Will thermoelectric Power Felt soon be providing you power?


Power FeltBased on an idea from his ten year old daughter, nanotechnologist David Carroll of Wake Forest University has developed a flexible thermoelectric fabric he calls Power Felt that generates electricity from both heat and movement.     There’s been other thermoelectric products made before, but they’ve usually been made out of ceramic material – heavy, brittle, and expensive.    Power Felt is thin, lightweight, and feels just like wool felt – it’s even washable, as Carroll found out by accident.   It’s cheap too – it costs about a quarter to make enough to cover a laptop.

Right now he’s envisioning using Power Felt to help extend the life of a battery.    If it’s embedded in a laptop casing, then the heat that the laptop generates would be recycled back into the battery.   Putting it on the back of a cellphone and letting your cellphone bounce around in your pocket (and absorb body heat) would put some juice back in the battery.   But he’s also thinking about much bigger applications.   For example, if Power Felt is cheap enough, it could be wrapped around your house, just like Tyvek insulation is now.   All houses leak heat – with Power Felt you can use that heat loss to generate power.  Making it part of a solar cell means that you generate electricity both from sunlight and the heat that the solar cell absorbs.

Carroll says that he hopes to make Power Felt commercially available by next year, and that they’re in the process of signing contracts with various companies to make it – he can’t name names, but he says that “the chances are extremely good that they make something that’s in your house right now.”

If you want to read more, Business Insider has a couple of articles on David Carroll’s Power Felt along with some short interviews.

Business Insider: This Magical Electricity-Creating Fabric Will Soon Be Everywhere

Business Insider: Electricity-Creating Fabric Will One Day Help Power Your Home


Recap of U.S. utility sized solar projects that came online in 2012

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has a nice recap of 5 large scale utility sized solar projects that came online in 2012.    Last year was a really good year for U.S. solar installations – it was up 76 percent over 2011.

Utility-scale solar projects grew by more – up 134 percent over the previous year.  Some of the largest projects were supported by the Energy Department’s Loan Guarantee Program.  Below are 5 of the largest.

  •  Agua Caliente Phase I-IV – 287 MW.  Located in Yuma County, Arizona
  •  Alamosa Solar Project – 37 MW.  Located in San Luis Valley, Colorado, it’s the world’s largest concentrating photovoltaic solar farm.
  • Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One – 100 MW (230 MW when complete in 2013).  80 miles north of Los Angeles.
  • Mesquite Solar 1 – 124 MW.   Located in Maricopa County, Arizona
  • California Valley Solar Ranch Phase I-IV – 22 MW in 2012, 250 MW by then end of 2013.   Located in San Luis Obispo, California

via: U.S. Department of Energy – Energy.gov

World’s largest offshore wind farm now online and producing power

The London Array became the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm last week when the 175th and final wind turbine was connected to the grid and turned on.   Construction on the London Array was completed last December, and on April 6th, 2013, the last turbine was switched on and now all 175 turbines are supplying power to the UK national electric grid.

The new wind farm is located about 12 miles off the Kent coast, which is on England’s south eastern coast.   The 175 turbine array is spread out over an area of about 35 square miles, and has a total generating capacity of 630 MW of electricity.   It can power about half a million UK households.

via: The Guardian

New recyclable solar cells made from trees

Georgia Tech CNC solar cell

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University have come up with a new type of organic solar cell made out of wood. Their new thin film cells are made out of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) which they make using softwood from trees.

Most organic solar cells are built using either glass or plastic as the substrate.  Neither plastic nor glass is easily recyclable, and they’re difficult to manage (glass panels can easily break).  But these CNC cells can be recycled simply by dissolving them in water.

“The development and performance of organic substrates in solar technology continues to improve, providing engineers with a good indication of future applications,” said Professor Bernard Kippelen, the director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics (COPE).  “But organic solar cells must be recyclable. Otherwise we are simply solving one problem, less dependence on fossil fuels, while creating another, a technology that produces energy from renewable sources but is not disposable at the end of its lifecycle.”

Right now these wood based solar cells have hit an efficiency level of 2.7%, which doesn’t sound like all that much, but represents a leap over other recyclable paper based cells.   They’re now working to improve the efficiency to the 10% level, by optimizing the “optical properties of the solar cell’s electrode.”  They also plan on coating their cells with an “eco-friendly, thin environmental barrier coating to protect the cells from water and oxygen when operating in the field.”

via: Georgia Tech

Multi-Use Titanium Dioxide nanofibers can generate hydrogen, produce clean water, and more

Professor Darren Sun at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University has developed what he calls Multi-Use Titanium Dioxide (TiO2), by turning titanium dioxide crystals into nanofibers.  These nanofibers can easily be made into flexible filter membranes by combining them with carbon, copper, zinc, or tin, depending on the application.

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First test drives – new Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid

2013 C-Max EnergiFord has just come out with their C=Max hybrid line of cars, and they’ve now introduced the latest addition – a plug-in hybrid version, called the C-Max Energi.  The new Energi can go about 21 miles on electric power alone, and you can recharge it in about 2 1/2 hours using a 240 volt outlet or overnight using a standard 120-volt electric outlet.

A number of papers and blogs have come out with test drive reviews and additional information.

Cars.com – 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

Washington Post – 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

Car and Driver – 2013 Ford C-Max Energi Plug-In Hybrid

Next generation biofuel progress seen in 2013

Next generation biofuels are made from plant waste or inedible plants, not corn.   While promised for a long time now, progress towards commercially viable next generation biofuel has been slow.

But there’s been some good progress so far this year.  Recently, biofuel company KiOR announced that it has started shipping cellulosic diesel fuel from its factory in Columbus, Mississippi.   KiOR makes its biofuel out of wood chips, and expects to be able to produce 3 to 5 million gallons of biofuel this year.

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UCLA lab’s accidental discovery could lead to dramatically reduced charge times for electric cars

Researchers at UCLA, while trying to figure out a way to mass produce graphene, an extremely thin pure form of carbon, have created a supercapacitor that can be charged quickly and can hold much more electricity than standard batteries.  And the same research team now feels that they’ve found a way to mass produce these supercapacitors.

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