People like to say they're going to recycle. They get excited about it, and
cities, realizing there is, in fact, money to be made, get excited too.
But then, something happens. It just seems so inconvenient to walk all
the way across the room to put that can in a separate bin. In the end, recycling trucks end up driving around half empty, wasting more gas than their saving.
So, if there's money to be made, why not see that you, the recycler
gets a piece of the action, instead of basing the system solely on the guilt consumers feel. By putting RFID tags in recycling bins and
having the waste collectors weigh the bins, a new start-up, Recycle
Bank, calculates who actually recycles, and can thus grant those people
Now, they don't actually get paid, they just get free stuff from cool
Whole foods, Starbucks and Bed Bat and Beyond are all in on
the deal, providing free stuff to good recyclers. You can even track
how much you're recycling online. The companies are happy to get their
name attatched to a cool cause, the city saves money on landfills, and
the recyclers get free stuff. In the end, Recycle bank is able to
charge the city less than the city saves, and everyone comes away with
more money in their pocket.
The new Toshiba M500 Portege
notebook computer has been released in Asia while
complying with Europe's Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)
guidelines. This little computer (less than 2 kg), features everything
I'd like in a laptop, but for a price that I can't seem to locate. A
swappable optical drive, 100 gig harddrive, built in wireless, etc.
There is mention of it's increased efficiency (and thus battery life,)
but no numbers on power consumption are given. However, with a 12 inch
diagonal screen, the M500 would have a hard time using too much
electricity. That 12 inch screen probably has a lot to do with why this
computer isn't being sold in the American and European markets, but
chances are, the advancements made here will find their way into
inexpensive, low power, RoHS compliant laptops from Toshiba for the
English speaking world in the near future.
We've talked about
passive energy generation
before, but those devices pulled minuscule
amounts of power from heat or vibration. Eneco, a company I've never
heard of before, has created a solid-state (no moving parts) device
that converts heat to electricity with 30% efficiency. The device
consists (very basically) of two pieces of metal sandwiching some kind
of mystery semiconductor. The trick is that one piece of metal is specially designed to
lose electrons when heated, and the other is designed to accept them at
a lower temperature. If electricity is applied to the chip, the bottom
piece of metal becomes extremely cold, if heat is applied to the bottom
piece of metal, electricity comes out.
The first applications are obvious ones. Off-grid electricity
for pipeline monitoring (pipelines are usually quite hot to keep the
oil flowing well.) But the possibilities for
the automotive and consumer electronics industries excite me much more. We all know about
waste heat from our laptops. All that wasted heat means a hot lap and
less battery time. But the Eneco device promises to harness a lot of
that energy and turn it into heat. The result is longer battery life
and less heat produced. The same goes for cars, which lose a ton of
their energy as heat, and even for fossil fuel power plants, which lose
up to half of the energy created as heat.
Eneco is already in talks with BMW, Apple, Dell, the US
Military and NASA. There's no word yet on how much the devices will
cost, or what dangerous materials they might or might not use, but the technology
sounds extremely promising. Representatives say that the first devices
will be in use by 2008, but the time line for consumer devices is
A chemical compound that catalyzes the break down of pollutants into
less harmful chemicals is finally finding its way into cities around
the world. The compound, TX Active, which has been in development for
over ten years, breaks down organic carcinogens like benzene, converts
carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide, and breaks down nitric oxides into
nitrogen and oxygen. TX Active is a type of titanium photocatalyst that pushes overly active molecules into less energetic states with energy provided by the light of the sun.
The greater the surface area of TX Active, the more pollutants it can
break down. So how do we spread this stuff all over the world? The
answer: Mix it in with concrete, paint, or window laminate. Cities all
of Europe are using the compound in roads, parking lots and paint and
have measured drops in pollutants of up to 60%.
The substance is surprisingly cheap, adding only about $160 to the cost
of paint for a five story building, which could be more than offset by
minor government payback programs.
It's not a replacement for catalytic converters and clean fuels, it's
an extra step that will make the world a much cleaner place.
Another new aircraft design has been introduced by a joint team of researchers
from MIT and Cambridge (UK) University. The plane incorporates several innovations. First the engines on top of the craft, rather than
under the wings, as is currently the norm. This helps make the new plane
3000 times more quiet than a conventional passenger jet.
This craft, dubbed the SAX-40 design is
also "35% more fuel efficient than any airliner currently flying."
The design is a radical departure
from current aircraft. The new craft is wedge shaped, rather than the
familiar tube configuration of current airliners, with the wings extending
from that shape. This contributes to the efficiency of the craft, however
this also makes it more difficult for aircraft manufacturers to build
shorter or longer versions of the same plane without redesigning the
entire vehicle. Maintenance would also be more difficult because the
engines would be less accessible to ground-crews.
Even if these obstacles can be overcome, the earliest this airplane might
come into service is expected to be around 2030. By then, hopefully the things will run on hydrogen, and we won't have to worry so much about fuel economy.
Marketplace Morning Report
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