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Bacteria Clean Sewage and Create Electricity

bacteria.94120838_stdBacteria gets a bad rep. People avoid it like the plague. In fact, people hate bacteria so much, that antibacterial products like hand sanitizer have become a multi-billion dollar industry. But what if I told you not all bacteria was bad; in fact, what if I said that bacteria could be a key source of renewable energy?

Ok, maybe I can understand why you’d hold a grudge if you suffer from gum disease, strep throat, cholera or any other bacterial illness, but scientists from Penn State University are doing everything they can to bring the single-celled organism back into the public’s good graces.

Sewage is loaded with energy-rich sugars that researchers have struggled for years to convert into useful power. To do so, investigators have experimented with nature’s experts on breaking down waste — bacteria.

“It’s kind of like the movie ‘The Matrix,'” said environmental engineer Bruce Logan at Penn State University. “Instead of wiring people up to generate electricity, we are using bacteria to directly generate electricity.”

All the energy that bacteria could generate from wastewater could help power the considerable needs of wastewater treatment. For instances, in the United States, roughly 33 billion gallons of wastewater are treated daily for an annual cost of more than $25 billion, and some 1.5 percent of the electricity produced every year goes into wastewater treatment alone.

Read more from Live Science.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Can A Speed Bump Do for the Power Grid?

motionpower_speed_bumpThe Burger King on U.S. Highway 22 in Hillside, N.J., looks no different from any other franchise in the state. Customers pull in and out all day, and at least 100,000 cars visit the drive-thru each year. And now a newly installed, mechanized speed bump will both help them slow down and harvest some of that coasting energy.

“We use the weight of a car to throw a lever,” explains Gerard Lynch, the engineer behind the MotionPower system developed for New Energy Technologies, a Maryland-based company. “The instantaneous power is 2,000 watts at five miles-per-hour, but it’s instantaneous which means some form of storage will be required. The real key is how do I get a million cars to do that for me.”

This demonstration project won’t actually provide electricity to either the Burger King or the grid, but it will employ a mini-flywheel—a mechanical device that stores energy by spinning—to test storage potential. A higher price can be charged for electricity that is fed into the grid at the right moment.

“How do we capture and hold these pulses efficiently so we can dispatch them at the right time when the electricity rate is most advantageous,” Lynch says. “Here in Hillside, the average price when you take delivery is 17.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. It’s double that in peak summer. The idea is: let’s hit it all day and return that power at 3 PM in the afternoon.”

Read more from Scientific American.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Clean is Your Hospital?

a44Hospitals are generally thought of as a place where you to go to feel better. And yes, they usually do succeed in that regard, despite stealing your paycheck and the rights to your first-born child in the process. But what you probably didn’t know, is that hospitals create a large amount of business for themselves; and that’s not a good thing.

Close to 2 million people acquire infections from hospitals each year and more than 250 related deaths occur each day in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That is why professors at the University of Florida have developed a new technology to monitor health-care workers’ hand hygiene by detecting sanitizer or soap fumes given off their hands.

The trademarked system, called HyGreen, logs, down to the second, the frequency of hand cleaning and contact with patients in a database that clinical supervisors can review immediately.

Is this big brother? “No,” says Richard J. Meiker, M.D., Ph.D., and UF College of Medicine anesthesiology professor who helped develop the technology. “This is just another tool.”

“A hospital worker never wants to be responsible for someone getting sick or dying from an infection acquired in the hospital.”

Read more from Science Daily.

September 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Imagining the Tech World in 2050

euvl-sandia-waferEveryone loves predicting the future. It offers endless possibilities of fantastical technological inventions and advances. When will there be flying cars or time travel? Filmmakers and fiction writers concoct extraordinary tales that capture the attention of mass audiences time and again.

So when several of the world’s top scientists met at the kickoff event of a collaboration between IBM and the University of Southern California to explore the intersection of creative arts and science and technology, it was only natural for them to foresee how technology would affect life in 2050.

As one might expect, the predictions created quite a buzz. Suggestions included that supercomputers will soon become handheld devices; clean water and energy will be available to the entire world, and personal pharmacies built into the human body will administer medicine based on data from internal sensors.

Seem like a bit much? Think back to a world 20 years ago when the Internet was used only by the military and computers were the size of a large living room.

IBM scientist Don Eigler suggests that by 2050 we will have laptops with 100,000 times more horsepower than a state-of-the-art machine today.  “What would you do with it?” he asked the audience. “We’ll find new ways. I just can’t think of any today.”

Read Dan Farber’s report in CNET.

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Innovation, Technology, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment