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Electricity


— Wearables

Urine-powered socks get transmissions flowing

Peeing in one's socks may not be everyone's first choice for powering their mobile devices, but apparently it could be an option. A team of researchers from the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at the University of the West of England is experimenting with a pair of socks that use urine to generate electricity via miniaturized microbial fuel cells. Results have already started to trickle in, with the system used to run a transmitter to send wireless signals to a desktop computer.

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— Environment

Project Sunroof calculates rooftop solar potential using Google Maps

Ever balked at installing solar panels on your roof because it's pretty damn expensive or you're not sure how much power it would actually generate, or a combination of both? Well, a new venture from Google is aimed at taking the guesswork out of weaning your household off the grid. Powered by Google Maps, Project Sunroof can tell users how much sun is hitting their roof and how much they might be able to shave off their power bills.

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— Energy

ARC reactor design uses superconducting magnets to draw fusion power closer

Fusion power can seem a bit like the last bus at night; it's always coming, but never arrives. MIT is working to change that with a new compact tokamak fusion reactor design based on the latest magnetic superconductor technology. The ARC (affordable, robust, compact) reactor design promises smaller, cheaper reactors that could make fusion power practical within 10 years.

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— Energy

Underwater chemical garden powers a light bulb

Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have grown underwater chimney-like structures capable of generating enough electricity to power a light bulb. The team linked several of these chimneys to get the required electricity. Their findings indicate that the seafloor equivalents of these chemical gardens might just have contributed the electricity needed for the Earth's first organisms to develop.

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— Electronics

New wireless power tech can charge multiple devices in any orientation

Scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have developed an omnidirectional wireless charging technology that can charge multiple devices at once, at a distance and, crucially, at peak efficiency regardless of which way the devices are facing. The technology, said to be safe for humans, is set to be trialled in cafes and offices and could allow for much more convenient charging of mobile devices.

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— Environment

Kepler Energy reveals plans for tidal energy scheme in Bristol Channel

With its large tidal range, Britain's Bristol Channel has a huge potential for generating tidal electric power. The problem is that, until now, schemes for tapping that power have required building dams and barrages so gigantic they would have given even the most wild-eyed Victorian engineer pause. As a more economical alternative, Kepler Energy has announced plans for a 30 MW tidal energy fence to be built in the Channel. With an estimated cost of £143 million (US$223 million), the underwater fence would be built in the water somewhere along the line between Aberthaw and Minehead and could be operational by 2021.

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— Science

New nanogenerator might set energy-generating car wheels in motion

Cars are one of mankind's most revolutionary creations. But just like with the iPhone, space travel or Wi-Fi, there's always room for improvement. In the eyes of a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers, one of the more promising ways automotive technology might be improved upon lies in the energy wastage caused by friction as tires roll across the road. Armed with special nanogenerator and a toy Jeep, the researchers have demonstrated that this power can be captured and turned into electricity, a development that could bring about better fuel efficiency in the full-sized cars of the future.

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