3D Printed Homes Are The Future Of Construction

This Amsterdam building site is a little different. The Europe’s first 3D-printed house is being constructed here. It’s being made from a bio-plastic mix, containing 75 percent plant oil reinforced with microfibres. DUS Architects co-founder Hans Vermeulen says the house won’t be perfect, but an important staging post to a sustainable, eco-friendly, future for construction.
3D printed anal-house-by-DUS-Architects
CLICK THE PICTURE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO

The building industry is a little bit more conservative at the moment but digitalisation can totally transform that industry into a more agile industry as well where you can actually share online and upgrade your neighbourhood online, and share world-wide good ideas and then send it to the machine“, he added.  Vermeulen calls traditional construction polluting and inefficient. 3D-printing homes will reduce waste and transportation costs, creating homes that can be taken down and reconstructed if the owners wants to leave town. He says the technology offers endless design possibilities. “Digital fabrication allows us and allows customers to tweak designs into their own personal needs,” he concluded. Last year Chinese firm WinSun displayed a five-storey apartment building it said it 3D-printed using recycled materials. But the technology remains in its infancy. Vermeulen’s 13-room complex should be ready by 2017.

Source: http://www.dusarchitects.com/

Solar Film: How To Increase The Absorption Of Sunlight

A biological structure in mammalian eyes has inspired a team headed by Silke Christiansen to design an inorganic counterpart for use in solar cells. With the help of conventional semiconductor processes, they etched micron-sized vertical funnels shoulder-to-shoulder in a silicon substrate. Using mathematical models and experiments, they tested how these kind of funnel arrays collect incident light and conduct it to the active layer of a silicon solar cell. Their result: this arrangement of funnels increases photo absorption by about 65% in a thin-film solar cell fitted with such an array and is reflected in considerably increased solar cell efficiency, among other improved parameters. This closely packed arrangement of cones has now inspired the team headed by Prof. Silke Christiansen to replicate something similar in silicon as a surface for solar cells and investigate its suitability for collecting and conducting light. Christiansen heads the Institute for Nanoarchitectures for Energy Conversion at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and a research team at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (MPL) – Germany..

solar funnelThe simulation shows how the concentration of light (red = high concentration, yellow= low concentration) rises in the funnels with declining diameter of the lower end of the funnel
We’ve shown in this work that the light funnels absorbs considerably more light than other optical architectures tested over the last while”, says Sebastian Schmitt, one of the two first authors of the publication that has appeared in journal Nature Scientific Reports.

Source: http://www.helmholtz-berlin.de/

Doubling The Electrical Output Of Solar Cells

One challenge in improving the efficiency of solar cells is that some of the absorbed light energy is lost as heat. So scientists have been looking to design materials that can convert more of that energy into useful electricity. Now a team from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Columbia University has paired up polymers that recover some of that lost energy by producing two electrical charge carriers per unit of light instead of the usual one.

solar cell
Critically, we show how this multiplication process can be made efficient on a single molecular polymer chain,” said physicist Matthew Sfeir, who led the research at Brookhaven Lab’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), a DOE Office of Science User Facility. Having the two charges on the same molecule means the light-absorbing, energy-producing materials don’t have to be arrayed as perfect crystals to produce extra electrical charges. Instead, the self-contained materials work efficiently when dissolved in liquids, which opens the way for a wide range of industrial scale manufacturing processes, including “printingsolar-energy-producing material like ink.

The research is published as an Advance Online Publication in Nature Materials, January 12, 2015.

Source: http://www.bnl.gov/

Nano Filters Clean Dirty Industry

Prototypes of nano-cellulose based filters with high purification capacity towards environmentally hazardous contaminants from industrial effluents eg. process industries, have been developed by researchers at Luleå University of Technology (Sweden). The research, conducted in collaboration with Imperial College in the UK has reached a breakthrough with the prototypes and they will now be tested on a few industries in Europe.

– The bio-based filter of nano-cellulose is to be used for the first time in real-life situations and tested within a process industry and in municipal wastewater treatment in Spain. Other industries have also shown interest in this technology and representatives of the mining industry have contacted me and I have even received requests from a large retail chain in the UK, says Aji Mathew Associate Professor, Division of Materials Science at Luleå University.
nano filter

Researchers have combined a cheap residue from the cellulose industry, with functional nano-cellulose to prepare adsorbent sheets with high filtration capacity. The sheets have since been constructed to different prototypes, called cartridges, to be tested. They have high capacity and can filter out heavy metal ions from industrial waters, dyes residues from the printing industry and nitrates from municipal water. Next year, larger sheets with a layer of nano-cellulose can be produced and formed into cartridges, with higher capacity.

– Each such membrane can be tailored to have different removal capability depending on the kind of pollutant, viz., copper, iron, silver, dyes, nitrates and the like.

Source: http://www.ltu.se/

Nano Sponges Cut Greenhouse Gases

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture – chemically trapping carbon dioxide before it releases into the atmosphere – is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, Cornell materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping “sponges” that could lead to increased use of the technology. A research team led by Emmanuel Giannelis, Professor of Engineering, has invented a powder that performs as well or better than industry benchmarks for carbon capture.
The researchers have been working on a better, safer carbon-capture method . Their latest consists of a silica scaffold, the sorbent support, with nanoscale pores for maximum surface area. They dip the scaffold into liquid amine, which soaks into the support like a sponge and partially hardens. The finished product is a stable, dry white powder that captures carbon dioxide even in the presence of moisture.

nanosponges
A scanning electron microscopy image of a pristine silica support, before the amine is added
We have made great strides in sustainability, particularly in the energy supply areas of alternative energy sources, and the demand side areas of energy conservation and building design standards,” KyuJung Whang, Cornell’s vice president for facilities services said.

A paper with their results, co-authored by postdoctoral associates Genggeng Qi and Liling Fu, appeared in Nature Communications.
Source: http://news.cornell.edu/

Solar Power: Ninety Percent Of Captured Light Converted Into Heat

A multidisciplinary engineering team at the University of California, San Diego developed a new nanoparticle-based material for concentrating solar power plants designed to absorb and convert to heat more than 90 percent of the sunlight it captures. The new material can also withstand temperatures greater than 700 degrees Celsius and survive many years outdoors in spite of exposure to air and humidity. Their work, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot program, was published recently in two separate articles in the journal Nano Energy. By contrast, current solar absorber material functions at lower temperatures and needs to be overhauled almost every year for high temperature operations.

solarPanel

We wanted to create a material that absorbs sunlight that doesn’t let any of it escape. We want the black hole of sunlight,” said Sungho Jin, a professor in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Jin, along with professor Zhaowei Liu of the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering professor Renkun Chen, developed the Silicon boride-coated nanoshell material. They are all experts in functional materials engineering.

Source:  http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/

Cheap Hydrogen Fuel

The race is on to optimize solar energy’s performance. More efficient silicon photovoltaic panels, dye-sensitized solar cells, concentrated cells and thermodynamic solar plants all pursue the same goal: to produce a maximum amount of electrons from sunlight. Those electrons can then be converted into electricity to turn on lights and power your refrigerator.
hydrogen-electric car At the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) – Switzerland -, led by Michael Grätzel, where scientists invented dye solar cells that mimic photosynthesis in plants, they have also developed methods for generating fuels such as hydrogen through solar water splitting. To do this, they either use photoelectrochemical cells that directly split water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to sunlight, or they combine electricity-generating cells with an electrolyzer that separates the water molecules.

By using the latter technique, Grätzel’s post-doctoral student Jingshan Luo and his colleagues were able to obtain a performance spectacular: their device converts into hydrogen 12.3 percent of the energy diffused by the sun on perovskite absorbers – a compound that can be obtained in the laboratory from common materials, such as those used in conventional car batteries, eliminating the need for rare-earth metals in the production of usable hydrogen fuel. This high efficiency provides stiff competition for other techniques used to convert solar energy. But this method has several advantages over others:
Both the perovskite used in the cells and the nickel and iron catalysts making up the electrodes require resources that are abundant on Earth and that are also cheap,” explained Jingshan Luo. “However, our electrodes work just as well as the expensive platinum-based models customarily used.”
The research is being published today in the journal Science.
Source: http://actu.epfl.ch/

Defect-Free Graphene For Electric Car Batteries

Researchers at from Korea’s KAIST institute developed a new method to fabricate defect-free graphene. Using this graphene, they developed a promising high-performance anode for Li-Ion batteries. Graphene has already been demonstrated to be useful in Li-ion batteries, despite the fact that the graphene used often contains defects. Large-scale fabrication of graphene that is chemically pure, structurally uniform, and size-tunable for battery applications has so far remained elusive. Now in a new study, scientists have developed a method to fabricate defect-free graphene (df-G) without any trace of structural damage. Wrapping a large sheet of negatively charged df-G around a positively charged Co3O4 creates a very promising anode for high-performance Li-ion batteries.
electric car

The research groups of Professor Junk-Ki Park and Professor Hee-Tak Kim from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Professor Yong-Min Lee’s research group from Hanbat National University, all in Daejeon, South Korea, have published their paper on the new fabrication method in a recent issue of Nano Letters.

Source: http://phys.org/

Electric Car: How To Produce Cheap Hydrogen

Rutgers University researchers have developed a technology that could overcome a major cost barrier to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel – a fuel that could replace expensive and environmentally harmful fossil fuels.

The new technology is a novel catalyst that performs almost as well as cost-prohibitive platinum for so-called electrolysis reactions, which use electric currents to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The Rutgers technology is also far more efficient than less-expensive catalysts investigated to-date.
Hydrogen has long been expected to play a vital role in our future energy landscapes by mitigating, if not completely eliminating, our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Tewodros (Teddy) Asefa, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. “We have developed a sustainable chemical catalyst that, we hope with the right industry partner, can bring this vision to life”. He and his colleagues based their new catalyst on carbon nanotubesone-atom-thick sheets of carbon rolled into tubes 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.
carbon nanotubes to produce hydrogen

A new technology based on carbon nanotubes promises commercially viable hydrogen production from water

Finding ways to make electrolysis reactions commercially viable is important because processes that make hydrogen today start with methane – itself a fossil fuel. The need to consume fossil fuel therefore negates current claims that hydrogen is a “green” fuel.
Source: http://news.rutgers.edu

Car Waste Heat Transformed Into Electricity

Thermoelectric materials can turn a temperature difference into an electric voltage. Among their uses in a variety of specialized applications: generating power on space probes and cooling seats in fancy cars.

University of Miami physicist Joshua Cohn and his collaborators report new surprising properties of a metal named lithium purple-bronze (LiPB) that may impact the search for materials useful in power generation, refrigeration, or energy detection.

If current efficiencies of thermoelectric materials were doubled, thermoelectric coolers might replace the conventional gas refrigerators in your home,” said Cohn, professor and chairman of the UM Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study. “Converting waste heat into electric power, for example, using vehicle exhaust, is a near-termgreen’ application of such materials.”
The findings are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Source: http://www.miami.edu/