Archive for the ‘energy’ Category
I’ve linked to stories about exploding manhole covers (due to underground leaks in sewer or gas pipes), but with the March gas explosion in New York City that killed 8 people, the problem of gas explosions stopped being fodder for funny blog posts.
Scientific American looks into: How Can Cities Protect Themselves against Gas Explosions? .
Mike Watts, a thin-film guy, applied some of his considerable knowledge to the problem of finding windows that insulate well:
There’s ample evidence that sometimes a roof with plants on it — or a roof painted white — reduces the heat load of a building compared to a standard black tar roof. But is it always so? Is it enough? The solution of which type of roof works best for a particular building or in a particular location is not simple. Still, with the hope of reducing urban heat islands, it’s worth experimenting. Scientific American has an update on the state of the (still an) art:
Speaking of waning sunlight — I may feel light-deprived in New England, but at least my home *gets* light every day of the year. A Scandinavian town in a deep valley has implemented mirrors to shine sunlight down to their central square. My colleague Pat Daukantis wrote about it: Optics & Photonics News – Mirrors Convey Sunshine to Dark Valley Town.
Addendum: Another sunless-in-the-winter village put up a mirror for much the same reasons, back in 2007. See the NY Times article about the sun mirror in Viganella, Italy.
As daylight wanes up here in New England, I find myself chasing sunlight around my house, gravitating to the high south-facing room that stays brightest for longest. At work, I value the window for the quality and quantity of light it lets in. I am all for schemes that increase the availability of daylight in buildings, especially if they are suited to the location and changing conditions. This design, which uses liquid crystals in windows to block or direct light, by pair of University of Cincinnati researchers a pair of University of Cincinnati researchers is intriguing. I’d very much enjoy getting my hands on a sample to play with. UC's SmartLight More Than a Bright Idea, It's a Revolution in Interior Lighting Ready to Shine.
Solar energy would benefit from using thin films, but getting thin semiconductors to absorb light is tricky. (I wrote a cover feature for Optics & Photonics News about that.) This research from Berkeley Lab should help designers developing thin-film solar cells, detectors, and possibly other optoelectronics.