Kemball-Cook has acknowledged the technology has its limitations. "We're not trying to make Pavegen the sole energy source to power every city in the future," he told Radio France Internationale. "We believe it's going to be one of the key constituents of the energy mix of the future." David Horsley, a mechanical and aerospace engineer at UC Davis, told Wired that the tiles could have a place in our everyday lives. "You're not going to get very much for a step, considering you can get 100 watts from a square meter of solar paneling," he explained.
A talking newspaper may sound like a concept from Harry Potter, but researchers say they've made a major breakthrough that could soon make it a reality. Scientists have created a paper-thin, flexible device that can not only generate energy from human motion, but can act as a loudspeaker and microphone. The audio device could eventually lead to a range of consumer products, including a folding loudspeaker, voice-activated security patch, or roll up radio. The device, known as the ferroelectret nanogenerator (FENG), was created by researchers from Michigan State University. It is made up of a silicone wafer, which is then fabricated with several layers of environmentally friendly substances including silver, polyimide and polypropylene ferroelectret.
The catch is that the current technology isn't all that efficient. It only converts about 6.5 percent of the energy it gets, which pales in comparison to the 22 percent you see among the world's better solar panels. If the creators can improve the performance of this graphene-coated cell, though, they could have a dream solution on their hands -- you wouldn't have to live in a consistently sunny part of the world to reduce your dependency on conventional power.
A Spanish company is developing a wind turbine that doesn't require blades to generate energy. Unlike typical wind turbines, which use the breeze to spin blades that in turn power a generator, the Vortex Bladeless turbine uses the movement caused by air hitting its 10-foot pylon to generate power. In addition to being quieter and much smaller, the Vortex could save the lives of the up to 500,000 birds killed by traditional turbines. Right now the device can only generate a small amount of energy, but developers hope to scale up and provide energy for dozens of homes with a single device. Wind turbines are an increasingly popular option for environmentally friendly energy, with a smaller carbon footprint than coal or natural gas.
There's been a lot of recent focus on applications for aerial robots, and one of the areas with the most potential is indoors. The thing about indoors is that by definition you have to go through doors to get there, and once you're inside, there are all kinds of things that are horribly dangerous to aerial robots, like more doors, walls, windows, people, furniture, hanging plants, lampshades, and other aerial robots, inevitably followed by still more doors. One solution is to make your robots super small, so that they can fit through small openings without running into something fragile and expensive, but then you're stuck with small robots that can't do a whole heck of a lot. Another solution is to put your robots in protective cages, but then you're stuck with robots that can't as easily interact with their environment, even if they want to. Ideally, you'd want a robot that doesn't need that level of protection, that's somehow large and powerful but also small and nimble at the same time.