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.”


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.”


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

China plans "world's largest cloning factory"

A Chinese biotech company is to build a cloning factory to produce animals straight off the production line. The project is partly funded by the world’s leading commercial dog-cloning company: Sooam Bititech Research Foundation.

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Drug lords to market brain implants

Drug traffickers, sensing an opportunity, have begun to take an interest in cranial implant technology. Futurist and the US Presidential candidate for the Transhumanist Party Zoltan Istvan ruminates on the future of illegal drug supplies.

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Drones to transform farming industry

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Doctors sceptical about wearable tech

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Moroccan solar plant to supply power 20 hours a day

Morocco's pledge to get 42% of its electricity generation from renewables by 2020 looks to have received a major boost with the news that a giant solar thermal plant will open in Ouarzazate, Morocco.

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Chip will charge your phone in 10 minutes

A new chip that is small enough to be embedded into most batteries has the potential to drastically reduce the time it takes to charge electric devices – from phones to cars.

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Alzheimer’s breakthrough paves way for new approach to treatment

A breakthrough in the understanding of how Alzheimer’s affects the brain is allowing scientists to pursue fresh avenues of research that could produce new forms of treatment for the devastating disease.

It’s been known for some time that synapses – the connections between brain cells – are destroyed in the early stages of the disease, but now scientists at UNSW Australia have discovered how.

“Synapses are required for all brain functions, and particularly for learning and forming memories. In Alzheimer’s disease, this loss of synapses occurs very early on, when people still only have mild cognitive impairment, and long before the nerve cells themselves die,” said study leader Dr Vladimir Sytnyk, from the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences.

“We have identified a new molecular mechanism which directly contributes to this synapse loss – a discovery we hope could eventually lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease and new treatments.”


The discovery was achieved using two separate but supporting approaches, both of which focused around neural cell adhesion molecule 2 (NCAM2), a protein in the brain that, along with others, connects synapses’ membranes and keeps the the connections between brain cells stable.

The first approach was to study post-mortem brain tissue from individuals with and without Alzheimer’s. In doing this, the researchers found that the people with Alzheimer’s had lower levels of synaptic NCAM2 in the brain’s hippocampus – an area of the brain that plays a key role in spatial navigation and transferring memories from short to long-term.

The second approach concerned mice studies, which found that NCAM2 was broken down by the most common form of plaque that builds up in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers, beta-amyloid.


Published today in the journal Nature Communications, the research is an early step on the road to a true treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, but a significant one.

“Our research shows the loss of synapses is linked to the loss of NCAM2 as a result of the toxic effects of beta-amyloid,” said Sytnyk.

“It opens up a new avenue for research on possible treatments that can prevent the destruction of NCAM2 in the brain.”

Long battery life, simple controls: Parrot creates a drone that’s truly for the masses

A new drone from Parrot is set to make filming and flying easier and more widespread than ever before thanks to its lightweight design, ease of use and long battery life.

Launched in the UK at an event today, the Bebop 2 drone is just 500g and can stay in the air for 25 minutes, making it a serious step up from its predecessor.

“This has really increased the possibilities to fly, take pictures and explore,” said Parrot regional manager for the UK and northern Europe Micheal Luke at today’s event. “It’s a product that anybody can fly.”

It is designed to be controlled either with an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet using simple and clear controls, or with the weighty but richly featured Parrot Skycontroller. The drone also boasts a 14 megapixel camera and impressive 3-axis digital stabilisation, allowing it to hover comfortably and capture stable images and video for as long as needed.

Images courtesy of Parrot

Images courtesy of Parrot

Scheduled for release at a price of £439.99 ($549 / €549) in December – the precise date is still to be confirmed – the drone can withstand winds of up to 65kmph, making it a fantastic option for outdoorsy types and holiday makers looking to capture some unorthodox shots of their trip.

“You can take it anywhere with you: on a mission, on holidays,” said Luke, adding that the drone had been extensively tested in wind tunnels. “That really gives you the possibility of going out there and using the Bebop 2 in tough conditions.”

The team behind Bebop 2 have even tested it on the top of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, at an altitude of 3300m.

With a view to making the drone as easy to control as physically possible, Parrot has also created a number of supporting features on its companion app. One of the highlights of these is the free flight plan, which lets you plan out a route with stops by tapping on the screen, which the drone will then follow.

“Everything can be programmed,” said Luke. “Press the magical button and it will film automatically.”

There is also a Black Box feature that lets users review past flights and a 3D model app to create 3D renderings of real environments. A selfie app that will allow users to program the drone to take shots of themselves without the usual awkward selfie stick is also in the works.

In an attempt to allay the usual concerns that arise when companies put drones into the hands of novice consumers, Parrot has also included an automatic shut-off feature to prevent injury if the drone comes into contact with a human, and is bundling in an array of safety guides to encourage safe practices.