Anyone who's dealing with the current snowstorm in the US will know that clearing snow is hard work and futile if there's another dump. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Chris Tuan may have put an end to the need to shovel snow, however. His conductive concrete simply melts any snow that lands.
One way of providing electricity to parts of the world that still have no access is to give them the means to generate it themselves. That's the approach being taken by Billions in Change. Its Free Electric bike lets users produce electricity by pedalling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most "new" products we see are really just minor evolutions of gadgets that have been around for years. But here's one that's completely unlike anything we've used before. Meet Thync, a wearable that zaps your brain to change your mood – like a drug that replaces chemicals with technology.
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.
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.
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.