As bacteria feed on organic waste electrons are produced, so they could potentially be used as a source of power. A team of researchers at Binghamton University, NY have found a way to incorporate microbial fuel cells into a battery that is made of paper and also foldable. Since this new battery is paper-based, it is also completely biodegradable.
The battery they created can be paired with low-power biosensors, and then easily disposed of in an environmentally friendly way once it is no longer needed. It is also extremely cheap to make. This battery is perfectly suited for use in environmental sensors or medical procedures, as it can create power from virtually anything where microbes are present, such as water, soil or even the human body. It can also work using any liquid, including body fluids, namely blood, sweat, urine, or saliva.
To create the battery the scientists placed an anode on one side of the paper, which is made from a reservoir of bacteria-filled water and from a conductive polymer. On the other side of the paper, a small amount of silver nitrate encased in a thin layer of wax forms the cathode. As the paper is folded an electric current is produced. An accordion-style fold creates the most electricity, while the paper can also be folded in different ways to generate different levels of electrical output.
This is the upgraded version of the paper-based origami-style battery that lead researcher on the team, Seokheun “Sean” Choi built some time ago. It doesn’t need as many layers of paper as the previous version, since all the components are integrated into a single sheet of paper.
The uses for this innovative new battery are many and varied. It could be used in disaster relief situations, on battlefields, as well as in medical clinics in remote areas. In addition, they can also easily be used to detect pathogens and toxins in the environment.
Air pollution is one of the key problems that need to be overcome in order to secure a more sustainable future for our planet. So it’s great news that a team of scientists from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven, have devised a process that can both mitigate air pollution as well as provide a clean energy source in the form of hydrogen, at the same time. This device does so using nanomaterials and sunlight.
The nanomaterials are contained within the membrane of the device the team developed, where they are used as a catalyst in this process. Previously, this same type of membrane was used to extract hydrogen from water, but the team has now found that it’s possible for this material to also be used to extract it from polluted air. And on top of that, this membrane is also more efficient at doing so. To test it, the team has made a small prototype of the device, which measures just a few square centimeters, but they plan to scale it up to make it industrially applicable.
The energy for the process to run comes from sunlight, and the device which makes it possible is described as an “all-gas-phase unbiased photoelectrochemical cell”. It works by converting volatile organic pollutants into CO2 at one photoanode, and by harvesting hydrogen gas at the cathode. The device is most efficient when applied to organic pollutants in inert carrier gas, while if oxygen is present, the cell performs less efficiently though significant photocurrents are still generated, meaning that it can be effectively used to purify organic contaminated air.
It will most likely take some time before this device is ready for use on an industrial scale, but it does show a lot of promise. If they successfully scale it up, air pollution could become a source of clean energy instead of being an energy sink and a health hazard.
Zero Mass Water, an Arizona State University startup has created solar panel which produces water as well as electricity. The device is called SOURCE and it is standalone, meaning that it does not need any wiring or water input to harvest solar energy and produce drinking water at the same time. They have been running a pilot program since 2015 to test the system, which is already installed in a number of homes and communities.
One SOURCE unit measures 30 sq ft (2.8 sq m). It is capable of generating electricity via the solar photovoltaic panel, while it also has an integrated lithium-ion for storing the used electricity. The device then uses that electricity to power a cycle of condensation and evaporation, which produces 2 to 5 liters of water a day.
The system also includes an 8 gal (30 liter) reservoir for storing the waters that’s produced. Minerals are also added to the water here to improve taste. This reservoir can also be plumbed directly to the taps inside the building in which this system is installed. To meet the full needs of the household, multiple SOURCE units can be installed.
According to the creators, these units require minimal maintenance. The system only needs a new air filter once a year and a new mineral cartridge every five years. What also makes this system so unique is that it allows people to own their own water supply for the first time. They will also be very useful in areas where there is little to no access to drinking water.
To speed up deployment in these areas the company is starting an interesting program aimed at early adopters of the tech. They will ask customers who buy one of these SOURCE panels to split the cost of an additional panel with the company. This additional panel will be given to a family or community in need, and the customer will get to choose where it will be deployed. The household to which this panel will be given will only pay for installation and shipping.
The price is set at $4800 per unit, which is made up of $3200 for one SOURCE unit, and $1600 for the additional unit to be gifted to a family or community in need. It’s a thoughtful initiative, which will hopefully help several communities gain access to clean water.
It’s been awhile since we’ve had news of homes being 3D printed, but now Russian engineer Nikita Chen-yun-tai has made quite a breakthrough. The 3D printer he designed has been used to print a home in just 24 hours. His company Apis Cor has successfully constructed a home that is the first in the world to be built using mobile 3D printing technology.
The home is tiny, measuring just 409 sq ft (38 sq m) and was created mostly to showcase the technology. They also wanted to demonstrate just how flexible their 3D printing technology is, since the printer can be used to build a home of any shape. The laws of physics are the only thing dictating the type of buildings that can be made using this tech, which opens up a world of new possibilities in the architectural design sphere.
The whole house was printed in a day and then the printer was simply lifted out by a crane. The concrete walls are layered up, with each of the layers being a kind of horizontal truss, which can then be filled with insulation and the electrical system.
This demo house is small, but the printer itself can be used to build a home measuring up to 1420 sq ft (132 sq m). Costs of such construction are low, coming in at about $25 per sq ft ($275 per sq m), while this whole house cost just $ 10,134 to build. This price includes the wiring, finishing, windows and doors, with the wiring costing $ 242 and the interior finishing coming in at $ 1178.
The company plans to use the tech to build homes in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa, Australia, and potentially even Antarctica. Their more far-reaching plans also include building the first settlement on Mars. Their goal is to show the world that construction can be fast, sustainable, affordable, reliable and efficient.
Toyota is a carmaker, but they are also one of the top providers of prefab homes in Japan. They have recently created their first hydrogen car called Mirai, and have now announced plans to build a community of hydrogen powered homes. To do so, they have obtained the rights to H2PIA from the Danish team who first came up with the concept of such a sustainable community.
H2PIA is basically a proposal for a community of homes, businesses, shops, cars, and roads, where everything is powered by hydrogen. Those living in such a space would get to enjoy clean air, as well as be part of a sustainable community. On the outside, everything would be the same as in any other such community, except that the entire infrastructure will actually be completely different and based on H2PIA’s hydrogen technology.
The community Toyota plans to build will be made up of both single family houses, as well as apartment complexes. The residents will also be able to choose from units that are Plugged, Unplugged, or Hybrid. The last one will be available with a hybrid hydrogen car that will feed energy back into the community grid when not in use.
Clean energy production aside, the community will also be built with many other healthy living considerations in mind. There will be a public community space, while the homes will be designed in a way that blurs the barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces. There will also be plenty of green areas, and they plan to fill it with enough amenities to reduce the inhabitants’ need to commute.
They have not yet announced when this community will be built, though chances are that the answer is soon.