11 Jun Energy: Smart Cooling Device Mistbox

Mistbox - A Smart Cooling System for Air Conditioners

Mistbox (http://www.mistbox.com) announced today the official retail launch of its smart misting system for improving the efficiency of residential air conditioners and will also begin shipping out units to its Kickstarter backers. Powered by solar energy, Mistbox is an IoT technology that’s compatible with any residential air conditioning unit. It comes complete with built-in sensors to automate the cooling process, Wi-Fi integration to track savings and power consumption, and a mobile app for managing and analyzing power consumption in real-time. Mistbox commercializes evaporative cooling technology for residential application and sprays a fine mist to cool outside air as it enters the AC unit, enabling it to cool the home more effectively while reducing energy consumption. The computer inside of Mistbox can automatically sense ideal operating conditions to cycle mist at the appropriate times. Offering the easiest way for people to minimize their carbon footprint and their energy bill, Mistbox monitors its own performance for optimal efficiency. The self-contained system comes fully assembled and can be set up in less than five minutes -- owners simply have to attach Mistbox to their AC units and the tubing to a water source. “Sustainability and practicality were the biggest drivers behind the development of Mistbox,” said Josh Teekell, CEO and co-founder of Mistbox. “During our Kickstarter campaign, we received a lot of valuable feedback from our backers, which ultimately helped us to better refine the product and its design. We’re excited to begin shipping Mistbox units to our Kickstarter backers today and hope to help people save money and reduce their carbon footprint at the same time.” [caption id="attachment_309" align="aligncenter" width="464"]The Mistbox Control Unit The Mistbox Control Unit[/caption]
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07 Nov Energy: Hydraulic Fracking for Geothermal Energy

What is Geothermal? Geothermal has been used in hot water heating since antiquity. In Europe, the Romans piped hot underground water and steam for public baths. On the other side of the globe, the Japanese have luxuriated since the Heian era in hot-spring onsens which populate their volcanic archipelago. Yet, as a source of renewable energy, geothermal electricity has gone largely ignored as fortunes have been heaped on its rivals. Presently, most geothermal electricity directly taps into volcanic areas. It is just a matter of directing it and using it—not a project that needs state subsidy. As the US DOE states, “Present geothermal power generation comes from hydrothermal reservoirs, and is somewhat limited in geographic application to specific ideal places in the western U.S. This represents the 'low-hanging fruit' of geothermal energy potential.” However, this is limiting. In most places, you have to dig deep to get at useful amounts of heat, and it is certainly true that exploration and drilling costs have remained stubbornly high for the deeper wells needed outside hot-spring regions, and that developers have been slow to devise better ways of extracting heat from such rocks, even if wells are sunk. Hydraulic Fracking for Geothermal Energy [caption id="attachment_292" align="aligncenter" width="736"]As the US DOE illustrates, fluid injection allows previously untapped hot rocks to become a geothermal source (Image: US Department of Energy). As the US DOE illustrates, fluid injection allows previously untapped hot rocks to become a geothermal source (Image: US Department of Energy).[/caption] An important advance has been made—or, rather, borrowed from the oil and gas industry. This is the use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), in which, in the case of oil or gas, water is injected into rocks whose hydrocarbons are too tightly bound to the rocky matrix to rush to the surface on its own. The high-pressure water shatters the matrix, releasing the bound hot rocks. Hydraulic fracking for geothermal energy works in a similar manner. Interested in more of my posts and other writings outside of Impact Hound? Follow me on Twitter: @shenge86
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03 Nov Energy: Flywheel Startup Temporal Power

What are flywheels? [caption id="attachment_285" align="aligncenter" width="625"]A 500 kW flywheel being lowered into the vault at flywheel company Temporal Power’s manufacturing facility to undergo testing (Image: Temporal Power). A 500 kW flywheel being lowered into the vault at flywheel company Temporal Power’s manufacturing facility to undergo testing (Image: Temporal Power).[/caption] Lux Research, an independent firm that assesses emerging technologies, predicts that the global energy storage market will grow from a $200 million industry in 2012 to an $11 billion giant by 2017. Chemical batteries have recently made some strides forward and many more companies have jumped on board. However, the most promising way of storing energy for the future might come from a more unlikely source, and one that far predates any battery: the flywheel. A flywheel is nothing more than a wheel on an axle which stores and regulates energy by spinning continuously. The device is one of humanity’s oldest and most familiar technologies first used in the potter’s wheel 6000 years ago as a stone tablet with enough mass to rotate smoothly between kicks of a foot pedal. Leonardo da Vinci invented one with a variable moment of inertia. It was an essential component in the great machines that brought on the industrial revolution. Today, flywheels are under the hood of every car – regulating the strokes of pistons. Interested in more of my posts and other writings outside of Impact Hound? Follow me on Twitter: @shenge86
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29 Oct Energy: Solar Powered School Boats in Bangladesh

Problem: Massive Flooding in Bangladesh In Bangladesh, annual flooding can disrupt school for almost a million students. In many areas, roads are impassable during the rainy season from July to October, when rivers rise as much as 4 meters (12 feet). In the worst scenarios, people are drowned and left homeless. In 1998, flooding inundated two-thirds of the country, killing 700 people and leaving 21 million people homeless. The future is not going to get better with scientists projecting over one million Bangladeshis displaced by rising sea levels by 2050. [caption id="attachment_273" align="aligncenter" width="620"]Floating school rooms (Image: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha). Solar powered school boats offers education to kids in Bangaldesh (Image: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha).[/caption] A homegrown nonprofit organization called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha has built a fleet of solar powered school boats to ensure education regardless of flooding or rising sea levels. Shidhulai is the name of a village in Bangladesh and Swanirvar Sangstha means self-reliant organization. Mohammed Rezwan, Shidhulai’s founder and executive director, grew up in the country’s northwest, where his organization operates. Growing up, his family owned a boat, which meant that he was one of the lucky ones who could attend classes all year. “Many friends and relatives were denied access to education,” he said. “I thought if the children cannot come to school because of floods, then the school should go to them by boat.” Interested in more of my posts and other writings outside of Impact Hound? Follow me on Twitter: @shenge86
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25 Oct Energy: Rocket Stoves for Developing Countries

Big Problem of Gathering Firewood Though this may shock most of us in the developed world, half the world still cooks with wood, coal, or animal dung. These people living in developing countries have no access to electricity or gas and need some means to cook food and boil water. For those using firewood, they face numerous hardships and dangers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they have to walk over 10 miles and spend over 30 hours a week to collect wood, spend up to 35% of their income on purchasing fuel, and expose themselves to harm and smoke the equivalent of 40 cigarettes a day just to cook. In Africa, for example, women walk up to 15 miles each trip to find wood for cooking, often carrying loads of 40 to 60 pounds under extreme conditions, plus deforesting already strained environments. [caption id="attachment_263" align="aligncenter" width="631"]Since cooking often fall to women, they are the primary victims of smoke-related illnesses. (Image: Smithsonian Magazine / Ami Vitale / Ripple Effect Images) Since cooking often fall to women, they are the primary victims of smoke-related illnesses. (Image: Smithsonian Magazine / Ami Vitale / Ripple Effect Images)[/caption] Because cooking chores most often fall to women, and children are typically at hand, they are the primary victims of smoke-related respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoke inhalation from cooking over an open fire annually kills 1.6 million adults and children annually. Furthermore, in war zones, gathering firewood to cook your meal so you won’t starve presents the choice between getting raped or killed. Veronique Barbelet of the World Food Program says, "You hear women in northern Uganda and places like that telling you, 'My choice is between going out there and collecting firewood and being raped, or for my husband to go out and get killed, and I would rather go and get raped.'" Interested in more of my posts and other writings outside of Impact Hound? Follow me on Twitter: @shenge86
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04 Oct Space: Skybox Imaging

[caption id="attachment_237" align="alignleft" width="300"]Skybox Imaging satellites A Silicon Valley startup plans to launch a fleet of high-resolution and cheap imaging satellites. Image: Jeff Lysgaard[/caption] Want to See the Full Earth in High Resolution? Who doesn't want to see real-time high-resolution images of our planet? If you have used a service such as Google Earth, you may have been awed by its beautiful depiction of almost any region on our planet. You may even think that the images are real-time or at most just a few days old. Alas, that is not true. Weather satellites which does provide real-time data (updated every few hours) of the entire Earth operates at what's known as geosynchronous orbits (36,000 km from the Earth) and from that distance, can't offer high resolution pictures. Even a global imaging satellite such as NASA's MODIS Terra satellite provides only medium resolution (about 250 meters per pixel). The high-resolution images of Earth beautiful to us and more importantly, useful for government and industry to analyze global shipping, oil spills, crop irrigation, etc., are covered by closer satellites in low earth orbit (several hundred kilometers from the Earth) operated by companies such as GeoEye or DigitalGlobe. Unfortunately, those high-resolution satellites only see small potions of the Earth so there is are complicated algorithms at Google and other satellite image companies to update images with the newest ones and splice them together. Who is Skybox Imaging? Skybox Imaging is a high-resolution imaging and data company recently [June 2014] acquired by Google for $500 million. Starting from 2009 when four Stanford university students worked out of a cramped living room, they have grown into a multimillion dollar backed 125-person company in Silicon Valley with their own satellite manufacturing and operations facilities as well as data equipment and software to handle their satellite information. The company designs its own satellites and cameras and partners with others to build and launch them. Prior to their acquisition by Google, they have raised a total of $91 million in three rounds of financing from venture capital companies. Interested in more of my posts and other writings outside of Impact Hound? Follow me on Twitter: @shenge86
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06 Aug Space: Small Satellite Launchers

Growth of Small Satellite Launchers [caption id="attachment_163" align="alignleft" width="300"]3 CubeSats deployed from the ISS in 2013. There is a growing small satellite industry. 3 CubeSats deployed from the ISS in 2013. There is a growing small satellite market. Consider reading Small Satellites: Past., Present, and Future for more information. Photo: NASA[/caption] Universities, government agencies, and small companies are building more and more small satellites. For years, small satellite companies had no choice but to piggyback on larger payloads as rides to space. These companies have to pay exorbitant fees and often have to wait for years before their satellites or their customers' satellites can be launched. However, as satellites grow ever more sophisticated and as electronic components become ever smaller and cheaper, new companies are forming focused on building a greater quantity of small satellites with rapid turnaround times. The small satellite market is projected to grow from $702.4 million in 2014 to $1887.1 million in 2019, a 21.8% growth rate. Yet, currently, no service exists to exclusively serve these small satellites by launching them at an affordable cost and in a timely fashion. What is a small satellite? A small satellite is a satellite less than or around 500 kilograms in mass. The small satellite market can be further divided into microsatellites, nanosatellites, and CubeSats. Microsatellites range from 10 to 100 kilograms and often work in a constellation to do the task previously completed by a solitary satellite. Nanosatellites range from 1 to 10 kilograms and can include both single and multiple-unit CubeSats as well as other spacecrafts of any form factor within the weight range. CubeSats are 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm cube satellites with a maximum mass of 1 kg. These have been mostly used for technology demonstration and education such as solar sails, space tethers, and inflatable antennas. Interested in more of my posts and other writings outside of Impact Hound? Follow me on Twitter: @shenge86
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15 Jul Space: Mars Sample Return by BoldlyGo Institute

[caption id="attachment_42" align="alignleft" width="300"]SCIM will journey to Mars and perform a high-speed atmospheric pass collecting Martian dust particles. With its precious cargo onboard, SCIM will return the samples to Earth for detailed analysis in advanced technology laboratories. Source: BoldlyGo Institute In 2020, SCIM will embark on a two year journey to Mars to perform a high-speed atmospheric pass collecting tiny dust particles. SCIM will take another half year to return the samples to Earth for detailed analysis. Source: BoldlyGo Institute[/caption]

A nonprofit corporation called BoldlyGo Institute (BGI) is developing a Mars Sample Return mission called the Sample Collection to Investigate Mars (SCIM) which will return the first samples of Martian materials back to Earth. The project is at the preliminary design stage and the goal is ambitious. With a launch date of July 26, 2020, SCIM will journey through space for two years. When it reaches Mars, it will swoop down and collect the dust particles from the Martian atmosphere below 40 km. The SCIM has an aerodynamic aeroshell allowing it to rapidly pass through the atmosphere without being captured by Mars's gravity. The sample capture mechanism for the Mars Sample Return Mission is similar to the successful collection system for the Stardust mission which used aerogel to capture dust particles. After collecting thousands of particles, the spacecraft will leave Mars on August 3, 2022 and return directly to Earth by February 1, 2023 where the sterilized samples will descend by parachutes to the ground.

Sample return offers advantages over the current and past robotic missions to Mars where samples have been only analyzed on Mars. Earth-based lab instruments are much more sophisticated than what can be packed into a Mars rover or lander allowing much greater detailed analysis. Furthermore, there is no time limit for analysis; as more advanced instruments are developed, they can be applied on curated samples. Lastly and perhaps speaking most intriguingly of BoldlyGo Institute's philosophy, participation can involve hundreds of scientists and students--many of whom may not be traditionally involved in the Mars science community. Interested in more of my posts and other writings outside of Impact Hound? Follow me on Twitter: @shenge86
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09 Jul Space: Mechanical Launch Vehicle by HyperV

SlingatronA company called HyperV Technologies Corporation based in Chantilly, Virgina, USA, is working on a mechanical launch vehicle called the Slingatron. The Slingatron is a mechanical hypervelocity mass accelerator which can be used to launch objects (also called payloads) into Earth orbit at a significantly lower cost than what's done today. Just like the early railroads which opened up remote areas here on Earth, the Slingatron mechanical launch vehicle can open up the next frontier, i.e. space. Launching into low earth orbit (LEO) requires accelerating a payload to 7.6 km/sec. Traditional approaches use rocket fuel which is terribly inefficient leading to only about 4% of the rocket mass for payload while the other 96% is for rocket fuel and giant propellant tanks. Slingatron negates the need for rocket fuel or fuel tanks. The Slingatron does this by a mechanical acceleration approach much like a classical sling. In the traditional case, a man twirls the sling above his head in an outward spiral accelerating the stone. In the Slingatron case, a mechanical motor does the same thing while the payload is on an outwardly spiraling railroad track that is mounted to the mechanical motor. Interested in more of my posts and other writings outside of Impact Hound? Follow me on Twitter: @shenge86
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