Monthly Archives: January 2012

Bug power

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have succeeded in extracting electricity from cockroaches, by letting them act as cheap biofuel cells. The research is published in the online Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The technique works by adding a series of enzymes to the cockroach’s food. The enzymes break down complex molecules which the cockroach produces when it eats, and oxidizing the resulting sugars to release electrons. The current flows as electrons are drawn to the cathode, where oxygen from air takes up the electrons and is reduced to water.

This way the cockroach can be turned into a walking lightweight rechargeable bio battery. The researchers see the possibility of creating a big energy insect farm. The scale of such farm needs to be big, the maximum power density of the fuel cell reached nearly 100 microwatts per square centimeter at 0.2 volts, with a maximum current density of about 450 microamps per square centimeter. The cockroaches suffered no long-term damage.


Marine Solar Cells soak up energy from sun and waves

The British industrial designer Phil Pauley has come up with a new concept to generate energy from both the sun and the waves. The design is an off-shore solar installation and a web of floating cells that are connected in a web-like array.

This hybrid installation would increase efficiency of the solar panels due to the reflection of sunlight beaming off the water, according to Pauley enabling the panels to capture 20% more solar power. The concept, called Marine Solar Cells, can function as off-shore energy batteries or power plants.

The design could be largely constructed from recycled materials. There are no plans as yet for the Marine Solar Cells to be used in a commercial application.

Pauley is not the first Brit that is working on hybrid forms of energy generation. British scientists are currently working on the developement of a generator that captures energy from the wind, rain and sun.

Watch the Youtube video of the Marine Solar Cells


Taking a green route

Researchers at the University of Buffalo have shown that car drivers can help to save the environment by taking a different route without significantly slowing their travel time.

Scientists from a handful of universities across the United States are working on this project called ‘green routing’. Among them are scientists from the University of Buffalo. The project is essentially about how worthwhile it would be to choose the route of least emissions. The researchers believe that if a large amount of drivers alternate their routes it could make a huge difference to the environment. The method would not take as long to implement as for instance, replacing all vehicles with hybrid cars. Not everybody can afford these relatively expensive changes.

Allthough the greenest route is not always the fastest one, it would save fuel and reduce emissions. According to the Buffalo scientists the green route in the Buffalo region is only about 11% longer on average than the fastest route.

The Buffalo reseachers found that green routing could reduce overall emissions of carbon monoxide by 27% for area drivers. Funneling cars along surface streets instead of freeways helped for instance to limit fuel consumption. Intelligently targeting travelers was another strategy that worked: Rerouting just one fifth of drivers (those who would benefit most from a new path) reduced regional emissions by about 20%. This was because if everybody would start taking the green path, it would not in fact be the green path anymore.

For all of this to work, designers need to take into account the entire system of a city’s moving traffic, so that at any given moment, cars would be in some kind of green-routing equilibrium. Live data on route emissions and traffic patterns is only now enabling researchers to figure out how all this might come together in an application in your car.