Wednesday, September 10, 2014

6 Engineering Quotes From World's Renowned People

We know engineering is important and lets see how the world's top leaders described the important of it. Below quotes are from Eco Founder:


Friday, September 5, 2014

Charging Mobile Phones With Sound

Dr. Joe Briscoe and Dr. Steve Dunn from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) are partnering with Microsoft to develop an energy-harvesting prototype (a nanogenerator) that could be used to charge a mobile phone using everyday background noise – such as traffic, music, and our own voices.

Zinc oxide possesses the property of generating voltage when it is been squashed or stretched. QMUL's researchers used it to form nanorods which respond to everyday sound, such as our voices, to produce electrical energy. The rods can be coated onto various surfaces in different locations making the energy harvesting quite versatile.

Using spray-on technique a thin layer of zinc oxide was formed on a plastic sheet. Mixed with other chemicals and heated to just 90°C, zinc oxide nanorods grew all over the surface of the sheet. Then cheap and cheerful aluminum foil, instead of expensive gold, was used as the electrical contacts. About the size of Nokia Lumia 925 the device was able to generate 5V, which is enough to charge a phone.

Dr Joe Briscoe commented: "Being able to keep mobile devices working for longer, or do away with batteries completely by tapping into the stray energy that is all around us is an exciting concept. This collaboration was an excellent opportunity to develop alternative device designs using cheap and scalable methods. We hope that we have brought this technology closer to viability."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Developing Better Anode For Li-Ion Battery From Old Tires

Li-ion batteries provide power to plug-in electric-vehicles and tires roll the vehicles around the town, and they seem to be 2 unrelated vehicle parts. Wait! Researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), U.S.A., have developed a new technology to recycle old tires into the material for the anode contact of li-ion batteries. The new process can be seen below.
Graphite is commonly used to produce the anode of li-ion battery. Now, ORNL's team uses a proprietary pretreatment to recover pyrolytic carbon black material from old tires, which is similar to graphite but man-made. When used in anodes of lithium-ion batteries, researchers found a reversible capacity that is higher than what is possible with commercial graphite materials. After 100 cycles of charging and discharging the new battery still measured nearly 390 milliamp hours per gram of carbon anode, which exceeds the best properties of commercial graphite.

ORNL plans to work with U.S. industry to license this technology and produce lithium-ion cells for automobile, stationary storage, medical and military applications.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kyocera Solar Modules Ranked "Performance Leader"

GTM Research has ranked Kyocera as the "Performance Leader" among 15 solar PV manufacturers in all 6 categories, including Temperature Cycling, Dynamic Mechanical Load, Humidity Freeze, Damp Heat, and two Potential Induced Degradation Tests. The tests were carried out by independent testing body PV Evolution Labs.

“With the exception of one manufacturer, Kyocera, no company consistently ranked within the Performance Leaders group for all test regimens,” GTM Research noted. “Results showed that most producers that performed well in one test did not necessarily perform well in all tests.”

PV Evolution Labs’ stringent test protocols exceeded the current industry standards to emulate various real-world climatic conditions over lifetime periods while observing power degradation performance of the solar modules being evaluated.

“Kyocera has proven time and again, both in independent testing and by solar modules performing uninterruptedly in the field for decades, that our modules are able to consistently produce clean, renewable energy even in the harshest conditions,” said Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar Inc.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

By 2017 Half Of U.S.A. states Will Have Solar Reaching Grid Parity

The Cambridge-based Union of Concerned Scientists has just published a series of 3 quick infographics about U.S.A. rooftop solar installation. Here’s what they show:

(1) By 2017, more than half the states could have rooftop solar as cheap as local electricity prices. 

(2) Installing rooftop solar has never been more affordable.

(3) The number of households with rooftop solar is skyrocketing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Recycling Old Batteries Into Solar Cells

Perovskite solar cells have been the focus recently in the solar research. In less than 2 years, perovskite solar cells efficiency has been improved to more than 19%, which is close to most of the commercial available solar cells.

Researchers from MIT, U.S.A., have found a way to produce a 0.5um (0.0000005 meter) thick thin-film Pb-based perovskite solar cells using recycled lead from old car batteries. This helps to divert toxic material from landfills the old batteries and reuse it in solar panels that could go on producing power for decades. Each single car battery can produce enough solar panels to power 30 households.

The technology behinds isn't new. The team extracted the lead (Pb) and lead-dioxide (PbO2) from the battery's positive and negative electrodes, respectively, and ground to fine pieces. Then they heated up the PbO2 to 600 degree Celsius to convert to PbO (lead-oxide). The Pb was dissolved into Nitric acid and PbO was dissolved into acetic acid. Potassium-iodide was then added to both solutions to form lead-iodide which then will be sprayed deposited onto the transparent substrate, following with sequential deposit, to form solar cell.

For more info and video to produce the solar cells go to

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Yingli Reduces Production Cost of Monocrystalline Silicon Wafers

Silicon wafers are produced by slicing silicon ingot (as shown on the picture). Conventional, monocrystalline silicon ingots are produced by pulling out from graphite crucible. Graphite crucibles are known to have low strength, short lifetimes, and a high risk of silicon leakage because the crucibles are prone to cracking during the heating process.

Yingli has successfully completed trial production of monocrystalline ingots using new material technology. They are using crucibles made from a carbon-carbon (C-C) composite material. Initial estimates suggest that the new material could reduce manufacturing costs by nearly US$0.01 per watt. This is few percent of panel production cost already.

C-C composite crucibles are not as vulnerable as graphite because they are made from a reinforced carbon fiber matrix that is low-density, high-strength, with high thermal conductivity, thermal shock resistance, and dimensional stability. The new crucibles can improve the stability of crystal pulling, and increase the utilization rate of monocrystalline silicon ingots by approximately 3%.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Antibacterial Products Are Harming Unborn Baby

In 2013 I talked about "How Effective Are Those Antibacterial Soaps?" and in 2005, U.S.A. Food and Drug Administration also highlighted "no medical studies that showed a link between a specific consumer antibacterial product and a decline in infection rates." Overusing antibacterial products would lead to the breeding of super-bacteria that can't be killed easily.

Now, scientists have found another disadvantage of using antibacterial products. The chemical compounds contained inside antibacterial products have found their way into pregnant women and their fetuses, and this poses potential health risks.

“We looked at the exposure of pregnant women and their fetuses to triclosan and triclocarban, two of the most commonly used germ-killers in soaps and other everyday products,” says Dr. Benny Pycke, researcher from Arizona State University, U.S.A. “We found triclosan in all of the urine samples from the pregnant women that we screened. We also detected it in about half of the umbilical cord blood samples we took, which means it transfers to fetuses. Triclocarban was also in many of the samples.”

The problem is that there is a growing body of evidence showing that the compounds can lead to developmental and reproductive problems in animals and potentially in humans. Some research even suggests that the antibacterial additives could contribute to antibiotic resistance, a growing public health problem, says Pycke.

Good news, bad news: Our bodies are good at removing these compounds from our systems, but if you are constantly exposed (and these things are everywhere, including 2,000 everyday consumer products), you could be topping up, so to speak, and keeping your exposure roughly constant.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Beijing Targets To Stop Coal By 2020

Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau announced on 5th of August that the districts of Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai and Shijingshan will stop using coal and its related products, and close coal-fired power plants and other coal facilities by 2020. Clean energy like electricity and natural gas will replace coal to serve residents in heating, cooking and other users.

Currently, coal burning together with vehicles, industrial production and dust contributed 85.9% of Beijing's smog. Coal burning alone has contributed about 22.4%. China's rapid economic development also makes it now consumes just about 50% of all the coal produced in the world.

China is planning a renewable energy program 10 times larger than the U.K.'s entire power system, as well as accelerating nuclear power and energy efficiency measures in line with commitments to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by up to 45% between 2005 and 2020.

In addition, carbon trading schemes have been launched in seven cities and provinces, while regional governments have been given new powers to shut down factories and power plants that fail to meet air quality standards.

Hopefully, with all efforts China people can soon breath a fresh air again.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

China Biggest Phone Maker Is Entering Solar Inverter Market

Huawei Technologies Co. plans to ship 4 GW of smart solar inverters this year and officially enters into the solar business. The inverter is named SUN2000 string inverters, with output ranging from 8kW to 17kW and efficiency of 98.5%.

Last year, Huawei tapped its telecommunication technology to develop solar inverters. It shipped about 1GW of products during the first half of 2014, launching the smart PV power business by addling “smart” features, such as digital data collection and analysis, to its solar inverters.

Solar demand for 2014 is projected to be around 42GW so Huawei stands a chance to penetrate the market. This move will also lead to a direct competition with SMA Solar Technology AG, a Germany-based solar inverter maker, and Sungrow Power Supply Co. in China.

Meanwhile, Huawei is working with China’s solar power plant investors and operators include Yingli and GCL to improve the device as well as extend its domestic market.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Advantages Of First Solar's Thin-Film Solar Panel

First Solar's thin-film Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) solar panels are taking up market share quickly due to its lower cost and better high-temperature performance than mono- and poly-crystalline silicon panels. First Solar’s thin-film solar panels have been increasing in efficiency extremely fast in recent years. Furthermore, First Solar’s panels perform better in the field compared to their rated efficiency. Hence, First Solar may see a boost in market share before too long.

Below lists out the advantages of First Solar thin-film solar panels:

(1) Conventionally, silicon solar panel outputs drop about 0.4% to 0.5% for every degree Celsius increases in temperature. First Solar’s thin-film solar panels lose less efficiency in high temperatures, about 0.25% per degree Celsius, often making them a better buy in hot climates.

(2) First Solar’s solar panels are reportedly at the higher end of the reliability spectrum.

(3) First Solar uses a lot of automation to build its solar modules, bringing down cost and also ensuring quality consistency.

(4) After trading places with GE for years on CdTe efficiency records for years, First Solar finally bought GE’s CdTe intellectual property.

(5) The efficiency increase of CdTe efficiency in recent years is “unrivaled” in the solar PV industry.

(6) The efficiency record of conventional multicrystalline silicon is 20.4%, and First Solar is now closing in on that record.

(7) Adjusted for the effect of heat on the solar panels, First Solar’s thin-film solar panels are generally as efficient as silicon poly-crystalline solar panels already.

(8) First Solar’s module testing is intense.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Self-Cooling Solar Cells Yield Better Output And Longer Lifespan

When solar panels operate under full sun they can easily reach temperatures more than 60 degrees Celsius. High temperature will reduce panels' output and shorten their lifespan. For typical silicon solar panel, every degree increases in temperature, about 0.5% drop in output power. For example, if a rated 250 watts of solar panel is operating at Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, you will only get about 206 watts of output. Using coolant or ventilation to cool the panels is expensive and energy intensive.

Scientists from Stanford University, U.S.A., have developed a passive cooling technology by adding a tiny pyramid-shaped silica glass structures to the surface of ordinary solar cells. The pyramid will help to shepherd away unwanted heat and reduce panel's temperature.

"Silica is transparent to visible light, but it is also possible to fine-tune how it bends and refracts light of very specific wavelengths,” said Prof. Fan, who led the research. “A carefully designed layer of silica would not degrade the performance of the solar cell, but it would enhance radiation at the predetermined thermal wavelengths to send the solar cell’s heat away more effectively.”

The team has tested different shapes and sizes of the structure. They were able to fine tune the shapes to refract and redirect only the unwanted infrared wavelengths (wavelengths that will heat up the panels) away from the solar cell and back out into space.

Their next step is to demonstrate radiative cooling of solar cells in an outdoor environment.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New Finding Could Increase Solar Efficiency By 30%

Solar industry is a non-stopping battle ground of price and performance. Now, scientists from University of California, Riverside, U.S.A., has found a way to use one photon to generate 2 electrons, which theoretical could boost solar efficiency.

What is photon? Photon is an elementary particle of light. When we see different color of light it is simply photon with different wavelength and energy. When light, or photon, strikes the solar cell, they will penetrate and be absorbed by the solar material. Electron will be generated and electricity will flow when the cell is connected to a load.

Conventionally, one photon will only generate one electron. But newly discovery could double the generation. The technique is called singlet fission, in which an initially excited singlet state spontaneously splits into a pair of triplet excitons, boosting the overall solar efficiency by as much as 30%.

Here’s the Bardeen lab’s diagram of how singlet fission works to spontaneously split into two triplets, effectively dodging the efficiency barrier of the Shockley-Queisser limit.

“The exact mechanism is unknown, but it does happen quickly—at the sub-nanosecond timescale—and with high efficiency,” said Prof. Bardeen, who led the research.

Prof. Bardeen cites recent work at MIT that has already demonstrated an organic photovoltaic cell with more than 100% external quantum efficiency based on this effect. Prof. Bardeen believes similar improvement can be observed in inorganic semiconductors.

The next move of the team is to find new materials that exhibit singlet fission, figuring out how to turn the triplet excitons into electricity.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Solar Manufacturing Inspired By "Tofu" production In Reducing Toxin Chemical

Thin-film solar offers the characteristics of being flexible and low-profile to all kinds of surfaces. Unfortunately, the key ingredient to produce millions of thin-film solar panels is cadmium chloride,which is highly toxic and expensive.

Inspired by the production of "tofu", researcher from University of Liverpool, U.K., found that the magnesium chloride used to make tofu and bath salts could replace the highly toxic and expensive substance used to make the solar cells.

Safe and at a fraction of the cost – US$0.001 per gram compared to US$0.3 per gram for cadmium chloride, it makes the finding full of potential.

The cheapest solar cells being manufactured today are based on a thin film of insoluble cadmium telluride. Alone, these cells convert less than 2% of sunlight into electricity. By applying cadmium chloride to them, the efficiency increases to over 15%. When the team from University of Liverpool replaced the cadmium chloride with magnesium chloride, similar boost in performance was achieved.

Of course, simply finding a cheaper ingredient doesn't necessarily make for a cheaper solar cells. But the potential of replacing a highly toxic cadmium chloride makes the finding valuable.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Yingli Supplies 12 MWp Of Solar Modules To Malaysian Projects

Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited is supplying 12 MWp of solar modules to Gading Kencana Sdn Bhd., Malaysia.

8 MWp of Yingli's modules will be used in solar farm in Malacca, Malaysia, which covers approximately 14.5 acres and estimated to generate 11 GWh of electricity every year. The remaining 4 MWp of Yingli's modules will be used for residential installations across Malaysia. This is estimated to produce about 4.16 GWh of electricity per year, which is enough to power 1,000 typical homes in Malaysia.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Lighter Solar PV Module Helps To Reduce Cost

Why weight matters in solar PV installation? According to Giga Solar this is because heavy solar module increases overall cost, limits application and slows adoption.

Giga Solar has come out with an innovative new design of non-glass and frameless PV module which allows for significant weight savings while still maintaining strength and durability. Comparing Giga Solar's 265W module to conventional glass-covered module, Giga Solar's product only weights 1/3 of conventional one.

This helps to reduce the installation cost of residential solar system by 1/3. Also, being very low profile and light, a 40ft container can fit 3 times more Giga Solar's modules, compared to conventional modules, thereby reducing shipping cost by half. Below picture shows a person simply using one hand to hold the module.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Significant Of 4.5 Degree Celsius Changes In Global Temperature

Randall Munroe, from XKCD, uses a very comic pictorial way to describe the significant impacts of 4.5°C changes in global temperature. The 4.5°C is derived from the difference between the norm temperature of 20th century and the coldest temperature during last ice age. Randall calls every 4.5°C be 1 "Ice Age Unit" (IAU).

(1) If we are -1 IAU (4.5°C below) then Randall's neighbor (in Boston, U.S.A.) will be 1/2 mile under ice.

(2) If we are -4 IAU (18°C below) then the whole earth will be a snowball.

(3) If we are +1 IAU (4.5°C above), which will be 86 years from now, Randall is not sure how the earth will be...

(4) If we are +2 IAU (9°C above) then the sea level will be 200 meters above today, no more ice on North and South Poles, and palm trees will grow on the poles.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New Nano-Technology Turns Wires Into Energy Storage Too

Batteries are used to storage energy and electrical cables are only used to transmit electricity. These two things seem to have no similarity in functionality.

However, nanotechnology scientist and professor Jayan Thomas and his Ph.D. student Zenan Yu, from University of Central Florida, have merged these 2 functions into one thing - a single lightweight copper wire to both transmit and store electricity. Copper wire is the starting point but eventually, Thomas said, as the technology improves, special fibers could also be developed with nanostructures to conduct and store energy.

This is how the cable works:

First, the team took a single copper wire and placed a sheath over the wire made up of nanowhiskers on the outer surface of the copper wire which treated with a special alloy to form an electrode. The whiskers then wrapped around with a thin plastic sheet and grew another layer of whiskers, to act as second electrode. Finally, a metal sheath was used to wrap around the cable to form the outer covering.

Because of the insulation, the inner copper wire retains its ability to channel energy and both the outer whiskers acted like a supercapacitor to store powerful energy.

It can be applied in the design and development of electrical vehicles, space-launch vehicles and portable electronic devices. By being able to store and conduct energy on the same wire, heavy, space-consuming batteries could become a thing of the past. Although more work still needs to be done, but it holds a tremendous potential to revolutionize the energy storage industry.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mini Wind Turbine That Can Be Fitted On Your Rooftop

When we talk about wind turbine we always refer to those gigantic 50m tall, 20m blade-span wind turbine. Unlike solar energy which sunlight is everywhere on the earth, wind turbines are very selective on locations and it also generates loud noise that most people won't be able to deal with.

A Dutch renewable energy start-up called The Archimedes is working on a wind turbine, called Liam F1, that is compact (weighted about 75kg and blade diameter of 1.5m), quiet and very efficient. Liam F1 is capable of generating maximum power of 1.5 kW at wind speed of 15 m/s. Even at just 5 m/s the turbine also can generate 1,500 kWh of energy per year.

Because of its screw-like blade design, Liam F1 will automatically point into the wind to capture the most amount of energy, allowing it to reach 80% of the theoretical maximum energy that could be harnessed from the wind.

The company is now working on an even smaller wind turbine, half the size of Liam F1, which can be installed on the lamppost to power the light.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

MIT To Improve Performance Of Shaded Solar Panels

Shading has been a big challenge for solar system. Merely a 3 % of shading on solar array could lead to a 25% loss in output. Solar panels on residential rooftops that are partially shaded by clouds or trees sacrifice as much as 30% of their energy potential over a year. Group of graduate students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), U.S.A, has formed a startup called Unified Solar to solve this problem.

Current solutions for partially shaded solar panels optimize power at the panel level. But these bulky “boxes” rely on costly energy-storage components, such as capacitors and inductors. Failing to account for the strength or weakness of each individual PV cell, these also only restore roughly half of lost power. But Unified Solar innovates “at the cell level” by integrating entire power balance circuit onto a low-cost chip that can be integrated into a solar panel to regain that lost energy. The energy capture under partial shading is basically 2 times better compared to panel level solutions.

The team has received US$100,000 from U.S.A. Department of Energy on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clean Energy Prize, and US$125,000 from the NSTAR MIT Clean Energy Prize, to further develop their idea.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Do Electric Cars (EV) Generate Harmful Magnetic Fiels?

The sell of electric cars, or electric vehicles (EVs), is on the raise due to environmental reasons. At the same time the doubt or worry about impact of magnetic fields generated from EV to human body also in the raise.

A comprehensive study has been conducted by European scientists should put those fears to rest. An electromagnetic safety research project funded by the EU and bringing together experts and research institutes from 10 countries to look into the level of magnetic fields from EVs. The team used 8 different vehicles (100% electric cars, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, fuel cell, gasoline, diesel) and mannequins, with sensitive sensors in the head, chest, and feet, to simulate and measure the exposure to real human drivers. They found that in all cases, exposure to magnetic fields in electric cars was lower than 20% of the limiting value recommended by the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection).

The measurements taken at the head-height were less than 2% of that recommended value for EVs. Interestingly, gasoline and diesel-powered cars measured at around 10% of the limiting value. Hence, the team concluded that there is a good safety margin and should have no cause for concern.

The main problem with health hazard caused by magnetic fields from EVs is the placebo effect. People who believe that they are being harmed might feel that harm. This means that the main way to cure those ills is informing people.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why Is Wave Power Lagged Behind Other Renewable Sources?

The beginning of the idea to use tidal wave to generate energy was dated back to 1799 when the first known patent was filed. In 1910, Bochaux-Praceique had realized the idea to use wave energy to light and power his house at Royan, France. A renewed interest in wave energy was motivated again by the oil crisis in 1973. But until today, no commercial scale wave power operations exist yet.

So, what slows the development of tidal wave power down?

Operating in the ocean is far more difficult than on land. Saltwater is a hostile environment for devices causing them to corrode much faster, and the waves themselves offer a challenge for energy harvesting as they not only roll past a device but also bob up and down or converge from all sides in confused seas. Even though this provides enticing opportunities for energy capture, but at the same time a challenge for optimum design. Also, roaring ocean costs a lot more to send crews to do installation and repairing.

The other reason of lagging in wave power development is that it has never been high in R&D priority. Most of the resources have been put in wind and solar.

In spite of the challenges inherent, wave power is progressing, albeit slowly. Until the cost disadvantages can't be overcome, it simply won't make sense to build wave farms in most places when more wind or solar capacity could be built for less.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Battery Made From Cotton

Battery has become an essential thing in our life. Ranging from cellphones, power banks, electric and hybrid cars, emergency lighting, etc, are all powered by battery, like lithium-ion battery. Of course, lithium-ion battery has it downside. It is expensive, runs hot and even causing fire, takes long time to charge and has limited charge-cycles, and acts as hazardous waste when disposes.

A new start-up called Power Japan Plus (you can tell it is from Japan) has come out with a revolutionary battery made from cotton. YOU ARE RIGHT! Cotton, the raw material of the fabric of your cloth. The new battery is called "Ryden".

Power Japan Plus has modified the cotton fibers to create a new type of carbon fiber to form the anode and cathode of the Ryden battery and an organic fluid is used as an electrolyte. So, practically the whole battery is made up of organic components.

What is the advantages of "Ryden"?
(1) it charges 20x faster than lithium-ion battery.
(2) it has over 3,000 charge and discharge cycles comparing to only few hundred to thousand cycles for lithium-ion battery.
(3) easy to manufacture as it doesn't use any rare metals.
(4) it doesn't run hot.
(5) fully recyclable.

Power Japan Plus expects to manufacture up to 5,000 Ryden batteries this year as part of a pilot run, so it could still be many years before we see the breakthrough tech implemented into electronic gadgets and cars.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Many Ways To Use Baking Soda As Super-Cleanser

Baking soda is commonly available in most of our kitchens. Besides cooking recipes, it also serves as a non-toxic and biodegradable cleaning solutions. Below are few DIY ways to use baking soda to clean.

(1) Unclog drains
Pour a cup of baking soda, followed by a cup of white vinegar, into the drain, and plug it with a stopper for 15 minutes. Then flush with water. Repeat if necessary, with no worry.

(2) Clean pot
Fill your pot with few inches of water and add 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Simmer for 15 minutes and then use a wooden spoon to scrape off any leftover.

(3) Remove bad smells
Many bad smells are the result of slightly acidic molecules, use baking soda to neutralize bad odors. Keeping an open container of baking soda in your fridge, cabinets or closet will reduce bad smells. It’s good to replace the soda about once every six months.

(4) Freshen mattress
Sprinkle baking soda on mattress and make the bed. When you change the sheets next, vacuum it up.

(5) Clean carpet
Sprinkle baking soda on carpet and then vacuum it, or use it with water to scrub off any stain.

(6) Clean oven and fridge
Mix baking soda with water and spread it over the interior of the oven or fridge. Then let it sits overnight and use a spatula to gently scrape off the dried paste and wide with cloth.

(7) Clean any surface
Baking soda paste to clean tiles, marble, counter tops and linoleum floors without harsh chemicals.

(8) Grout
Use an old toothbrush and baking soda to get residue and grime off of grout.

(9) Toilet
Just sprinkle, scrub and flush.

(10) Whiten linens
Mix equal parts of baking soda and lemon juice to make your white towels, sheets and clothing whiter. This mixture works as a mild bleaching agent.

(11) Remove onion smell from hands
After done chopping, rub a sprinkle of baking soda and a few drops of water into a paste in hands. Rinse it off after a bit of scrubbing and the onion smell will be gone.

(12) Shampoo
Mix a ratio of 1 tablespoon of baking soda per cup of water in a bottle and shake it up. Pour it on your hair and massage it around for about a minute before rinsing. You'll get a squeaking clean feeling! Some people like to follow this with a rinse of apple cider vinegar.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Black Silicon Solar Cells

Natcore Technology’s black silicon wafers are now in production line to be manufactured into solar cells. This has been done by one of the world’s largest photovoltaic manufacturers, which is located in China’s Hunan province. 

What is "Black Silicon?" It is referred to the apparent color of the surface of a silicon wafer after it has been etched with billions of nano-scale holes per square inch. The black color is not a color at all but results from the absence of reflected light from the porous wafer surface.

Five batches of the black silicon wafers were produced in the trial run and achieved 15.7%. This can easily be increased by optimizing the process. Also, this achievement, in the manufacturing environment, proves that black silicon process is commercially viable in real production line.

Dr. David Levy, Natcore’s Director of Research & Technology, they put these cells through the Chinese manufacturer’s process with essentially no modification to the process itself, except for the fact that certain steps were completely removed. The removal of these steps projects could low production cost as much as 23.5%.

Friday, May 9, 2014

What Is The Future Of Silicon Thin-Film Solar Technology?

The future of silicon thin-film solar technology is looking bleak and expected to go downtrend. 

DuPont has decided to terminate their silicon thin-film operations by the end of 2014. Silicon thin-film market share is likely to keep falling in the short run, according to the analysis of EnergyTrend.

The price gap between silicon thin-film and crystalline silicon has been narrowing. According to Arthur Hsu from EnergyTrend silicon thin-film's price is quoted at US$0.58/watt while crystalline is at US$0.6/watt. The difference has decreased from the original US$0.1/watt to now only US$0.02/watt. Silicon thin-film has lost its price competitiveness. Meanwhile, crystalline silicon conversion efficiency is around 17.2% while thin-film remains at 8% to 10%. Efficiency gap between the two will continue to increase as crystalline  silicon's efficiency goes up.

Another reason leading to the closing of silicon thin-film operations is the halting of new technology development by equipment manufacturers. In fact, relevant manufacturers were hoping to rely on Tandem technology’s commercialization to improve silicon thin-film's efficiency. However, after acquiring Oerlikon’s thin-film business, Tokyo Electron has ended Tandem technology development, which crushed thin-film manufacturers’ final hope.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Only Costs US$80 In Parts To Manufacture Priced US$1,500 Google Glass has taken apart the recent mostly talked Google Glass product to estimate the components' cost.They found that the priced US$1,500 Google Glass only has components worth US$79.78 inside it, including assembly and testing. The breakdown is shown below.

Of course, the cost mentioned above hasn't included engineering design costs, initial start up manufacturing costs. So, definitely the raw cost will be higher than US$79.78. Not mentioning about licensing fees of intellectual property right for technologies which Google might have used in the device from thirty party.

So, the chances are unlikely that the company is getting rich on sales of Google Glass. However, if sales hit the range of millions within the next couple of years, good chunk of Google's revenue might flow from selling this device.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Promising New Solar Material To Achieve High Efficiency At Low Cost

On March 26 I had talked about a new material, perovskite, that Nanyang Technological University has researched to use it as solar at day and light panel at night.

Now researchers at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), U.S.A., are analyzing perovskite to be a potential low cost, high efficiency, solar material. What makes perovskite device structures so remarkable is that when processed in a liquid solution, they have unusual abilities to diffuse lights a long distance through the cell, this means more time for the material to absorb the lights which translates to higher efficiency. Also, perovskite-based solar material is very easy to fabricate using liquids that could be printed on substrates like ink in a printing press, or made from simple evaporation. These properties suggest an easy, affordable route to solar cells. All theses indicate a potential for low-cost, high-efficiency devices.

The picture on the left shows a NREL's researcher applying a perovskite precursor to make a perovskite film.

Perovskite's efficiency has grown from 3.8% in 2009 to 16.2% now. That's better than a four-fold increase. By contrast, efficiencies of single-crystal solar cells grew by less than 50% during their first 5 years of development.

The theoretical maximum efficiency of a perovskite-based solar cell is about 31%. Several companies are already interested in forming cooperative research and development agreements so they can work with NREL on perovskite.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

7 Ways To Protect Your Eyes

(1) Dim the lights:
You want your computer screen to be the brightest thing in the room. You want your office space to have as few ‘bright spots’ and as indirect shining on you as possible.

(2) Reduce glare:
Glare usually means there is one spot on your screen that is particularly bright. Your eyes will have trouble adjusting to the brightness of the glare with the rest of the screen which can result in discomfort.

(3) Minimize blue light exposure:
All electronic devices emit blue light and you should definitely avoid exposing yourself to blue light at least 2-3 hours before bed, as it disrupts your circadian rhythm. You can try programs like flux which adapts the color of your computer screen to the time of day.

(4) Follow the 20-20-20 rule:
Look away from your computer or screen every 20 minutes and focus on a distant object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

(5) Make your workspace eye friendly:
Most of us have our desks setup completely wrong. Rule-of-thumb is that your eyes should level with the top of the screen. Try this website to help you figure out how to optimize your workstation to protect your eyes.

(6) Take vitamin-A:
Retinal is processed vitamin A, and retinal is essential to the process your rhodopsin (also known as visual purple, a biological pigment in our eye's photoreceptor cells of the retina that is responsible for the first events in the perception of light) goes through when you perceive light. The average human needs between 700-900 micrograms or 5,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin A every day.

Sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens all have high levels of vitamin A in them, so get to noshing.

(7) Listen to what your eyes try to tell your:
If your eyes feel tired then they are tired! Don’t try to write off eye fatigue as something else because like most health issues, this one isn’t likely to get better when ignored.

If you feel eye strain or headaches, take a break. Try blinking slowly for ten times to re-wet your eyes. You can also trace a figure-8 pattern with your eyeballs, and cup or palm your hands over eyes. The idea is to give your eyes some variation which can provide you with some relief.


Monday, April 21, 2014

92% Of U.S.A. Q1 2014 New Electricity Capacity Is From Renewable Energy Sources

According to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update, 92% of U.S.A. new electricity generation capacity, between January and March 2014, came from renewable energy sources. Below graph shows the breakdown of each source of energy, in unit of MW.

No new coal, nuclear, and oil generation capacity were added.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Portable Wind Turbine Charger That Fits In Our Backpack

When we talk about wind power, usually we refer to those gigantic, tall, wind turbines that are few stories in height, with blade-span of few ten of meters. Soon this will not be the case.

Skajaquoda, a research team based in Minnesota, U.S.A., has come out with a portable wind turbine, called Trinity, that will charge any USB device like your smart phone or tablet and folds together into a 12" cylinder. It measured about 23" when operating and weighted about 1.8 kg. Below shows the device.

Trinity has a 15W generator and a built in 15,000 mAh battery. When it is folded, you can view it as a 12" long cylindrical battery bank. You can either charge the battery using the build-in wind turbine or with a 5V USB wall-plug.

Skajaquoda has turned to Kickstarter to raise US$50,000 to complete the prototype and start the manufacturing process. At US$249 you will receive the first of the Trinity devices and be expected to receive it by January 2015.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Collecting Just The Urine For Nutrient Recycling

Today sewage system when we flush it will mix everything with potable water and then send them to treatment plants for energy-intensive and expensive treatment to break down organic wastes, separate out biosolids, kill pathogens, and release the water into rivers or aquifers. In this system we have missed out a great opportunity to collect the valuable urine before it is mixed with poop and flushed away.

According to Alex Wilson when most people think of creating fertilizer from animal or human waste, we think mostly about manure. But there are actually far more nutrients contains in urine than in the poop. In human waste, 88% of nitrogen and 66% of phosphorous contain in urine. Therefore, it makes more sense, less energy and cheaper of course, to collect the urine even before it mixes with the poop and flush water.

Urine is far more easier to deal with. Simply storing urine for a while in a sealed container is enough to kill bacteria, due to the high alkalinity and ammonia from the urine. So no expensive and energy-intensive treatment is ready needed to process urine.

Plants need phosphorus, and we are running out of the it. Some predicts that phosphorus production will peak by 2030 and then decline. Without recycling urine to recover the phosphorus soon we will run out of it and will create a tremendous negative impact to the ecosystem.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Use Gravity And Train To Solve Energy Storage Problem For Renewable Energy

One of the biggest challenges for solar and wind powers has been 24/7 non-stop of supply. The grid needs to be powering even when the sun has set and wind has stopped. To solve this energy storage needs to be installed. High-tech solutions like Li-Ion battery, compressed air storage, melted salt, etc, have been proposed. Now, a California based company, Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES), comes out with a energy storage solution using old technology - gravity and heavy train.

The idea is simple! When solar farms or windmills are producing excess power, then it will be used to push a train loaded with heavy weight up the hill. When power is needed again, like in the night or hot sunny day when demand is high, the train will be rolling down the hill, by gravity, and regenerating power back to the grid. The charge/discharge efficiency can now reach 80%.

Battery poses great environmental issues when disposing. Re-pumping water back to dam, a commonly used storage method by utility company, with excess power also is expensive and wasteful, and building dams also cause environmental damage. ARES's solution is clean and produces no harm to the environment even at the end of its life.Also, railway can easily last for 40 years.

The other advantage of ARES's technology is scalable, up to gigawatt storage.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Biodegradable Battery That Could Dissolve Inside Our Body

Researchers have been working to come out with biodegradable electronics that dissolve harmlessly after a certain period. The main application would be in medical implants. Currently, implant needs to be surgically removed after it is done or when it needs a new battery. Rather than surgery, a biodegradable battery couples with biodegradable implant device will simply melt away once they are done.

Of course, we are not there yet. But the pieces of the puzzle are slowly falling into place. Recently, researchers revealed a working battery that is made entirely of bio-compatible materials that dissolve in water after about 3 weeks.

The battery is quite small. A 1 square cm cell is able to generate 2.4mAh of current. The anodes are made of magnesium foil and the cathodes of iron, molybdenum or tungsten. The electrolyte (like the acid-water inside our car battery) between the two electrodes is a phosphate-buffered saline solution. All of this is packaged in a biodegradable polymer called polyanhydride.

Once dissolved, the battery releases less than 9 milligrams of magnesium which researchers believe it is unlikely to cause problems in the body.

Right now the lab versions of these batteries can maintain voltage for about a day, and the researchers are working on improving power-density to make the batteries even smaller.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Air Pollution Causing 7 Million Premature Deaths Annually

World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 2012 about 7 million people (1 in 8 of total global deaths) died of air pollution exposure, making it the world's largest single environmental health risk.

The report broke down the cause of death into "indoor" and "outdoor pollutions. Below shows the summary of the report:

Outdoor air pollution-caused deaths:
  • 40% – ischaemic heart disease
  • 40% – stroke
  • 11% – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • 6% - lung cancer
  • 3% – acute lower respiratory infections in children
  • caused 2.9 million deaths
  • 2.6 million deaths from South-East Asia and Western Pacific Region
Indoor air pollution-caused deaths:
  • 34% - stroke
  • 26% - ischaemic heart disease
  • 22% - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • 12% - acute lower respiratory infections in children
  • 6% - lung cancer
  •  caused 4.3 million death
  • 3.3 million deaths from South-East Asia and Western Pacific Region

Friday, March 28, 2014

Nanotechnology Helps To Triple Aircraft Engine Service Life & Reduce Fuel Consumption

Researchers at University West, Sweden, used nanoparticles to coat the metal components of the aircraft engine to form a layer of heat shield. This enabled the engine to withstand higher combustion temperature, thereby increasing efficiency and decreasing fuel consumption. This shield also helped to improve engine service life by 300%.

All the surface layers on aircraft engine and gas turbines have to be coated with a thermal barrier coating, using a method called thermal spray application. In this experiment a ceramic powder is sprayed onto a surface at a very high temperature - 7,000 to 8,000 degrees C, using a plasma stream. The ceramic particles melt and strike the surface, where they form a protective layer that is approximately half a millimeter thick. This very thin layer of coating helps to slow down the engine deterioration due to extreme temperature, thereby increasing service life.

The discovery holds the potential of greatly reducing the amount of expensive and time-consuming services, and fuel consumption for aircraft industry. The technology is also significantly cheaper than the conventional technology. All these translate to lower selling, operation and maintenance costs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NTU Scientists Discover Material That Can Be Solar Cell By Day, Light Panel By Night

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, have developed a new generation of solar cell material that is also capable of emitting light. The newly discovered material is made of Perovskite, a calcium titanium oxide based mineral.

The discovery, came in surprise, when NTU physicist Prof. Sum Tze Chien, asked his postdoctoral researcher to shine a laser on the new hybrid Perovskite solar cell material they are developing. The new cell glowed brightly when the laser beam was shone on it.
This is a significant finding as most solar cell materials are good at absorbing light but are generally not expected to generate light. In fact, this highly luminescent new Perovskite material is also very suitable for the making of lasers.

According to Prof. Sum, the new material is high quality and durable under light exposure, it can capture light particles and convert them to electricity, or vice versa. By tuning the composition of the material, it can emit a wide range of colours, which is suitable for making light emitting device, such as flat screen displays.

The new material holds promise in light decorations or displays for the facades of shopping malls and offices. Such a versatile yet low-cost (5 times cheaper than current Silicon-based solar cells) material would be a boon for green buildings. More significantly, the ability of this material to lase, has implications for on-chip electronic devices that source, detect and control light.

Monday, March 24, 2014

SEDA Malaysia Announced New Degression & Bonus Rates For Biomass, Biogas & Solar PV

On 18th March 2014, CEO of SEDA Malaysia Datin Badriyah Abdul Malek announced the newly gazetted FiT and degression rates for biomass, biogas and solar PV, as depicted below:

The degression rates for both biomass and biogas have been reduced to 0%, from 0.5%, to solve the low take-up of these 2 RE. Also, incentive of RM0.05 per kWh, up from RM0.01 per kWh, is given for using locally manufactured or assembled products and technologies.
The degression rate for solar PV has been adjusted to 10% per year. Also, incentives of RM0.05 per kWh are given for using locally assembled module and inverter. Previously were RM0.03 per kWh for module and RM0.01 per kWh for inverter.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Malaysia Feed-in-Tariff Quota Release Announcement Delayed

According to The Malaysian Reserve Malaysia government has postponed its announcement of the 2014 Renewable Energy Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) quota to April, at the earliest. This is because Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) Malaysia is amending the Renewable Energy (RE) Act 2011. RE Act has been revised almost annually since it was introduced to accommodate changing needs of the industry. Current amendments include:

(1) Large commercial non-individual PV projects size to be brought down from 72kW to 12kW.
(2) Sections that involved the terms and operational requirements.
(3) FiT approval & FiT rates.
(4) Recovery of money.
(5) Regulating solar PV service provider
(6) Inclusion of geothermal sources as new RE source.

The delay may mean that the rollout of the FiT programme for 2014 may be spread into 2015.

On whether there will be a substantial increase in the quantum of the quota for 2014, SEDA Malaysia CEO Datin Badriyah Malek said: “I think the quota for biogas, biomass and hydro will be quite substantial, but the quota for solar, because it has the highest technology cost, we have to look at the numbers very, very carefully.”

Declining to disclose any figures, she described the numbers as “decent”, compared to last year’s 20MW which she described as “tiny”.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bacteria In Your Gut Makes Dark Chocholate Healthful

For centuries, people have known the health benefits of eating dark chocolate without knowing why, until recently. Researchers from Louisiana State University have just found the scientific reason.

The team reported that certain bacteria in the gut will "eat" the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds. When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.

Cocoa powder, an ingredient in chocolate, contains several antioxidants, called polyphenols, which are poorly digested and absorbed, but when they reach the colon, the desirable bacteria works to break them down into smaller molecules, which are more easily to be absorbed and exhibit anti-inflammatory behavior.

The bacteria also help to break down the fiber in cocoa powder into short fatty chain acids, which get absorbed and can have an effect on satiety, meaning help us feel full.

So far, the experiment was down on man-made digestive tract and the team yet to verify the results in real human digestive tract.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Use Lemon As Ingredient Of Your DIY Beauty Products

Lemon has a number of properties that make it a great ingredient in many organic beauty recipes.

(1) Organic face scrub to fight acne:
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup rolled oats (which serves as an exfoliant)
1/2 tablespoon honey (to soften skin)
Mix it all up in a small bowl. Massage onto face for 30 seconds. Rinse with warm water.

(2) Lemon cucumber toner:
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Half cup of cucumber slices
3 cups cold water
Apply with a cotton ball or pad. Keeps in the fridge for up to a week.

(3) Lemon body scrub:
Zest (the skin) from 1 lemon
1 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup almond oil
Combine the ingredients in a clean jar with a tightly fitting lid. Shake and it's ready to use. It keeps for about 6 months at room temperature.

(4) Natural highlights:
If you want a cheaper and more organic approach to summery highlights, try the old lemon juice solution. Unfortunately, this works best on people who already have fairly light hair. For full instructions, check out this excellent Instrucables post.

(5) Hair rinse:
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cup of warm water
Mix them together and pour slowly over your hair. Allow it to sit for at least a minute before rinsing out. It helps to reduce dullness created by hard water, leaving your hair shinning.

6.Hair removal wax
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Cook at low to middle heat until the mixer turns golden color (about 5 minutes). Then cool for 15 minutes and you are ready to use it as regular wax.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bionic Plants - Nanotubes Increase Photosynthesis And Turn Plants Into Sensor

Researchers at MIT have embedded carbon nanotubes in living plants to increase photosynthesis of the plants or turn them into sensors.

By embedding carbon nanotubes in the chloroplast of living plants, researchers have been able to boost energy production in plants by 30%.

When switched to other type of carbon nanotube, they were able to turn plants into sensor for pollutants and toxins.

The idea of nanobionic plants grew out of a project in the lab to build self-repairing solar cells. As a next step, the researchers wanted to try enhancing the photosynthetic function of chloroplasts isolated from plants, for possible use in solar cells.

Researchers also hope using these nanotechnology, they can develop plants that could be used to monitor environmental pollution, pesticides, fungal infections, or exposure to bacterial toxin.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Clock Runs On Tap Water

Bedol has developed water-powered clock! 

The clock helps user to saves money and reduces their carbon footprint. Bedol Water Clock uses 2 proprietary metal plates specifically designed inside their clocks. Once the plates encounter water, positive and negative charges will be generated to power the clock. With single filling the clock is able to keep perfect time for 6 months. Once the water inside the clock has been "used up", all need to be done is pouring out the water and refill it again.

Now, the wall-mounted water-powered clock is priced at US$89 or ~ RM293, and desktop alarm clock starts at US$29.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Solar Power Is Now Malaysian Ringgit 16.5¢ Per kWh

SunEdison has just signed a 25-year power purchase agreement to sell solar power to Austin Energy at US 5¢ per kWh (about Malaysian Ringgit 16.5¢ per kWh), which is the cheapest solar power, for the moment, in U.S.A., or even in the world.

This beats natural gas, coal, and nuclear on price. If remove the ITC (a U.S.A. federal tax credit for solar), the cost would probably be about US 8¢/kWh, comparing to estimated about US 7¢/kWh for natural gas, US 10¢/kWh for coal and 13¢/kWh for nuclear in U.S.A.

Of course, this is not from a small solar farm. It’s from two solar power plants totaling 150MW.

Another important thing is that this is PEAK POWER! Solar power produces electricity at peak demand. That is very high-value electricity. SESB's peak power production cost is close to RM1 per kWh.

We can see that solar power is coming down in price very fast. Even without any subsidy and tax credit, solar power production cost has reached US 8¢/kWh (about Malaysian Ringgit 26¢/kWh). It is cheaper than what we pay in Malaysia for electricity.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Environmental Friendly Plastic Made From Shrimp Shell

Plastic has been something we all love and hate. It is so convenience that it helps us to hold our groceries, to "ta pao" (Malaysian word of "take away") foods and drinks, etc. But once it is done and discarded then it becomes an environmental hazard contributing to water contamination and ocean pollution, as well as harming wildlife.

Then the so-called bio-degradable plastics (bio-plastics) came to the market as an alternative. Most of these products require the production or harvesting of virgin biomass, such as trees or biomass crops, both of which have an environmental impact that isn't sustainable at our current rate of plastic consumption.

A new type of bio-plastic is in the work using chitosan. Chitosan is made by treating shrimp and other crustacean shells with the alkali sodium hydroxide. It can be broken down into benign, even helpful, components in the soil in about two weeks.

According to researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute there is an urgent need in many industries for sustainable materials that can be mass produced. Their scalable manufacturing method shows that chitosan, which is readily available and inexpensive, can serve as a viable bio-plastic.

The chitosan polymer developed initially had a shrinkage problem that kept it from maintaining its shape after the molding process, but the team found that by adding wood 'flour' (a wood processing waste product) to the mix, the new bio-plastic could be molded into a 3D form with "impressive precision."