Solarclave Sterilizes Medical Equipment In Remote Areas Using Sunlight.

Solarclave from MIT's Little Devices groupIn hospitals, an autoclave is an electric-powered device that is used to sterilize medical equipment and supplies. The Solarclave, designed by MIT’s Little Devices group, is an autoclave that is solar-powered and can be used cheaply and repaired easily by remote clinics in developing countries. Here’s a description of the Solarclave from the Little Devices group:

“With a bucket, a pressure cooker, and 140 pocket-sized mirrors, IIH researchers have invented a device that uses sunshine to sterilize surgical tools. Solarclave provides reliable surgical sterilization for rural clinics outside of the grid – enabling healthcare workers to provide basic, life-saving services for patients.”

And here’s how it works (SmartPlanet):

“Under a clear sky, the system takes 45 to 60 minutes to heat up to a sterilizing temperature (250 degrees Fahrenheit) and then 20 minutes to carry out the sterilization cycle.”

The final design of the Solarclave was modified based on feedback from rural users in Nicaragua. [SmartPlanet]

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Solar Impulse Solar-Powered Airplane Is In America – Wants To Fly Across It. World, You’re Next!

Solar Impulse in flight.The 100% solar-powered Solar Impulse airplane arrived in the US on February 21 and is in the process of being reassembled for its transcontinental solar flight from San Francisco to Washington DC with a final leg to New York. Its powered by four 10 horsepower electric engines and has a cruising speed of 50 mph.

Led by Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the Solar Impulse will not be the first plane to cross the US powered by solar – that feat was first accomplished in 1990 by Eric Raymond’s Sunseeker solar power airplane. Mr. Raymond’s transcontinental trip required 21 separate flights over 121 hours to cross the country. The Solar Impulse’s transcontinental trips will be broken down into 20 hour flights with stops along the way to raise awareness about solar power.

Below is a video of the Solar Impulse being disassembled and shipped to San Francisco. [Wired]


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Growing Solar Power Industry Leads To An Increase In Hazardous Waste.

Solar Panel FarmShould you go solar or not? If you read through the AP story, “Solar power boom fuels increase in hazardous waste sent to dumps,” it’s hard to tell which way to go. Here’s an excerpt:

“While solar is a far less polluting energy source than coal or natural gas, many panel makers are nevertheless grappling with a hazardous waste problem. Fueled partly by billions in government incentives, the industry is creating millions of solar panels each year and, in the process, millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water.”

Translation: renewable solar power is far less polluting than coal and natural gas but thanks to $$$ in government incentives, demand and production are up and so is the associated pollution.

In related news, Scientists in Brazil have determined that “if a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his ass when he’s hopping.” [Grist and Newser]

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To Keep Future Energy Costs Predictable, IKEA Decides To Double-Down On Renewable Energy.

IKEA solar panelsIkea has always tried to simplify the furniture assembly process. Following that same path, Ikea is now working to simplify how they’ll get their future electricity by doubling their investment in renewable energy to $4 billion. From Ikea CEO and President Mikael Ohlsson (Bloomberg):

“I foresee we’ll continue to increase our investments in renewable energy… looking at how quickly we’re expanding and our value chain, we will most likely have to double the investments once more after 2015.”

Ikea’s goal is to get 100% of the power for their stores from renewable sources by 2020. Ikea’s stores currently get 34% of their electricity from 250,000 solar panels they own and from 126 wind turbines they’ve invested in. [Bloomberg]

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Volkswagen Chattanooga Will Get 12.5% Of Their Power From Solar Panels.

Volkswagen Chattanooga plant solar park.From Volkswagen of America (via CSRwire):

“Volkswagen today ‘powered up’ the largest single solar installation at an automotive manufacturing facility in the United States and the biggest solar installation in the state of Tennessee.

The Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park occupies 33 acres, or half of the 66-acre land parcel adjacent to VW’s state-of-the-art manufacturing plant. The solar park contains 33,600 solar modules from JA Solar designed to produce 13.1 gigawatt hours of electricity per year – equivalent to the energy consumed annually by around 1,200 homes in the area.

The electricity produced from the solar park is expected to meet 12.5% of the energy needs of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga manufacturing plant during full production and 100% during non-production periods.”

So who’d you rather – electric vehicle built with nonrenewable energy or gas powered car built with renewable solar power? [Volkswagen]

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Future Solar Panels May Squeeze More Juice From The Sun By Mimicking Deep-Sea Bacteria That Have To Do The Same.

Green Sulfur BacteriaGreen sulfur bacteria, solar panel. Solar panel, green sulfur bacteria. Now that you’ve been introduced, and with the help of researchers at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, we hope you can work together and lead to more efficient solar panels. From GigaOM:

“Bacteria that live almost a mile under the surface of the ocean, where light is scare, have adapted biological ways to harness tiny amounts of light very efficiently, and in some cases can use photosynthesis to convert 100 percent of the light they find into electricity. In contrast a typical solar panel commonly converts around 15 percent of sunlight into electricity.”

For more details, check out the article “Unlocking nature’s quantum engineering for efficient solar energy.” [GigaOM]

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