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Technology

How thin can solar panels get?

solar paper panels
solar paper charging
solar paper comparison
solar paper backpack
solar paper magnets
solar paper lcd

Solar panels called ‘Solar Paper’, due to their small size and weight, can now be used to charge a whole host of small appliances such as mobile phones or laptops.

Remember when computers were too heavy to lift? Depending on how old you are, maybe not. Either way, now they can fit into a pocket and the weight is barely noticeable. The same thing has happened with solar technology. First presented as heavy solar panels – that needed a lot of muscle to get them onto the roof –we are now at the other end of the spectrum. Solar panels called ‘Solar Paper’, due to their small size and weight, can now be used to charge a whole host of small appliances such as mobile phones or laptops.

Solar Paper fits into the pages of a book rather like a bookmark, only it’s a bit bigger than most bookmarks at 19x9cm and just 4mm thick. At the top end there is a USB charging port 11mm thick. Each ‘page’ of this solar panel device provides 2.5W of power. At 128gm you can easily stick two or three together and use them to charge up your phone, external battery, camera and other devices. In fact, four solar panels can be joined together to juice a larger device such as a laptop. And don’t worry, the devices are embedded with magnets so you won’t lose them.

Why would we want this?

Solar Paper is ideal for the person on the go who does not have time to take their phone home and wait for it to recharge. You don’t even have to find a power point to plug in your usual phone charger. Solar Paper means you can get power from the sun while you’re walking down the street, enjoying a coffee at an outdoor cafe, waiting to play tennis or riding a horse. It’s also ideal for camping, when there’s often no power available.

The best features

A nifty feature of Solar Paper is that it turns on automatically. Previous models switched off whenever a cloud hid the sun or if you walked through a shadow. They had to be rebooted manually. This could be annoying and frustrating, especially if you were busy and didn’t notice the shadow.

Another feature is the LCD screen that tells you how much power is being delivered at any one time. The advantage of this is that you can easily choose the correct angle of orientation to the sun for the best result. It also helps you understand how different kinds of weather will affect its ability to charge your device.

It’s water resistant, which is handy if a sudden shower strikes when you are out and about, or if your little brother sneaks up with a water pistol. There are also grommet holes, allowing you to attach it to things such as the outside of your backpack. So you can put it to work charging your phone while you are out on the go.

Why is it different to what is already available?

Many devices such as this that are already available don’t work because they’re too small to generate the amount of power needed. Others are too bulky to carry around easily. The new Solar Paper works well on just one panel and you can boost its power by adding up to three more panels, depending on the device you need to use it for most. These panels can still fold over for ease of transport when you are not using them; the magnets ensure that the parts will stay together.

Solar Paper solar panels are easy to carry around due to its compact size and light weight; you’ll hardly notice it. It certainly fills a niche, giving us a product we can trust to do the job we bought it for. And talking of buying – it is very affordable, given the usefulness it provides. You will no longer have to worry about your phone battery running out just when you need it most.

Upgrade by adding more

Three panels are advised for charging a Smartphone; this will be enough to charge it even in cloudy weather. The single panel will charge an external battery, iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy while four will be needed to charge an iPad Air 2.

Being able to decide on the amount of power – and therefore pages – you will need gives added versatility to this device. If you start off with the smaller size and find it is not quite enough, it is a simple matter to upgrade by adding another panel to the original. When the design of anything has obviously been well thought out, the result is something that almost everyone finds practical. Maybe one day something smaller and better will come along, but for now this has filled the niche, admirably ticking all the boxes of size, weight, affordability, ease of use and reliability.

Technology

Apps for a more sustainable life

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When the idea of living sustainably was just emerging there weren’t many resources for people who wanted to learn about sustainable practices.

Now, there is so much readily available information out there, as well as practical advice to help implement these ideas easily. More specifically we are talking about the type of help now available by downloading free apps onto your smart phone.

Sustainable transport

Transport is one of the many things that leave a large carbon footprint on our planet. Not only is fossil fuel consumption high in most countries, but the actual making of the vehicles is leaving a carbon footprint too.

While some people have already moved to hybrid vehicles, and it can be argued that more affordable models are being developed, hybrid vehicles still aren’t suitable for everyone’s budget. Even if you can afford a hybrid vehicle, the manufacturing of electric cars causes more than double the carbon dioxide emissions of making a conventional car. No matter what type of vehicle you own, you can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by cycling, walking or taking public transport whenever possible.

Wait, what about that app? Yes, there’s an app that can help you become more active in doing something about climate change. Better still, it rewards you for leaving your car at home. How? It calculates how much you use your car and how much you save by using any of the three alternative sustainable methods of transport.

You can then ‘purchase’ digital currency called Recoins – which are renewable energy coins. This digital currency is used to buy CO2 certificates to help fund climate protections projects. In this way you’ll be compensating for the carbon footprint created when you use your vehicle.

Not only is this app free and useful, using it can be lots of fun. You can have friendly competitions between friends, colleagues and companies to see who has saved the most. Since we all like a bit of friendly competition, this means the app is far more likely to be used. Enterprising companies could even offer small prizes for the winners.

For those who are time poor

There are only 24 hours in the day and sometimes you feel as if every one of them is filled to the brim with things to do. Another app of interest to people who feel like they are too busy to get involved in – or keep up with the news on sustainability – is the #climate app.

By using this app you can choose to hear climate change or sustainability news only from your favourite companies, e.g. Greenpeace. The app will curate the news for you and only send you projects that you have a particular interest in – once you have set up these parameters.

This is ideal for someone who works long hours and may have family commitments as well. People who would otherwise feel overwhelmed by adding more information to their daily agenda can get straight to what is relevant to them, by keeping tabs on what is happening in their chosen sub-sections of the sustainable world.

For those who need a reminder

When you’re pushed for time or have too much to think about you can easily forget the sustainable resolutions you’ve made. You may have resolved to decrease your carbon footprint, but before you know it, you’re following the same old routine over again simply because you’re on auto-pilot. When you’re ultra-busy you tend to do things from habit. If this sounds like you, another free app called Rippl would be perfect for you.

You can setup this app to give you reminders about things you want to do, like taking reusable bags to the supermarket instead of using their plastic ones. Locking such tips and reminders into your mobile phone and setting them to pop up daily (or more often) will help keep you on the straight and narrow by really simplifying the process of forming sustainable habits. You can choose the tips and the times of day to suit your lifestyle.

If you’re feeling truly enthusiastic, you can also jump into the deep end of this topic and schedule a whole heap of tips and tasks to come to your phone. The good thing about this app is that it was designed by environmental scientists from Ocean Conservancy, so the tips and recommendations are all science-based.

If you want your shopping to be sustainable

For those who want their shopping choices to be sustainable, check out the GoodGuide. This app has been developed by environmental scientists for those who want to know how the products they purchase stack up against more sustainable choices. Health and social performance ratings are other components of this app.

Scientists have devised a rating on a scale of 1-10 for health, safety and environment and the product score is based on an average of these three. So if you’re interested in purchasing safe, green, healthy and ethical products, this app will point you in the right direction.

As well as recommending products for you, the app incorporates a barcode scanner – so you can quickly and easily find the information you need on a product as you are shopping. This saves you looking up a whole list of products to find the one you want. It doesn’t get much easier than this! With more than 120,000 products incorporated into the app it’s highly likely that you will find what you’re after in there.

All these excellent apps will help make it easier to make living sustainably an established habit – in place of sustainable practices that are too hard to find and maintain in today’s busy life. There are many other apps on the market as well, so it could be worth searching for them too, if these don’t fit all of your sustainability needs.

Technology

Solar windows for sustainable power

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Solar stained-glass window marries design with sustainable science

A London-based Dutch designer has combined art, science, chemistry and solar know-how to bring beauty and energy to buildings via a power-producing stained-glass window.

Marjan van Aubel has teamed up with scientists, designers and manufacturers to create a window using coloured glass and dye-sensitised solar cells.

The window can charge small electrical devices via USB ports incorporated into its frame or ledge, and is aptly titled “Current Window”.

Mimicking photosynthesis

It all works by putting titanium dioxide particles on a piece of transparent glass that is then dyed. The dyeing allows the titanium dioxide to better absorb sunlight.

Like photosynthesis – how plants convert sunlight into energy – the dyed solar glass uses the properties of colour to harness light to create energy.

When light falls on the pattern of blue, orange, and pink dye-sensitised solar cells, electrons stored in the titanium dioxide are released, creating an electrical current.

Unlike traditional solar cells that require direct sunlight to generate a current, van Aubel’s designs can charge even in diffused light.

The solar cells are packed between two panes of toughened glass and connected to a battery. The window can sustainably generate up to 25 watts per day, and the battery provides power in low light conditions.

Not just for homes

The first “Current Window” will be installed in a London home later in 2015.

Van Aubel’s window will not only suit home-owners looking for renewable energy, but will also offer significant sustainable energy benefits when installed in schools, hospitals, libraries and offices, which can harness free, sustainable power from their larger window areas.

See de zeen magazine for more information.