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Here’s How Long We’ve Had ‘Solar Power Technology’ Yet Have Chosen To Use Coal instead

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If you are under the impression that solar technology is a relatively new invention then sadly no one told you about the French Inventor Augustin Mouchot who demonstrated his work back in 1878.

Back in 1871 Inventor Mouchot was funded by the Indre-et-Loire General Council to develop a solar generator experiment at the Tours library. He was able to present the data of his designs to the Academy of Sciences in 1875. Augustin Mouchot showed that a stream of 140 liters would flow in optimal sunshine so he set out to build his design.

“One must not believe, despite the silence of modern writings, that the idea of using solar heat for mechanical operations is recent. On the contrary, one must recognize that this idea is very ancient and its slow development across the centuries it has given birth to various curious devices.”— Augustin Bernard Mouchot said at the Universal Exposition in Paris, France 1878.

via lh3.ggpht.com

via lh3.ggpht.com

Mouchot was correct when he said that solar technology wasn’t a new thing, humans had been using solar energy for hundreds of years.  In the 7th century, we were able to magnify the power of the sun in order to create fires.

In 1767, the first Solar Oven was invented. This device could use the sun’s energy to heat up meals and some of this technology is still used today especially in more remote areas of the world. Credit for the first solar oven goes to Swiss physicist Horace de Saussure.

French physicist Edmund Becquerel discovered the Photovoltaic effect in 1839 at the age of 19. He figured out that voltage is created when a material is exposed to sunlight which is the current foundation for solar power. Then in 1873 English engineer Willoughby Smith found out the selenium was super photoconductive.

Building on that discovery professor William Grylls Adams and his student Richard Evans Day got to work in 1876 and were the first to observe the electrical currents produced by sunlight. The inventors found a way to use two electrodes on a selenium plate which would produce electricity when it was in the sunlight.

John Ericsson’s Solar Engines. (left image source, right image source)

John Ericsson’s Solar Engines.

Augustin Mouchot returned to France in 1878 with is assistant Abel Pifre and they were able to show people at the Universal Exhibition in Paris how concentrating solar heat would produce a steady stream of electricity.

Unfortunately for solar technology coal prices plummetted and it because cheaper to burn fossil fuels for electricity than it was to fund further solar technology research. The French government announced that solar energy was uneconomical and ended Mouchot’s funding for his research.

via instituteforenergyresearch.org

via instituteforenergyresearch.org

As you can see in the chart above fossil fuels have dominated the electrical market ever since that time. Burning these fuels may have seemed like a good decision in the 1900s but we have since learned that we are using up this finite resource and adding unneeded pollution in the air as well.  

“Eventually industry will no longer find in Europe the resources to satisfy its prodigious expansion… Coal will undoubtedly be used up. What will industry do then?” — said Augustin Bernard Mouchot, after he demonstrated an early industrial application of solar thermal energy in 1880.

Solar technology research slowed significantly for a very long time, but there were still a few notable breakthroughs that helped us get to where we are today. In 1883, Charles Fritts, a U.S. inventor came up with a plan to create solar cells.

Albert Einstein also saw the value in solar technology and in 1905 he worked on the photoelectric effect. He formed a theory on the photons of light where he strived to use that light to “liberate” the electrons on a metal surface. 16 years later in 1921 he submitted a paper of his research and even got a Nobel Prize for his work.

Solar cell technology was pioneered by Jan Czochralski from Poland who found a way to grow a single crystal layer of silicon in 1918.

In 1954, one of the biggest breakthroughs in solar cell technology took place when Gerald Peterson, Calvin Fuller, and David Chapin built the first device that took sunlight and turned it directly into electrical power in the Bell Labs. They were even able to improve their design over time bringing the efficiency from 4% to 11%.

It seems like we need to focus on long-term solutions even if there isn’t short term profits or benefits. Can you imagine what our world would be like if we had simply put more of our energy into solar technology over 100 years ago?

Sources-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustin_Mouchot

History of Electricity

http://landartgenerator.org/blagi/archives/2004

http://energyinformative.org/the-history-of-solar-energy-timeline/

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News

Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”

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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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News

Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour

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Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.

In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.

While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.

“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.

See for yourself:

Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.

In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.

Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”

Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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