Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Inhabitat's Week in Green: Dyson Spheres, bladeless wind turbines and airless bike tires

Over at Inhabitat, the election hangover is finally starting to wear off, and we've been looking forward to see what President Obama's re-election could mean for clean tech and renewable energy. The first bit of good news came on election night, when Obama called for action on climate change. That's all well and good, but what does it actually mean? For starters, it could mean the EPA enforcing stricter regulations. But the thing that most people in the renewable energy sector will be watching is whether the wind energy tax credit is renewed before it expires at the end of the year.

Even if the federal tax credit for wind energy isn't renewed, there's still hope for renewable energy. Scientists at Penn State just kicked off a two-year search for massive alien solar power stations known as Dyson Spheres. If they find one, maybe extraterrestrials could give us some tips on intergalactic solar technology. Here on Earth, Natcore Technology has created the world's first commercially viable absolute black silicon cell, which can make virtually 100 percent of received sunlight available for conversion into electricity. Speaking of solar efficiency, this week solar manufacturer Amonix announced that its concentrated photovoltaic technology has set a new efficiency record with a conversion rate of 33.5 percent. In other solar news, the Westmill Solar Cooperative launched the world's largest community-owned solar project in the UK, a group of African teenagers developed a pee-powered energy generator and Tunisian company Saphon Energy unveiled a new bladeless, bird-friendly wind turbine.

From bionic limbs to airless bike tires, we've been tracking some pretty incredible new technological innovations. RSL Steeper unveiled the bebionic 3, an amazing new prosthetic hand that is strong enough to hold 99 pounds and sensitive enough to write with a pen. In an unrelated story, 31-year-old Zac Vawter, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, climbed 103 floors of Chicago's Willis Tower wearing a bionic leg. BriTek recently unveiled its amazing new Energy Return Wheel, which is an airless bike tire that can never go flat. We also showcased several innovations from the intersection of fashion and technology -- a light-up Twitter dress, a pair of "Social Denim" jeans that let you update your Facebook status on the fly and a brilliant "Rocking Knit" chair that uses kinetic energy generated from the chair's gliding motion to knit a winter hat while you sit.

In the week since Hurricane Sandy crashed into the East Coast, Inhabitat has been continuing its coverage of the recovery effort. Greenpeace's Rolling Sunlight mobile solar power array has been touring the streets of the Rockaways this week, enabling residents to charge their phones and other devices. We also covered several off-grid devices that we'd like to have in the event of another storm of Sandy's magnitude -- Nokero's compact SunRay Pro solar charger, Berkey's super-versatile and effective water filter and Eton's hand-crank cellphone charger. And this week we caught up with photographer Iwan Baan, who took the iconic photo of a darkened lower Manhattan that graced the cover of New York magazine.

With the winter bearing down, we've put together a series of guides explaining how to winter-proof your home and how to save money with a programmable thermostat. And looking forward to the holidays (sorry, but yes, they're coming up), we've put together a comprehensive guide to greening your holiday decor.
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