Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Electricity

The humidity-driven flexing of a spore-covered piece of latex rubber (right) drives the mo...

Ozgur Sahin believes that water evaporation is the largest power source in nature. In an effort to demonstrate the potential of this untapped resource, Sahin and his fellow researchers have created prototype electrical generators with rubber sheets that move in response to changes in humidity thanks to a coating of bacterial spores.  Read More

An inexpensive high capacity organic battery has been developed by Professor Michael Aziz ...

Researchers at Harvard have developed an inexpensive, high capacity, organic battery that uses carbon-based materials as electrolytes rather than metals. The researchers say the technology stands to be a game-changer in renewable energy storage by solving the intermittent generation problems faced by renewable sources, such as wind and solar. The battery offers large volume electricity storage not possible with solid-state batteries and at a fraction of the cost of existing flow battery technology.  Read More

1.8 mm-wide windmill on a US Lincoln penny (Photo: U of Texas at Arlington)

Professor J.C. Chiao and his postdoc Dr. Smitha Rao of the University of Texas at Arlington have developed a MEMS-based nickel alloy windmill so small that 10 could be mounted on a single grain of rice. Aimed at very-small-scale energy harvesting applications, these windmills could recharge batteries for smartphones, and directly power ultra-low-power electronic devices.  Read More

The new system puts the weight of vehicles to use

Over the years, various researchers have developed systems in which the weight transferred through cars' wheels onto the road – or through pedestrians' feet onto the sidewalk – is used to generate electricity. These systems utilize piezoelectric materials, which convert mechanical stress into an electrical current. Such materials may be effective, but they're also too expensive for use in many parts of the world. That's why Mexican entrepreneur Héctor Ricardo Macías Hernández created his own rather ingenious alternative.  Read More

A scanning electron micrograph of the nanostructure of the cathode of a Berkeley Li/S cell...

Batteries. We buy them at the store, use them up, and throw them away without much thought. In reality, however, batteries are remarkably complex electrochemical devices that are continually evolving. The latest example of this comes from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where researchers have invented an advanced lithium/sulfur (Li/S) cell that offers a unique combination of energy storage, power, recharge speed, and survivability.  Read More

This artificial muscle-driven heart pumps human urine and will be used to power the Ecobot...

It's strange to wrap one's mind around the idea of human pee powered robots, but that's exactly what a group of UK researchers are attempting to create. Mimicking the human heart, their latest innovation is a heart pump with artificial muscles that aims to deliver human urine to their latest generation of Ecobots – a self-sustaining robot that runs on all manner of waste matter collected from its environment.  Read More

Big Rig provides electricity and energy to perform useful tasks – just add pedal power (Ph...

If you'd like to live off-grid but still retain access to power when you need it, then New York-based company Pedal Power might have you covered – providing you don't mind putting in the legwork, that is. The firm has launched a Kickstarter campaign for its two stationary bike-like gadgets that are claimed to produce enough electricity to run a laptop when pedaled.  Read More

The five-cell metamaterial array developed by Duke engineers that converts stray microwave...

Joining the ranks of devices designed to harvest energy from ambient electromagnetic radiation comes an electrical circuit from researchers at Duke University that can be tuned to capture microwave energy from various sources, including satellite, sound or Wi-Fi signals. The researchers say the device converts otherwise lost energy into direct current voltage with efficiencies similar to that of current solar cells.  Read More

The new 'Ene-Farm' home fuel cell installed in a condominium's pipe shaft with the fuel ce...

Panasonic and Tokyo Gas have continued joint development of their "Ene-Farm" home fuel cell unit, which became the world's first commercialized fuel cell system targeted at household heating and electricity generation when it went on sale in Japan in May 2009. The latest model is aimed at use in condominiums and features a number of modifications to ensure the units meet the more stringent installation standards placed on those buildings.  Read More

Neurio is designed to cut energy consumption by monitoring home appliances

A new product called Neurio has been designed to help people better control their domestic energy usage by monitoring home appliances. The product also allows users to be reminded of domestic tasks involving appliances. In cases of smart appliances, Neurio can detect behavior patterns and program appliances to meet specific requirements.  Read More

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