Archive for October, 2009
After the success of the Beetle here comes the Bug! The Volkswagen concept car the VW Pholeum may well be the green car of the future. Part ‘Smart Car’, part eco-chariot, the Pholeum is designed to be a single-person vehicle for day-to-day city life. With an external wheelbase that allows easy 360 degree motion the Pholeum can park in the tightest of spaces.
Powered by a hydrogen fuel cell the car promises to use the best of green technology. The tyres are made from biodegradable rubber, whilst memory plastic panels cover an aluminium chassis. The panels allow for simple repair after any collision and can be melted down and remoulded should severe damage occur.
By separating the wheelbase from the body designer Alexei Mikhailov has given the car a unique look. The plastic windscreen and door give a wide field of vision and external airbags are an added safety feature. Fans of computer driving games will be familiar with the handheld controls which make good use of the compact interior.
With fully immersed rubber wheels and an independent spoke arrangement the vehicle has no need for heavy suspension. The in-wheel electric motors also act as brakes with the capability to regenerate power from braking friction. Not only does this car look like it comes from the future, it’s eco-friendly too. Will the design incorporate recycled plastic and aluminium too? We’d like to know.
New research has found that Sperm whales may be capturing a net 5 million metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year. The ocean-dwelling mammals do of course breathe out carbon dioxide but scientists believe this is more than offset by their introduction of iron to the upper-zone of water in which they feed.
Studies of Sperm whales in the Southern Ocean by the University of Adelaide indicate that the extra iron that the whales bring up from their deep feeding encourages surface plankton growth. The plankton is highly effective at soaking up and trapping carbon.
Adding iron to the oceans to trigger a plankton boom has been one of the theories put forward to tackle climate change in recent years. The plankton first absorbs carbon, then traps it at the bottom of the ocean as the bloom dies and sinks. There are over 200,000 Sperm whales swim in the Southern Ocean a year, with each bringing up about 10 grams of iron from feeding a day.
Sperm whales may be helping to fight climate change, but with carbon emissions continuing to rise, we will need a concerted environmental management effort to keep the planet cool.
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London reached a milestone last week as it celebrated collecting and preserving the seed of species number 24,200, a pink banana found in Asia. This marks 10% of the total target of 242,000 seeds that the Kew Millennium Seed Bank project aims to collect.
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank is perhaps the most ambitious botanical project in the world, aiming to collect the seeds of all the world’s known wild plants and provide some insurance against the threat of future disasters or extinctions. The initial target was to collect 10% of the world’s seeds by 2010 and 25% by 2025. This date has now been brought forward to 2020.
Once dried and stored below freezing the seeds are capable of germination many years into the future. Botanical organisations from more than 50 countries have joined the collection project. Though not a ‘doomsday vault’ the seed bank will be used to support conservation across the globe.
The pink banana, Musa itinerans, is a good example of the project’s environmental management value. The plant is a wild crop that is under threat from forest clearance. It is a staple food of wildlife, including the Asian elephant.
The growing collection is stored at an £80m facility located at the Royal Botanic Gardens’ outstation in Sussex.
A standard air conditioner consumes a significant amount of electricity, making it pretty eco-unfriendly. With an upper surface covered in solar panels the Blind Air conditioner sources its power naturally whilst retaining its functionality as a foldable window blind. Useful and good for the environment? This is the sort of gadget we like!
On a hot summer day the temperature indoors can be stifling and the sun shining through a window only makes things warmer. The Blind Air conditioner stops the sun coming through as well as generating a cooling breeze to lower the room temperature. The shade created by the Blind means that you may need to use the air conditioner less.
Installed on the window like a conventional blind, warm air flows through an intake at the top and is cooled in the AC unit, before being released through a series of interconnected wings that make up the slats of the blind. The temperature can also be controlled just like a regular air conditioning unit.
This is an interesting concept in terms of design and function but whether it’s any better than a closed blind and open window is open to debate. We’d like to see the concept taken a step further in terms of eco-credentials and made from recycled materials.
The SUNBOX USB is one of fuel cell technology firm Horizon’s latest energy storage solutions and we think it’s pretty cool. The kit is a basic, affordable power supply for rural areas in developing countries where permanent electricity supplies are intermittent or non-existent. The self-regulated device will charge automatically whenever sunlight is available and provide power for a bright evening light for up to 18 hours.
The charging unit is waterproof and can be mounted on the roof of a small dwelling or tent, while the control unit can be fixed inside to switch on the light when night falls. The SUNBOX provides energy to 2 rechargeable AA batteries which can also be used in devices such as radios or torches. In addition, the SUNBOX includes 2 USB ports so it can also be used to charge any USB devices, including mobile phones and portable music players.
Although designed for developing countries, the unit is ideal for a variety of situations from emergency relief to wilderness recreation. Imagine having this on your next camping trip! Not only is it a great little device, it’ll help to cut down on battery waste too. No power grid is needed for this small simple idea with big potential.
You might have tried a water softener solution for your hard water problems. It probably didn’t work well for you are you still maybe be facing those lime scale accumulation problems. So what is that you can do to soften your hard water? If you have tried out all those traditional methods you can opt for electronic water softeners. Electronic water softeners work like magnets and attract the hard minerals that are present in the water. This way the water comes out soft and clean thus saving you from the trouble of clogged water pipes and crusted tanks. However, people with high blood pressure are often advised by their doctors to stay away from electronic water softeners. This is because electronic water softeners contain beads that are soaked with sodium ions. When hard water is passed through these beads, hard minerals in the water, are replaced with sodium hence increasing the level of sodium in water.