Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Efficiency

Sleeves equipped with sensors have been developed to time the actions of factory workers, ...

In factories where products are mass-produced, it's extremely important to know how long the human workers take to perform certain tasks. This not only allows the pace of the assembly line to be set, but it also allows factory owners to identify time-wasting problems such as superfluous movements, overly frequent tool changes, or impractically-located components. Typically, workers are periodically timed by a stopwatch-wielding supervisor, or using a timer that they start and stop themselves. A new wearable time-keeping system, however, promises more accurate readings.  Read More

The Tortola RoundTail bicycle replaces the frame's traditional rear triangle with two shoc...

If you banged a pole and a hoop against the road, which one would transmit more vibrations to your hand? Given that the flexing action of the hoop would absorb some of the energy, it’s probably safe to assume that the pole would give you a numb hand quicker. Well, Canadian cyclist Lou Tortola applied the same sort of logic to the frame design of his Tortola RoundTail road bicycle. Where most other bikes would have a rear triangle consisting of straight seat stays, chain stays and a seat tube, the RoundTail simply has two shock-absorbing joined rings.  Read More

Researchers are designing chips that are faster and more energy-efficient than conventiona...

If you had to use a commuting bicycle in a race, you would probably set about removing the kickstand, fenders, racks and lights to make the thing as fast and efficient as possible. When engineers at Houston’s Rice University are developing small, fast, energy-efficient chips for use in devices like hearing aids, it turns out they do pretty much the same thing. The removal of portions of circuits that aren’t essential to the task at hand is known as “probabilistic pruning,” and it results in chips that are twice as fast, use half the power, and are half the size of conventional chips.  Read More

The OnPlug is essentially a single-outlet power bar, that keeps household electric devices...

Call it standby power, phantom power or vampire power, but the current drawn by various household electrical devices when they are supposedly “off” can account for up to ten percent of a home’s energy use. Fortunately, there are gizmos available that act as “middle men” between wall outlets and devices, completely shutting off the power supply when the devices are not in use. One of the newest is the OnPlug, which manages to come in at quite a low price point by avoiding the bells and whistles of similar products.  Read More

An antireflective film inspired by moth's eyes has been shown to improve the efficiency of...

In order for a solar cell to be as efficient as possible, the last thing it should be is reflective – after all, light should be getting absorbed by it, not being bounced off. With that in mind, a few years ago a group of Japanese scientists set out to create an antireflective film coating for use on solar cells. What they ended up creating utilizes the same principles that are at work in one of nature’s least reflective surfaces: moth’s eyes.  Read More

Johnson Controls' ie:3 demonstrator car is the company's showcase for new technologies in ...

Of the various vehicles that were displayed at this month’s Detroit Auto Show, undoubtedly the biggest crowds were drawn to the cars with the most striking exteriors – witness the Porsche 918 RSR, for instance. Given that we drive our cars from the inside, however, isn’t the interior what’s most important? That’s what Johnson Controls seems to believe, as its ie:3 demonstrator vehicle showcased a number of the company’s innovations for vehicle interiors. According to Michael Warsaw, Johnson’s VP of Industrial Design and Marketing for North America, “Everything that you’ll see in this vehicle is ready for the next generation of automobiles.”  Read More

Konarka's flexible and lightweight Power Plastic

While they offer much lower efficiencies than inorganic photovoltaic cells, organic solar cells are cheaper to produce and are lightweight and flexible. This makes them suitable for a wider range of applications than rigid solar cells, including clothing and bags. Konarka has been producing its organic based photovoltaic (OPV) solar cells under the name of Power Plastic for a number of years now and the National Energy Renewable Laboratory (NREL) has just announced that Konarka’s latest organic based photovoltaic (OPV) solar cells have demonstrated a record breaking 8.3 percent efficiency.  Read More

Schematic diagram of a thin film organic solar cell shows the top layer, a patterned, roug...

Research has already shown that at the nanoscale, chemistry is different and the same is apparently true for light, which Engineers at Stanford University say behaves differently at scales of around a nanometer. By creating solar cells thinner than the wavelengths of light the engineers say it is possible to trap the photons inside the solar cell for longer, increasing the chance they can get absorbed, thereby increasing the efficiency of the solar cell. In this way, they calculate that by properly configuring the thicknesses of several thin layers of films, an organic polymer thin film could absorb as much as 10 times more energy from sunlight than predicted by conventional theory.  Read More

When force is applied to the pedal, the stainless steel, triangular-shaped swinging mechan...

At first glance, a proposal to replace a bicycle's familiar chain and cog drive with one that uses string may sound like lunacy, but that's exactly what's been done to produce the Stringbike. The system features freewheel mechanisms on either side of the rear wheel connected by polyethylene rope to a precisely positioned, symmetrical swinging arm that drives the bicycle forward. When the unit on the right is driving the bike forward, the other is being returned to its starting position and vice-versa which is said to result in greater efficiency and makes for a more comfortable, easier ride.  Read More

Researchers at UCSD have figured out a way to harness the unused transistors in a chip to ...

Adopting a new, highly automated and reconfigurable approach to hardware acceleration, researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have come up with a way to harness the unused silicon real estate in smartphones – the so-called "dark silicon" – as special-purpose processors dynamically optimized to perform the most common tasks in an efficient way.  Read More

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