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Infinity Labs

A Roof That Also Lights Your Home

Solar Roofs are a niche area but is growing in popularity with the development of more products that are aesthetically pleasing and offer more efficiency. solar roof What are Solar Roofs exactly? Solar Roofs are not roofs where solar electricity is generated by putting in solar mounting/racking systems and mainstream solar panels but rather they are roofs where specialized cells called “solar shingles” are installed. Solar Roofs can also mean a roof where Building Integrated Photovoltaic (”BIPV”) products are installed. Either way, its pretty darn cool to have a roof that will also produce electricity and reduce greenhouse gasses.

Types of Solar Roofs:

  1. Flat Roofs -These roofs can be fitted not only with solar tiles but also with thin film flexible modules quite easily
  2. Slanted Roofs – These slanted roofs is most appropriate for solar shingles technology where tiles can interlock easily.Fitting thin film flexible solar panels is more difficult in this case
  3. Facades – These increase the area of buildings and also improve the aesthetics of the buildings besides generating electricity as well.

The Solar Roof can be constructed by installing “solar shingles” or “solar tiles” made by some companies. These tiles are interlocking in nature and fit onto the roof just like normal tiles you would find on a Spanish Style Home. These solar tiles however can generate electricity from the sun and have wires attaching them which converge into an inverters.This solar inverter converts the DC electricity produced from the solar shingles to AC electricity which is used by the normal electrical appliances.Note the efficiency of solar roofs is lower than that of roofs with normal crystalline silicon solar panels installed on them.This is because the technology used is generally thin film which has lower energy conversion factor than the normal silicon panels.

The advantages of a Solar Roof are:

  1. Environment Friendly
  2. Saves Electricity Bills
  3. Increased Real Estate Value
  4. Durability
  5. Better Design
  6. Easy Installation
  7. Warranties from the Manufacturer for 20-25 years

Popular Manufacturers of Solar Shingles

  • Energy Conversion Devices - This company sells flexible CIGS thin film solar panels under the UniSolar Brand Name.
  • Dow Chemicals – This Chemicals Conglomerate has started producing it proprietary Solar Shingles recently.While the company first showcased its DOW™ POWERHOUSE™ SOLAR SHINGLE in 2009,these solar tiles will be available commercially only this year.Note Dow uses the same thin film technology Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) used by UniSolar.


Aaah, What Cute Robot

imageEver since I saw Rosie on the Jetsons as a kid, I have dreamed about having a robot.  I have played with lots of the various bots that have come out and bought a few like the Roomba.  I am still waiting for one that knocks my socks off and then picks them up, washes them and puts them away for me. So I am excited to see that Toshiba is doing its part to ensure that we all have little helper robots to serve us in the future. The company has come up with the prototype “Wheelie” robot, which is an indoor, autonomous, 2-wheeled robot. It looks a little like something a marriage between a Segway transporter and mini bar would produce, but as long as it’s cute, right? The aim of the robot is to help out with the daily chores, such as serving food. Currently you’ll still need to place the plates and glasses on top of the robot’s head, and it will sort out the rest.  Not quite Rosie but its progress. 

Check the video after the jump.

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As If He Was Not Rich Enough, Gates Solves Energy Crisis

Bill Gates is obviously a big brain.  Even though Microsoft did not create DOS, which became the OS standard for the PC industry and set the table for Gates to be the richest man in the world, he saw its potential early and moved on it to own the market.  The same may now be true in the energy sector.  Gates and former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold control Intellectual Ventures a Seattle based company that is amassing patents and scientists to solve big problems including the world’s future energy needs.  One of the breakthroughs Gates and Intellectual Ventures claim is the ability to take America’s nuclear waste stockpile, largely U238, and create a 3,000 years (yes three thousand) energy supply through a process known as Travelling Wave Reactors (“TWRs”).  If true, that is 100 Trillion dollars in energy value!

image TWRs claims to deliver a zero-emission energy that would reduce current nuclear waste volumes. While the concept of TWR’s came into existence in the 1950’s. realization of the science, and commercialization, is now here via supercomputer computational tools.  The general concept of TWRs is that they use a small amount of fissive material to kick off a wave in nonfissile fuel, such as depleted uranium, in which neutrons produced by fission reactions in one small part of the core convert adjacent fuel pellets from fertile isotopes (such as U238) into fissile isotopes (such as Pu239). So, a TWR breeds its own nuclear fuel on demand with exhausted fuel left in the core. So unlike conventional nuclear plants that take in new fuel and expel high-level waste every 18 months or so, a TWR can in principle be fueled once, sealed up, and run without refueling for 60 years or more.  It is believed that the Intellectual Ventures plan is to build small micro-reactors a mile in the earth’s surface, far below the water table and offering limited egress to the atmosphere, to address the inevitable environmental and social policy concerns over nuclear energy.  Gates’ company TerraPower is commercializing he technology and you will find a video of their CEO here.

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