Posts Tagged ‘ energy ’

Pacemakers powered by the heart

[tweetmeme] Back in 1899 we realized that by infusion of electrical pulse to the Heart in asystole caused a ventricular contraction and that a heart rhythm of 60-70 beats per minute could be evoked by impulses applied at spacings equal to 60-70/minute. What did we do with this information we created the Pacemaker, the pacemaker for the heart actually helps the heart in its normal function with a gentle helping hand for those who have week hearts. According to World Health Organisation data, 16.7 million people die each year owing to heart attacks, and pacemakers can help a lot of these patients.

It was only by the 1950’s that we were able to produce an implantable pacemaker. The problem of batteries and their charging and discharging is something that the patients that use them have to deal with. This has been an issue for which there have been only temporary solutions. Longer battery life, modulation in the working based on how much assistance is required etc is something that people are still experimenting with to get a long lasting pacemaker.

British scientists have successfully experimented to develop a heart-powered pacemaker. Until now, a pacemaker used the electrical impulses delivered by the electrodes from the heart’s contracting muscles to regulate the heartbeat, but the pacemakers and defibrillators of tomorrow could generate power from the heart itself.

At first glance, this idea seems somewhat impossible, like using the movement of an engine’s pistons to power a car and was made possible by British scientists who used a microgenrator in their experiment to successfully produce enough electricity from the heart to run the pacemaker. The microgenerator used is made of two individual liquid-filled balloons, which are placed at different locations within the heart, but remain connected to a silicone tube consisting of a moving magnet. The heartbeats press the balloons alternatively, forcing the fluid in it to move the magnet past the coil in the silicone tube, producing electricity in the process.

The team of scientists believes that the introduction of the heart-powered technology could enhance the utility of the pacemaker’s of today, as the usage of generated energy could be made to recharge the batteries of the pacemaker. The pacemakers could also generate energy through the flow and movement of the blood, heat differentials or physiological pressures, apart from the tested induction version. Using this energy to recharge pacemakers or defibrillator batteries a will make them last longer, and so increase the intervals between the invasive surgical procedures needed to replace them. Heart implants typically communicate details about their performance to other medical equipment via a wireless link, so the new generator could also allow them to transmit more data.

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Nokia charging phone with thin air …

[tweetmeme] We all have had Nokia Phones at some time, and we always have loved them for their robust nature along with their ease of use. A lot of people mention that with the new technologies in the world, Nokia has sort of lost its relevance. I think on the other hand Nokia is looking at different markets than the giant that it has become, iPhone and the Phone that aspires to be the Giant, the Motorola Droid, or the Google Nexus One.

As long as technology is moving on, so is the need for more juice in the batteries of the phones. More requirement for the power means that there will be more advancements required in batteries; or charging for the batteries. What if you dont really have to charge them at all, I mean physically. Ofcourse there are ways, like kinetic energy transformation, solar energy etc. But here’s another concept; Like Nokia I have always been wondering about how much energy is in the air all around us, I am not talking about the energy of people; but more to do with energy of wireless radio systems. Be it FM transmitting radio, GSM signals, Wi-Fi Signals or terrestrial radio systems. What if we could tap into that power to enable mobile phones to pick up the charging of the batteries from there. Completely wireless, and completely practical.

I guess what needs to be worked out is how long it will take to tap this power and how long can you charge the phone with this. Well Nokia is at it again, their innovation well not really aimed at high end phones but mostly innovation like these. Nokia Research center is working on a solution that will help the cause of wireless charging.

Nokia

A new prototype charging system from the company is able to power itself on nothing more than ambient radiowaves – the weak TV, radio and mobile phone signals that permanently surround us. The power harvested is small but it is almost enough to power a mobile in standby mode indefinitely without ever needing to plug it into the mains, according to one of the researchers who developed the device at the Nokia Research Centre in Cambridge, UK. The concept is being worked upon by different fronts, old crystal radio sets and more recently modern radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, increasingly used in shipping and as antitheft devices, are powered purely by radiowaves.

The difference with Nokia’s prototype is that instead of harvesting tiny amounts of power (a few microwatts) from dedicated transmitters, Nokia claims it is able to scavenge relatively large amounts of power — around a thousand times as much — from signals coming from miles away. Individually the energy available in each of these signals is miniscule. But by harvesting radiowaves across a wide range of frequencies it all adds up. Such wireless transfer of energy was first demonstrated by Nikola Tesla in 1893, who was so taken with the idea he attempted to build an intercontinental transmission tower to send power wirelessly across the Atlantic. Nokia’s device is somewhat less ambitious and is made possible thanks to a wide-band antenna and two very simple circuits. The antenna and the receiver circuit are designed to pick up a wide range of frequencies — from 500 megahertz to 10 gigahertz — and convert the electromagnetic waves into an electrical current, while the second circuit is designed to feed this current to the battery to recharge it.

Wireless charging is not intended as a sole energy source, but rather to be used in conjunction with other energy harvesting technologies, such as handset casings embedded with solar cell materials. According to Technology Review magazine, the phone could be on the market in three to five years.

In the meantime, there are other companies who are working on similar concepts  for charging devices wirelessly using the ambient radio waves. At CES 2010, RCA introduced something even better that’s going to be available way sooner: a dongle that tops up your mobile device’s battery via WiFi signals. Notice I didn’t say that it only tops up your cell phone battery; according to RCA reps, this little fella will work with just about all of your mobile devices.

The attachment is efficient enough that it actually provides a noticeable boost to your battery, and given enough time it will charge it to the max. Other similar gizmos have provided only a weak top-up charge at best, so this is a huge improvement. And what’s even better is that the device will be available for around $40 in the summer of 2010. Soon, as long as you’re in an urban environment or around a WiFi router, worrying about your phone’s charge will be the last thing on your mind.

The future applications of the technology are exciting as well. In 2011, RCA expects to release batteries with the WiFi charging capability built right in. There’s no word yet on how much those will cost, but does it matter? The prospect of never having to plug your phone in again will probably be enough to have them flying off of the shelves. Video Included.

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Bloom Box another Indian Invention set to change the world

By saying its an Indian invention is going to sensationalize the whole story. I would like to clarify however that, the Inventor of the device is an Indian who used to work at NASA, K R Sridhar. Can the name be more Indian ? lol. However  last week he had a public launch of this invention the “Bloom Box”, which can produce (hold your breath) Clean Energy. I did mention in an earlier post that the tech with the most growth expected is Power Generation. And its no surprise that I am getting to see more development on that front.

Whats the big deal you ask ? Especially since you can find a lot of information these days on ‘Eco Tech” websites. Well A brick sized device in the corner of your house can generate enough energy to run your house. Yes, you read that right, and whats its main ingredient ? Sand. You know that a technology has the most potential when you can boast of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Colin Powell and the heads of Google and Walmart at its launch. Even more unlikely, the firm in question makes what some may regard as a less than sexy clean energy device.

According to Sridhar, a single cell can produce about 25W, enough for a low-energy lightbulb, and a stack of cells the size of a brick will power an average home. A single Bloom box, a unit the size of a chest freezer and which contains several stacks of fuel cells, will produce 100KW, enough for 100 homes. The box consists of a stack of ceramic disks coated with green and black “inks.” The disks are separated by cheap metal alloy plates. Methane (or other hydrocarbons) and oxygen are fed in, the whole thing is heated up to 1,000 degrees Celsius, and electricity comes out. Bloom estimates that a box filled with 64 ceramic disks can produce enough juice to power a Starbucks.

So Here is what makes this technology so exciting :

  • The Bloom Energy Server is made out of fuel cells, or electrochemical cells. A single fuel cell consists of an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte stuck between the two. As fuel flows in through the anode side and an oxidant comes in over the cathode, a reaction is triggered that causes electrons to move into the fuel cell’s circuit, producing electricity.
  • The Bloom Energy Server isn’t actually a server–that’s just a PR buzzword. In actuality, it’s a distributed power generator. Each “server” produces 100 kW of power, consists of thousands of fuel cells, costs between $700,000 and $800,000, and pays for itself in three to 5 years based on an energy cost of 8 to 9 cents per kW hour.
  • There are many different types of fuel cells. Some of the more popular ones include methanol fuel cells, hydrogen fuel cells, and zinc-air batteries. The Bloom Energy Server consists of solid oxide fuel cells, which are attractive because they can be made out of low-cost materials with high energy efficiencies.
  • The cells can run on a variety of fuels, including traditional fuel, natural gas, biomass gas, landfill gas, and ethanol.
  • Until now, technical challenges have stopped solid oxide fuel cells from being commercialized, but the company’s cells (“sand” baked into ceramic squares that are coated with green and black inks) supposedly have overcome most of the issues. Bloom’s Web site has a great animation showing how solid oxide fuel cells work.

Bloom Energy

  • One of the biggest problems with solid oxide fuel cells is their temperature requirement–the ceramic squares only become active at extremely high temperatures (up to 1800 F). That means Bloom’s cells will have to prove that they can remain durable under the stress–already, the company has had to come out to replace cells at eBay’s installation, which has been running for just 7 months. In general, Bloom expects that its fuel cell stacks will have to be switched out twice during the device’s 10 year lifespan.
  • Bloom’s device generates electricity at 50% to 55% conversion efficiency. In comparison, solar generally produces power at between 10% to 15% efficiency. But unlike solar panels, the Bloom Energy Server produces CO2 as a byproduct. According to the Energy Collective, “CO2 emissions when running on natural gas would be just under 0.8 pounds/kWh, which compares favorably to electricity from central station coal-fired plants (2 lbs/kWh) or natural gas plants (roughly 1.3 lbs/kWh) and the national average for on-grid electricity (around 1.3-1.5 lbs/kWh).” If the box runs on landfill gas or biogas, it produces net zero carbon emissions.
  • Eventually, Bloom hopes that a scaled-down version device can be used in homes. A residential Bloom Box would produce 1 kW of power and cost approximately $3,000. But that probably won’t happen for at least 10 years.

Indian Innovation

India and Innovation have the first 2 characters the same, but in reality there is huge gap between both. I was just watching the Bollywood movie “Guru” based on the life of Dhirubai Ambani, who started off as a small time worker with Arab merchants in the 1950s and moved to Mumbai in 1958 to start his own business in spices. After making modest profits, he moved into textiles and opened his mill near Ahmedabad. Dhirubhai founded Reliance Industries in 1958. After that it was a saga of expansions and successes; By 2007 the combined fortune of the family (sons Anil and Mukesh) was 60 billion dollars, making the Ambani’s the second richest family in the world.

So what happened to the rest of them ? Since then there have not been too many businessmen or innovators that have come out of India, there was of course the occasional Mr. Narayan Murthy and Mr. Azim Premji, who took 15 years to build an IT empire but there have not been too many innovations. I guess there is one question that people keep asking within the IT community – “Why we don’t hear Google/Twitter like stories from India?” After all India is the global superpower in computing these days or at least thats what we like to say.  We have always been a service oriented company and not product based. Why don’t we have a Office package from India, or a Programing language from India ? I guess its because deep down we Indians are people who like security in jobs and so we do not venture into the unknown of business, innovation and startups. One of my favorite blogs at the moment, pluggd.in writes this :

For India to find its place in the sun in the years to come, R&D based excellence – or, innovation based solutions – is mandatory. That if India’s destiny lay in just being a low cost supplier of the world’s goods and services, then the tryst with that destiny would be short -lived. But if India’s destiny lies in being an international leader in the supply of goods and services then it has no choice but to embrace innovation and R&D based excellence.

Over the past 57 years, India’s share in world trade has shrunk from over 2% to about 0.6% today. Of India’s top items of merchandise export are in traditional commodity items like textiles, gems and jewelry, leather, chemicals, engineering goods, minerals, and agroproducts. The value-added by India in the commodity items is minimal and hence prone to significant international price pressures. Due to the lack of investments and innovation along the entire value-chain, from design to marketing to technology to the business model itself, these industries capture just a tiny share of their global markets. These industries have grown in large part due to the natural advantages enjoyed by India of which an abundant supply of low cost labour is a significant part. In the world of tomorrow, innovation has to take centre-stage if these industries are to have positions of dominance on the world stage.

Non-traditional businesses like IT services and pharmaceuticals have grown significantly in the last decade and are now recognized as having “arrived” on the global stage. Both these businesses are knowledge driven and employ a significantly different profile of employees than the traditional businesses. It is therefore imperative that with their arrival on the global stage, with their access to world class talent and capital, cost & quality led advantages, and with high global demand, they do not become complacent and lose their leading positions much like the traditional businesses have done.

With over 300,000 engineers graduating each year, India is sitting on a human capital goldmine that most countries can only dream about. However, the issue of global leadership isn’t one that’s only about numbers. After all, with only 7000 engineers graduating each year, Israel with 6.5m people has over 100 innovative companies listed on Nasdaq! And India with over 250m head of cattle – the world’s largest – is not even a player in the global dairy business!

Things are not all bad though, Pluggd.in reports on the new Startups that are getting churned out of  India. In fact this is also being highlighted by Discovery channel who is showcasing a few of the innovations coming out of India. Small but still Innovative.

Pomogranate Seed seperator

Mobile Operated Switches for remote operation

Mini Wind powered Mobile Charger Unit

Tree climbing Apparatus / Mini Washing Machine / Modified Scooter / Amphibious Bicycle

There are more videos at the MissionPacific channel of Youtube. I am not sure if many people know about these innovations in the country, and about how many venture capitalists / innovators who are willing to take up some of these devices for production in the huge market that is India.