Organig LEDs hold large promise for efficient, thin and flexible lighting elements (as well as razor-thin TVs), but low-tech power sources continue to constrain more creative uses of the lights. After all, what good is a shirt of woven LEDs if you need to lug around 10 C batteries to power it? Thankfully, GE is teaming up with the makers of printable, paper-thin battery to create self-powered OLEDs with the battery integrated into the thin light element itself.
Offshore wind power may soon cross national boundaries more easily than ever, based on news from the Copenhagen climate summit. Nine European nations announced plans for a "supergrid" in the North Sea that would allow them to connect Irish wind farms to continental Europe, or vice versa.
USB is as close as we're probably going to get to a universal gadget-charger standard. But to charge something without occupying a precious free port on your computer, you need a power brick adapter. Not with these $10 wall sockets from True Power.
These will fit with the wiring already in your home, giving you two powered USB ports (or "holes" as Prickly Pete would say) for each wall socket. They're available next year.
With the conference in Copenhagen swiftly approaching, and the Senate analog to the Waxman-Markey "American Clean Energy and Security Act" struggling towards the floor, little doubt remains that fossil fuel-burning power plants will soon face either fines for, or mandatory reduction of, carbon emissions. Luckily, a team at MIT has devised a power plant set up that generates power from fossil fuels, but does so with almost none of the carbon emissions.
A Variac looks like a sci-fi laboratory prop. For some reason, I have three of them in my shop, and yes, one is just a book end. But they do have a useful purpose.
Variac is a generic trade name for a variable autotransformer. If that doesn't help explain much, let's look at what a regular transformer is, and how they relate to a collection of vintage arcade games.
You remember calculus, right? In a time before mechanized computing was performed by computers, complex (or sometimes just clever) machines were used to automate calculations. One example that has always impressed and fascinated me is the wheel-and-disk integrator, a simple machine capable of solving the calculus equations you labored over in high school without breaking a sweat. While this concept was used most impressively in Vannevar Bush's differential analyzer, an analog computer built in 1931, the chances are good that you've seen one in a more mundane application around your house: the power meter. Click on the photo gallery to see inside one and how it works, and follow the jump for more in-depth electro-geekery.
Nuclear power has long provided steady energy sources for everything from homes to deep space probes. Now researchers have begun developing a tiny nuclear battery the size of a penny that could provide power in a smaller, lighter, and more efficient package.
The Wireless Power Consortium, made up of Sanyo, Texas Instruments, Philips, Olympus, and Samsung, are making headway towards making their Qi wireless charging spec the industry standard. In their ideal world, any third-party, Qi-branded product will work on their line of charging pads, which function via magnetic induction. I happen to think it's just the boost wireless power technology needs.
The spec can deliver power of up to 5 watts, which is good for many small consumer electronics, and prototype gadgets using Qi will be revealed in the middle of September.
NEC and Rohm are going back and forth on new engineering breakthroughs that will allow integrated circuits inside chips to consume no power when they're briefly inactive between cycles. And unlike most chip-level developments on the edge, we may see the technology in consumer products by the end of the year.
Tapping geothermal sources for power has proven a tricky proposition, because of costs and hazards associated with deep drilling. But researchers may have stumbled on a way to boost the power-producing potential of low-temperature hot springs close to the Earth's surface, using nanotechnology.