A growing interest in thermoelectric materials — which convert waste heat to electricity — and pressure to improve heat transfer from increasingly powerful microelectronic devices have led to improved theoretical and experimental understanding of how heat is transported through nanometer-scale materials.
Scientists have invented a low-cost water splitter that uses a single catalyst to produce both hydrogen and oxygen gas 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The device could provide a renewable source of clean-burning hydrogen fuel for transportation and industry.
Researchers have designed a responsive hybrid material that is fueled by an oscillatory chemical reaction and can perform computations based on changes in the environment or movement, and potentially even respond to human vital signs.
Researchers have made a crucial step toward nuclear spintronic technologies. They have gotten nuclear spins to line themselves up in a consistent, controllable way, and they have done it using a high-performance material that is practical, convenient, and inexpensive.
About two years ago, Canadian couple Mat and Danielle of Exploring Alternatives were stuck in the proverbial rat race, working long hours to make ends meet and be able to support their traditional lifestyle. At one point they asked themselves why they’re doing it though, and their answer involved selling their house, converting a van into a home, and using it to explore the US and Canada in their new house.
The first step was buying a cargo van, which is about 19 feet long. Their van features a bed a kitchen and enough storage space for their essential belongings. Since they like to eat well, yet were on a pretty tight budget, they built the kitchen which basically consists of a fold-out table screwed into the van’s door. The cooking utensils, rags and other necessities hang from the other side of the door where they are within easy reach. They use a simple propane powered stove for cooking. They don’t have a fridge, only a cooler, so they mostly buy and eat food that does not require refrigeration.
The bathroom facilities are limited to a jar that they use for peeing in, while they have a curtain to separate off the “toilet” from the rest of the van while it’s in use. For showering they use a solar shower, which is very basic yet gets the job done.
Most of the interior is taken up by the bed, which can be folded up during the day and turned back into seats to create a cozy living area. They installed curtains on all the windows, so the sleeping compartment can be closed off, creating a completely private and cozy room. The main reason they decided to install a bed is to have a spot to call home on their travels.
They also installed a mobile hotspot and solar panels to power it, which allows them to have the Internet wherever they go. So a laptop is all they need now to earn money, and continue living the nomadic lifestyle.
An interdisciplinary team has made a semiconductor crystal with a variable band gap. Among other potential uses, this variable semiconductor could lead to solar cells that absorb more energy from the sun by being sensitive to a broader spectrum of light.
Isabella Mori of Vancouver, BC recently moved into her brand new tiny home. The move was spurned by the rising rents in Vancouver. Builder John McFarlane of Camera Buildings did a great job designing and constructing this home. All told, the home cost around US$31,000 to build. It’s great how its boxy shape enabled the designer to make the most of the available space.
Isabelle’s new tiny home measures 186 square feet. It features an elongated layout with a full galley kitchen on one side. The other longer side of the home is covered with slated windows that let in plenty of light and make the home appear that much more spacious. The tiny home actually has two levels. The lower level houses the kitchen, entry way and closet. Next is the mezzanine level, which contains an office space, a second closet, as well as a 6-foot by 27-inch bathroom with shower and composting toilet. The owner has two cats, so the litter box is also located in this space, and the smells are vented out using the computer fan.
Overall, the home is also packed with transformer furniture, and almost every piece does more than just one thing. The best of these has to be the pull-out bed, which is located in the mezzanine level. It solves the problem of a low ceiling in the lofted bedroom area of most tiny homes very well, and makes it possible to forgo a gabled roof in the design. Additional storage is also built into the steps leading up to the mezzanine level.
Traditional Japanese building techniques and aesthetic played a large part in the inspiration of this design and Isabella also filled it with many Japanese knick-knacks. She’s calling it the “Thousand Crow” house. The home is also mounted on wheels, and she currently has it parked in an RV park, though she can of course take it to anywhere in the world on a whim.
Researchers have successfully combined multiple functions into a single smart life-like material for the first time. These ‘designer’ materials could be used in the robotics, automotive, aerospace and security industries.
A skyscraper made of wood is the Michael Green Architects of Vancouver, BC entry into the Réinventer Paris competition. The latter is intended to highlight and promote new architectural ideas for the city’s future. The skyscraper they propose would also be the tallest wooden building in the world.
Michael Green Architects have not released many details on the project, since it’s still at its early stages, but the idea is to build a 35-story mixed-use tower, which would be called Baobab. The building process would employ the special construction methods designed by the firm, which according to them outperform steel in case of a fire.
The Baobab skyscraper would have 35 floors, which would make it the tallest tower made of timber in the world. It would be capable of sequestering 3,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide, while construction would also avoid harmful emissions during the actual construction process due to working with wood and not concrete.
The wooden Baobab skyscraper would be located on a 69,427 square foot (6,450 sq m) plot on Boulevard Pershing, which is in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. The entire project encompasses the main tower of the skyscraper as well as several smaller wooden buildings around it. These would provide social housing, a student hotel, a market, a bus station, as well as electric car charging points.
Michael Green Architects is excited about this project, mainly since it hopes the realization of the project could expand the boundaries of architecture. Wood is abundant, and sustainable if harvested properly, but a skyscraper made of wood sounds a bit dangerous, although Michael Green Architects make a good case for it, assuring everyone that it is as structurally sound and fire resistant as steel.
Researchers have devised a new formula for calculating the maximum efficiency of thermoelectric materials, the first new formula in more than a half-century, designed to speed up the development of new materials suitable for practical use.