Landscape Architect's Office Fits In A Trailer, Follows His Work

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Image: XS/LA
mobile office design xs/la photoDesign used to take up a lot of space, with big draughting boards, huge drawings and interns to do all the repetitive and boring stuff. The computer changed everything and reduced the space and staff required to almost nothing. Andreas Stavropoulos of XS/LA tells Alex at Shedworking about his mobile office, built into a 2003 cargo trailer.
mobile office design xs/la photo interior
Image: XS/LA
The landscape architect writes:
The mobile studio is designed to unite the designer with the site. Equipped with a drafting table, small library, solar power, and wifi, the mobile studio doesn't just sit pretty, but it works hard. This original design and fabrication features an translucent skylight, which allows diffuse light to fully and shadowlessly illuminate the interior. The studio is particularly useful during the concept design stages, when clients are invited inside to provide initial feedback on conceptual design sketches.
It is a wonderful idea for a design professional, being up close and personal with the site and the trades. According to Sunset Magazine,
This isn't exactly the norm in the modern, virtual reality-driven world of landscape architecture. But Stavropoulos​--who earned his MLA from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2007--is a back-to-the-land kind of guy. He wants to ground his garden plans in the realities of the site, and he retrofitted the 6- by 10-foot cargo trailer to help him do that.
Oh, and did I mention that he lives in an Airstream trailer.
Image: Lloyd Alter
It is a lot smaller than Robert Boltman and Alex Bartlett's BSQ shipping container office, but the principle is the same: Your office is where your work is. The trailer is also more mobile; the Bsq. Container is languishing on a dead construction site right now, while Andreas can tow his office behind his Honda. It is smaller, lighter and ultimately more flexible. More at Bsq. Office in a Shipping Container
nissan van photo
Too bad Nissan never produced their NV200; It really made the office mobile.

ZenithSolar Creates Solar Generator with Incredible 72% Efficiency

zenithsolar, 3rd generation CHP solar energy generator, solar z20 
zenithsolar, zenithsolar solar generator, israel solar energy, Ezri 
Tarazi zenithsolar, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design,
Israel-based energy company ZenithSolar has broken records with its 3rd generation CHP solar energy generator (Solar Z20) that combines heat and power systems to create an incredible 72% solar conversion efficiency. According to Ezri Tarazi at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and Head of Tarazi Studio, the generator has reached record levels by using a “semi-parabolic optical mirror for collecting solar energy” to power the local community’s electric and hot water use.
zenithsolar, 3rd generation CHP solar energy generator, solar z20 
zenithsolar, zenithsolar solar generator, israel solar energy, Ezri 
Tarazi zenithsolar, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design,
The generators are installed in Kibbutz Yavne in Central Israel and provide hot water and power for the local community while also putting power back in to the back to the national grid. The system the most efficent in the world, and also produces the lowest cost per watt and best potential for energy system cost reduction as well as the highest efficiency in the field (+72%)

LEED Platinum Boulder House First in US to Use German System

LEED Platinum Boulder House First in US to Use German System

Weberhaus, Studio HT, Studio H:T, Bouldger green building, boulder
 green house, boulder prefab, Leed homes platinum, green house design, 
modular wall, solar electric, solar hot water, grey water
While a relatively new concept in the US, the German company Weberhaus has long been developing prefab house construction technology for 50 years. Designed by Studio H:T Architects the 2002 Alpine House in Boulder CO, is the first to use the state-of-the-art German system in the US. This new LEED Platinum home shows how high-scale design, sustainable principles and prefab can come together to create an attractive home. Additionally, some of the home’s most impressive features include a super-low energy requirement, a 9kW solar array and a host of other low impact features able to assuage the environmentally aware owners who were looking for the perfect $3.5 million pad built to last a hundred years.

The upscale residence is two stories of modular walls and ceilings, complete with windows doors, and electrical and plumbing set on an ICF base. Overall construction reported only 5% in waste materials, compared to the national average of 17%. The shell of the home has reduced the energy demand by 1/5th of the average home, but air quality is improved by low toxic material and fresh air exchange.

The 4,340 square feet interior is heated with a high efficiency boiler, lit with LED lighting, and finished in Earth Clay plaster. Water is heated through a solar thermal system and reclaimed as grey water. Outdoor and indoor spaces blend together beautifully, and the overall effect is a clean, highly refined modernist feel with a naturalist bent.

MIT- solar cells and solar powered water desalination system

MIT Unveils Portable Solar-Powered Water Desalination System

MIT, Field and Space Robotic Laboratory (FSRL), MIT solar power 
water desalination system, solar power water desalination, Massachusetts
 Institute of Technology solar power water desalination, MIT's 
Department of Mechanical Engineering
A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Field and Space Robotic Laboratory (FSRL) has designed a new solar-powered water desalination system to provide drinking water to disaster zones and disadvantaged parts of the planet. The water desalination system can be easily packed up for delivery to emergency areas and is completely powered by solar energy, so it is able to function in arid and remote off-grid regions.
MIT, Field and Space Robotic Laboratory (FSRL), MIT solar power 
water desalination system, solar power water desalination, Massachusetts
 Institute of Technology solar power water desalination, MIT's 
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Desalination systems often require a lot of energy, as well as a large infrastructure, to support them but MIT’s compact system is able to cope due to its ingenious design. The system’s photovoltaic panel is able to generate power for the pump, which in turn pushes undrinkable seawater through a permeable membrane. Once the salt and other minerals are removed, the water can then be drunk. The system even has sensors that enable water purification even without high levels of sunlight.
MIT’s prototype can reportedly produce 80 gallons of drinking water per day, depending on weather conditions. A larger version is also being designed, which will cost $8,000 and will be able to provide 1,000 gallons of water daily. The design team also claim that two dozen desalination units could be transported in a single C-130 cargo airplane, providing water for more than 10,000 people.

MIT Introduces Paper-Thin Solar Cells

mit, eni, solar power, solar energy, solar cell, green energy, 
green design
Solar cells keep getting thinner and tinier, and thanks to MIT and their research sponsor Eni, we are already seeing cells that can be folded up into paper airplanes! Recently revealed, MIT’s paper solar cells feature five layers of solid material layered on a paper substrate. When combined, the materials and paper form a solar cell. Albeit weak – each cell has an efficiency level of of just 1%, while most commercial silicon solar cells maintain at least 15% efficiency – the potential for commercial application is incredible.

While still on the low end researchers are hoping to get the paper solar cells up to 4% efficiency. Once this happens, the cheap, flexible cells could be used in all sorts of applications, such as laptop covers, attached to shades or blinds, and even laminated onto roofs by non-professionals.
Although they won’t be hitting shelves tomorrow, certainly stay tuned – these cells could be ready for commercialization within the next five years.

water and water filtration

The six ideas below my signature are all important and worth your additional research ... unclean water kills more people worldwide than anything else! Rotary International has made this a priority to provide clean water sources worldwide and save lives. Any ideas that can be implemented to provide healthy water are very worthwhile.
A few months ago I sent out a concept for water purification worth repeating:
"New Nanotech Purifier Filters Water 80,000 Times Faster
by Cameron Scott
nanotechnology, water, drinking water, yi cui, sarah heilshorn, 
stanford university, sustainable design, global development, health
A new water filter that employs cotton dipped in nano-sized silver wires and copper tubes works 80,000 times faster than filters that simply block bacteria from getting through. The filter, developed by Stanford University researchers for use in developing countries, efficiently conducts a tiny charge of electricity, zapping 98 percent of all bacteria.
Millions of people die in rural and undeveloped areas every year from exposure to contaminated drinking water. The challenge is to create processes that work cheaply and reliably and uses materials that are light enough to transport. The pass-through filter is less likely to fail due to clogging or becoming infested with the bacteria it’s intended to kill: if bacteria cling to it, the silver kills them. And because its nano-materials are especially efficient conductors of electricity, the filter can get the jolt it needs from a small solar panel, a hand crank or 12-volt car batteries.
Unfortunately, when it comes to drinking water, 98 percent isn’t an adequate kill rate, so water would have to be filtered more than once. But since the filter works 80,000 times faster, there’s plenty of time for that."
Thanks and pass it on,
Mike Fowler
P.O. Box 400
108 West Live Oak Street
Hutto, Texas 78634
512-736-2000 cell
512-759-2000 home

Top 6 Life-Saving Designs for Clean Drinking Water

Water has been prevailing theme this last year, especially in the wake of multiple natural disasters that involved polluting our oceans, flooding and access to clean water. Not only is it the stuff that makes the world go round, but every person needs access to clean drinking water and a number of designers around the world have been working to produce life-saving devices and designs that can filter or provide clean water for the world.
Architectural projects like this community toilet facility for India would go a long way to improving local water quality, sanitation and reducing disease. NGOs and governments should help invest in water filtration devices to disperse among families in third world countries. And we also need to crack down on business and factories polluting our rivers, lakes and oceans.

LifeStraw Water Purifier

The LifeStraw is a plastic cigar-sized water filter that purifies water by removing potential pathogens like typhoid, cholera, dysentery as well as the parasites. It works as soon as you suck up water from a source, rendering up to 1,000 liters of water fit to drink without electricity or additional attachments.

Play Pump Merry Go-Round Water Pump

Since kids always seem to be bustling with extra energy, why not put that energy to good use. The Play Pump Merry Go-Round was designed as a fun water pump for rural villages and schools in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kids can have fun while providing water for use in cooking, sanitation, drinking, and even growing food. So far over 1,000 pumps have been installed, and PlayPumps International hopes to increase that number to 4,000 by the end of 2010.

LifeSaver Water Filter

The LifeSaver bottle is a personal water filtration device that uses various filters to screen out even the smallest viruses as well as bacteria, contaminants, and pathogens. Over the course of the filter's life it can clean 4,000 liters of water, and it can filter 750 mL of water in less than a minute. The filter isn't cheap, however hopefully economies of scale and research and design will produce more affordable options in the future.

Ceramic Water Filters

This simple yet ingenious design for providing Cambodia with ceramic water filters won the 2008 Project Innovation Award Grand Prize. The design consists of a porous ceramic and fired clay pot that sits inside a barrel, collecting water and then relying on gravity filtration to remove microbes and other contaminants. Since 2002, when these filters were first distributed, the regions with the filters are reporting a 50% drop in diarrheal illnesses.

Life Sack

The Life Sack is a double-duty design that first is used as a grain sack for food transport, and once delivered it can be used to store and filter water. The Life Sack uses SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection Process) technology to purify contaminated water using UV-A radiation. On top of that, the sack can be worn as a backpack for easy transport.


Pitch: Africa is a creative idea that use a soccer field (or pitch) to collect and filter rainwater. The field and accompanying stands, which seat up to 1,000, are permeable and collect rainwater in cisterns, estimated to be 1.8 million liters for many parts of Africa. That water can then be purified for drinking or used to irrigate nearby crops.

Ford Developing Biofuel From Algae for Use in Vehicles

Ford Developing Biofuel From Algae for Use in Vehicles

algae biofuel, ford algae biofuel, wayne university algae biofuel,
 ford algae biofuel, vehicle algae biofuel
When one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world invests their capital into algae biofuel research, you know that renewable energy will soon play a major role in the global economy. Ford Motor Company has recently hired scientists to look into algae as the major ingredient in their efforts towards bio-fuel production. The company has quickly realized that if their cars are to be relevant in the future, then they will need to find alternatives to gasoline and oil. The company has also been looking at ethanol and butanol biofuels, but at the moment, believe that algae may hold the greatest potential.

Working with scientists at Wayne State University’s National Biofuels Energy Laboratory, Ford has been researching the potential of algae as a major biomass ingredient in the production of fuel. To aid in their research, the team of scientists have been conducting assorted experiments on algae oil and its potential to power vehicles.
And this may come as a shock to many, but this isn’t Ford’s first attempt at using alternative fuels to run their products. According to Tim Wallington, technical leader with the Ford Systems Analytics and Environmental Sciences Department, “Ford has a long history of developing vehicles that run on renewable fuels; and the increased use of biofuels is an important element of our sustainability strategy now and moving forward.”
Sherry Mueller, Research Scientist, Ford Motor Company added, “Algae have some very desirable characteristics as a potential biofuel feedstock and Ford wants to show its support for any efforts that could lead to a viable, commercial-scale application of this technology.” Furthermore stating, “At this point, algae researchers are still challenged to find economical and sustainable ways for commercial-scale controlled production and culturing of high oil-producing algae.”

SolarPrint Develops Ready-To-Print Solar Cells

SolarPrint Develops Ready-To-Print Solar Cells

dye sensitized solar cell (DSSC), dssc, dye solar cells, 
solarprint, solarprint bari, ready to print solar cells, solar cells
Irish company SolarPrint has developed a new type of printable solar cells that can be produced quickly and easily and can even generate energy from fading sunlight. Since the dye-sensitized cells use less raw materials than traditional solar cells, costs can be kept down, and it is hoped that the simple-to-produce solar cells will transform how the world uses energy.
dye sensitized solar cell (DSSC), dssc, dye solar cells, 
solarprint, solarprint bari, ready to print solar cells, solar cells
Speaking to GreenTechMedia, SolarPrint co-founder and CEO Mazhar Bari said, “When you are travelling around the world you suddenly realize, ‘Where are the bloody solar panels?’” With that in mind Bari, an Irish citizen with Pakistani roots and a physics degree from Cambridge, sent out to explore dye sensitized solar cell (DSSC) technology, that is “part printable, part liquid.”
SolarPrint effectively has eliminated the liquid part of DSSC and replaced it with nanomaterials, so that all of the active elements of SolarPrint’s cells can be applied in the printing process. The SolarPrint cells are also more efficient because they are based on a rounded nanotech structure instead of the traditional angular crystalline structure of silicon materials. Electrons have to hit the crystalline structures “at the right angle” to generate electricity, however in nanostructure cells a curved surface makes the angle of absorption much larger.
“There are many components in the cell. One layer is called the electrolyte layer.” As a liquid, that layer is “terrible,” Bari said, who is not one to mince his words. The efficiencies are adequate, he said, but “lab time is crap and it cannibalizes the materials in the cell.” The SolarPrint process replaces that liquid with a printable electrolyte paste made of smart nanomaterials, carbon nanotubes, graphene and ionic salts. “And it’s a fully printable device.”
However there is a drawback with the mass manufacturing of dye-sensitized solar cells. More and more consumers demand reliability from solar cells, with lifespans of up to 30 years, so there is concern when the cells can be produced cheaply and easily, especially as many seem to break down in due course.
However Bari believes that SolarPrint’s ability to capture low and overcast light levels both indoors and outside will give his company an edge in the market. “Dye solar cells work very well indoors,” Bari said. “The voltage doesn’t drop like crazy (like silicon) and it is able to produce reasonable power in indoor light — four or five times higher than silicon.” “One day, the whole world will be covered in dye solar cells. That’s our vision,” said B

8 Facts You Might Not Know About Water

8 Facts You Might Not Know About Water

rwanda clean water well charity water photo
Image credit: Charity: Water

Every week, 42,000 people die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions.
  1. Students in developing countries lose 443 million school days each year due to diseases associated with the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene. Repeated episodes of diarrhea and worm infestations diminish a child's ability to learn and impair cognitive development.
  2. More people have access to cell phones than to toilets. As a result, tons of untreated human waste make their way to water sources causing a litany of diseases, and even death.
  3. The US, Mexico and China lead the world in bottled water consumption, with people in the US drinking an average of 200 bottles of water per person each year. Over 17 million barrels of oil are needed to manufacture those water bottles, 86 percent of which will never be recycled.
These facts are disheartening, but they don't have to be the norm. Even in the darkest depths of the water crisis, we found positive solutions that are already being put in place.
  1. Organizations like and charity: water are leading the charge in bringing fresh water to communities in the developing world by not only building wells in remote villages but also creating sustainable infrastructure to maintain those wells.
  2. The average person uses 465 liters of water per day. But by educating yourself about where you are most wasteful in your water use, you can begin to reduce that waste.
  3. There are small steps we can all take to help keep pollution out of our rivers and streams, like correctly disposing of household wastes.
  4. Communities around the world are saying no to bottled water. Doing so not only drastically reduces water bottle waste, but also saves taxpayers a pretty penny. For example, the city of San Francisco saved $500,000 per year by terminating all of its bottled water contracts.
While the realities of water issues around the world are grim, the organizations and individuals driving positive solutions show us that it doesn't have to be that way. By using Blog Action Day as a unique chance to raise awareness, we are moving toward a world with more and more people committed to ensuring clean water supplies and a more sustainable future for all.

PHATport Solar Awning Provides Outdoor Shade and Solar Power

   by Diane Pham
PHAT Energy, PHATport, los angeles, flip your switch, solar 
awning, solar powered structures, solar structures, solar power car 
ports, solar power patios, Solar Power International in Los Angeles
PHAT Energy recently unveiled the PHATport 350, an outdoor solar structure that can serve as everything from a cozy, sun-sheltering patio to an energy-generating car port (imagine plugging your EV into one of these!). The self-contained solar shade will be on display at this year’s Solar Power International in Los Angeles(which runs today and tomorrow!), and the company has rolled out a quirky ad campaign that features a series of solar power fables sure to Flip Your Switch. Check out their hilarious videos after the jump! 
We couldn’t think of a better place for a solar awning than perpetually sunny Los Angeles. The videos depict a mythical mermaid who, upon observing the misery of various people in their drab backyards, conjures up the solar gods to bring them a PHATport. The campaign was created to bring a jolt of excitement to the drab world of solar marketing.
As the reps of PHAT Energy state, “This is a fun campaign about a product that needs to be de-mystified. Let’s get away from product performance specs and have fun with the life benefits. So we show people kissing, dancing, and celebrating after being touched by solar energy. We have a beautiful spiritual mermaid who alters bad situations that are allegories for confusion, pollution and apathy. It seems completely appropriate to celebrate this fantastic technology with natural and common human emotions of celebration, especially when they occur under a PHATport.”

Shooting for the Sun

 My first cousin, Michael Lidell, sent me a link to this fascinating article that appeared in The Atlantic magazine. It is incredible what the human mind will come up with ... and I'm not speaking of the Super Soaker squirt gun.
What Lonnie Johnson is on to is a perpetual motion/energy device that only needs solar heat to function. This could be incredible. A good article!

Shooting for the Sun

From his childhood in segregated Mobile, Alabama, to his run-ins with a nay-saying scientific establishment, the engineer Lonnie Johnson has never paid much heed to those who told him what he could and couldn’t accomplish. Best known for creating the state-of-the-art Super Soaker squirt gun, Johnson believes he now holds the key to affordable solar power.
By Logan Ward

IN MARCH 2003, the independent inventor Lonnie Johnson faced a roomful of high-level military scientists at the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia. Johnson had traveled there from his home in Atlanta, seeking research funding for an advanced heat engine he calls the Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Converter, or JTEC (pronounced “jay-tek”). At the time, the JTEC was only a set of mathematical equations and the beginnings of a prototype, but Johnson had made the tantalizing claim that his device would be able to turn solar heat into electricity with twice the efficiency of a photovoltaic cell, and the Office of Naval Research wanted to hear more.
Projected onto the wall was a PowerPoint collage summing up some highlights of Johnson’s career: risk assessment he’d done for the space shuttle Atlantis; work on the nuclear power source for NASA’s Galileo spacecraft; engineering help on the tests that led to the first flight of the B-2 stealth bomber; the development of an energy-dense ceramic battery; and the invention of a remarkable, game-changing weapon that had made him millions of dollars—a weapon that at least one of the men in the room, the father of two small children, recognized immediately as the Super Soaker squirt gun.
Mild-mannered and bespectacled, Johnson opened his presentation by describing the idea behind the JTEC. The device, he explained, would split hydrogen atoms into protons and electrons, and in so doing would convert heat into electricity. Most radically, it would do so without the help of any moving parts. Johnson planned to tell his audience that the JTEC could produce electricity so efficiently that it might make solar power competitive with coal, and perhaps at last fulfill the promise of renewable solar energy. But before he reached that part of his presentation, Richard Carlin, then the head of the Office of Naval Research’s mechanics and energy conversion division, rose from his chair and dismissed Johnson’s brainchild outright. The whole premise for the device relied on a concept that had proven impractical, Carlin claimed, citing a 1981 report co-written by his mentor, the highly regarded electrochemist Robert Osteryoung. Go read the Osteryoung report, Carlin said, and you will see.
End of meeting.
Concerned about what he might have missed in the literature, Johnson returned home and read the inch-thick report, concluding that it addressed an approach quite different from his own. Carlin, it seems, had rejected the concept before fully comprehending it. (When I reached Carlin by phone recently, he said he did not remember the meeting, but he is familiar with the JTEC concept and now thinks that the “principles are fine.”) Nor was Carlin alone at the time. Wherever Johnson pitched the JTEC, the reaction seemed to be the same: no engine could convert heat to electricity at such high efficiency rates without the use of moving parts.
Johnson believed otherwise. He felt that what had doomed his presentation to the Office of Naval Research—and others as well—was a collective failure of imagination. It didn’t help that he was best known as a toy inventor, nor that he was working outside the usual channels of the scientific establishment. Johnson was stuck in a Catch-22: to prove his idea would work, he needed a more robust prototype, one able to withstand the extreme heat of concentrated sunlight. But he couldn’t build such a prototype without research funding. What he needed was a new pitch. Instead of presenting the JTEC as an engine, he would frame it as a high-temperature hydrogen fuel cell, a device that produces electricity chemically rather than mechanically, by stripping hydrogen atoms of their electrons. The description was only partially apt: though both devices use similar components, fuel cells require a constant supply of hydrogen; the JTEC, by contrast, contains a fixed amount of hydrogen sealed in a chamber, and needs only heat to operate. Still, in the fuel-cell context, the device’s lack of moving parts would no longer be a conceptual stumbling block.
Indeed, Johnson had begun trying out this new pitch two months before his naval presentation, in a written proposal he submitted to the Air Force Research Laboratory’s peer-review panel. The reaction, when it came that May, couldn’t have been more different. “Funded just like that,” he told me, snapping his fingers, “because they understood fuel cells—the technology, the references, the literature. The others couldn’t get past this new engine concept.” The Air Force gave Johnson $100,000 for membrane research, and in August 2003 sent a program manager to Johnson’s Atlanta laboratory. “We make a presentation about the JTEC, and he says”—here Johnson, who is black, puts on a Bill-Cosby-doing-a-white-guy voice—“‘Wow, this is exciting!’” A year later, after Johnson had proved he could make a ceramic membrane capable of withstanding temperatures above 400 degrees Celsius, the Air Force gave him an additional $750,000 in funding.
The key to the JTEC is the second law of thermodynamics. Simply put, the law says that temperature differences tend to even out—for instance, when a hot mug of coffee disperses its heat into the cool air of a room. As the heat levels of the mug and the room come into balance, there is a transfer of energy.
Work can be extracted from that transfer. The most common way of doing this is with some form of heat engine. A steam engine, for example, converts heat into electricity by using steam to spin a turbine. Steam engines—powered predominantly by coal, but also by natural gas, nuclear materials, and other fuels—generate 90 percent of all U.S. electricity. But though they have been refined over the centuries, most are still clanking, hissing, exhaust-spewing machines that rely on moving parts, and so are relatively inefficient and prone to mechanical breakdown.
Johnson’s latest JTEC prototype, which looks like a desktop model for a next-generation moonshine still, features two fuel-cell-like stacks, or chambers, filled with hydrogen gas and connected by steel tubes with round pressure gauges. Where a steam engine uses the heat generated by burning coal to create steam pressure and move mechanical elements, the JTEC uses heat (from the sun, for instance) to expand hydrogen atoms in one stack. The expanding atoms, each made up of a proton and an electron, split apart, and the freed electrons travel through an external circuit as electric current, charging a battery or performing some other useful work. Meanwhile the positively charged protons, also known as ions, squeeze through a specially designed proton-exchange membrane (one of the JTEC elements borrowed from fuel cells) and combine with the electrons on the other side, reconstituting the hydrogen, which is compressed and pumped back into the hot stack. As long as heat is supplied, the cycle continues indefinitely.
“Lonnie’s using temperature differences to create pressure gradients,” says Paul Werbos, an energy expert and program director of the National Science Foundation. “Only instead of using those pressure gradients to move an axle or a wheel, he’s forcing ions through a membrane.” Werbos, who spent months vetting the JTECand eventually awarded Johnson’s team a $75,000 research grant in 2006, describes the JTEC as “a fundamentally new way, a fundamentally well-grounded way, to convert heat to electricity.” Regarding its potential to revolutionize energy production on a global scale, he says, “It has a darn good chance of being the best thing on Earth.”
JOHNSON IS A MEMBER of what seems to be a vanishing breed: the self-invented inventor. Born the third of six children in Mobile, Alabama, in 1949, he came into the world a black male in the Deep South during the days of lawful segregation. His father, David, who died in 1984, was a World War II veteran and a civilian driver for nearby Air Force bases. According to his mother, Arline, who is 86 and still lives in Mobile (in a house remodeled with Super Soaker profits), the family was poor but happy. All eight lived in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house near Mobile Bay, in a neighborhood then being bisected by the construction of Interstate 10.
As a boy, Johnson was quiet and curious, and early on, he developed a fascination with how things worked. “Lonnie tore up his sister’s baby doll to see what made the eyes close,” his mother recalls. As he grew older, he began making things, including rockets powered by fuel cooked up in his mother’s saucepans. At 13, he bolted a discarded lawn-mower engine onto a homemade go-cart and took it atop the I-10 construction site—only to have a bemused policeman escort him back down. It was around then that Johnson learned that “engineers were the people who did the kind of things that I wanted to do.”
It was hardly an obvious career path: then, as now, the profession was dominated by whites. (As recently as 2004, only 1.6 percent of the engineering doctorates awarded in the United States went to blacks.) In high school, a standardized test from the Junior Engineering Technical Society informed Johnson that he had little aptitude for engineering; but he persevered and, as a senior, became the first student from his all-black high school ever to enter the society’s regional engineering fair. The fair was held at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, just five years after then-Governor George Wallace had tried, in 1963, to physically block two black students from enrolling there. Johnson’s entry in the competition was a creation he called Linex: a compressed-air-powered robot assembled from electromagnetic switches he’d salvaged from an old jukebox, and solenoid valves he’d fashioned out of copper tubing and rubber stoppers. The finished product wowed the judges, who awarded him first prize: $250 and a plaque. Unsurprisingly, university officials didn’t trumpet the news that a black boy had won top honors. “The only thing anybody from the university said to us during the entire competition,” Johnson remembers, “was ‘Goodbye, and y’all drive safe, now.’”

Nano Ink Allows Simple Office Paper to Conduct Electricity

Nano Ink Allows Simple Office Paper to Conduct Electricity

nanoink, nano ink, conductive paper, decker yeadon, green design, 
advanced materials, green technology
Decker Yeadon is back at it, inventing incredible materials with architectural applications. This time they’ve made simple office paper capable of conducting electricity with ink made out of nanoparticles. Their amazing discovery, which also works with cotton fabric, has the potential to revolutionize buildings, design, textiles and medical applications. The design firm recently demonstrated how they could power an LED bulb with a mere strip of the conductive office paper.
The New York design firm is known for coming up with innovative and novel applications for advanced materials, including nano materials and even architectural Buckypaper. For their latest project, they made a nano solution that they’re calling NanoINK, which consists of carbon nanotubes, deionized water, and a chemical surfactant that helps the nanotubes disperse in the water. The nanotubes are only 1.5 nm in diameter, which is smaller than a DNA molecule.
Then the ink was applied to a number of different surfaces, including regular office paper (Decker Yeadon letterhead), cotton fabric and cotton pads, resulting in the areas with ink having electrical properties. First they tested each material with a voltage meter to see if the paper or cotton was conductive, which the video clearly shows to be the case. Afterwards the tester also showed how a single strip of office paper coated in the NanoInk could conduct electricity from batteries to power an LED light.
Decker Yeadon’s discovery could have a wide range of applications from architecture to electronics, textiles, even medicine. If the ink could be controlled properly, it could even be applied by printers in a specific pattern to yield exact and predetermine electrical circuits.

Researchers Transform Sewage Sludge Into Power

Researchers Transform Sewage Sludge Into Power

sludge, energy, truckee
Waste treatment plants have to get rid of sludge somehow, so why not try to find a way to turn all that muck into energy? That’s what researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno are attempting to do at the Truckee Meadows Water Reclamation Facility. If all goes well in Truckee, the system could be expanded to other reclamation facilities in the state. And with 700,000 metric tons of dried sludge generated each year in California alone, there’s a huge opportunity to generate low-cost, low-impact energy for widespread use.

Wind Turbines on Garage

Windy City Wind Turbine Greenway Parking Garage's wind turbine system, viewed from below. via Fast Company
Chicago was nicknamed the Windy City because of its blowhard politicians, not the powerful gusts off Lake Michigan. But a new parking garage took the name to heart regardless and installed this amazing helix-shaped wind turbine system inside the building, making urban turbines not only cool, but functional.
This summer, 12 turbines started spinning at Greenway Self-Park, which bills itself, somewhat oxymoronically, as Chicago's first Earth-friendly parking garage.
Open-screen walls on the 11-story garage provide ventilation and reveal the cars inside, but also let passersby marvel at the turbines. The garage also has a cistern rain-collection system, sustainable building materials, a recycling program and an electric car charging station.Lobbies on each floor include information about how to live more sustainably, and the garage has energy-efficient lighting. The garage is pursuing pursuing LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It even has a reversible meter that can measure and return power to Chicago's grid throughout the year.
Architect Todd Halamka, director of design at the Chicago office of HOK, tells Fast Company he wanted to celebrate the building's function, not hide it.
One wonders how green a parking garage can really be, but it's not like cars are going away anytime soon, so garages might as well aim to ameliorate their impact.
And at the very least, it adds to the architecturally interesting experience of parking in downtown Chicago -- you can go underneath trains, curl up through Marina City, and now this.

Urban Wind Turbines:  via Fast Company

Lumber Made from Newspaper Looks Like Real Wood

 The "newspaper lumber" might be a real possibility for those highly involved in single stream recycling and its by-products by mixing in recycled plastic and even adding a high tech insulation layer. The result could be a very viable alternative to wood stud construction. With the right additives this could be a very strong, termite resistant and fire resistant product.
Some of you may also recall  articles on aerogel, papercrete and other very interesting and innovative  products that can also be adapted to the building industry.
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sustainable materials, recycled newspaper wood, vij5
Doesn’t the material in the photo above look just like real wood at first glance? Upon further inspection, the text on the top plank gives away the “lumber’s” true origin – newspapers! Developed by Mieke Meijer for design firm vij5, Kranthout (Dutch for “newspaper wood”) is a new material made of old newspapers that are rolled together and milled into planks. The versatile product even mimics the appearance of wood crain and can be drilled and sanded just like real wood.

xtreme Origami: An Upcycled Gown Made From 1,000 Newspaper Cranes

by Yuka Yoneda, 07/18/10
recycled fashion, upcycled fashion, recycled clothing, upcycled clothing, recycled newspapers, paper clothing, paper fashion, paper dresses, Yuliya Kyrpo, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, sustainable style
Hear ye, hear ye, read all about this expertly crafted newspaper gown by Yuliya Kyrpo, now on display at London’s Science Museum. Krypo assembled her headlining bustier dress—complete with a flowing peacock train—from 1,000 paper cranes, which she painstakingly hand-folded from old Metro newspapers. 

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