Turbine on the Roof

Oh, this is good! A company that mainly develops unmanned aircraft has turned its skills to making rooftop wind turbines. Small and light (no price yet so I don’t know if it’s cheap) and mounted on the building parapet – to make best use of the structure’s aerodynamic properties – it requires only 3.1m/s of wind-speed to work. That’s a huge drop from the 12m/s average for larger windmills.

Full article :: EcoGeek at Wired NextFest

Fiber Optics for Accent Lighting

C|NET reports that a company based in Ohio, USA has created interior lighting systems that consume just one-third the energy compared to the average fluorescent system. In addition, it is said to emit neither heat nor UV light and won’t leak mercury if broken. Although the systems are expensive at the moment, they are expected to become affordable in the near future.

Okay, let’s be clear about how it works. What the system does is that it takes light from a conventional source – say an incandescent or a metal halide and distributes it via flexible plastic cables with optical fibre inside. This light is transferred to numerous “bulbs” which are naturally highly efficient given that there is no emission of heat at all.

Edit [27.09.2015]
The site <http://www.fiberstarspoolandspa.com> seems to have disappeared. Here’s a link to the most recently cached version of the site on Wayback Machine.

Separating Toilets

This may not be great dinner-table conversation but simply separating urine from excreta can make a huge difference to how we approach the issue of human waste. Wost Man Ecology, a firm run by Swedish farmer Ingvar-Nilsson, makes separating toilets that are now selling all across the world. Essentially, the urine can be directly used as a source of urea while the solid waste composts (and turns into fertiliser) much quicker when it’s dry.

Membrane Structures. Finally.

Have been waiting a long time for something like this to come to India and finally a Bangalore based company called Shadeflex has tied up with a German company called Textil Bau GmbH.

Shadeflex and their German partner’s sites are under construction at the moment but at least they have a contact page. May just use something like this for the courtyard of the Pune bungalow. This year’s record monsoon has made me think about how dramatically the weather patterns may change in the coming years.

Godrej Ties up with Masonite

When I read the advertisement in a trade magazine, I was happy to see more competition in the field but, when I headed over to the Godrej site, I found nothing that looked even remotely like this news. A Google search led me to a 404 (page not found) error and it took some hunting to find this news release. (Edit: The page disappeared again!)

What amazes me is how even such a large (and professionally managed) business conglomerate can’t seem to grasp how important it is to keep a web site in order. And, at the end of it all, the tone of the news sounded like it was meant for in-house consumption – a company magazine maybe? Who the heck cares what the vice president thinks for goodness sake. Tell us about the blooming product and why we should buy it!

Masonite, on the other hand, have a well laid out site and may need to push their partners to do something similar if they want to make any headway in the Indian market. Godrej have their own construction business so maybe they’re importing this just for themselves. That would be an opportunity lost, in my opinion.

Smart Glass

We all know about Polaroid glass – it’s been around for ages. But this is a new one for me at least and has greater potential because the level of transparency/opacity is controlled by the user and not by ambient light.

SPD smart window is constructed by using two panes of glass separated by a conductive film with suspended, light absorbing, microscopic particles. Microscopic light-absorbing particles are dispersed within a thin film. When no electrical voltage is applied to the film, these particles absorb light, making the glass dark. When voltage is applied, the particles align and allow light to pass through. By simply adjusting the electrical voltage manually or automatically, the amount of light passing through the SPD-glass product can be controlled quickly and precisely.

A competing technology with SPD smart windows is the electrochromic smart window. Electrochromic windows consist of two glass panes with several layers sandwiched in between. It works by passing low-voltage electrical charges across a microscopically-thin coating on the glass surface, activating an electrochromic layer which changes color from clear to dark. The electric current can be activated manually or by sensors which react to light intensity. One advantage of the electrochromic smart window is that it only requires electricity to change its opacity, but not to maintain a particular shade.

Link: Smart Glass

Flexible Solar Panels

For architects, this, in whatever form it finally takes, is going to be an absolute boon.

Imagine being able to paint a renewable energy source on the walls of your house, without having to shell out most of your life’s earnings.

Well, this may no longer be in the realm of fantasy, with researchers from New Mexico State University and Wake Forest University working on an organic solar panel that is not only flexible, but can also be wrapped around structures, and comes much cheaper than the conventional ones.

Unlike traditional solar panels, which are made of silicon and are expensive and brittle like glass, organic solar cells are made of plastic, and are inexpensive.

:: Full Article :: (Link no longer available)