Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Efficiency Record Set For Thin-Film Solar Cell

The Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW), Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Germany, has set a new world record of 20.8% for copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) thin-film solar cells. This is the first time that thin-film solar cell beats the best performed multicrystalline (or polycrystalline) silicon cell with 20.4% efficiency. The results have been officially confirmed by third party, Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE.

According to Prof. Dr. Michael Powalla from ZSW that the new record shows that CIGS technology still has untapped technological and economic potential. ZSW is now working to transfer the optimized CIGS process to modules. “It may take a little time for the higher efficiency to be reflected in production,” Powalla notes. “But 16 to 18% in commercial modules is possible over the next few years.” Market available CIGS modules currently stand at 14 to 15% of efficiency.

Compared to standard solar cells, thin-film solar cells saves materials and energy since the coating used is just micrometres thick. This is a considerable cost reduction factor for future production. The experts all agree that the new record demonstrates the great potential of CIGS technology for even more cost-effective and efficient solar modules.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Antibiotics Have Come To The End Of Their Life!

When I was a kid everything I had a sore throat the doctor would prescribe antibiotic to me. I still remember the name of the antibiotic as "amoxicillin". It was very effective. One course of it my sore throat would be gone. Recently, I had a sore throat and took it again, but now it has lost its function and had to take another type of antibiotic.

This is what we call "antibiotic resistance"!

Bacteria, like any living organism, they evolve for survival. Anything we do or the environment does to try to kill them, they will eventually discover ways or find ways around those. So bacterial resistance is largely inevitable.

According to Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, an associate director at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Antibiotics, U.S.A., we're now living in the post-antibiotic era. The misuse of antibiotics in medical field and farming has caused bacteria to develop resistance to many types of antibiotic.

We’ve fueled the fire of bacterial resistance by overusing and misusing of antibiotics. The more we use an antibiotic, either in patients or in livestock, bacteria would expose to it more. We then create more opportunity for them to develop resistance.

We are quickly running out of therapies to treat some of the infections that previously had been eminently treatable. There are bacteria that we encounter, particularly in health-care settings, that are resistant to nearly all — or, in some cases, all — the antibiotics available.

For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about “The end of antibiotics, question mark?” Well, now Dr. Srinivasan says we can change the title to “The end of antibiotics, period.”

We’re here. We’re in the post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t. …

The interview with Dr. Srinivasan was very long. You can read more in Dr. Arjun Srinivasan: We’ve Reached “The End of Antibiotics, Period”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

WEF 2013 Gender Gap Report

World Economic Forum has published report to measure the gender gap in over 100 countries since 2006. It is a framework for capturing the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress. The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria.

This year, 5 out of the top 10 countries with the smallest gender gap are coming from Nordic countries. Below lists the best 10 countries.
1. Iceland
2. Finland
3. Norway
4. Sweden
5. Philippines
6. Ireland
7. New Zealand
8. Denmark
9. Switzerland
10. Nicaragua

Among the top 10 one actually is my neighbor country Philippines. Most of the big gap countries are coming from Middle-East, North Africa and South Asia. Korea and Japan ranked 105th and 111th, respectively, and are the only 2 developed countries with ranking outside 100th.

Below shows the ranking of South-East Asia countries.

Brunei -  88
Cambodia - 104
East Timor - N/A
Indonesia - 95
Laos - 60
Malaysia - 102
Myanmar - N/A
Philippines - 5
Singapore - 58
Thailand - 65
Vietnam - 73

You can go to which contains an interactive map showing each country ranking.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How Effective Are Those Antibacterial Soaps?

Actually antibacterial soap doesn't make your hands any cleaner. According to Dr. Carly Stewart, medical expert at Money Crashers, regular soap is just as effective as antibacterial soap in killing germs. Furthermore, bacteria can become resistant to the antibacterial agents in these products, which can make it more difficult to kills these bugs down the line.

Antibacterial cleaners work as they leave a surface residue after being rinsed or wiped away. This residue is supposed to continue killing bacteria afterwards, but it can also foster the growth of resistant bacteria, which are stronger and harder to kill than the original bacteria.

A common ingredient called Triclosan contained in antibacterial products is a probable carcinogen. It has been linked to miscarriages, bladder cancer, thyroid problems, and impaired cellular function.

When come to washing your hands, a plain old bar soap is the way to go. Soap helps to loosen dirt, oil, and microbes on your hands so they can be rinsed away by water. Don't worry too much about the soap at your disposal. Just take the suggested 20 seconds and make sure you scrub all parts of your hands thoroughly.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Map Shows What Each Country Leads The World In

Created by people at Doghouse Diaries, the map shows what each country leads, good or bad, the world in. Surprisingly, my country Malaysia actually leads in "caves" which I never realized. Our neighbor Singapore leads in "science", Thailand leads in "rice exports" and Indonesia leads in "volcanoes".

Monday, October 21, 2013

Why Bamboo Is A Reliable Renewable Energy Source?

Bamboos have become one of the most favorable sources of renewable energy in many South-East Asian countries like Thailand. There are more than 1,000 species of bamboo and some works better as renewable energy source than others. Gimsung and Tong bamboo are the 2 main species to produce best energy value because of their biological and chemical properties.

Author Aiden Korr explains why bamboos should be used as alternative source of energy.

#1 Biological and chemical composition
The Gimsung and the Tong bamboo have 6% to 15% moisture, 3% or more Ash, 65% to 70% of volatile matter, 20% of fixed carbon, and higher heating value. This means they could be a great source of energy that can be easily harvested. The government of Thailand has already invested in generating electricity from bamboo as a part of their 15-Year Renewable Energy Development Plan.

#2 Bamboo grows really quick
Gimsung and Tong bamboo can grow as much as 30cm a day, even if there is no rain. If watered well, they can grow much faster.

#3 CO2 Absorption
Any plant that has a good CO2 absorption counts as a good source to be used in biomass power plants.  A 1year-old bamboo shoot can absorb up to 50kg of CO2 (~burning 21 liters of petrol). The absorption increases as they grow older. A 5 year-old shoot can absorb up to 600kg of CO2 (~burning 256 liters of petrol).

#4 O2 Production
Greater amount of CO2 absorption also means greater Oxygen production. Bamboo can create oxygen much faster than many trees can.

#5 Alternative to fire wood
Bamboo charcoal is quickly substituting firewood in many underdeveloped countries. The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) based in China, along with many African countries are working together to make bamboo an alternative energy source to firewood.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

WHO Maps World Cities Air Pollution Levels

World Health Organization (WHO) has published data about the urban outdoor air pollution levels of almost 1,100 cities in 91 countries. Air quality is represented by annual mean concentration of fine particulate matters of PM10 (smaller than 10 um) and PM2.5 (smaller than

The database covers the period from 2003 to 2010, with the majority of values for the years 2008 and 2009. The world's average PM10 levels by region range from 21 to 142 ug/m3, with a world's average of 71 ug/m3.

From the map we are able to see that cities in North America are doing very well. The worst polluted regions are mainly located at East and South Asia and Middle-East.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How Different Is Einstein Brain From Normal People Making Him A Genius

Albert Einstein was named one of the smartest person for the 20th century. In 1905, at age of just 26, he published the theory of relativity which superseded a 200-year-old theory of mechanics created by Isaac Newton.

So, what made Einstein so smart and how different was his brain from us?

Professor Dean Falk, from Department of Anthropology at Florida State University, has revealed the secret of Einstein's brain in the journal Brain. According to Falk, Einstein had an extraordinary corpus callosum, also known as the colossal commissure, which is a flat bundle of neural fibers connects the left and right brain.

Below pictures shows the left and right midsagittal sections of Einstein's brain.

"The corpus callosum keeps each side of the brain informed about what the other half is doing," says Falk. The inter-brain connection allows our hands to coordinate and our bodies to move with intention. But it also allows thoughts and ideas that are generated in the right brain to be processed and expressed with language, which originates in the left.

In 2010, high-resolution images of Einstein's brain were discovered. Falk collaborated with Weiwei Men, from East China Normal University's Department of Physics, using graphical method to measure the thickness and number of nerves of Einstein's corpus callosum on the images. They then compared the result with normal people. "No matter who you compare Einstein to, young or old, the right and left sides of his brain were really connected," says Falk.

Convincing Nobel prize-winning physicists to submit themselves to brain scans is clearly the next job for Falk's team. "It's the obvious thing to do," she says. "It would raise the significance about how a really big corpus callosum affects brilliance."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

81 Years Ago Scientist Had Talked About Global Warming In Newspaper

Tweeted by HistoryInPix an old newspaper article published in 1932 talked about the impact of carbon dioxide to the earth's temperature. To our generation, global warming isn't a new thing. Everyday we talk about renewable energy, energy efficiency, etc, to curb and slow down global warming. But back in 1932, global warming wasn't something serious yet but scientist Dr. Hulburt from Naval Research Lab, U.S.A, had warned about it.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Time For Various Trash To Degrade

  • Aluminum Can  200-500 years
  • Batteries 100 years
  • Cardboard Box 4 weeks
  • Cigarette Butt up to 10 years
  • Cotton Rag 1-5 months
  • Disposable Diapers 500-600 year
  • Glass Bottle  1 million years
  • Leather up to 50 years
  • Lumber 10-15 years
  • Monofilament Fishing Line 800 years
  • Milk Cartons (plastic coated) 5 years
  • Nylon Fabric 30-40 years
  • Orange Peel 2-5 weeks
  • Paper 2-5 months
  • Plastic Film Container 20-30 years
  • Painted Wooden Stake 13 years
  • Plastic 6 pack cover  450 years
  • Plastic Bag up to 500 years
  • Plastic Coated Paper 5 years
  • Plastic Soda Bottles Forever
  • Rope 3-14 months
  • Rubber Boot sole 50-80 years
  • Sanitary Pads 500-800 years
  • Styrofoam More than 5,000 years
  • Tin Cans 50-100 years
  • Tin Foil It does not biodegrade
  • Wool Clothing 1-5 years

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Biodegradable Nylon - 85% Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions Than Regular Nylon

California-based company Rennovia announced that they have produced a 100% bio-based nylon polymer which emits 85% less greenhouse gas emissions as compared with petroleum-based adipic acid used in making nylon polymer 6,6. The new polymer also possess significant cost advantages and environmental benefits over current petroleum-based feedstock.

Every year 6 billion pounds of Nylon 6,6 is produced as the feedstock for carpets, tire cord, ropes, apparel, hoses, blankets, zip ties, etc. Rennovia claimed that its new nylon 6,6 could decrease cost by 20-25% and contributes no negative impact to the environment.

Many questions were raised after the press release by Rennovia like how toxic is current nylon 6,6? Does the bio-based polymer generate less toxic gases when it burns? Nylon 6,6 is used in automobiles, so would it reduce toxic gases from fires to use a bio-based version?

No matter what it is always nice to use one less source of petroleum-based feedstock, plus the new alternative provides cost benefit.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

6 Historic Uses Of Urine

1) Tanning leather. Urine is full of urea, which degrades into ammonia. Ammonia high pH breaks down organic material, making urine the perfect substance for ancients to use in softening and tanning animal hides. Soaking animal skins in urine also made it easier for leather workers to remove hair and bits of flesh from the skin.

2) Cleaning and whitening clothes. The ammonia removes stains and intensifies the colors of dyes.

3) Gunpowder. Urine can be used to make saltpetre, a key ingredient of the explosive.

4) Tooth Whitener. Again, from the ammonia.

5) Urine was also used as a health supplement (Gandhi would drink his own every morning and Madonna has claimed that she used it to cure her athlete's foot).

6) Urine was also used to recover phosphorus, as explained by Tree Hugger in PeeCycling: Make Phosphorus From your Own Pee.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Solar Power

Everything has its advantages and disadvantages. What is for solar power?

(1) Reduce global warming.
(2) Save society billions and trillions of dollars from damages caused by global warming.
(3) Save your pocket as a lot of governments are mandating utility companies to buy back solar energy at premium tariff.
(4) Provide energy security as the Sun is free and can't be turned into a monopoly. No worry of fuel price hike and shortage.
(5) Provide energy independence as once installed, user never have to worry about future increase in energy generation cost.
(6) Create jobs as same money invested in solar power creates 2 to 3 times more job opportunities than coal and gas power.
(7) Solve utility peak demand issues as the solar power system performs best during noon time (when the Sun shines best) when electricity demands are at the peak.
(8) Require lower maintenance as solar system has no moving components like turbine and motor.
(9) Install capacity is flexible as user can install as small as few hundred watts to few kW in their rooftop, to MW of power-plant scale.

(1) No 24 hours operation as solar system only works when the Sun rises.
(2) Lower or no output during cloudy or rainy day.
(3) Higher upfront investment.

Clearly it can be seen that solar power actually possesses more advantages than disadvantages. In the long run it is better to invest in solar energy than fossil fuels. Of course, this is just my 2-cent opinion.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Disney's Paper Generators - A New Energy Source

Disney Research is coming out with the idea of Paper Generators which essentially pieces of paper that you touch, rub, or slide to generate enough power to power small gadgets like LEDs, small motor, etc.

Paper Generators are based on electrets: materials that hold quasi-permanent electric charge, like quartz, silicon dioxide, polymers, etc. Disney Research is using PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) sheets, like the commonly known brand "Teflon". When the PTFE sheet is rubbed with ordinary paper, negative charge will be built up on the surface of PTFE (Figure a).

When the PTFE sheet is stacked between conductive layers, such as silver coated polyester sheets or paper with printed conductive ink, the PTFE attracts free positive charges to build up on the surface of the conductors (Figure b). This forms the basis structure of Paper Generators.

Energy is created when a user moves the conductors. As the relative positions of the conductors change, the distribution of the induced charges, the electric field, and the total capacitance between the conductors change, resulting in an electric potential difference between the conductors (Figure c). Hence, voltage and current will be generated.

When connecting path (copper wire) and load (LEDs) are connected to the Paper Generators, then energy will be transferred from the Paper Generators to the load and be energized.

For more info, please visit

Monday, October 7, 2013

Charging Mobile Phone With Lightning

For most of us, lightning can be a truly terrifying, powerful and awe-inspiring force of nature, but scientists from Nokia and University of Southampton, UK, have successfully used simulated lightning to charge a Nokia phone.

Scientist Neil Palmer at University of Southampton has created a 200,000 volts man-made lightning bolt using AC current driven by a transformer, sent across a 300mm gap and then stepped into a second controlling transformer to charge a Nokia Lumia 925 phone. The phone circuitry somehow stabilized the noisy signal, allowing the battery to be charged wirelessly.

“This discovery proves that the device can be charged with a current that passes through the air, and is a huge step towards understanding a natural power like lightning and harnessing its energy,” Neil said.

“This is a first for any mobile phone company to trial this kind of technology,” said Chris Weber, Nokia Executive Vice President for Sales & Marketing. “We obviously aren’t recommending people try this experiment at home, but we are always looking to disrupt and push the boundaries of technology and find innovative ways to improve the performance of our products.”

“As one of the first companies to introduce wireless charging into our products, we believe that this experiment has the potential to jump-start new ideas on how we charge our phones in the future.”

Friday, October 4, 2013

New Laser-Based Lighting Device, Alternative To LED Lighting

LED emerges as an efficient and energy-saving alternative to conventional incandescent or fluorescent light sources for meeting the ever-escalating demand for more lighting in more places and to improve the bulbs used in sports stadiums, car headlights and street lamps.

With all the advantages, LED is also facing a challenge that its efficiency falls as operating current rises, making it too hot to power in large-scale applications.

Researchers at University of California, Santa Barbara, led by material scientists Kristin A. Denault and Michael Cantore, have come out with an alternative to LED technology using laser diode, combining with inorganic phosphors, to create high-power white light source.

The laser-based lighting devices are high in efficiency and high in performance metrics, according to the study. The team used 2 methods to create white light.

(1) Using blue laser diode and yellow-emitting phosphor powder.

(2) Using a near-ultra-violet laser diode and a combination of red-, green-, and blue-emitting phosphors.

With these technologies, the team is able to achieve variety of other color temperatures with high color rendition, broadening the range of applications for these new lights.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Malaysia Legoland Trip

Brought my family to visit Malaysia Legoland which located at Nusajaya, Johor. My 3 and 5 year-old daughters enjoyed the trip a lot. Just like to share some pictures taken during the trip.

Below shows the "welcome dance" performed by the Legoland staffs right before the theme park opened.

Below pictures were taken from the "Observation Tower".
The kids were waiting to get their first driving test.
Aquazone Wave Racers which could get wet as passer-by could detonate "water bomb" by pressing buttons located outside the blue fence.

What Does It Truly Cost to Recycle?

I always wonder how costly is it to start a recycling program in the local community? It is important, especially for small towns, to decide whether or not it will be economically sustainable to begin a recycling program.

Costs of a Recycling Program

The costs involved in creating a recycling program fall into two categories.

(1) Around 2/3 of the cost associated is allocated to the collection of garbage from the community. There are multiple options available like using city owned trucks picking up the garbage from homes, to self dropping off at the collection center.

(2) The other 1/3 of the cost is associated with the processing of the material which is to be recycled. This can be very costly if a town chooses to create a processing facility solely for their use. The cost of this aspect can be reduced by using a centralized processing facility which is shared with nearby towns or the local population which would also be using the facility.

Spread of Recycling

As the technology associated with recycling programs becomes more affordable and available to smaller populations, more and more towns are turning to recycling as a solution for their waste disposal. This trend is anticipated to continue as technology advances. Soon it may be possible to create cost effective recycling programs in even smaller communities in order to spread the responsibility out from the central municipal power.

Long Term Benefits of Recycling

Towns that institute recycling programs will not only reap the environmental rewards of their efforts; it is possible that a town will be able to bring in a small amount of money above the operating costs of the program that they have created once the initial costs of creation have been paid off.

With the current technology it is not feasible for the most part to make a large profit margin off of the value of a recycling program, however as technology advances and becomes less costly, new opportunities could very arise down the road.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Proposing RM50,000 Innovation Voucher For Malaysia SMEs

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) has proposed to the government to come up with an innovation voucher of RM50,000 for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to start their projects. This is one of the various incentives proposed to the Treasury to help local companies to innovate their businesses.

FMM president Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon mentioned during FMM Innovation Conference 2013 that the proposal suggested voucher to be given to SMEs to start their projects from blocking the production processes. However, those companies have to pay half of the amount.

"The only way you can do it is to innovate by using the latest technology, devicing ways and means to reduce your costs and come up with new products which are more engaging and attractive to your customers," Tan Sri Yong added.

Earlier, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr. Ewon Ebin, who opened the conference, said: "We are always looking at giving an extra grant for SMEs, but as for now I think the fund that we have is sufficient, which is half-a-billion-ringgit."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What Is Biogas & Its Environmental Benefits

Biogas typically refers to a gas produced by the breakdown of organic matter, like manure, greens, municipal waste or sewage, in the absence of oxygen. It is produced by bacteria through anaerobic digestion or fermentation of biodegradable materials. Biogas contains primarily methane and carbon dioxide.

When combusted or oxidized with oxygen, energy is released. Hence, biogas can be used to replace fossil fuels for any heating purposes, like cooking. It can also be used in gas engine to convert energy in the gas into electricity.

Biogas also can be processed into natural gas. This process involves water washing, pressure swing and amine gas treatment. Biogas is then compressed and transported ready for use.

Benefits of biogas:

1. Curb global warming. Human controlled biogas generation helps to reduce methane emission from natural decomposition of organic matters. Also, the carbon dioxide produced is oxidized hence reducing its effects to the environment.

2. Conserve the environment. Biogas is a natural gas produced through fermentation process. Methane gas is used to produce heat and energy. This helps to conserve the environment by reducing deforestation when many are using tree as sources of firewood.

3. Prevent pollution. Unlike other fossil fuels, biogas generation utilizes only bacteria, without any chemical. So the production of biogas is safe and well secured.

4. Reduce waste. This helps to reduce the amount of organic matters being disposed as municipal solid waste and landfill are being a major issue for cities.