Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Top 11 ‘Top 10’ Science & Tech Lists + Predictions from 2008 by Erik Larson

 

My picks for 2008: Top 11 People and lists reporting on and/or predicting breakthroughs in Science and Technology. You’ll notice I cheated a lot; but, I still left a LOT of stuff out: 

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[Smarter than Humans?] Why We Can Be Confident of Turing Test Capability Within a Quarter Century by Ray Kurzweil

Original, July 13, 2006 http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0683.html?printable=1

Of the three primary revolutions underlying the Singularity (G, N, and R), the most profound is R, which refers to the creation of nonbiological intelligence that exceeds that of unenhanced humans. A more intelligent process will inherently outcompete one that is less intelligent, making intelligence the most powerful force in the universe.

While the “R” in GNR stands for robotics, the real issue involved here is strong AI (artificial intelligence that exceedshuman intelligence). The standard reason for emphasizing robotics in this formulation is that intelligence needs an embodiment, a physical presence, to affect the world. I disagree with the emphasis on physical presence, however, for I believe that the central concern is intelligence. Intelligence will inherently find a way to influence the world, including creating its own means for embodiment and physical manipulation. Furthermore, we can include physical skills as a fundamental part of intelligence; a large portion of the human brain (the cerebellum, comprising more than half our neurons), for example, is devoted to coordinating our skills and muscles.

Artificial intelligence at human levels will necessarily greatly exceed human intelligence for several reasons. As I pointed out earlier machines can readily share their knowledge. As unenhanced humans we do not have the means of sharing the vast patterns of interneuronal connections andneurotransmitter-concentration levels that comprise ourlearning, knowledge, and skills, other than through slow,language-based communication. Of course, even this methodof communication has been very beneficial, as it has distinguished us from other animals and has been an enabling factor in the creation of technology.

Human skills are able to develop only in ways that have beenevolutionarily encouraged. Those skills, which are primarily based on massively parallel pattern recognition, provide proficiency for certain tasks, such as distinguishing faces, identifying objects, and recognizing language sounds. But they’re not suited for many others, such as determining patterns in financial data. Once we fully master pattern-recognition paradigms, machine methods can apply these techniques to any type of pattern.2

Advance brings low-cost, bright LED lighting closer to reality

Original, July 17, 2008 http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2008b/080717SandsLighting.html

 WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Researchers at Purdue University have overcome a major obstacle in reducing the cost of “solid state lighting,” a technology that could cut electricity consumption by 10 percent if widely adopted.

The technology, called light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, is about four times more efficient than conventional incandescent lights and more environmentally friendly than compact fluorescent bulbs. The LEDs also are expected to be far longer lasting than conventional lighting, lasting perhaps as long as 15 years before burning out.

“The LED technology has the potential of replacing all incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, which would have dramatic energy and environmental ramifications,” said Timothy D. Sands, the Basil S. Turner Professor of Materials Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The LED lights are about as efficient as compact fluorescent lights, which contain harmful mercury.

But LED lights now on the market are prohibitively expensive, in part because they are created on a substrate, or first layer, of sapphire. The Purdue researchers have solved this problem by developing a technique to create LEDs on low-cost, metal-coated silicon wafers, said Mark H. Oliver, a graduate student in materials engineering who is working with Sands.

Findings are detailed in a research paper appearing this month in the journal Applied Physics Letters, published by the American Institute of Physics.

Tidal power feeds electricity to National Grid in world first

Original, July 17, 2008: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1035978/Tidal-power-feeds-electricity-National-Grid-world-first.html

Working like an underwater windmill, the turbine’s two rotors are propelled by some of the world’s fastest tidal flows that stream in and out of the Lough at speeds of up to 8 knots. 

It is moored to the sea floor 400 metres from the shore and will work for about 20 hours each day. No energy is generated during tide changes as tidal speed drops to below 2 knots.

 

Working like an underwater windmill, the turbine’s two rotors are propelled by some of the world’s fastest tidal flows that stream in and out of the Lough at speeds of up to 8 knots. 

It is moored to the sea floor 400 metres from the shore and will work for about 20 hours each day. No energy is generated during tide changes as tidal speed drops to below 2 knots.

Solar Power to Rule in 20 Years, Futurists Say by Robin Lloyd

Original: http://www.livescience.com/environment/080219-kurzweil-solar.html

BOSTON — He predicted the fall of the Soviet Union. He predicted the explosive spread of the Internet and wireless access.

Now futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil is part of distinguished panel of engineers that says solar power will scale up to produce all the energy needs of Earth’s people in 20 years.

There is 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to meet 100 percent of our energy needs, he says, and the technology needed for collecting and storing it is about to emerge as the field of solar energy is going to advance exponentially in accordance with Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns. That law yields a doubling of price performance in information technologies every year.

Kurzweil, author of “The Singularity Is Near” and “The Age of Intelligent Machines,” worked on the solar energy solution with Google Co-Founder Larry Page as part of a panel of experts convened by the National Association of Engineers to address the 14 “grand challenges of the 21st century,” including making solar energy more economical. The panel’s findings were announced here last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Making a Solar Cell Component without Using Fossil Fuels by David Biello

Original, August 13, 2008: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=making-solar-energy-without-fossil-fuel

Excerpt: 

Solar energy is touted by some as the solution to the world’s energy woes. But the process of making the various components requires fossil fuels, both for power and for the components themselves, some of which are based on petroleum.

A new company, BioSolar, aims to kick petroleum to the curb, at least in the realm of building solar photovoltaics, cells of crystalline silicon that turn sunlight into electricity. Such photovoltaic cells rely on conventional plastic polymers to provide a protective backing, also known as backsheets. Those plastics are made from—you guessed it—petroleum.

“It’s renewable and you don’t use any petroleum,” says electrical engineer David Lee, president and CEO of the California-based company about the new product. “The real merit is that we can actually reduce the cost of the backsheet compared to conventional petroleum-based backsheet.” Lee claims their backsheets will cost 25 percent less than conventional backsheets, which cost between $0.70 and $1 per square foot.