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World's First

An artist's concept of a solar sail in Earth orbit (Image: NASA)

What looked like a failed mission has turned into an unexpected win for NASA with the successful deployment of the first-ever solar sail in low-Earth orbit. More than a month after the NanoSail-D nanosatellite failed to eject from its parent satellite, engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center were pleasantly surprised when the 3.9 x 3.9 x 14.9-inch unit spontaneously separated from the Fast Affordable Scientific and Technology Satellite (FASTSAT) last week. On January 20, after a timed three-day countdown, the ultra-thin, 100-square-foot polymer sail carried by the nanosatellite was unfurled 650 km above Earth where it will remain in orbit for up to 120 days.  Read More

Researchers have developed the world's first full High Dynamic Range video system, which a...

Anyone who regularly uses a video camera will know that the devices do not see the world the way we do. The human visual system can perceive a scene that contains both bright highlights and dark shadows, yet is able to process that information in such a way that it can simultaneously expose for both lighting extremes – up to a point, at least. Video cameras, however, have just one f-stop to work with at any one time, and so must make compromises. Now, however, researchers from the UK’s University of Warwick claim to have the solution to such problems, in the form of the world’s first full High Dynamic Range (HDR) video system.  Read More

Charles Burton's historic skyscraper design (left) and the Crystal Palace in 1910

While the debate continues as to whether the world's first skyscraper was the the Home Insurance Building built in Chicago in 1885, or New York's seven floor Equitable Life Assurance Building built in 1870, it seems that the British pipped the Americans to the post in terms of a design. British architect Charles Burton designed a 1,000 foot (305 meter) high metal and glass building in response to a call to redesign The Crystal Palace, the famous London exhibition building, 30-odd years before the American buildings were erected. Burton's historic design sketch is headed for the auction block this week.  Read More

PixelOptics' emPower! electronic focusing glasses

We have previously reported on the development of prototype adaptive focus glasses at the University of Arizona (UA) that were able to switch focus electronically. Unlike manually adjustable focus glasses, such as TruFocals, that place a flexible liquid lens between two rigid lenses, the lenses of the prototype glasses consisted of a layer of liquid crystals sandwiched between two pieces of glass. By applying an electric charge, the orientation of the liquid crystals – and therefore the optical path length through the lens – was able to be changed, resulting in glasses that changed focus electronically. This technology is now on its way to consumers with PixelOptics showing its emPower! glasses at CES 2011.  Read More

The self-sufficient Ocean Empire LSV superyacht from Sauter Carbon Offset Design

Earlier this year Sauter Carbon Offset Design unveiled its Super Nova 60 megayacht – a design which harnesses energy from a variety of sustainable sources including solar, wind and waves to produce "the world’s first carbon neutral megayacht." Now the company has gone one step further with plans for its Ocean Empire Life Support Vessel (LSV). This 144-foot Catamaran design adds hydroponic farming to its array of sustainable technologies making it, according to the designers, the world’s first totally self-sufficient zero carbon LSV ... meaning it could theoretically stay at sea indefinitely.  Read More

Korea begins first commercial electric bus service

The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has claimed a world first by deploying electric buses on a commercial route. Previous electric bus operations have all been trials, or in the case of Expo 2010 in Shanghai, free public services. The buses went into service on December 21 after an 18 month development project with Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hankuk Fiber.  Read More

In a world first, scientists from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have creat...

In a world first, scientists from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have created functioning fetal intestinal tissue from pluripotent stem cells. It is now hoped that such lab-grown tissue could be used to research treatments for gastro-intestinal diseases, or for transplantation.  Read More

World's first - the Mobile Solar Station powers the perimeter lights and chainsaws to trim...

San Diego residents can feel particularly warm and fuzzy this festive season as their Purdy Farm Christmas trees have been lovingly trimmed and lit up via solar power. In what is believed to be a world first, Stellar Solar's Mobile Solar Station has been contracted to power the Purdy Farm Christmas tree lots in Del Mar, Carlsbad, and San Diego. The Mobile Solar Station is being used to power the compact fluorescent lights (CFL) on the lot perimeter and the electric chain saws used to trim customer's trees.  Read More

Rendering of the New York Hornblower Hybrid (Image: Statue Cruises)

Hybrid vehicles are becoming more and more commonplace on our roads and now the world's first hydrogen powered hybrid ferry is set to take to the water off New York. Following on from the 2008 launch of the San Francisco Hornblower Hybrid that runs on a combination of solar, wind and diesel power, the new 1,400-hp New York Hornblower Hybrid adds another energy source to the mix with hydrogen fuel cells to complement its clean Tier 2 diesel engines, solar panels and wind turbines.  Read More

A Lufthansa Airbus A321 will be running partially on biofuel, as part of the six-month bur...

Starting next April, a Lufthansa Airbus A321 aircraft making the daily flight between Hamburg and Frankfurt will be running partially on biofuel. The airline will trial the biofuel blend, made of a 50/50 mixture of kerosene and hydrotreated vegetable oil, in one of the plane’s engines for six months. It’s part of the Lufthansa-led burnFAIR project, which is studying the long term effects of sustainable biofuels on aircraft performance. Although the Brazilian airline TAM performed a test flight of a biofuel-powered Airbus A320 last month, Lufthansa claims to be the first airline to conduct a long-term trial using biofuel during flight operations.  Read More

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