The Popemobile is one of the most iconic vehicles in the world, making it a prime candidate for a green makeover. Pope Benedict XVI has recently stated that he wants to change the car from a standard gas guzzler to a solar powered electric vehicle.
Currently, Pope Benedict drives around in a modified Mercedes Benz M-Class SUV, with a special viewing area on the back, so everyone can see him as he passes. There's no word yet though on what kind of electric he may be switching to. But the news shouldn't be that surprising, as Pope Benedict has been in charge of several green initiatives at the Vatican, including adding photovoltaic cells to the building roof in 2008 and the addition of a solar cooling unit in 2009.
When we first learned of the Biome--the strange Mercedes Benz concept vehicle that was literally grown from seeds--all we had to go on was an artist's rendering. Now Mercedes has officially unveiled the project at the Los Angeles Auto Show, providing a few more details and a much closer look at the car.
The designers at BMW envision the lab grown car being made out of a currently non-existent material called BioFibre, which would be lighter than plastic and stronger than steel. It would then run on some sort of fuel called BioNectar4534, which, again, doesn't currently exist. The Biome would be completely biodegradable and would produce no harmful emissions.
"The Mercedes Benz Biome is a natural technology hybrid, and forms part of our earth's ecosystem," Mercedes' Hubert Lee explained. "It grows and thrives like the leaves on a tree--The interior of the Biome grows from the DNA in the Mercedes star on the front of the vehicle, while the exterior grows from the star on the rear. To accommodate specific customer requirements, the Mercedes star is genetically engineered in each case, and the vehicle grows when the genetic code is combined with the seed capsule. The wheels are grown from four separate seeds."
Recycling is great and all, but reusing is even better. That's what makes these lamps from Hong Kong designer Kamric so great. Not only do they look good, but they're made from reclaimed materials.
Kamric calls the series the Ugly Duckling Project, and it features lamps made from PVC pipe, a common material in construction. The pipe has a light fixture on one end and, serving as the lamp shade, the top of a discarded plastic bottle. The idea of a lamp made from old pipe and plastic bottles may not sound all that great on paper, but in practice the lamps are very visually appealing. The lamp shades can also easily and cheaply be swapped to provide different lighting effects.
2012 may the year of the apocalypse, but it's also the year of the recyclable subway car. In two years the country, with help from partners Siemens and BMW, is planning to introduce a new type of subway car that is 97.5 percent recyclable.
Called the Inspiro, the train features an aluminum chassis designed to be much lighter than traditional subways, and also much more spacious to accommodate better passenger flow. It also features a demand-controlled air conditioning system and electrodynamic braking, which, when coupled with the lightweight design means that the Inspiro requires less energy to run, and could potentially reduce energy consumption by up to 30 percent for the Polish subway system.
By the end of 2013 it's expected that 35 of the trains will be in service, with nearly 40 percent of the manufacturing materials being sourced locally.
A German airline will begin experimenting with biofuels, using a 50/50 blend over a period of six months. The company, Lufthansa, will be using the fuel on flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt as a way of testing the effects it has on the aircraft engines.
The biofuel will be mixed with traditional jet fuel, though it will only be used in one of the two jet engines; the other will use pure jet fuel. This news makes Lufthansa the first airline in the world to use biofuel for commercial flights. However, the company did not go into specifics about what type of biofuel it will be using. But it will be coming from a renewable source, Lufthansa said.
"No rain forest will be deforested for Lufthansa biofuel," company spokesperson Wolfgang Mayrhuber said. "In the procurement of biofuel, we ensure it originates from a sustainable supply and production process."
Starbucks sells a lot of coffee, and along with that coffee comes a lot of cups. Unfortunately, the company's thin paper cups aren't accepted by most recycling facilities. But a recently conducted pilot program suggests that the billion or so paper cups sold by Starbucks each year can be recycled into new cups.
The test took place over six weeks and saw the Mississippi River Pulp company take Starbucks' paper cups, recycle them, and then turn them into new ones. Currently MRP is the only pulp mill in the country that has done this successfully. The news is all part of Starbucks' goal of making sure all of its cups are either recyclable or reusable by 2015.
"This innovation represents an important milestone in our journey," Jim Hanna, Starbucks director of Environmental Impact, said in a statement. "We still have a lot of work to do to reach our 2015 goal, but we're now in a much stronger position to build momentum across the recycling industry. Our next step is to test this concept in a major city, which we plan to do in collaboration with International Paper and Mississippi River in 2011."
Meanwhile, in New York, Starbucks is testing out a different type of recycling project, by seeing whether or not old cups can be turned in bath tissue and paper towels. A similar project will start next year in Chicago, where the company will attempt to recycle cups into usable napkins.
If there's one problem with the current generation of laptops, it's their battery life. And one of the most likely ways to overcome this is by using fuel cells. In addition to providing more power, these cells also have the added benefit of being environmentally friendly, as they utilize methane gas. Traditionally these types of cells have been both too expensive and too hot to be practical, but scientists at Harvard say that may soon change.
According to Shriram Ramanathan, the lead researcher behind the project at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, solid-oxide fuel cells (or SOFCs) may soon be the most common form of power for portable devices. The team has developed a thin SOFC that eschews using platinum, making it both a cheaper and more reliable alternative. This only leaves the high temperature as an issue.
"Low temperature is a holy grail in this field," Ramanathan told Science Daily. "If you can realize high-performance solid-oxide fuel cells that operate in the 300-500°C range, you can use them in transportation vehicles and portable electronics, and with different types of fuels."
Research is ongoing, and Ramanathan says that one of the main goals is to find "affordable, earth-abundant materials that can help lower the operating temperature even further."
While electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt tend to dominate the headlines, there's more to the plug-in scene than small passenger cars. Like super cars, for instance. At the Los Angeles Auto Show, Jaguar showed off its new C-X75 concept, which takes plug-in cars to a whole new level.
The C-X75 features four electric motors, each providing 195 horsepower, giving the sleek car a grand total of 780 electric horsepower. But, as a hybrid, the car also features two small micro-gas turbines, which can provide upwards of 180 additional horsepower. When in electric mode, the C-X75 has a range of nearly 70 miles. When the electric battery pack runs out of juice, that's when the gas turbines kick in.
The Wadi Hanifa is a valley in Saudia Arabia, that's over 75 miles long. And thanks to increased urbanization, it became subject to runoff from a local sewage treatment plant, turning it into a toxic sewer. But in 2001 Moriyama & Teshima Planners, a Toronto-based architectural firm, was tasked with cleaning up the valley and has now been recognized for turning it into a sparkling oasis.
The firm won five Aga Khan awards this week for its work on the $100 million project, funded by the city of Riyadh.
"Wadi Hanifa was Riyadh's dump and its sewer," Moriyama & Teshima Planners president George Stockton said. "What we wanted to do was to bring Wadi Hanifa back to life. So after decades of neglect, we are now seeing this amazing rebirth and transformation of Wadi Hanifa as a naturalized park system.
In addition to cleaning up the valley, the rehabilitation project also included the installation of dams to regulate water flow and planting reeds to help purify the water further. The Wadi Hanifa now serves as a home to plenty of social activities, including fishing and picnicking.
You can view a series of before and after images of the valley at the CBC.
If your looking for a unique way to boost the sound of your iPhone or iPod Touch, the Koostik may just be the thing for you. Hand made from various types of wood--you can choose which type when you purchase--the Koostik isn't so much a speaker, but rather a way to amplify the sound of your iDevice.
According to the creator, it works like this: "Think of a solid body guitar that's unplugged--you strum the strings and get a little bit of sound. But if those strings are placed over a hollow body guitar and you strum the strings--you suddenly have acoustic music. The same principal is at work with Koostik. Simply place your iPhone into the center cradle, and immediately you hear your music acoustically amplified!"
The one drawback, of course, is that since the Koostik is electricity free unlike most other iPhone speaker stations, it won't be able to charge up your device as it plays. It's also rather expensive, with a price tag of $85, though shipping is free anywhere in the U.S. You can purchase the Koostik here.
Nissan is doing more to help the environment than just releasing the Leaf, as the auto maker has also recently unveiled a new type of pedal that actually helps drivers use less fuel. Developed in conjunction with Mikuni Corporation, a Japanese auto parts manufacturer, the pedal provides resistance, so the driver will be less inclined to push it all the way down.
Aptly dubbed the ECO Pedal system, the technology was developed for the Nissan Fuga, a luxury car currently only available in Japan. And according to the auto manufacturer, the system is able to improve fuel efficiency by anywhere from five to 10 percent. Though it's currently only being used for the Fuga, Nissan plans to expand the system to other vehicles in its line as well. Additionally, the technology can now be licensed by other companies as well, letting other car companies get in on the fuel saving action as well.
Last week the Philadelphia Eagles announced that they would be retrofitting their home stadium Lincoln Financial Field into something much more green. And while the eco-friendly makeover won't be completed until September of next year, the football club has released a pair of concept images that show what the stadium will look like.
The images show the 80, spiral shaped wind turbines that will be mounted along the edges of the stadium's roof, while large solar panel installations will be located on the exterior of the building. The whole installation will cost an estimated $30 million, but is also expected to save the club nearly $60 million in energy savings over its lifespan.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell believes that the Eagles will be just the first of many NFL clubs to go initiate this type of environmentally friendly stadium upgrade. "The NFL is one of the most competitive clubs in the world," he said. "That's because our clubs are competitive with one another."
While the steady move towards electric vehicles is great for the environment, there's still one part of a car that remains a big eco problem: the tires. They're difficult to recycle and don't have many options when it comes to being reused. But that may change thanks to a researcher in Spain who have discovered a way to turn tires into fuel.
By using the thermochemical decomposition process of pyrolysis, which is able to create heat without any oxygen, chemist María Felisa Laresgoiti has discovered a way to break down old tires into usable components. The process involves heating the tires at 500°C for 30 minutes. This process creates a liquid that's similar to petroleum, so in theory could be used as a potential fuel source. In addition to the liquid produced, an additional 44 percent of the decomposed tire is turned into solid material. According to Laresgoiti, this leftover material could potentially be used to help reinforce new tires or as a way to add pigments to inks.
We've seen a wind powered yacht, and now we present a solar powered boat. But not just any solar powered boat, it's the world's largest. And it's set to take a trip around the world.
The boat, dubbed the TÛRANOR PlanetSolar, actually set sail last month where it began the journey in Monaco. It should be making additional stops in Miami and Cancún over the next month, with the plan being to travel around the globe without using any fossil fuels whatsoever.
The TÛRANOR is owned by German entrepreneur Immo Ströher, and measures in at a staggering 5,700 square feet. And most of that space is covered with solar panels, with all of the energy absorbed is stored on a lithium ion battery. The boat cost a total of $17.5 million to build.
Nokero has unveiled its second generation light bulb, the aptly named N200, which is now available. Like its predecessor, the N200 is solar powered and water proof and designed as a way of reducing the need for kerosene fueled lighting in developing countries.
The bulb can be hung via an adjustable hanger so that it can always be in the best position for maximum solar absorption. The gathered solar energy is then transfered from the solar panel located on top and used to power a rechargable, replaceable battery inside. It also features three different settings: on, off, and turbo-task. While operating in regular on mode, the N200 can last around six hours on one day's charge. When you brighten things up for turbo-task, that number shrinks to about two and a half hours.
As for life, Nokero says that the rechargable battery has a lifespan of two years, and could last as long as five years after that, with a new battery of course. In order to make the N200 a financially viable option for people in developing countries, Nokero is hoping to sell them for $15 or less.