Transparent solar collector to turn skyscrapers into power plants

We may soon be able to create electricity using the screens of our phones, windows in buildings and any other clear surface.

Researchers have created a ‘transparent’ surface that can capture light and convert it into electricity using solar technology.

The team, from Michigan State University, developed organic molecules that are able to take in waves of sunlight which are not visible to the human eye.

It is the first time that a transparent solar concentrator has been created.

Richard Lunt who worked on the research, said that the unique nature of the transparency means we may be able to incorporate it into our everyday lives and create energy from clear surfaces.

“It opens a lot of area to deploy solar energy in a non-intrusive way,” Lunt said. “It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

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As the materials used do not absorb or emit any light that can be seen by the human eye, this means they appear transparent when we look at them.

Instead they rely on infrared light, which is guided to the edge of the material where it is converted to electricity by solar cells.

“No one wants to sit behind colored glass,” explained Lunt. “It makes for a very colorful environment, like working in a disco. We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent.

“We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared.”

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The previously developed coloured concentrators developed by MIT

However the future for the technology isn’t yet crystal clear as work needs to be done on improving the energy-producing efficiency.

Currently its solar conversion rate lies close to one percent, but the researchers believe they will be able to get it close to five percent when everything has been fully optimised.

At present coloured variations of the concentrator have efficiency levels of around seven percent.


Featured image and image one courtesy of the Michigan State Univeristy. Image two courtesy of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Living the iLife: Apple moves into cryonic preservation

Not content with supplying the world with smartwatches that cost more than a car, tech supercorporation Apple has set its sights on extending life beyond death.

In a media release, the company said that it planned to offer cryonic preservation services from 2020, and had already recruited a team to undertake research into the technology.

“We’re at the early stages, but this is a very exciting project,” said Dr April Delaney, senior researcher for Apple.

“Imagine being able to wake up 100 years from now and see how the world turned out – it’s something we’ve only dreamt of up til now.”

While numerous other companies have been offering cryonic preservation services for some time – ranging from just the patient’s head to their full body – Apple is the first high-profile corporation to announce it is getting into the field.

However the company has a long road ahead of them: no one has yet been successfully awoken from their deep freeze, and Apple is keen to make progress on before the company officially starts accepting participants.

Futurama's Fry was famously frozen using cryonics

Futurama’s Fry was famously frozen using cryonics

The cryonic preservation service is currently known as NeXTSTEP, in tribute to the operating system of Steve Jobs’ NeXT computers that formed the basis of Apple’s OS X. It is thought that the title iLife was rejected due to consumer association with Apple Creativity Apps, which previously had the same name.

NeXTSTEP is likely to be offered through a lifelong subscription service, which will see users pay a monthly fee to ensure they will be effectively preserved upon their death.

This will prevent additional costs being incurred against their estate when they die, and open the potentially lucrative market to a far wider range of users.

At present, around 300 people have been preserved using cryonics, but if Apple gets involved this number could quickly rocket to thousands.

The company has one of the most faithful userbases in technology, meaning it is unlikely to have a shortage of people willing to place their future life in the company’s hands.

Campus 2: The home of Apple's first cryonics lab?

Campus 2: The home of Apple’s first cryonics lab?

However, Apple will need to build extensive preservation facilities if it is to offer the service on a large scale.

“We’re going to need preservation facilities in every country NeXTSTEP is available, and that’s going to be a challenge,” said Delaney.

“I’d be a fool if I said this was going to be easy, but we’re confident we’ll get there.”

There have been rumours that Apple’s Campus 2, the spaceship-like Cupertino headquarters that is currently under construction, includes an unlisted sub-basement where the first round of cryonic facilities will be located. However, it is thought this will be available only to employees and beta testers, with more extensive facilities constructed elsewhere.

The company will also need to build up extensive infrastructure to quickly and appropriately transport patients upon their death.

Apple’s plans for driverless cars may be the solution, with specialist driverless ambulances dispatched to transport the patient to the nearest cryonic facility.

However, with the project announced so early in its development – an unusual step for Apple – it remains to be seen how NeXTSTEP will progress.

Expanding e-residency: Estonia moves closer to being borderless

People living in Washington DC, New York, London, Dublin and a host of other countries can now sign up to become an ‘e-Estonian’.

From today it is possible for people to get enhanced rights from Estonia without having to visit the country. Before April 1, it was only possible to sign up to be an e-Estonian by visiting the country.

As well as in Estonia itself, there are now 34 countries around the world where you can sign up to become an online resident of Estonia.

It is part of the country’s drive to create “the idea of a country without borders” and those who sign up are given a digital ID card by Estonian officials.

While signing up for the scheme doesn’t meant that you are an Estonian citizen, or have any rights to residency, it does grant the ability to register companies in the country as well as declaring taxes online, conducting online bank transfers and more.

“Our foreign representations will be technically ready to take your applications from 1 April 2015,” said an email to those who signed up to express interest in becoming an e-Estonian.

“In the first weeks you will still be required to come to the office twice (once to apply and then again to get the card). Starting from May 2015 aka soon it will become much easier: you can then fill out an application online ahead of time and only come in yourself once.”

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Since the E-residency programme was started at the beginning of December, more than 1,000 people have travelled to the European country to sign up.

“Our hats go off to all 1,274 of you who already have visited our Police and Border Guard offices in Estonia to apply for e-Residency,” the email to those interested stated.

“It means that with the first 4 months there are already more than a thousand e-Residents out there.”

The process is said to take around four weeks to complete as background checks need to be made on those who want to become an unofficial Estonian.

However from May the process may speed up a little, as only one visit to a county’s Estonian embassy will be needed.

Next month will see the launch of an online application process.

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E-residency for Estonia is still in the beta phase, but it offers a range of possibilities for those who want to sign up to take part.

Most notably the scheme appears to be best suited for entrepreneurs and those who want to start businesses.

The main benefits of the scheme are being able to register a business online, sign documents digitally, exchange encrypted documents, declare taxes online and receive digital prescriptions in pharmacies in Estonia.

The country wants to expand services further as the e-residency scheme develops.

Smart temperature patch tells you when your kid has a fever

This smart temperature patch is able to notify you when you when your child has a fever, or is getting too cold.

The patch, from STEMP, is currently part of a Indiegogo campaign, and allows the body temperature of the wearer to be continuously monitored and kept in check.

Its creators say the patch is able to be worn for days or weeks, and will push any concerning temperature changes to a smartphone.