Saturday, March 28, 2015

Visible Solar Windows….!!!!


Researchers are back with another incredible technology, a fully transparent solar concentrator which has the capability of turning any window or sheet of glass into a photovoltaic solar cell. This new transparent solar cell could be used as a window, which was once thought to be impossible, because traditional solar panels absorb light and turn it into energy, but a transparent surface is not typically able to absorb light. Also vision is not compromised.

Just think, you could keep your phone charged whenever you are outdoors or in the sun. The incoming solar energy of tall buildings can also be harvested using this. Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a new type of solar concentrator which uses transparent, uncoloured plastic that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window. According to lead researcher Richard Lunt, the team is confident that these transparent solar connectors can be efficiently used in numerous settings from “tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader.”

Researchers opted for a different system called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC), which contains organic salts that absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of sunlight, ultraviolet and infrared light, which they then glow as another wavelength of infrared light (also non-visible). This emitted light is then guided towards traditional photovoltaic solar cells which are able to trap the energy and convert it into electricity. Since the absorbed wavelengths are not visible for us, the material looks transparent.

The most important feature is that harvesting the light for power can be layered on top of a clear piece of glass without completely weakening the sunlight’s ability to pass through it. The perimeter of the cell contains small photovoltaic strips, which means it is basically a miniaturized version of a solar panel. These react with infrared light, which is invisible to the naked eye and produces solar electricity.


Solar concentrators are different from solar panels because they trap light and then direct it outward to the edge of the conductor where the solar cells, which generate energy, are located. They are more efficient and cost-effective than solar panels, which lose a lot of energy to heat and require expensive devices to direct as much sunlight as possible toward them.

The efficiency is currently low 1%, but researchers are confident that they can reach at least 5% in the near future. You may be thinking these figures are so small, but multiply that by every window in a house, or car and you can begin to see that this could be very beneficial, particularly for skyscrapers and office buildings where virtually every wall is just windows.

The new technology would lead to energy efficient systems as the newly developed transparent luminescent solar concentrator can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface. Their technology is an invisible film that can go on any surface and generate power, which could lead to cell phones, and tablets that never run out of batteries or skyscrapers that can use their massive banks of windows as solar panels. 

Research in the production of energy from solar cells placed around luminescent plastic-like materials is not new. These past efforts, however, have yielded poor results. The energy production was inefficient and the materials were highly coloured.

One of the benefits of this new development is its flexibility. It is a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface. While the technology is at an early stage, it has the potential to be scaled to commercial or industrial applications with an affordable cost.

A transparent solar panel is something like an oxymoron. I.e. Solar cells, mainly the photovoltaic kind, make energy by absorbing photons (sunlight) and converting them into electrons (electricity). Then if a material is transparent by definition it means that all of the light passes through the medium to strike the back of your eye. This is why previous transparent solar cells have actually only been partially transparent obscuring the view.

The researchers are confident that the technology can be used all the way from large industrial and commercial applications being affordable. So far, one of the larger barriers to large-scale adoption of solar power is the intrusive nature of solar panels. If we can produce large amounts of solar power from sheets of glass and plastic that look like normal sheets of glass and plastic, then that would be big.

This inspiring innovation could greatly expand the reach of solar power. In fact energy from the sun itself is virtually free! All you need is the solar connector and you are good to go. This also means that buildings of the future are covered in the energy-producing panels. Anyways renewable energy is our future and its scope is very exciting…..

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Eyes Guiding Headlights for Cas….!!!

         Night time driving made everyone once wished of controlling your headlight with a move of your eyes, Am I right?? This Sci-Fi could be reality soon… Carmaker Opel is developing a technology that controls direction and brightness of the vehicle's headlights by tracking the driver's eyes. The new technology will allow a driver to control the direction and brightness of a vehicle's headlamp with eye movements.

     With its eye-tracking technology, Opel presents the future of situation-appropriate lighting and a third generation of automotive adaptive lighting,

     They used a simple webcam first. This is in contrast to high-performance eye-tracking systems which required 5 to 10 cameras. Focused on the driver’s head, it scanned prominent points, such as the nose and eyes, to detect movement and thereby the driver’s line of sight. The system then translated the information gathered into data commands for electronically-controlled actuators, which quickly aligned the vehicle’s headlamp projectors. Though this approach yielded quite promising results, it turned out that the huge amounts of data could not be processed fast enough, and the recording rate of the webcam was also too slow to meet the demanding requirements of road traffic conditions.

              According to Ingolf Schneider, Opel’s Director of Lighting Technology, the firm has “been pursuing this concept of controlling the direction and intensity of light based on where the driver is looking for around two years. The more we understand the benefits of this technology, the more intensively we push ahead with our joint project.”

 The problem of slow processing was addressed by optimisation of the camera’s operating parameters and the adaptation of the eye-tracking algorithm. The camera is now equipped with peripheral infra-red sensors and central photodiodes which together enable it to scan the driver’s eyes more than 50 times per second in dusk and night. And with much faster data processing and transmission, the headlamp actuators react instantaneously to make both horizontal and vertical adjustments.

            The system has light settings for play streets, motorways and bad weather, and adjusts the settings automatically, controlled by the camera. Additional functions are dynamic cornering light and turning light. Direction and intensity of the light beam are controlled according to the angle of lock and vehicle speed. The high-beam assistant, another functionality of the AFL+ system, automatically switches from high beam to low beam if forward-looking the camera detects the lights of a vehicle ahead.

I know you are thinking of this question: Would the system reflect eye movements? It is because the human eye unknowingly "jumps" around all the time and the cone of light would move hectically. Hence, if the headlamps were allowed to follow this movement precisely, the vehicle’s light cone would jerk around needlessly. The engineers solved this issue by developing sophisticated delay algorithm which ensures a suitably flowing movement for the light cone. “Another major benefit is that the eye-tracker doesn't have to be individually calibrated for a particular driver. The system works perfectly with anyone behind the wheel, no matter what their size”, adds Schneider.

            Even if the driver is momentarily distracted from looking at the road ahead, lighting is always provided in the direction of travel. That’s because the low beam of the headlamps is programmed to ensure sufficient illumination. A Light and Visibility Pack also includes automatic low beam lighting, together with tunnel recognition. With this array of automatic lighting functions, AFL+ not only improves the visibility of one’s own vehicle but also reduces driver stress and night-time drowsiness.

             Current-generation vehicles are equipped with the AFL+ adaptive headlight system, which already offers up to 10 lighting functions controlled by a frontal camera. AFL+ also includes functions such as dynamic curve light, cornering light and a high beam light assistant that automatically switches the headlights to low beam whenever a forward-facing camera, located on the reverse of the rear-view mirror, detects the proximity of headlights or tail-lights of other vehicles. For example, the light cone of a xenon headlamp is automatically adapted to different traffic situations as well as road and weather conditions, with variable light distribution within urban areas and country roads.

           This eye-tracking technology however will only be introduced in the future. Engineers at Opel are also planning to implement new matrix LED headlights in the near future. LED matrix lighting system will allow glare-free constant high beam lighting and automatically adapts to the respective traffic situation. The eye-tracking tech will be used jointly with matrix LED headlights. In this way, the LED matrix light functions with the Opel Eye front camera. When light sources are detected from oncoming or preceding traffic, individual LEDs in the relevant zone are deactivated, while the rest of the road remains brightly illuminated. It’s expected to debut in the next 18 months. It’s a cool piece of future tech that promises to improve the way car headlights work by tracking the driver’s eyes and directing the beam very precisely.

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Auto Wash Paint Using Ultra-Hydrophobic Principle.

                                   Robust self-cleaning surfaces are on their way to your home. How will you feel when your car gets cleaned itself? Or clothing that were stained badly would regain back? Great… Is that you are waiting for…? Then say thanks to researchers from UCL, Imperial College London and Dalian University of Technology (China), who have developed a new paint that can be applied to clothes, paper, glass and steel to make resilient surfaces that can self-clean even after being scratched or scuffed. According to the study the paint, made from coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles, is extremely repellent to water but, unlike other waterproof coatings, continues to work even when damaged or exposed to oil. Because it is so hard-wearing, it could be used for a wide range of applications, from clothing to cars.

Being waterproof it allows materials to self-clean as water forms marble-shaped droplets that roll over the surface, acting like miniature vacuum cleaners picking up dirt, viruses and bacteria along the way. For this to happen, we have to create rough and waxy surfaces by designing our own paint and combining it with different adhesives to help the surfaces withstand damage. This study shows how the new paint made from coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles can give a wide-range of materials self-cleaning properties, even during and after immersion in oil and following damage to the surface. According to the study, this paint is suitable for applications such as car bodies, where frequent scratching can occur, though it could also be used to create art using the water droplets’ patterns, or for easy-clean surfaces in hospitals.

We can use different coating methods to create the water repellent surfaces, depending on the material. I.e. depending on the surface on which it is applied, the coating can be sprayed, dipped, or painted onto a surface. An artist’s spray-gun was used to coat glass and steel, dip-coating for cotton wool and a syringe to apply the paint onto paper. All the materials became waterproof and self-cleaning as water droplets of different sizes were seen bouncing instead of wetting the surface, removing the dirt applied by the researchers. This was maintained after damage was inflicted on the surfaces.

Their experiments showing the behaviour of the treated surfaces against controls can be seen this video demonstrationExamples contain videos of treated cotton-wool being dipped into blue coloured water and emerging pristine white with no trace of contamination, and treated paper remaining dry and clean after being exposed to dirt and water.

This is an ultra-hydrophobic (water-repelling) paint which is an ethanolic suspension of perfluorosilane-coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles, that can be applied to a variety of surfaces, and that stays on once applied. Once the coating is applied to a surface, the ethanol must evaporate for 180 seconds before it is ready for use. The active ingredient, coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles, in the paint cause liquid to bead up and roll off the paint, instead of clinging to it. As those droplets roll across the painted surface, they suck up any dirt, viruses, bacteria or other non-liquid contaminants that are in their path.

Lotus leaf microscopic image
Lotus leaf microscopic image
Scientists have come up with a self-cleaning paint-like coating taking inspiration from the nature; yes a large-leaved lotus plant. By chemically copying the lotus' micro-rough, waxy surface, they have produced this 'superhydrophobic' treatment. The extremely water-repellent coating means water droplets stay spherical and roll around picking up, and removing, dirt and dust. And because they have used two different-sized nano-molecules to create the rough texture, they have found that oil contamination does not spoil the self-cleaning properties. This could make it an ideal surface treatment for bearings and gears, which need to be kept clean, but also, need to be lubricated with oil.

Durability which has been a limiting factor in many previously-developed self-cleaning paints has been accomplished, since the paint remained adhered to the various surfaces and retained its hydrophobic qualities, even after being exposed to conditions designed to simulate real-world wear and tear which includes being scuffed with sandpaper or scratched with a knife.  It also kept working after exposure to oil, something that can't be said for all of the previous attempts.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Is Artificial Photosynthesis The Future Fuel....!!!

Over billions of years, plants have been developing perhaps the most efficient power supply through photosynthesis. Don’t you think they are smarter than us?? As all know, Photosynthesis is process of the converting of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into usable fuel and emitting useful oxygen in the form of carbohydrates, or sugars by green plants. Their trick of harvesting sunlight was always a mystery to scientists...

Scientists are now very much closer to mimic photosynthesis to perfection which will allow to development of safer, cleaner renewable energy sources…Yes “Artificial photosynthesis is the leading candidate”. It is the industrial process of preparing fuels and chemicals from nothing more than carbon dioxide, water and sunlight. It is a vital process that would be the foundation of a world that would no longer need fossil fuels. More and more experiments are going on every day on this topic.

Bionic Leaf
Scientists from Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Medical School and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created a “bionic leaf” that uses bacteria to convert solar energy into a liquid fuel. Artificial leaf uses a catalyst to make sunlight split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with a bacterium engineered to convert carbon dioxide plus hydrogen into the liquid fuel isopropanol. This study tells us how an artificial leaf could be used with a special bacterium to produce a liquid “solar fuel.”

Recently scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have come up with solar electrolyzer to make liquid fuel. They have developed an electrically conductive film that could help pave the way for devices capable of harnessing sunlight to split water into hydrogen fuel.  The hydrogen produced could be stored and used to generate electricity at night in power plants or fuel cell vehicles. They used two commercially proven technologies to create their device- electrolysis and silicon or cadmium-telluride solar cells.  This process requires two light-sensitive electrodes: One oxidizes water molecules to form oxygen gas, protons and electrons, while the other electrode combines protons and electrons to generate hydrogen gas and a membrane which acts as a barrier separating the two electrodes so the gas can enter a pipeline without exploding. The team observed that nickel oxide film effectively separated the electrodes.

Researchers have built the electrodes out of common semiconductors such as silicon or gallium arsenide which absorb light and are also used in solar panels.  But a major problem is that these materials develop an oxide layer (that is, rust) when exposed to water. They have experimented with creating protective coatings for the electrodes, but all previous attempts have failed for various reasons.  In the new system, researchers added catalysts to solar cells, allowing them to double as electrolyzer electrodes and also optimized the catalysts to work with the solar cells. The nickel oxide used can serve as a catalyst and also protect solar cells. The catalyst helps free oxygen atoms from water molecules and produces oxygen gas, using energy from the solar cells. 

According to researchers, the film coating allows a major process in the artificial photosynthesis to be conducted at topmost effectiveness, stability and efficiency. It also prevents the dangerous mixing of oxygen and hydrogen. This development could help lead to safe, efficient artificial photosynthetic systems called solar-fuel generators or "artificial leaves” that replicate the natural process of photosynthesis

I think these laboratory methods will overcome the major limitations that inhibit the energy production when sun is not shining or wind is not blowing. I.e. no electricity is being harvested and stored in batteries which mean only a certain amount of energy can be collected and you are on battery power and experience a loss of efficiency. Nature still has much to teach us, observing carefully we can modify ourselves and surroundings. This may be one of the important steps towards the design of novel artificial energy transduction systems to produce renewable fuels which will be sufficiently cheap to compete with carbon-based fuels.

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Fingerprint Banking ....!!!

Fingerprints as the bank password …. Heard right…!!! But only if you have an APPLE iPhone…

Two banks in the United Kingdom will soon allow their customers access their bank accounts using Touch ID-based fingerprint identification technology, reports BBC News… This feature has been available for customers of Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest. They will become the first of any UK-based bank account holders to log into their accounts using fingerprints passwords. It was already popular with banks in the US and other countries.

It uses “Apple’s fingerprint sensor”, which was introduced in 2013, is one of the best scanning implementations till date. This is now available with all latest models of iPhones, enabling the user to securely unlock their devices
Let’s see how this works…

1)     Users need to activate the touch ID Service on their IPhones and log into their bank account app using PIN number.
2)     After logging in, give permission to banking app to the link with ID Service Technology.
3)     Press finger or thumb at bottom of the phone to examine and compare the print with the previous one.
4)     Once verified, the account can be accessed.
            Fingerprints provide more secured way of bank account accessing… Making it easier and more convenient to access their finances as they don't have to remember a tricky password…  After three failed login attempts they would have to type in their security details to re-enable the option. Mobile banking users whose iPhones are stolen can deactivate their Touch ID by calling the bank…
            There is a little bit doubt in its security… some experts don’t agree with this app, they say criminals could easily break into someone’s bank account by using a high-quality photograph or clear image of the phone-owner’s fingerprint. Such an image could even be obtained from the phone’s screen itself. More sophisticated fingerprint-recognition systems can detect the warmth and veins within fingers.

Ben Schlabs of the German think tank SRLabs said: “Fingerprints are not fit for secure local-user authentication as long as “fake fingers” can be produced from these pervasive copies. It is a very different risk to something that is inside your brain [such as a PIN code].”

Professor Mike Jackson, a cybersecurity expert at Birmingham City University said: “Almost anybody, given enough chance, would be able to break it. If you can get hold of a good finger print, it is very easy to fool [the technology]. It is that insecure.”

However online and mobile banking has grown enormously in recent years and customers are using digital technologies to track their finances. Let’s hope that more and more revolutions which make our transactions simpler, speedy, safer is on the way…

You can find more information here

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A New Ultra-Sensitive, Ultraviolet Light Nanowire Sensor for Fire Detection


            Recent researches show that zinc oxide, material typically used in paint, glass and ceramics, may be manipulated to produce a UV-light sensor that is ultra-sensitive, improving applications in smoke, gas and fire detection. Researchers from the University of Surrey manipulated zinc oxide to create nanowires capable of UV-light detection and are 10,000 times more sensitive than the usual detectors made of zinc oxide. Current photoelectric smoke detectors sense larger particles in denser smoke but can't detect smaller particles typical in rapid-burning fires.

Due to their potential applications for a wide range of devices such as laser diodes, light-emitting diodes, piezoelectric transducers and generators, gas sensors, and ultraviolet (UV) detectors, Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanostructures have been the centre of extensive studies for a while. UV detectors finds its application in commercial and military applications which includes pollution monitoring, secure space communications, water purification, flame and missile plume detection, etc.

"UV light detectors made from zinc oxide have been used widely for some time but we have taken the material a step further to massively increase its performance," said study co-author professor Ravi Silva from the University of Surrey in Britain. "We transformed zinc oxide from a flat film to a structure with bristle-like nanowires, increasing surface area and therefore increasing sensitivity and reaction speed," Silva said.

Researchers believe that this new material could increase sensitivity and allow the sensor to detect distinct particles emitted at the early stages of fires, paving the way for specialist sensors that can be deployed in a number of applications. The team also predict that the applications for this material could be far reaching. From fire and gas detection to air pollution monitoring, they believe the sensor could also be incorporated into personal electronic devices, such as phones and tablets, to increase speed, with a response time 1000 times faster than traditional zinc oxide detectors
"This is a great example of a bespoke, designer nanomaterial that is adaptable to personal needs, yet still affordable. Due to the way in which this material is manufactured, it is ideally suited for use in future flexible electronics, a hugely exciting area," added Professor Silva.

          ZnO nanostructures have high photo response because of the increase in the surface-to-volume ratio and the active area reduced dimensionality. This work paves the way toward low cost, large scale, low temperature, seedless and site-selective fabrication of high performance ZnO nanowire sensors on flexible and transparent substrates.           

For more details on same please click here, I mainly refer this journal.  

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Identity Theft: Digital PickPockets…

Pickpockets sound familiar… But there is something new called digital pickpockets…

Technological developments that were designed to make our life more convenient have been hijacked and are used against us. Digital Pickpockets are example to such. These pockets can steal your money, without your debit or credit card ever leaving your side. Though we get smarter

Here's how digital pickpocketing works. First, the thief constructs a wireless RFID reader. With the right apps and updates, many Android phones can serve the purpose. Next, the thief runs their software and waits for the reader to come into a range of an RFID-enabled credit card, a process sometimes called RFID skimming. Most credit cards in the U.S. don't have RFID chips, but for the ones that do, readers within range can pick up the wireless signals transmitted when that card is being used to make a transaction. The thief could be the person immediately behind you in line, sitting on a nearby bench, or pretending to shop a few yards away. 

The newest smartphones are making it easy for thieves to steal and use stolen credit cards. Since they are "NFC" or Near Field Communications enabled. NFC is form of RFID technology that takes advantage of both transmitting and receiving data via the smartphone. NFC enabled phones have the ability to read the data on microchip credit card. The swiping of credit cards while purchasing also increase the chances…

These are the steps that be can taken to protect ourselves…

Special wallets that use aluminum foil can block these radio frequency signals, but the threat remains very real… Make it a habit to review your credit card and bank statements at least once a month.
Get in touch with your credit card issuers to find out whether your cards have the RFID chips. If so replace it immediately. Avoid credit cards with Radio Frequency Identification chips as they could be susceptible to digital pickpocketing.  If you see any unusual transactions, contact your Credit Card Company or bank. Hack proof jeans and blazers are on their way to keep digital information safer…  Anyways taking precautions is better….

Now a days most of our railway / metro cards are  RFID cards, therefore its very easy to swipe and go. The main risk in this card are they can easily copy or create a duplicate card and use it.

For more details please click here.

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