This Brilliant Solar-Powered Cooler Is Your Next Tailgating Must-Have
Oct19

This Brilliant Solar-Powered Cooler Is Your Next Tailgating Must-Have

We’ve heard some people actually like football season for the football, but we’ll be honest—we’re here for the tailgating, the picnics, the burgers, the wings, the nachos, the beers . . . all stuffed into our favorite (and biggest) coolers. Our coolers have it pretty rough. They get beat up, kicked around, left in the sun, used as kicking posts for your angry brother and resting stations for Uncle John’s bigger-than-average behind. Their task of keeping our beers cold for more than a couple hours sometimes seems impossible, and we usually end up bobbing for cans in a pool of lukewarm water that used to be ice. But fear not, thirsty comrades: There is hope in solar-powered coolers. Keeping Your Drinks (and That Klondike Bar You Hid for Later) Ice-Cold The solar-powered coolers invented by nipi can rest on hot pavement, the lawn, or underneath Uncle John on the hottest of days while maintaining a Coors-friendly “Cold as the Rockies” internal temperature. In fact, the nipi can keep ice cold for an astonishing six days. Bring on the overtime. The Brilliant Design and Concept of the Solar-Powered Cooler We’ve gotten used to a high-tech world and demanding high-tech solutions. By utilizing 3D printing, nipi’s solar-powered cooler stands with the best. The cooler’s main body, rigid tires, treads, and handles are all 3D printed using sturdy materials. Additionally, the cooler uses photovoltaic solar panels that can generate six watts of power and store that power in two 14,000-mAh lithium batteries. This technology enables the cooler to keep its contents cold, power its innovative lighting system, and charge electronic devices. Its solar panels are customizable, too, so users can have up to three panels on each cooler. With three panels, it is possible to fully charge a cell phone in about twenty minutes. But Wait . . . There’s More (and You Can Afford It) In addition to its four USB ports, self-draining cup holders, cutting board, and internal and external LED lights, the nipi cooler also features a waterproof storage area perfect for guarding anything you want to keep safe and dry. The initial Kickstarter campaign for nipi made the coolers available for $160. Compare this cost to a YETI Tundra 110 cooler, which holds the same number of beers (about 65), but sells for a staggering $499.99. New Launch Date Unfortunately, nipi announced in September that they’ve decided to cancel their campaign and launch an improved model next year. You can still follow their progress on social media. Do you have any suggestions for the new and improved cooler? Write them in the comments section beneath our...

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3D Printing Brings You Pure Honey on Tap, Straight from the Bee
Sep29

3D Printing Brings You Pure Honey on Tap, Straight from the Bee

Honey adds flavor to our foods and, more importantly, keeps our global ecology strong. As bees move from plant to plant collecting nectar for honey production, they do the important work of cross-pollination, which keeps 90% of the world’s plants and 30% of its crops alive. However, when you go to the grocery store and pull off the cheapest bottle of honey you can find, you probably aren’t taking advantage of all that honey has to offer. Oftentimes, this honey has been heated and pasteurized and therefore does not have the enzymes and compounds that make local, raw honey so nutritious. In fact, the latter can help treat dandruff, provide energy, and even build immunity to some seasonal allergies. Risks of Traditional Honey-Harvesting Methods Unfortunately, harvesting honey from a beehive isn’t the easiest job in the world. The average honeybee hive contains 20,000–30,000 bees that, even after being sedated, will usually do anything they can to protect their honey. Beekeeping suits help, sure, but there’s always the possibility that the bees will find an opening (or just skip that step and sting the keeper through his or her suit). A bigger issue with traditional methods of honey harvesting is that the process inevitably kills bees and is hugely disruptive to the colony. To get to the honey, keepers usually have to leaf-blow bees off of the combs, cut the combs off the bee box, and spin honey off the combs with an extractor. At the end of this messy process, even the most careful keepers inevitably kill more bees than necessary. An Innovative 3D-Printed Beehive Stuart and Cedar Anderson, a father-and-son team in Australia, have been working for more than a decade on methods to harvest local honey more easily and economically. They wanted to develop a way to increase production, decrease colony disruption, and mass-produce pure honey for a wider audience. Enter Flow. Using a 3D printer, the Andersons create frames using plastic that is both BPA-free (BPA is a chemical often used in making plastics. It can have a negative effect on brain function, especially in children and pregnant women). Flow’s plastic is also made of food-grade material, meaning it is free of toxins and not at risk for acquiring toxins. The New Honeybee Hive Design Flow is modeled after traditional bee boxes but with a few brilliant alterations. It has thousands of almost-complete honeycomb cells, which the bees seal with wax and then fill with honey. Much like a regular hive, the end result is a series of columns of honey-filled pockets. However, the columns in Flow are connected to a handle on the outside of the...

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Smart Floating Farms: 20,000 Leagues of Fish, Food, and Solar Energy
Sep17

Smart Floating Farms: 20,000 Leagues of Fish, Food, and Solar Energy

  As the human population swells and we continue to look for places to live, work, and shop, agricultural land is becoming harder and harder to find. A Barcelona-based company believes it has developed a solution to the world’s shrinking supply of farmland. Forward Thinking Architecture has developed what they call “Smart Floating Farms,” which are three-level agricultural barges that provide additional farmland . . . on the water. Environmental Advantages of Floating Farms Although the company is still planning out the logistics of their floating farms, the proposed design addresses many issues facing today’s farmers. First of all, the farms would preserve arable land. In 2012, only 10.8% of the planet qualified as “arable,” but there are over 372,000 miles of coastline that would be perfect for floating farms. These floating platforms would allow for more universal access to organic food, and, by being mostly self-sufficient and easily sustainable, would be good for the environment, too. The farms would also be modular, making it possible for several of them to be grouped together to provide a centralized food bank for densely populated areas of the world. Smart Floating Farm Design The default size for the farms is 656’ x 1,150’. The middle level of each unit would be farmable, creating about 750,000 square feet of farmland (that’s over 13 football fields!). The bottom level of each farm would be utilized for fish farms and the top level would contain solar panels and skylights to deliver natural light to the plants below. The facilities could include water access points, storage centers, wave barriers, and desalination plants. With automated hydroponics and microclimate control, floating farms would offer consistent, regulated environments for the plants (similar to freight farms). To increase energy production, floating farms could incorporate wind turbines and wave-energy conversion units. Economic Benefits of Aquaculture and Hydroponic Farming Because the plants would be grown hydroponically (without soil), there would be no need for natural precipitation, pesticides, or soil itself. The gardens are stackable, too, so they could be placed on top of one another to save space. The designers believe floating farms could someday operate with very little human assistance, but early floating farms are already providing jobs and sustenance for thousands of people around the world. Using the “Internet of Things,” sensors could be placed throughout the farms to keep each facility running efficiently. The farms would also provide data on the types of foods local people are seeking. The company says that one farm could yield over eight tons of vegetables and almost two tons of fish each year. With that rate of production, the cost of building...

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The Future Is Clearly Solar
Aug26

The Future Is Clearly Solar

With solar efficiency and popularity on the rise, energy-grabbing solar panels are beginning to pop up all over the place. Innovative solar-panel applications are becoming commonplace, like the solar-powered plane that can circle the globe and the road made out of solar panels in the Netherlands. Solar is an excellent and clean energy source that helps combat global warming, but the expense of the initial installation has slowed its progress in the market. Making Solar Energy a More-Accessible Option Efforts by state and federal administrations have made solar power increasingly affordable for average homeowners to install. White House officials recently revealed an ambitious plan to increase the presence of sustainable energy systems across the country. Yet, if solar energy is becoming more affordable and consumer demand is growing, what is preventing people from installing a system? The answer is alarmingly simple: how the panels look. More than a few people think solar arrays are downright ugly. The Dallas Morning News recently reported on why Texas residents were so resistant to solar panels in a state that could widely benefit from the technology. At least one real-estate agent voiced an objection saying that visually, solar arrays in people’s front yards were akin to clotheslines and broken-down trucks. Maybe it’s more about fear of change than a degradation in aesthetic appeal. A Clear Solution to Transparent Objections As usual, science has presented a solution. Several research groups have been working to develop clear solar panels. Sunpartner Technologies has developed a system that can effectively turn the screens of mobile phones into energy-collecting panels. In addition, researchers at Michigan State University have developed transparent photovoltaic panels that may be able to replace glass surfaces. Clear solar panels would open up the solar market even further, giving companies a way to install arrays so they are discreet, thus taking care of any objections about aesthetics. In the future, energy-efficient homes may have more sunroofs than clunky solar panels, and skyscrapers may rely on electricity generated from thousands of solar-powered windows. Cities could become their own power grid. Electric cars could run on energy gathered from solar-paneled windshields. Global warming is a real and serious threat to the environment. However, innovative solar-panel applications offer hope for a green and sunny future. What Do You Think? How would you like to see solar panels applied in your home or city? Let us know in the comments!...

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HyperSciences Wants to Capture Geothermal Energy — At Gunpoint
Aug06

HyperSciences Wants to Capture Geothermal Energy — At Gunpoint

For many scientists, green energy is the wave of the future. A wealth of power, in the form of geothermal energy, is locked several thousand feet inside the earth. Unleashing the potential of geothermal energy by converting it into renewable steam power has been prohibitively expensive, as traditional drilling is currently the only way to reach it. Estimates on costs to reach this renewable energy source, that could have the potential to replace fossil fuels, range from $5 million to $20 million depending on how far the drilling would go. This may all change soon, thanks to the Washington-based drilling technology company HyperSciences offering a more efficient and less expensive idea that involves repeatedly firing projectiles into the earth’s crust. HyperSciences CEO Mark Russell claims the method, which would involve constructing a massive gun called a ram accelerator, would be ten times faster than traditional drilling. The company received a patent for this projectile-based system that, theoretically, would have the capability of accelerating projectiles to speeds higher than 18,000 mph. Shell Oil Company’s GameChanger program recently funded further research on the project with a $1 million grant. The ram accelerator serves as the chamber and barrel of this huge gun. A projectile with an abrasive core is loaded into the chamber and gases are pumped into the accelerator. The gases are ignited, pressurizing the chamber as the bullet passes through. This in turn sends the projectile into the ground at nearly 4,500 mph, obliterating sedimentary rock and anything else in its path, while the resulting debris is sucked back out of the hole. Russell, who is an aerospace engineer, has indicated that plastic explosives could be included in the tip to significantly increase the drilling power of the apparatus. Embedded sensors for gauging temperature and exact depth of the geothermal resources are other design options being considered. The US Department of Energy has suggested that geothermal power could provide up to 100 GW of energy in the US alone, however accessing these resources has proven challenging. To reach these reserves, the ram accelerator would fire repeatedly until reaching the desired depth. Multiple accelerators could fire simultaneously or in conjunction with traditional drills. The technique will reportedly save money on equipment wear and breakage along with cutting down the amount of time needed to get to the energy source. There are still questions regarding what the environmental impact would be. Multiple concussive blasts could have a negative effect on the subterranean environment, groundwater and geology. The technology is still in testing phases, but, as HyperSciences prepares to test and demonstrate this innovative technique, the buzz among potential investors suggests a...

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Engineers Design a Carbon Dioxide Cleanse for Earth
Jul30

Engineers Design a Carbon Dioxide Cleanse for Earth

By now, it’s an observable fact: the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere poses a serious threat to the environment. For the last decade, scientists have been working feverishly to develop cleaner sources of energy to help reduce the amount of CO₂ being added to the atmosphere—but it isn’t enough. Contemporary research and technology have fostered the idea of capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air as a way to achieve a cleaner environment. The development and, more importantly, implementation of clean energy sources will take time. Unfortunately, it may take more time than we, as a species, can afford. Companies, such as Carbon Engineering, are seeking more aggressive methods of removing CO₂ from the atmosphere to stall global warming. Direct air capture appears to be the only feasible way of removing the emissions of portable carbon dioxide sources like cars, trains and planes which account for 60% of the CO₂ in the air. Trees and plants perform a similar function to air capture: they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. However, in order to plant enough trees to reverse the build-up of CO₂, the amount of forested land would have to increase by a factor of 1,000. This would require repurposing viable agricultural acreage. Direct air capture can extract far more carbon dioxide than a one-acre tract of botanical land and can be installed in areas that have no agricultural potential, such as deserts. A prototype air capturing device has already been put to work at the University of Calgary. Air currents enter one end of the machine and pass over tightly corrugated PVC sheets which are saturated in a carbon dioxide absorbing solution. The packing material is shaped in a way that disturbs the air and ensures maximum surface exposure with the liquid. Once the air passes all the way through the prototype scrubber, more than 80% of the carbon dioxide has been removed and converted into carbonate salt. The prototype in Calgary currently collects more than 100 kilos of carbon dioxide every day. The prototype technology could be scaled up to 20,000 times the current size without making any major adjustments. At such a scale, the air capturing fans would be able to remove emissions from 300,000 cars per year. Air capturing has the added benefit of a usable by-product. The carbonate salts collected can be combined with hydrogen to produce hydrocarbons, such as gas and jet fuel. In essence, a scaled up air capturing system would have an overall ecological function that resembled the lifecycle of H₂O. Just as water evaporates, rises to the upper atmosphere, condenses and comes back down as rain;...

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