By leveraging the difference between lit and shadowed areas, a new energy source perfect for wearables is invented.
- Mobile devices used both indoors and out may benefit from a new energy collection system that thrives on mixed and changing lighting conditions.
- Inexpensive new collection cells are said to be twice as efficient as commercial solar cells.
- The system's "shadow effect" would also maker it useful as a sensor for tracking traffic.
For all of its promise, solar energy depends on the capture of light, and the more the better. For residents of sunny climes, that's great, with rooftop collection panels, and solar farms built by utilities in wide open, sunny spaces that can provide power to the rest of us. Now, though, a team of scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has announced success at deriving energy from…shadows.
We've got plenty of them everywhere. "Shadows are omnipresent, and we often take them for granted," says research team leader Tan Swee Ching, who notes how shadows are usually anathema for energy collection. "In conventional photovoltaic or optoelectronic applications where a steady source of light is used to power devices, the presence of shadows is undesirable, since it degrades the performance of devices." His team has come up with something quite different, and Tan claims of their shadow-effect energy generator (SEG) that, "This novel concept of harvesting energy in the presence of shadows is unprecedented."
The research is published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.
How it works
Image source: Royal Society of Chemistry/NUS
The energy produced by the SEG is generated from the differential between shadowed and lit areas. "In this work," says Tan. "We capitalized on the illumination contrast caused by shadows as an indirect source of power. The contrast in illumination induces a voltage difference between the shadow and illuminated sections, resulting in an electric current."
SEG cells are less expensive to produce than solar cells. Each SEG cell is a thin film of gold on a silicon wafer, and an entire system is a set of four of these cells arrayed on a flexible, transparent plastic film. Experiments suggest the system, in use, is twice as efficient as commercial solar cells.
An SEG cell's shadow effect works best when it is half in light and half in shadow, "as this gives enough area for charge generation and collection respectively," says co-team leader Andrew Wee. When the SEG is entirely in shadow or in light, it doesn't produce a charge.
Gold in them that shadows
To be sure, the amount of energy that NUS researchers have thus far extracted is small, but it's enough to power a digital watch. The researchers envision the SEG system harvesting ambient light to power smart phones and AR glasses that are used both outdoors and indoors. While such devices can run on solar batteries, solar is only replenished outdoors, and the SEG could "scavenge energy from both illumination and shadows associated with low light intensities to maximize the efficiency of energy harvesting," says Tan. It seems clear that we're on the cusp of the era of wearables — AR visionwear, smart fabrics, smart watches, and so on — and so Tan considers the arrival of the SEG "exciting and timely."
The researchers also note an additional application for which the SEG seems a natural: It can function as a self-powered sensor for monitoring moving objects. The shadow caused by a passing object would trigger the SEG sensor, which can then record the event.
Next up for the team is investigating constructing cells using other, less costly materials than gold to make them even less expensive to produce.
The future of education and work will rely on teaching students deeper problem-solving skills.
- Asking kids 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' is a question that used to make sense, says Jaime Casap. But it not longer does; the nature of automation and artificial intelligence means future jobs are likely to shift and reform many times over.
- Instead, educators should foster a culture of problem solving. Ask children: What problem do you want to solve? And what talents or passions do you have that can be the avenues by which you solve it?
- "[T]he future of education starts on Monday and then Tuesday and then Wednesday and it's constant and consistent and it's always growing, always improving, and if we create that culture I think that would bring us a long way," Casap says.
The physical action of handwashing plus the properties of soap is a one-two punch for the virus.
- A common recommendation from experts to help protect against coronavirus is to wash your hands often, but why? It turns out that each time you do it is an effective two-pronged attack.
- As Kate the Chemist explains, the virus has a weak outer membrane. By using the proper handwashing technique, you're actually breaking through that membrane and ripping the virus apart.
- Soap is an important part of the equation because of its two sides: the hydrophobic side (which grabs onto the virus), and the hydrophilic side (which grabs onto the water). Washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds allows the virus to be rinsed away.
A global brainstorming marathon is throwing together brilliant ideas from around the world to rapidly develop solutions to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
- The Global Hack is a 48-hour online brainstorming marathon beginning on Thursday, April 9.
- The event is open to anyone with a solution to address the COVID-19 pandemic and socioeconomic problems caused by it.
- The prize pool is estimated at 120,000 euros, or about $130,000 U.S. dollars.
What is the Global Hack?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkxNzg1My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTkxMzE4Mn0.5-6HtXLj2a0feIL0ggwT6KrDp2PaGkJ4dTljUF9mUcQ/img.png?width=980" id="7884d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4d7b7b0c64d2b1fe57a87ef2a035da3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Source: Screenshot / The Global Hack Facebook event<p><a href="https://www.siliconrepublic.com/start-ups/global-hack-coronavirus-covid19-hackathon" target="_blank">The hackathon</a> is a 48-hour, organized brainstorming marathon. The first<a href="https://www.siliconrepublic.com/start-ups/estonian-hackathon-covid19-coronavirus-solutions" target="_blank"> Hack the Crisis</a> event began in Estonia in mid-March. Organized by the Estonian start-up <a href="https://accelerateestonia.ee/en/" target="_blank">Accelerate Estonia</a> and <a href="https://garage48.org/" target="_blank">Garage48</a> in just three days, the event brought together 1,300 people from 20 different countries. One of the ideas presented, the <a href="https://voicebot.ai/2020/03/30/estonia-debuts-coronavirus-chatbot-born-in-a-hackathon/" target="_blank">SUVE bot</a>, is now used in government offices in Estonia. The bot is able to answer visitor's questions about the coronavirus in real-time. Another idea presented was <a href="https://www.getzelos.com/blog/coronavirus-crisis-hotline/" target="_blank">Zelos</a>, a platform that connects the most vulnerable, at-risk individuals with volunteers using a call center and task dispatch app to prevent further isolation.</p><p>"As this was getting into motion, during the [original] hack during those three days, the organizers were already seeing that this is going to be something huge," says Helery Pops, a communications volunteer for the Global Hack. </p><p>Soon after Estonia's Hack the Crisis, activists from 48 other countries took notice and organized their own hacks. Now, this week, the original organizers along with volunteers from several countries are putting together one unified, worldwide hackathon financially powered by European Commission, United Nations, and New America. Focusing on issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it's calling for innovators in countries across the globe to put their ideas into motion. </p><p>"This is our call to hack the crisis - not only to brainstorm solutions to prevent and stop the spreading of a highly-infectious disease but to think about how our lives will be different after this," said Kai Isand, head organizer of the Global Hack, in a press release. "The next step for the global movement is to come together in a unified hackathon event where teams will create projects that have a strong international socio-economic impact and create the needed rapid change." </p>
How to Hack<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkxNzg1OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzcyNzE3NH0.njD5Pg2-zXoI5vyddn9dBA17Ol3sqiX42EKkW4_2kWI/img.jpg?width=980" id="9b1fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="62b57288d589972582e5b16ac7ced320" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Source: The Global Hack Facebook event<p>So, here's how it works. First, you come up with a brilliant solution to address the COVID-19 crisis that falls within one of the tracklists on the Global Hack's<a href="https://theglobalhack.com/" target="_blank"> website</a>. You then share your ideas and find a team to collaborate with on the app Slack, which you can <a href="https://theglobalhack.slack.com/join/shared_invite/zt-d9q40p37-i2r3AL5Ca7WpMctgQ~QqoQ" target="_blank">sign up for here</a> (If you already have a solid idea and team, you have until April 9 to upload the project to<a href="http://theglobalhack.devpost.com" target="_blank"> Devpost</a>). Once the hack begins, you and your team have 48 hours to come up with a solution. The hack will begin with a kick-off session this Thursday, April 9, at 1 p.m. UTC and end on Sunday, April 12. Some examples of categories include arts and creativity, economy, environment, governance, mental health, and education. You then join the appropriate Slack channel for your idea. If you don't want to submit your own idea, there are also challenges that require partners, so you can join one of those. Right now, the prize pool is estimated at 120,000 euros, or about $130,000 U.S. dollars.</p><p>Teams building the solutions and prototypes will also be in contact with mentors—experts and professionals in certain categories—who can help them bring their ideas to fruition. For example, if you developed an idea and needed help with the legal logistics, there would be a legal specialist who could talk you through it. Additionally, each track is lead by an inspirational line-up of entrepreneurs and global leaders including Steve Jurvetson, co-found of Future Ventures and board member at Tesla and SpaceX; the current and former presidents of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid and Toomas Hendrik Ilves; and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, a past<a href="https://bigthink.com/how-can-we-promote-innovation-2" target="_self"> Big Think expert</a>.<br></p>
Thinking beyond coronavirus<p>While the idea behind the Global Hack is to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, Pops says that they are tackling the crisis through systematic solutions that reach further than just the virus.</p><p> "We want to make sure that the solutions that come out of it apply to a world after the crisis as well," she explains. As an example, she points to the SUVE bot invention as being an ideal solution because, while for now it may be utilized to help people understand what is going on with the health crisis, a year from now it may be a revolutionary way for governments to speak to their citizens. </p><p>"Those are the winning ideas, [those] that can be put into practice after the crisis as well," says Pops. </p><p>The concept of the hackathon might itself be one of those winning ideas. By uniting brilliant minds from around the globe with field experts, the Global Hack rapidly streamlines the process of a great idea becoming a real-life solution. Innovations that would have taken half a year under normal circumstances happen in days. </p><p>Because anyone motivated to act can participate, the hack also democratizes the chance to create a world-changing invention or prototype. </p><p>"There are some people who are joining who have had some resemblance of an idea for a long time but this gives them the platform to just do it super quickly and super well," says Pops. "And of course I think it gives people a lot of purpose as well." </p><p><a href="https://theglobalhack.com/?fbclid=IwAR2TsChL75i9p3Av4hHuwO-Nnc8Ue73PSTclxnsoIUOYPcEn2w4Nzuzek3Q" target="_blank">Join the Global Hackathon here.</a></p>
We encode our biases into everything we create: books, poems, and AI. What does that means for an increasingly automated future?
- AI isn't "just technology," says Professor Ramesh Srinivasan. We have to bust the myth that AI is neutral and has no biases. We encode our biases into artificial intelligence. That fact will become more apparent as 5G 'smart cities' become a reality.
- Business leaders must develop awareness and ask themselves: What are the data sets my technologies are learning from and what are the values that are influencing the development of these technologies?
- The American public, across every demographic and both sides of the aisle, supports doing something about big technology issues that are creating an unequal future, says Srinivasan. We are at an inflection point, and good AI is possible if tech leaders act on these issues.