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‘Gravity power’ could be the next wave of green energy

Future Tech: Featuring flight by ionic wind & a jumping aquatic bot.

Concrete blocks dropped from enormous cranes to harvest kinetic energy

From New Atlas:

Meeting our growing energy demands without continuing to destroy the planet might be one of the biggest challenges of our time, and it calls for some pretty creative solutions. Swiss company Energy Vault has just launched an innovative new system that stores potential energy in a huge tower of concrete blocks, which can be “dropped” by a crane to harvest the kinetic energy.

With a focus on storing energy from intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar, the Energy Vault takes advantage of some fundamental physics. If you coil a spring, for example, you’re packing it with potential energy – as soon as you let it go, that energy is unleashed as the spring extends itself back out. This new system scales that up to the grid level.

In this case, that potential energy is stored inside huge concrete blocks. To charge up this skyscraper-sized “battery,” a six-armed crane lifts the blocks off the ground and stacks them up around its base, creating a tower. To discharge, the crane simply lower the blocks back to the ground, converting the kinetic energy from the descent into electricity. Proprietary algorithms calibrate and control the charge and discharge cycles to make it as efficient as possible.

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This silent plane flies by emitting ionic winds

From Popular Mechanics:

Traditional aircraft are powered by loud and mechanical components, with engines and propellers generating the thrust and power necessary to achieve flight. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), however, have developed an airplane that can cruise over the ground without the aid of heavy machinery, using only lithium-ion batteries and electricity to ply air quietly.

While it may “glide” it is no mere “glider” and can summon up its own wind on which to fly. The process, detailed in a study published in Nature, hinges on electroaerodynamic propulsion, a system that creates ionic wind through positively and negatively charged electrodes underneath the plane’s wing. The silent aircraft is necessarily small, weighing in at 5.4 pounds with a 16-foot wingspan, fashioning it a prototype for any future commercial applications.

Steven Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, detailed how the electrodes ultimately compel the aircraft to fly. Forty-thousand volts of electricity under the plane’s wings are created by positively and negatively charged electrodes, fostering an electric current of nitrogen ions. The ions collide with normal air molecules, emitting ionic wind out of the plane’s back and giving it flight.

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A robot designed to launch itself out of the water

From Digital Trends:

Forget Olympics high jumpers — if you really want to see some impressive vertical leaping look no further than aquatic animals such as the whale, dolphin and even the humble mobula rays — all of which are capable of launching themselves out of the water and into the air with graceful ease. Borrowing from this technique, researchers from Cornell University have developed a breaching robot that is able to pull off similarly dazzling feats in a tank of water.

“In this study, we [elucidated] the physics of jumping aquatic animals by analyzing biological data, conducting simplified experiments and theoretical modeling,” Sunghwan Jung, associate professor in Cornell’s Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering, told Digital Trends.

“By firing axisymmetric bodies out of water, we found two distinct regimes that govern jump height as related to the ratio of inertia to gravity,” Jung continued. “Based on these findings, a bio-inspired robot was built to jump out of water. When exiting water, the robot carries a large volume of fluid referred to as an entrained mass. A theoretical model [was] developed to predict the jumping height of various water-exiting bodies, which shows that the mass of the entrained fluid relative to the mass of the body limits the maximum jumping height.”

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The Editors

The Editorial Team develops articles, company profiles and resources for the Business Hub to bring IT, tech and innovation stories to the Manitoba business community.

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