Future Tech Solar Edition: Featuring a solar hydrogen-generator & a solar power highway.
Australian town retrofits vintage train to run on sunlight
From Popular Mechanics:
The world’s first solar power train has gone on its inaugural run. It doesn’t go very far but the Australian Byron Bay Railroad will begin making regular solar-powered journeys in January 2018.
Byron Bay, New South Wales, is located in eastern Australia and is known as a surfer and backpacker’s paradise with a population of around 5,000. The new train service covers 1.8 miles (3 km) between the city’s center and its North Beach district. It’s part of a longer 82 mile (132 km) line connecting Australia’s Northern Rivers region north of the capital Sydney.
What the solar-powered lacks in distance it makes for in style. A 1949 refurbished ‘red rattler,’ the train uses custom-built curved solar panels on its roof and can carry 100 passengers.
“We searched the country and found a dilapidated vintage train, restored it, and are now powering it with a 4.6 billion-year-old power source,” says Jeremy Holmes, Byron Bay Railroad Company’s development director in a press statement.
A ‘solar fuels rig’ that generates hydrogen
From New Atlas:
Hydrogen is a clean fuel source, but current methods of producing it, often by converting natural gas, can undo any environmental benefit. Producing hydrogen out of sunlight and water doesn’t create any CO2, and recent research has improved the efficiency and lowered the cost of devices that achieve this. Now, engineers from Columbia University are developing a “solar fuels rig” that floats on the ocean, captures energy through a solar cell and uses it to harvest hydrogen from the water beneath it.
The rig produces hydrogen through water electrolysis, a technique where H2 and O2 gases are separated out of water by passing an electric current through the liquid. Most of the time, these devices require a membrane to separate the two electrodes, but these membranes are fragile and require very pure water, which limits their practical applications.
The device developed at Columbia can split water into hydrogen and oxygen without needing a membrane. That means it can be deployed on seawater, which would normally degrade a membrane thanks to the impurities and micro-organisms that call it home.
China’s new solar power highway
From Clean Technica:
China has opened a 1-kilometer long solar road in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province south of Beijing. The two-lane road covers 5,875 square meters and can generate up to 1 million kilowatt-hours of power annually — enough to power 800 Chinese homes, according to XinhuaNet. The electricity will be used to run street lights, billboards, surveillance cameras, and toll collection plazas. It will also be used to heat the road surface to keep it clear of snow. Any excess will be fed back into the local utility grid.
The surface of the road is made of transparent concrete which can withstand 10 times more pressure than regular concrete, according to Slate. Beneath the concrete are solar panels that convert sunlight to electricity. Under the solar panels is an insulating layer designed to protect them from excessive heat or cold.
“The project will save the space for building solar farms and shorten the transmission distance,” said Xu Chunfu, chairman of Qilu Transportation Development Group, the project developer. He claims the Chinese solar road cost half as much as similar roads in other countries. France, for one, is experimenting with solar roads as well.
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