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.
Following in the footsteps of Tesla and Mercedes-Benz,
Nissan is now set to become the latest automaker to offer battery packs
for stationary energy storage. Although pricing information has yet to
be provided, the Nissan product should be relatively affordable, as it
will incorporate used batteries from Nissan Leaf electric cars.
A foldable, inexpensive paper battery that can generate a small amount of electricity brings a new sense of power to origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. An engineer at Binghamton University in New York has developed a battery that creates power through the process of microbial respiration in a drop of dirty water on paper.
Scientists have already devised systems that allow electronic devices to
scavenge power from ambient electromagnetic energy sources such as radio waves. While the technology has generally been limited to small devices such as wireless sensors,
a research team has recently created a scavenging system that charges a
smartphone's battery, letting it last up to 30 percent longer per
charge – and the system does so using radio signals emanating from the
Magnets are at the heart of much of our technology, and their properties
are exploited in a myriad ways across a vast range of devices, from
simple relays to enormously complex particle accelerators. A new class
of magnets discovered by scientists at the University of
Maryland (UMD) and Temple University may lead to other types of magnets
that expand in different ways, with multiple, cellular magnetic fields,
and possibly give rise to a host of new devices. The team also believes
that these new magnets could replace expensive, rare-earth magnets with
ones made of abundant metal alloys.
The Tesla home battery system hinted at by CEO Elon Musk several months ago
has finally been unveiled by Musk himself at the company’s design studio in Hawthorne, California. Dubbed the Powerwall, the stationary home battery offers 10 kWh of storage capacity for the relatively modest price of US$3,500. A smaller unit is also available at 7 kWh for $3,000, and homeowners can stack multiple units if needed.
At Stanford University in California, it’s normally the Nobel-winning researchers who make the news. But with the commissioning of a novel renewable energy system, the campus’s humble heating and cooling system has grabbed some headlines. Using a first-of-its-kind heat recovery system, and drawing a substantial percentage of its electricity from solar, the university is greening up its operations in a move that will see greenhouse gas emissions cut by 68 percent and fossil fuel use cut by 65 percent.
Audi is looking to fuel the future without fossil fuels. One of the company's pilot plants in Germany has just produced the first batches of a synthetic diesel made using only water and air. The company's pilot plant, which is operated by German startup Sunfire, produced its first batches of the "e-diesel" this month. German Federal Minister of Education and Research Johanna Wanka put a few liters of the fuel in her work car, an Audi A8, to commemorate the accomplishment.
Scientists at UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute have developed a new device that combines the high energy densities of batteries and the quick charge and discharge rates of supercapacitors. The hybrid supercapacitor is reportedly six times as energy-dense as a commercially available supercapacitor and packs nearly as much energy per unit volume as a lead-acid battery.
ESA's Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite might have burned up in Earth's atmosphere back in November 2013, but the wealth of data gathered by the probe before its demise is still being utilized to great effect. A team of scientists has used the readings to produce an online tool designed to make it easier than ever to locate potential geothermal energy extraction sites.