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Monthly Archives: April 2017

  • The most bizarre sources of renewable energy

    Our planet only has so many stores of the natural resources we use every day to power our cars and heat our houses. As the global population has spiralled, the search for sources of energy that are renewable, and subsequently sustainable, has become more and more desperate. Over the course of their research, scientists have discovered some truly bizarre sources of renewable energy - including things as seemingly disparate as sweat, dance floors and chocolate.

    Sweat

    Pretty much all of us take a great deal of effort ensuring we sweat as little as possible. Taking showers and baths, applying deodorant and wearing moisture wicking clothing are just three of many anti-sweat measures we take. But what if I told you that researchers from the University of California have been able to harness sweat as a renewable energy source? Using temporary tattoos containing small sensors (or biobatteries) that strip electrons from the lactate present in sweat, the researchers were able to generate an electric current.

    Before you crank up your central heating pump to get a sweat on so you can watch the latest episode of Coronation Street on the TV, this research is at an admittedly primitive stage.  At the moment, sweat can only generate around 4 watts of electric current - enough to power a light bulb for the best part of 3 minutes. Whilst there is obviously some distance to go before it becomes a viable alternative, it is thought that it could have use in biomedical and military research that involves exercise regimes.

    Dance floors

    The kinetic energy produced by the movement of the human body is a significant source of energy. One perceptive and forward-thinking business in Rotterdam installed the first energy generating dance floor in the world. Combining the obvious propensity people have for dancing on a dance floor, Energy Floors were able to power the accompanying LED lights by converting the kinetic energy of the dancers into electricity.

    Energy Floors favour an electromechanical system that transfers small vertical movements into a rotating movement that drives a generator. Do you think these dance floors have any chance of catching on in clubs across the world?

    Chocolate

    Using chocolate for anything other than eating seems like a crime. Don’t worry though; researchers from the University of Birmingham have uncovered a way to produce energy from the waste products of chocolate. Hydrogen was produced by feeding nougat and caramel waste to E. coli bacteria. By combining the hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell, electricity was generated.

    Unlike sweat, chocolate seems to have more of a future as a renewable energy source. Researchers at the University of Warwick were also able to power a Formula 3 car capable of taking corners at 125mph using chocolate as a biofuel. Maybe you should hang on to all those left over Easter eggs?

    As you have seen, there are an abundance of unorthodox sources of renewable energy that most of us would never have thought worth even looking into in the first place. Fortunately, researchers had the vision and foresight to do so, and we now have an array of renewable energy sources, one of which may become one of the most important resources on the planet in the future.

    Which source of renewable energy surprised you the most?

  • The History of Hygiene

    Today, we almost take our instant access to steaming jets of hot water at the flick of a switch for granted. Many of us forget the technological advances that have occurred over the past millennia that have morphed and evolved into the likes of the Stuart Turner showermate that we have today. Some of our ancestors braved waterfalls whilst others went months or even years without washing at all. Of course, bathing practices varied wildly across the planet as social and cultural factors dictated. To enlighten you on how human washing habits have changed over the years, we have put together this quick history of hygiene.

    Ancient Egypt

    The Ancient Egyptians were known to have used a substance called natron for bathing. A kind of naturally occurring soda ash that, when combined with oil, made a primitive version of soap. Besides using natron regularly, esteemed members of Ancient Egyptian society had their servants pour jugs of cold water over them in order to maintain a sense of cleanliness.

    Ancient Rome 

    Stuart Turner showermate Ancient Roman bathhouse in Bath

    The Ancient Romans are famous for the aqueducts they instituted across their lands to supply the bathhouses that were a feature of every city. It was commonplace for Romans to attend the bathhouses not only to wash, but also to socialise. Thermae, large imperial bath complexes, and balneae, their smaller-scale equivalents, generally contained a caldarium (hot bath) a tepidarium (warm heated room) and a frigidarium (cold bath) as well as a gymnasium, a library and areas to eat and drink. Although soap was still strictly a luxury good for the Romans, it was common for men to apply oils to their bodies before bathing.

    The Middle Ages

    During the late Middle Ages, hygiene declined as a priority for society for a number of reasons. Public bathhouses became rife with prostitution, and consequently became seen as a place of sin and a place to be avoided. The rise of linen clothing, which was easier to wash than their woolen predecessors, made it easier for people to wash only their face, hands and neck to retain an illusion of cleanliness. Laundry rather than bathing became a weekly routine as perceived cleanliness was supposed to reflect not only the soul of an individual, but also their social status.

    18th and 19th century

    1767 saw the first patent for a shower by William Feetham from Ludgate Hill in London. Although the earliest showers required a hand pump for use, they were more popular than baths because the servants had less water to carry away. In the mid-nineteenth century the increased prevalence of indoor plumbing and the mass production of soap made washing far easier and far more regular.

    20th century

    Tank-less water heaters developed during the 20th century and they became popular for their ability to provide an instant supply of hot water. By the time the 1990s rolled around, 62% of all households in the UK had a shower and there was the choice between an electric shower, a mixer shower and a power shower.

    Today

    Today, 86% of all households in the UK have a shower, and we are fortunate enough to have access to whatever pressure and temperature we desire.

  • A look at some of the world’s most spectacular water features!

    Whether it's a simple garden feature, or a state-of-the-art focal point of a room; water features have been used by architects across the globe to decorate and embellish the architecture of some of the most important cities in the world. Such is the ferocity and complexity of the jets of water that you can’t help but wonder what kind of booster pump they use? Regardless, it is impossible to deny the sheer spectacle of the following water features.

    Banpo Moonlight Rainbow Fountain (Seoul, South Korea) 

    booster pump Banpo Bridge

    The Moonlight Rainbow Fountain in Seoul, South Korea, connects the Seocho and Yongsan districts and is not only a thing of beauty, but also a marvel of efficient engineering. The water that shoots out of the world’s longest bridge fountain is recycled directly from the River Han itself and the 10,000 lights that illuminate the water are energy-efficient LED nozzles. Music, lights and water all synergise to perform a several shows a day, with the day and night shows having distinct sequences.

    Trevi Fountain - (Rome, Italy)

    The oldest and most famous water feature on the list; the Trevi Fountain in Rome was built in 1762. With the backdrop of the Palazzo Poli, the Trevi Fountain plays host to sculptures of mythological Greek gods and creatures as well as the papal crest. As the largest Baroque fountain in the world, it attracts millions of visitors every year. According to ritual, throwing a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder will ensure you return to Rome in the future. It is estimated that €3000 are thrown into the fountain every day and the coins are collected to prevent theft and support the poor people of Rome.

    Swarovski Crystal Head Fountain (Innsbruck, Austria)

    The Swarovski Crystal Head Fountain in Innsbruck, Austria, conceals the entrance to the Crystal Worlds theme park. The way the structure is embedded into the surrounding hills makes it seem as through the crystal head is emerging from the green landscape itself.  The water spilling out from the head’s mouth only serves to further make the crystal head seem as though it is a living, breathing thing.

    Friendship of Peoples Fountain (Moscow, Russia) 

    booster pump Friendship of Peoples Fountain

    Located in the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy in Moscow (VDNKh), the Friendship of Peoples fountain is the centrepiece of the entire park. Dressed in national attire, the sixteen golden sculptures of women that surround and look out from the central fountain are symbolic of the republics that made up the Soviet Union as of the fountain’s construction in 1952.

    Crown Fountain (Chicago, USA) 

    The brainchild of Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, the Crown Fountain incorporates two facing 50 feet tall glass brick towers separated by a black granite reflecting pool. The towers display the faces of Chicago residents and the spout of water is designed to appear to be falling from their mouths. The dichotomy between the faces on the facing towers is supposed to be a representation of the diversity of the ethnicity and age of people in Chicago.

    Which fountain is on your bucket list to visit?

  • How major sports teams are leading the energy-saving revolution

    Sports teams have some of the highest energy bills in the world. With upwards of 80,000 fans attending each game, vast amounts of energy have to be harvested in order to accommodate for it all. Thousands and thousands of air miles are clocked up every year by fans and players alike. Food, drinks, and toilets cater for fans, while groundskeepers, in conjunction with an array of machinery and fertilisers, work tirelessly to provide a supreme surface for play. Somewhere amongst all that energy consumption, there must be some room for streamlining, right? Thankfully, these teams are taking steps to remedy this.

    shutterstock_136818503 Allianz Arena

    Bayern Munich - Allianz Arena 

    Metal halide fixtures have traditionally dominated the lighting of major sports stadiums, but LED lighting is slowly but surely turning the tide. Without needing 30 minutes to warm up to full brightness and with far greater energy efficiency, LEDs are saving time and thousands of kilowatts of energy. Bayern Munich has teamed up with electronics giant Phillips to launch an expansive layer of lights that completely covers the outer shell of the Allianz Arena. Energy efficient LED lights result in a 60% energy saving, and 38000 of them combine to form the impressive outer membrane which is capable of reproducing an astonishing 16 million colours.

    San Francisco 49ers - Levi’s Stadium

    The first NFL stadium to achieve the LEED Gold status for new construction, the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium has a tremendous capability for energy-saving. One such innovation is a geothermal hot water pump that absorbs the energy generated by the sun drenched ground that surrounds the stadium and uses it generate a supply of hot water. Testament to the success of the stadium is the fact that they are able to recycle a startlingly high 85% of their water.

    Melbourne Storm, Melbourne Rebels, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City - Melbourne Rectangular Stadium

    The Melbourne Rectangular Stadium is certainly the most visually striking piece of architecture on the list. Home to four Melbourne teams across football and rugby, the unique geodesic design allows light to filter through to the pitch whilst covering the spectators. In a similar fashion to the Allianz Arena, the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium is also kitted out with thousands of LED lights on its exterior, giving it the ability to perform ‘light shows.’ Prominent artists have worked with stadium engineers to create specific sequences for different events.

    Forest Green Rovers - New Lawn

    While we appear to be slacking when it comes to energy saving compared to our neighbours across the pond, some teams are still taking a stand. Conference Premier side Forest Green Rovers became the first in the UK to play on an organic football pitch. They believe the higher cost of organic materials is off-set by the savings made from the long-term benefits to the soil. Not content with just that illustrious title, the club has also installed 170 photovoltaic panels and a solar-powered autonomous lawnmower.

    From harnessing solar energy to maximum effect to making use of more efficient lighting fixtures, it is obvious that many sports teams are keen to be more energy efficient. Often blamed for their excessive waste of energy, it is pleasing to see sports teams taking steps to rectify this issue.

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