Curated news that show the ways in which various information technology inventions improve the quality of our lives.
New solar panel technologies improve efficiency by 400%
It's been a very slow process, but we're finally approaching 60 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar power in the U.S. California leads the pack, with a capacity of almost 4 GW, while North Carolina, Massachusetts and New Jersey are keeping up, trying to become leaders in the solar industry.
The main problem with rooftop panels is their limited efficiency, which ranges from 10% to 15% under normal circumstances. Recently, a group of researchers from State Key Laboratory of Molecular Reaction Dynamics and Dynamics Research Center for Energy and Environmental Materials in China have invented solar concentrators that use Yb3+-doped perovskite nanocrystals. They estimate that window-sized devices that use this new technology will provide a 4-fold efficiency enhancement.
England plans to implement a sustainable global hydrogen economy
Northern Gas Networks, Cadent and Equinor plan to convert the UK's residential gas installations to a hydrogen-based delivery system. Hydrogen needs a new network of pipes that can handle the increased pressure, and the three companies believe that they can implement the first stage of the project within the next seven years. All homes should be converted to hydrogen-based heating by 2034.
According to Northern Gas Networks, cooking and heating with natural gas contribute to 30% of UK's carbon emissions. The country plans to shut down its coal-base power plants in less than a decade. Their goal is to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% until 2050, and H21's North of England plan could help a lot. The costs of the entire project are estimated to $30 billion.
Energy Vault has built a new type of "battery"
The company has created a mechanical battery which utilizes a system of cranes to stack bricks into a high tower. Then, when energy is needed, the bricks are released and the energy that's harvested from their fall is used. It's not a new idea, but this business has taken it to the next level.
This is a great solution for people and companies who are interested in utilizing clean, renewable energy for their activities. According to Energy Vault, their battery can be used to store excess energy, which would get wasted anyway, and operates at less than 50% of the cost/kWh of current competitor storage solutions.
The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace
President Emmanuel Macron has recently announced the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. His project has been well received and is backed by several countries, as well as by many companies and non-profit organizations.
The project asks the various states to work together in harmony, with the goal of preventing malicious online activities, including interference in electoral processes, intellectual property violations, malware spreading, online mercenary activities, and more.
New microneedles provide controlled eye drug delivery
Eye diseases are quite frequent these days. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma are the main causes of legal blindness. The same factors are responsible for a broad array of visual impairment diseases.
There are lots of effective medical solutions, but safe ocular drug delivery can be very challenging. A Chinese group of biologists have invented microneedles that can penetrate the ocular surface tissue, and then deliver the needed drugs straight to the eye. The application is minimally invasive and produces a 90% reduction of the neovascular area.
Lazard's Levelized Cost of Energy report looks promising
The company's recent report has demonstrated once again that wind and solar costs per MWh continue to fall. According to it, the levelized cost of coal-based energy (without including transportation and storage) is in the $60... $143 range, while solar PV costs $73... $145 to produce.
And the good news doesn't stop here: the report shows that variations in fuel prices don't affect the costs of solar, geothermal and wind-based energy sources. It looks like alternative energy sources will become more prevalent in the future, having positive environmental and social consequences.
Revolutionary implants help paralyzed patients walk again
Several paraplegic patients have been able to walk again after a team of researchers have implanted them devices which stimulated their spinal cords. The devices were used in conjunction with physical therapy, allowing 60% of the tested patients to walk again.
Epidural stimulation utilizes the tiny brain signals that continue to be sent out even after a spinal cord injury occurs. The devices stimulate the spinal cord, raising its excitability, and thus helping trigger the appropriate motor patterns.
Firefox Rolls Out Enhanced Tracking Protection
Your favorite browser has just gotten an "enhanced tracking protection" feature, which protects people against cross-site tracking. Companies have been using cookies since the beginning of the web, storing small files which contained log-in information details on your own computer, for example.
That's why you don't need to input your user account data whenever you want to connect to your preferred social media site. So, cookies aren't necessarily bad, but they can be used for nefarious purposes. The new Firefox release helps everyone block unwanted cookies that are created by third-party trackers - advertising companies that have partnerships with the sites that you are visiting.
According to Pew Research Center, 40% of Americans credit technology as the #1 factor that has improved their lives most within the past 50 years.