436 Apple shares. Yesterday (28 May, 2013), Apple share closed at US$441.44 so the 436 shares would have value of US$192,468 or RM555,182.

Hmmmm... so what is the next wave? Samsung, HTC... or Apple again?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

23 Solar Pioneers Whose Names You Should Know

Solar Power World’s Frank Andorka recently posted a list of 23 solar pioneers whose names you should know. I will listed out some and you can visit Frank's post by clicking the title above for more detail.

(5) 1816 Robert Stirling invented Stirling engine that concentrates the sun’s thermal energy to produce power.
(6) 1839 Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect.
(8) 1873 Willoughby Smith discovered the photoconductivity of selenium.
(10) 1883 Charles Fritts first to conceive the idea of solar energy.
(11) 1891 Clarence Kemp patented the first commercial solar water heater.
(14) 1918 Jan Czochralski developed a way to grow silicon crystal.
(15) 1954 Gordon Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Darryl Chapin of Bell Labs developed the very first silicon solar cell.
(16) 1960 H. Leslie Hoffman's company achieves 14% efficient solar cells.
(18) 1970s Dr. Elliot Berman brought the solar price down from $100 a watt to $20 a watt.
(20) 1980 Bill Yerkes founded ARCO Solar, the first company to produce more than 1 MW of production.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Solar Energy Price Trend

Solar capacity has been growing at staggering speed and the pride is dropping quickly. The industry has created a Swanson's law to predict this phenomenon. Swanson’s law, named after Richard Swanson, the founder of SunPower, suggests that the cost of the solar cells needed to generate solar power falls by 20% with each doubling of global manufacturing capacity. This year, the market is looking at US$0.74 per watt of solar energy. This means in sunny regions like California, solar power could already compete without subsidy with the more expensive parts of the traditional power market. Moreover, technological developments that have been proved in the laboratory but have not yet moved into the factory mean Swanson’s law still has many years to run.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Harness Electricity From Waste Heat At Temperature As Low As 30 Degree Celsius

About 20% to 50% of the energy consumed is dispersed as heat. With current technologies minimum of 150 degree is needed to harness the waste heat for electricity production or home heating, the rest is simply released into the environment. Start-up OsmoBlue, Switzerland, has developed a process based on the principle of osmosis to convert heat over 30 degree Celsius into electricity.

Osmosis is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the concentration between two solutions separated by a membrane differs. A stream flows from the less concentrated to the more concentrated solution, which tends to balance the concentrations on each side of the membrane. The mechanical energy of this stream may be converted into electrical energy by a turbine and an alternator. Heat is again used to separate the fluid into two separate solutions, one of which is more concentrated than the other. It is, therefore, a closed circuit that does not consume water.

The OsmoBlue technology is advantageous because it can be implemented with any heat source: air, water, gas, etc. Connected on one side to the heat source and the other to the power grid, modular systems could eventually be installed in existing structures, near the company’s cooling system.

So far the concept has only been tested in the digital laboratory demonstrator, but OsmoBlue estimates that 10 MW of heat could produce between 100 kW and 600 kW of electricity, which is enough to power 100 homes.

A first prototype is currently being manufactured at EPFL. A pilot unit on a larger scale could then be installed in a regional waste incineration company in 2014.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Replacing Toxic Cyanide With Cornstarch In Gold Leaching

Gold mining is a controversial business as it uses cyanide to extract gold from the raw ore and discharges the waste cyanide into a tailing pond or spent heap. If mishandled the cyanide can seep into the ground, causing environmental problems and posing threats to human.

Zhichang Liu, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, USA, has stumbled upon a solution that uses cornstarch to replace cyanide in the leaching process. It involves some complex chemistry, but it’s cheap, biologically friendly and nasty-ingredient-free.

Before the finding, Liu was trying to make an extended, three-dimensional cubic structure, which could be used to store gases and small molecules. He mixed starch-derived alpha-cyclodextrin with a dissolved gold salt, called aurate, in a beaker at room temperature. Unexpectedly, he obtained needles, which formed rapidly upon mixing the two solutions. Firstly, disappointed with the result. He quickly turned excited and would like to learn more the needle. 

After more tests, it was discovered that alpha-cyclodextrin, a cyclic starch fragment composed of six glucose units, was best at isolating gold from the solution. But not only is this process a lot less toxic than the cyanide leaching process, it also appears to be more efficient at isolating gold.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Using LED To Grow A Healthier Tomatoes

We have been finding a lot of usages of LEDs, and now it has a new application in growing tomatoes.

Tomato is a healthy and testy fruit. It is relatively easy to grow. But in lots of metropolitan living, limited space tends to stop you from growing this red juicy fruit. If you are considering an indoor system, limited sunlight might give you a poorly grown tomatoes. Standard recommendation of sunlight for growing tomato is 6 ~ 8 hours.

So, HOW? A new study by Philips and Wageningen University, Netherlands, have found that tomatoes can contains more vitamin C if they are exposed to LED lamps. Scientists in the study chose several different plant varieties and suspended LED modules around the tomato clusters. These clusters usually appear under the leaves, so they are partially shaded from the sun. So man-made "sunlight" - LED spotlights, have been used to add little extra ‘sunlight’ to the tomatoes.

In the tomato variety that showed the strongest reaction, the tomatoes receiving extra light from the LEDs contained up to twice as much vitamin C as the tomatoes not exposed to the LEDs, even though the extra dose of light was equivalent to only a quarter of the natural light intensity on a sunny day.

This information is valuable to both the LED industry and to those interested in alternative methods of agriculture. Hydroponic and greenhouse systems are helpful to those who want to grow year-round in harsh climates, or who can't grow in the ground for lack of space or quality soil. Now, LEDs provide an energy-saving solution for producing a superior product in hydroponic and greenhouse systems.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Do Generic Drugs Work Equally As Brand-Names?

Generic drugs become a powerful tool to control staggering healthcare costs in USA. When patent protection has run out on brand-name drugs, generic manufacturers are legally able to make equivalent formulations and sell them at much cheaper prices - typically 80% to 85% lower than the originals. The difference in price occurs because generic manufacturers don't have to repeat original clinical trials and their marketing costs are much lower.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires generic drugs to have the "same quality and performance" as brand-name drugs. They must pass through testing and offer the "same active ingredient, strength, dosage form and route of administration as the brand name product.

Recently, USA Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its largest drug safety settlement to date. Ranbaxy USA Inc., a subsidiary of Indian generic pharmaceutical manufacturer Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited, has agreed to pay a total of US$500 million and pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges stemming from drugs it sold in the U.S.

Some of the company's generic drugs "lacked necessary active ingredients due to poor quality control standards into interstate commerce," according to a statement from the New York State Attorney General's office.

This isn't the first time that DOJ against foul-played generic drug companies. In 2008,  DOJ filed suit against Actavis Totowa LLC, and its parent, Actavis Inc., seeking a permanent injunction barring them from manufacturing or distributing generic drugs "until they demonstrate compliance with the Good Manufacturing Practice requirements of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA)." The problem was alleged adulterated and misbranded products.

Repeated FDA inspections had allegedly turned up "numerous and recurring violations of Good Manufacturing Practice requirements" in the manufacture of oxycondone. The companies entered a consent decree with the FDA early in 2009.

In 2012, FDA announced that some generic versions of the antidepressant Wellbutrin were "not therapeutically equivalent" to the original. The problem was that the generics failed to release the active ingredient "at the same rate and to the same extent." Some people found the differences to be debilitating.

Hyundai To Install South Korea's Largest Rooftop Solar System

Hyundai Motor announced that it will install the nation’s largest rooftop photovoltaic system at its manufacturing factory in Asan, Korea, to expand the use of renewable energy and take measures to help reduce global warming.

The system comprises 40,000 PV modules that will occupy 213,000 square meters of roof space and produce peak power of 10 MW. The system is capable of generating 11.5 million kWh of electricity annually, enough to power 3,200 households. Once complete, every year Hyundai could reduce 5,600 tons of carbon dioxide emission, which is equivalent to the effect of planting 1.12 million pine trees.

As 100% of the photovoltaic plant at Asan will be built on existing rooftops, the construction neither requires any additional land nor causes environmental issues. The choice of the Asan plant is appropriate, as Asan manufactures the eco-friendly Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, as well as Sonata and Grandeur (Azera in some markets).

Source: Hyundai

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Harvest Electricity From Plants

University of Georgia, USA, is looking into how to use plants to generate electricity. Ramaraja Ramasamy, assistant professor in the College of Engineering, described the process in the Journal of Energy and Environmental Science that after billions of years of evolution, living plants have improved the sunlight conversion efficiency to nearly 100%. Comparing to current solar technologies of merely achieving 12% to 17% of conversion rate.

During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, which produces electrons. These newly freed electrons go on to help create sugars that plants use much like food to support growth and reproduction.

"We have developed a way to interrupt photosynthesis so that we can capture the electrons before the plant uses them to make these sugars," said Ramasamy.

Ramasamy's technology involves separating out structures in the plant cell called thylakoids, which are responsible for capturing and storing energy from sunlight. Researchers manipulate the proteins contained in the thylakoids, interrupting the pathway along which electrons flow.

These modified thylakoids are then immobilized on a specially designed backing of carbon nanotubes, cylindrical structures that are nearly 50,000 times finer than a human hair. The nanotubes act as an electrical conductor, capturing the electrons from the plant material and sending them along a wire.

In small-scale experiments, this approach resulted in electrical current levels that are two orders of magnitude larger than those previously reported in similar systems.

Ramasamy cautions that much more work must be done before this technology reaches commercialization, but he and his collaborators are already working to improve the stability and output of their device.

"In the near term, this technology might best be used for remote sensors or other portable electronic equipment that requires less power to run," he said. "If we are able to leverage technologies like genetic engineering to enhance stability of the plant photosynthetic machineries, I'm very hopeful that this technology will be competitive to traditional solar panels in the future."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

DEZien Project - Bike That Provides Electricity & WiFi

DEzien is developing a futuristic-looking bike that could power small electronic gadgets like cellphone, MP3/MP4 player, etc. The bike couples a generator with it and generates electricity while you ride on it. The generator does put an extra load on the pedals, though. The bike is also equipped with a mobile hot-spot which allows you to enjoy your web experience anywhere you go.

At this stage, it’s just a concept bike.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Combating Malaria With Solar Energy

On April 25, people across the world took part in a wide range of activities to mark World Malaria Day 2013. In the same day a Dutch's institute, Wageningen University, began a four-year campaign called "Solarmal Project" to install more than 4,000 solar-powered mosquito traps at homes on Rusinga Island in Lake Victoria, Kenya.

Researchers are trying to develop a new toxin-free approach to combating malaria. They hope that this will not only eliminate malaria locally in Africa, but also provide the local population with solar energy. Mosquito traps containing "human odour" are placed to attract mosquitoes away from the houses. Once they have entered the traps, the mosquitoes will die of dehydration. This technology has eliminated the use of insecticides which would lead to a high level of insecticide resistance in the malaria mosquitoes, which makes fighting the disease increasingly difficult and harmful to the environment. The power supply for the fans in the traps is provided by solar panels on the roof, which not only guarantees that the traps will work but also provides the family with sustainable electricity for lighting and mobile phone charging.

Solar panels and mosquito traps will be installed on approximately 50 homes per week and an estimated 4,000 solar panels overall. The impact of the project will be monitored closely as its dual benefits of providing inhabitants with energy and potentially eradicating malaria would be groundbreaking worldwide.

Friday, May 3, 2013

USB Charger Powered By Water

A Swedish company named myFC invented PowerTrekk which uses water as the source of charging. PowerTrekk is a portable fuel cell charger for use when away from the electricity grid. It provides instant power anywhere to electronic equipment such as mobile phones, digital cameras and GPS devices.

PowerTrekk is a 2-in-1 solution that is both a portable battery pack and fuel cell. The portable battery pack can be operated on its own as a ready source of power or storage buffer for the fuel cell. The fuel cell enables instant charging from a deflated battery state without ever needing a wall charge.

How does PowerTrekk work?

1. Remove tray system and insert fuel pack into fuel compartment.

2. Fill-up water compartment (approx. one tablespoon) and close lid.

3. Re-attach tray system to your mobile charger.

4. Connect electronic device to the PowerTrekk.

5. A mobile charge will start automatically.

6. While in use, PowerTrekk indicates state of operation. Once your mobile charger is in shutdown mode, remove used fuel pack.

The estimated unit cost for PowerTrekk is said to be about US$229, and may see a commercial release date in the third quarter of 2013.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

CO2 Levels Reaching 400 PPM For First Time In 3 Million Years

According to measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii the Earth's atmosphere is right about to reach 400 parts-per-million (ppm) of CO2, a level that was last seen 3 million years ago. From the chart below we can see that the CO2 level is steadily raising since 1958 when the observation began.
According to the author of the source:

"The last time CO2 reached the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere - in the Pliocene era - temperatures rose by between 3 and 4 degrees and sea levels were between five and 40 meters higher than today."

Our world is approaching the 450 ppm level soon which is considered to be the point at which the world has a 50% chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. Any higher and the odds of avoiding searing temperature rises of 4 or 5 degrees by the end of the century become prohibitively risky.

Nokia Phones Received Most Customer Satisfaction In USA

According to an online survey of over 142,369 customer reviews published prior to March 30th this year, AT&T customers are extremely satisfied with their Nokia Phones. It showed that AT&T customers using Nokia phones report a customer satisfaction 21% above average across all major carriers and all major brands in USA.

Looking at the chart below Nokia seems to have the highest customer satisfaction amongst 2 out of the 3 mobile providers with HTC just edging them out on T-Mobile.