Engineers design solar panels that float and track the sun

Colignola floating solar panels
Colignola floating solar panels (Image:

In the small lake of Colignola, Italy, engineers have built a cost-effective prototype for floating and rotating solar panels. Standard solar panels on buildings, or in fields are often criticized for taking up valuable agricultural land, and also for being a bit of an eye-sore. Most standard solar panels are also stationary, only taking advantage of the sunlight for a limited amount of time during the day. They also have a tendency to lose energy through overheating.

The floating solar panels are intended to resolve a lot of these issues. Designed to take advantage of unused areas of artificial reservoirs or disused quarries they would, if placed correctly, hardly be visible from a far. The water would also keep the panels at low temperatures minimizing overheating issues. The reflectors are positioned to maximize solar capture at different times of day, and rotating to track the sun for optimized performance. This should make them more efficient than a traditional installations.

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NASA looking to go green, seeking new propellant technology

NASA going green
NASA seeking green propellant technology

NASA is now looking for alternatives to be more environmentally friendly, and seeking technology proposals for green propellant alternatives to the highly toxic fuel hydrazine used today. Hydrazine is an efficient and ubiquitous propellant that can be stored for long periods of time, but at the same time it is also highly corrosive and toxic. The fuel is used extensively both on commercial and defense department satellites, as well as for NASA science and exploration missions.

In a way to minimize environmental hazards and pollutants, and also lower costs for rocket launches, NASA is now looking for innovative and transformative fuels that are less harmful to our environment. “High performance green propulsion has the potential to significantly change how we travel in space”, said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA‘s Space Technology Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “NASA’s Space Technology Program seeks out these sort of cross-cutting, innovative technologies to enable our future missions while also providing benefit to the American space industry. By reducing the hazards of handling fuel, we can reduce ground processing time and lower costs for rocket launches, allowing a greater community of researchers and technologists access to the high frontier.”

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PaveGen – Creating electricity, one footstep at a time

PaveGen London trials
PaveGen trials in East London

Recycled rubber paving slabs from PaveGen are set to help power Europe’s largest urban mall at the 2012 London Olympics site. The paving slabs harvest the kinetic energy that occur when people step on them, and converts it into electricity. This will be PaveGen first commercial application, where 20 tiles will be placed along the central crossing between London’s Olympic stadium and the recently opened Westfield Stratford City mall. The mall expects an estimated 30 million visitors in its first year.

“That should be enough feet to power about half its (the mall’s) outdoor lighting needs” said Laurence Kemball-Cook, the 25-year-old engineering graduate who developed the prototype during his final year of university in 2009.

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Lufthansa first to use biofuel in commercial flights

Pure Sky, Lufthansa Biofuel Power
Pure Sky, Lufthansa Biofuel Power

Lufthansa has become the first airline to run regular commercial flights using a mix of biofuel and kerosene in daily transfers between Hamburg and Frankfurt.

The six month trial will cover eight of its 28 daily flights of less than an hour between the two cities, which will according to Lufthansa reduce CO2 emissions by up to 1,500 tonnes during that period. As part of the burnFAIR project, a Lufthansa Airbus A321 (D-AIDG) will fly regularly between Hamburg and Frankfurt, using fuel that contains a 50-percent share of biosynthetic kerosene in one engine.

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