Electricity Shapes Flames to Reduce Emissions
Modes of transportation dominate this week's gallery of eye-pleasing technology. From bicycles strung up for the sake of art to the world's fastest passenger jet to a balloon ride designed to lift you to the edge of space, we can't help but marvel at what the future of transportation holds.
Above: Each year, Toronto holds a one-night arts festival called Nuit Blanche. A highlight this year was a sculpture from Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei. His Forever Bicycles installation featured 3,144 silver bikes stacked 30 feet high and 100 feet in length in the city's Nathan Phillips Square.
Flying cars are no longer a figment of fiction. Joining forces with road planes such as the Terrafugia and PAL-V is the Aeromobil 2.5, created by Stefan Klein, a designer who has worked on projects for Audi, BMW and Volkswagen at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia. Klein tested his prototype at a Slovakian airport, demonstrating the vehicle can go 124 mph and has a range of 430 miles.
Swedish automaker Volvo announced that it's now working on a wireless inductive charger for electric vehicles. This kind of charging platform uses an electromagnetic field instead of a cord to recharge a car's battery. In tests, the company demonstrated that their C30 Electric car battery could be fully charged in 2.5 hours.
Zaha Hadid Architects
German shipbuilder Blohm + Voss hired architect Zaha Hadid to design this super yacht, which is actually a fleet of six vessels dubbed Unique Circle. Her concept consists of a 420-foot “mothership,” shown here, and five 295-foot ships.
World View Enterprises
Space tourism is gaining in popularity. World View Enterprises has now obtained US Federal Aviation Administration approval to give people balloon rides to the edge of space, 18.6 miles above the Earth. The ride will cost around $75,000 and should be available in 2016.
This Gulfstream G650 set a world record for the fastest westbound, around-the-world flight for civilian aircraft. It traveled 20,310 nautical miles in 41 hours and seven minutes, reaching a maximum speed of Mach 0.925.
At the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting & Exposition, Sikorsky and Boeing revealed the name of their new Joint Multi-Role (JMR) helicopter tech: Defiant. Over the next twenty years, the helicopter will replace the current Apaches and Black Hawks helicopters.
Renzo Piano/ENEL Green Power
Italian architect Renzo Piano has won a prize for his compact, super-efficient wind turbine that's small enough to install in a backyard. Inspired by the aerodynamic flight of dragonflies, the two-bladed “Dragonfly Invisible Wind Turbine” captures the energy of breezes as slow as four miles per hour and is able to convert that motion into 55 kiloWatts of electricity. Currently the international renewable energy corporation ENEL Green Power is testing the wind turbine for possible use in its Green Power Plants.
UK-based company Pro-Teq has developed a coating that can be applied to any pavement. During the day, it absorbs sunlight and then at night, glows to create energy-free light that could be used to illuminate dark pathways for a low cost. It's also non-slip and water-resistant.
U.S. Army, Revision
The Army is testing a new helmet that resembles headgear from the “Halo” video game franchise. The HEaDS-UP system, developed by Revision, has a transparent ballistic visor, a mandible facemask to protect against 9 mm ammunition and display technologies that can be projected on the inside of the visor.
Using electricity to shape flames sounds like a weird anime superhero power. But it’s real. A company called ClearSign Combustion has found a way to do it and their innovation would reduce pollution from power plants.
Pollution from power plants is mostly from particulates – that’s what makes smoke black from a coal plant, for instance. The reason is that most flames don’t burn perfectly. There’s always a little fuel left over, which gets shunted out the smokestack.
ClearSign’s technology puts two electrodes in the combustion chamber. The electrodes generate an electric field that alters the path of positively and negatively charged ions in the flames.
The electrodes can control the flame shape, which encourages the fire to burn more of the fuel. In a demonstration video the company showed a flame being reduced to half its size, and since the amount of energy was the same, the flame was effectively twice as intense. The technique can eliminate a big portion of the soot from a typical furnace and it removes a lot of nitrogen-oxide compounds as well.
The system requires high voltages, but small amounts of current. The company says the electric power used is only a small percentage of what’s in the flame itself.
One big effect of this kind of technology is eliminating the need for filters or other pollution control technologies, which are expensive to install, especially on older plants. This could be a very big deal in developing nations, where the expense of fully retrofitting old plants can be prohibitive.
ClearSign’s technology hasn’t been widely commercialized yet, though it signed a development agreement in April with Grandeg, a European company that makes wood-pellet burners. The company says in its quarterly reports that it is in talks with several customers, mostly power and waste disposal companies.