I have been neglecting my Blog. No excuses offered. My nephew, Wilf, just phoned me and said I had not updated my Blog for some while, and why were there no posts for the under ten year olds ?
So, here is a post for him, and any other young people. Often children are given toys, which need batteries. If the person giving the toy has sense they will not only make sure it comes complete with batteries, but also supply a replacement set. Children get through batteries very quickly. It would be wonderful to have an electric toy which did not need batteries, and did not need ‘plugging in’. Here is such a toy.
The toy is called “Generator Racing”. The name comes from the fact that the child (or adult) playing with it has to generate their own electricity. Electricity is generated by winding a small generator. It is not clear how long the charge lasts, but it is sure to please children who are concerned about their environment. The racing track comes with 30 pieces of track allowing the construction of lots of different track designs. Time will see if this leads to a whole new set of toys based upon the same principle.
In the course of one hour, the Earth receives more solar energy than the entire planet consumes in a whole year.
Little of the energy is harvested in the form of solar energy. Conventional solar panels use semiconductor materials and the energy gathered is some five to six times more expensive than that which has been generated by fossil fuels or hydro-electric power. Teams around the world have striven to develop a solar cell which could be produced inexpensively and which is efficient, in energy terms.
Professor Benoît Marsan and his team at the Université du Québec à Montréal have focussed their research energies in the development of a electrochemical solar cell. Their work was inspired by research of the 1990s which looked to generate energy in a way similar to plants, ie photosynthesis. This involved placing a liquid electrolyte between the anode and cathode, composed of a porous layer of nano-particles of a white pigment, titanium dioxide, covered with a molecular dye that absorbs sunlight, like the chlorophyll in green leaves. However, such approaches quickly showed that the materials used were highly corrosive, the dense colour inhibited the transmission of light, the photovoltage was only 0.7 volts and the platinum cathode was expensive.
Profesor Marsan appears to have produced a satisfactory solution to these ‘challenges’. They have created new molecules to form the electrolyte, and the gel produced is transparent and importantly non-corrosive. They have replaced the platinum cathode with cobalt sulphide, and the result is a more efficient, cheaper, more stable solar cell which should be easy to produce. Would it be too much to say the future looks bright ?
I have been using a little tracking tool from ClustrMaps – which you can see in the top right hand corner of this page. It has been interesting to see how the visitors are expanding from my home base of the UK to now include 26 countries. I did contact students and friends in South Asia which has pushed India and Sri Lanka towards the top of the table. Spread the word amongst your friends, it would be wonderful to have readers from 50 countries by the end of the year !
[update 11th March] – I now have visitors from 35 countries. Welcome the new additions of Italy, Turkey, Spain, Mexico, Panama, Palestinian Territory, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar.
[update 11th April] – I now have visitors from 57 countries. You can see for yourself by clicking on the map on the home page.
Just an update. The iDapt I discussed on an earlier post has arrived. First impressions are good. It seems well constructed, and the ‘tips’ seem reasonably robust. I am off to work in Sri Lanka and Singapore next week, so I will give it a road test and post my findings.
We have all seen the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti. Estimates of the number dead vary, but a consensus seems to be 50 000. However, many more will die in the aftermath without international aid. Therefore, I am going to break one of my own rules and put an external link on my blog – to the International Red Cross appeal:
Please spare some money (for any of the organisations involved), and if you can, consider what I do – make a monthly donation by direct debit. The Red Cross and other organisations state that when a disaster occurs they often have to make the appeal, wait for money to be donated, purchase large quantities of food and equipment and then ship to the devastated area – often with long delays. If you can donate something each month, this enables them to keep their warehouses stocked and ready to respond in a timely manner.
Reports are appearing at Google’s support forums regarding their new Nexus One phone. The main complaint appears to be owners reporting that their device either never switches to 3G, or, it is constantly switching between 3G and EDGE. The reports further claim that when the owners try another manufacturer’s phone in the same place they get a perefect 3G reception. Watch this space.