Tag Archives: innovation

Solar powered Tuk-Tuk arrives in the UK after 6,200 mile trip

16 Sep

Naveen Rabelli, an engineer has travelled in a solar powered tuk-tuk all the way to the UK from India. Rabelli, who was born in India and became an Australian citizen while working as an automotive engineer there, hoped to end his journey at Buckingham Palace. His journey has took seven months in his solar-powered tuk-tuk on an incredible 6,200 mile (9,978km) journey. It has a top speed of 60km/h (37 mph) and is powered by both electricity and solar power. The vehicle he has named Tejas, which suitably means radiance or brilliance.

The big adventure began in Bangalore in India before the tuk-tuk was shipped to Iran. He then drove through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France. The tuk-tuk cost Rabelli £1,100 and spent around £8500 customising it. As well as making it run on solar and electric power, he installed a bed, solar cooker and a cupboard, which he stocked with food donated by well-wishers.

Travelling at around 62 miles a day, he set off on his adventure to raise awareness of electric and solar-powered vehicles as a sustainable low-cost alternative mode of transport. Rabelli converted the petrol-run vehicle to a solar powered one, which seems like a self-sufficient home. He got the idea of creating a solar-powered tuk-tuk after he and a friend got stuck in traffic a few years back.

The 32-year-old Australian has made it to London. Picture: PA

Unfortunately on the last leg of his world tour, Rabelli had to pause his journey one country short of his intended destination after his passport and wallet were stolen from his parked vehicle in Sarcelles, north of Paris, while he was using a bathroom. The 35-year-old had to wait for his new passport so that he could cross the Channel and finish his journey at Buckingham Palace.

Talking of his journey, Rabelli particularly appreciated the support of the local people: “The highlights have been the way people have helped me out along the way and supported me. People love the tuk-tuk, particularly in Iran and many other countries. They come forward and take selfies. And the moment I tell them it doesn’t require petrol, their minds are blown.”

Mr Rabelli says his goal is to create awareness of the potential for solar-powered passenger vehicles in Asian and European countries, presenting an Indian solution to the world. Well Naveen, the world is certainly watching!


I’ll huff and I’ll puff, and blow your new straw house down

20 Mar

We all know the story of the three little pigs? In short there were three pigs, one greedy wolf, a house made of straw, a house made of sticks and a house made of bricks. The wolf blew houses down all but one…you can imagine which house survived and the fate of the three little pigs. Anyhow the reason behind this blog is that straw houses will no longer be the preserve of little pigs as the first straw houses are now being offered on the housing market.

A specialist architectural company called Modcell bumped heads with the University of Bath to research the project which led to the construction of seven houses. They were built on a street filled with traditional brick-built properties in Shirehampton, Bristol. Though, we must mention the seven houses are clad in brick to fit in with the area.  The houses have timber framed prefabricated walls and are filled with straw bales which are in cased in wooden boards. Someone’s been reading the three little pig’s story haven’t they?

The team have promised homeowners that they could see a 90% decrease in their fuel bills, much cheaper than the average brick home. They also boast a lower purchase price…what’s not to love? The project leader Professor Pete Walker said;

“The construction sector must reduce its energy consumption by 50% and its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, so radical changes are needed to the way we approach house building.

“As a construction material, straw is a low-cost and widely-available food co-product that offers real potential for ultra-low carbon housing throughout the UK.

“Building with straw could be a critical point in our trajectory towards a low-carbon future.”

The team behind the project insist that straw houses could help to meet housing demand in the UK sustainably. With so many young buyers struggling to get on the house market due to high purchase costs, could this be the answer? Or is some greedy wolf rubbing their hands together waiting for the house to fall down so they can have a tasty snack? Apparently not as Professor Walker continued;

 “Over the past three years of research we have looked at various aspects of the performance of straw,”

“Two that particularly come to mind as concerns or apprehension from potential users of straw are fire-resistance and weather-resistance.

 “In terms of durability, we have undertaken laboratory tests and undertaken monitoring of existing buildings and we have also done accelerated weather tests.

“The results of all these tests suggest that straw is a very durable construction solution.”

The team have thoroughly tired and tested the technology, working on its weight bearing properties and its thermal insulation. Straw houses have been on the increase especially in the USA, Australia and China who have been implementing straw bales in their housing construction.

Researchers have estimated that after wheat production and animal bedding, a remaining 3.8 million tonnes of straw is left. This is enough to build 500,000 new three bedroom homes that only require 7.2 tonnes of straw. Smashing.

Even though the big bad wolf blew the straw house down, we think we have learnt enough from research and short stories to learn from our mistakes. So let’s start the story again…three little pigs, one greedy wolf and one straw house. The greedy wolf kept trying to blow the house down for hours but the house was very strong and the little pigs were safe inside. He tried to enter through the chimney but the third little pig boiled a big pot of water and kept it below the chimney. The wolf fell into it and died.

The moral of the story? Technology wins.

Japan’s out of this world solar panel plan!

6 Dec

Over in Japan an architectural/engineering firm called Shimizu has proposed an out of this world solution. Now we know the Japanese are extremely forward thinking and have some brilliant ideas but this one is actually out of this world. They propose to build a solar panel array around the moons equator and send the electricity that it collects back to Earth. Would this solve our energy and climate crisis?

The project is called Luna Ring and will consist of building a giant strip of solar panels 249 miles wide all the way around the moons equator. A system of this size would be capable of sending 13,000 terawatts of power back to Earth. The energy would be sent back to Earth in the form of microwaves, which would then be converted on Earth into carbon free energy at stations on the ground. According to the Shimizu, construction could start as early as 2035.

This all sounds great but…how would you build all this on the moon? Have you seen the film ‘Gravity’? (A wonderful film by the way, I suggest you go see). Shimizu has a plan:

“Robots will perform various tasks on the lunar surface, including ground levelling and excavation of hard bottom strata,” says Shimizu.

Solar Moon

They will be tele-operated 24 hours a day from the Earth. The concrete would be covered with solar panels, which would be connected via cables to microwave and laser transmission stations. The cables will transfer the electric power from the lunar solar cells to the transmission plants. High-energy-density laser will send the energy to the receiving plants using 20km-diameter antennas.

A radio beacon brought from the Earth will be used to ensure accurate transmission. Materials needed for the construction and maintenance of the Solar Belt will be transported along this route. Electric power cables will be installed under the transportation route.

A huge advantage of the Luna Ring is that it will allow for a round-the-clock source of energy, as there are no clouds or other bad weather on the Moon. Which sounds very hunky dory?

In recent years Japan has been researching new ways to create energy. The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 led to a closure of the country’s nuclear power plants.

If the project takes off this could be an amazing feat for mankind. Though, what concerns me is that this plan is very wild, the stuff you see in movies…could this work? It is hard to imagine an idea so complex. So what this space…no pun intended!


In a galaxy far far away…A drone beamed energy back down to earth!

29 Nov

A company called ‘New Wave Energy UK’ has a new technological goal for gathering solar, wind and heat energy. With ideas such as having solar panels in space, or wind turbines flying at high altitude, New Wave Energy UK intends to develop something new. By using drones they intend to harvest energy from 50,000 feet above the surface of the earth, and then beam it back down to us. Move over solar space power plants and bring on the drones.

The drones created by New Wave Energy UK are very clever in that they each harvest enough energy to power themselves, and send the remainder to the planet to power our homes, offices and devices. The company have a unique selling point in which they focus on the fact there is little biodiversity or air traffic at that height meaning one drone could harvest energy from several sources.

First of all, the company are going to test out the new drones on a much smaller scale. They will be used to help in natural disasters by providing energy to search and rescue missions, along with other emergency services. Then it will be referred to remote or developing regions which have no connection to an energy grid. If no problems are met then the ultimate step will be to scale up the generating capacity of the units and the volume in order to provide power to an entire country!

In a recent press release, New Wave Energy UK said;

“The technology is a wireless solution which will incorporate wireless power transmission from the drones (and their wireless network) to the Earth’s surface, another new technology developed by multiple bodies in the USA and Japan for energy production using solar satellites. Aerial energy harvesting is in its infancy however does show great promise.”

According to Gizmag, “Each drone will have four rotors, multiple wind turbines and a flat base for generating solar power. It’ll be able to power itself with the harvested energy and generate an additional 50 kW that can be transmitted wirelessly to the ground. Rectenna arrays installed inland or on offshore installations would receive the electromagnetic waves and convert them into usable power.”

One concern faced is the reliability of the technology, with being 50,000ft above the planet, there is little room for error, as each drone contains many components each with the potential to break. Therefore, the company have been working hard to develop a drone that could easily be updated.

How do you feel about these drones? Brilliant idea or a bit too terminator 2 for your liking? We would love to hear your suggestions below!

An electric scooter with more room than a Smart car!

21 Nov

Electric scooters are not new to the market; they have been around for many years. What if an electric scooter was created that could carry you and your gear quickly and cleanly? Who would need the Smart Car?

Lit Motors are currently waiting for their project to get fully funded which could see a two wheeled mini truck scooter descending to a town near you. The scooter will essentially be a self-balancing, enclosed motorcycle capable of carrying your baggage and guess what…it runs on electricity! Lit motors have been making waves in electric transportation options and this idea doesn’t disappoint for many people who need a quiet, clean and cheap to operate vehicle.

The scooter has been named Kubo scooter and was designed and built as a side project. The idea behind the Kubo Scooter came about because “I couldn’t find a good quality electric scooter anywhere”. The 100% electric scooter looks a bit strange, when likened to a traditional moped and scooter designs, but that’s because it’s made specifically to haul more than just a person.

The frame of the scooter has loops, hooks and rails enabling the user to secure all their gear while in transport. The 22” square cargo area can handle up to 300lb which would consist of the rider’s weight plus their cargo.

The two-wheeled scooter is fitted with a torque 3-kW (four-horsepower) in-wheel motor fed by a 3.81-kWh lithium battery buried in its floor, making it capable of speeds of 45 miles per hour and distances of 50 miles on a full charge. The scooter contains an on-board charger which can be plugged into any standard outlet. It is estimated that the scooter can be charged within a few hours.

In order to get the little powerhouse on the market, Lit Motors have decided to turn to crowd funding with their kick-starter campaign. The campaign has a goal of raising $300,000 US Dollars by 20th December 2013. People who back the campaign at the $5000 level will be the first to receive their own Kubo Scooter. This is said to be less than the expected retail price of the Scooter.

Launching it now via a Kick-starter campaign affords the firm a low-cost way to learn about bringing a product to market and prepares them for the future. Production is estimated to begin in April 2014.

A solar panel that cools down your home in direct sunlight?

24 Apr

A number of Stanford researchers have created a solar panel that cools buildings in direct sunlight. So someday your home might be nice and cool in the middle of July without the need for air conditioning. How?

For this to be achieved the panel must reflect rather than absorb as much sunlight as possible, as well as radiate heat back into the building. Stanford’s invention does both:

It is an effective broadband mirror for solar light—it reflects most of the sunlight. It also emits thermal radiation very resourcefully within the crucial wavelength range needed to escape Earth’s atmosphere.

The panels are a combination of both a thermal emitter and a solar reflector. The team of researchers are the first to achieve this type of sustainable cooling during daytime hours by engineering nanostructure photonic materials—forms of light radiation—to either enhance or suppress light at different wavelengths.

The outcome is a tool that can cool 100 watts per square meter. In realistic terms, that means you could have 10 percent of your roof covered with solar panels, but they would offset about 35 percent of the AC you’d need during the most sweltering days of summer.

How does this sound to you? Is this something that would interest you for those warm summer months? 

The pavement slab that generates energy whenever a pedestrian walks across it

3 Jul

Remember the video for Billie Jean, where Michael Jackson tiptoes his way  across paving tiles, lighting them as he goes? This iconic image is now  virtually a reality and can harvest energy as we walk, skip or somersault our  way to work in the morning.

When someone treads on a Pavegen slab, the depressed surface generates  electricity, with five per cent used to illuminate the tile itself and the rest  stored in a battery or powering the surrounding area.

Each footstep generates five to eight joules of energy, depending on your  weight. It takes 400,000 joules to boil a kettle but if the tiles are installed  in areas of high footfall they become a viable proposition.

That’s why they’ve been installed at the Westfield Stratford City shopping  centre and will feature at a major London transport hub serving Olympic  venues.

The technology is the brainchild of one of Britain’s brightest young  entrepreneurs, Laurence Kemball-Cook. The industrial design graduate was  inspired while on a placement at a big energy company – but nobody backed  him.

‘There was no innovative need or desire from this company so I happily  wandered off on my own,’ he says. ‘I had a “moment” and it was great – but  technology is such that you get your wow and then realise you’ve got to make the  thing.’

At just 26, he’s been a chief executive for three years and is sitting, or  treading, on a potential fortune. However, Kemball-Cook has been guarded about  revealing the internal workings of his invention, saying only that the slabs are  made from recycled rubber and polymer concrete and use a ‘hybrid’ kinetic  energy-harvesting system.

‘Our technology is complicated,’ he says. ‘We have people in the team who  work on NASA space stations, some really crazy engineers and people from some of  the best universities in Britain. But we’re a small company and our IP  [intellectual property] is what we’re all about, so we have to protect those  assets.

‘I have to be protective of my technology because we’re an early-stage  company. I’m not about to get into any lawsuits and we’re not that keen to  reveal secrets while we’re still really small.’

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