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Errors revealed at Chinese nuclear firm seeking to invest in UK plants

Huge quantity of protective steel was left out of initial construction of China General Nuclear Corp’s first reactor, built close to Hong Kong in 1987

One of the Chinese nuclear power firms pushing for a stake in the UK’s energy industry left out hundreds of critical steel rods when building its first reactor near Hong Kong in 1987 because workers misread the blueprint.

The missing parts were added in a higher layer of the foundation, with extra steel to reinforce them, after the extraordinary mistake was discovered. The plant has now been operating safely for more than two decades.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Introducing Transparent Solar Panels

The cost of solar panels dropped 80% between 2008 and 2015 and solar technology is becoming an increasingly common sight both in business and residential contexts. Panels are now an affordable commodity for the middle classes and a team of researchers at Michigan State University have aimed to take advantage of that new market. They’ve develop a flexible, clear plastic that can harvest solar energy without impeding view.

The Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrator (TLSC) is designed for use as part of any clear surface, including on buildings and mobile phones.

Previous attempts at layering solar cells over plastic materials have been ineffective, plagued by low energy yields and challenges with materials that were coloured, rather than transparent. MSU’s scientists overcame these obstacles after discovering a class of organic salts that directly target specific nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight. The solar harvesting system developed by the team absorb specific non-visible wavelengths of sunlight. These materials can then be tuned to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared. The PV solar cells at the edge of the plastic then convert the light into electricity.

The challenge now for MSU’s researchers, is maximising the energy-producing efficiency of the solar concentrator. Current energy conversion hovers at just 1% and TLSC will need to achieve 5% before going to market. The team are confident of reaching a 10% conversion rate in the foreseeable future.

TLSC offers the potential to change any glass object — from the Louvre’s glass pyramid or your own mobile phone into a conductor of electricity. It provides designers and architects with a new opportunity and could play a role in transitioning to a larger scale and wider adoption of solar power.

Source: Transparent solar panels could be a game-changer for renewable energy

The post Introducing Transparent Solar Panels appeared first on Circulate.

Source: Circulate News RSS

Toyota Aiming For Self-Driving Vehicles By 2020

Once regarded as a distant, almost futuristic technology, it is now a question of “when”, rather than “if”, autonomous driving systems will hit the market at scale. This month, Toyota Motors took a significant step in that direction, announcing that it intends to deploy self-driving vehicles by 2020. That’s just five years into the future. At this point, it seems more likely that the date will move forward, rather than back.

The announcement comes simultaneously with the launch of new technology that will allow Toyota’s vehicles to “talk to each other, scan blind spots, warn of changing traffic lights and keep a safe distance from other cars.” Many of those features are already being utilised individually and in combination in newer Toyota models and by other leading manufacturers,

Safety is the largest driver of autonomous driving technology development at this time. Manufacturers have reached a plateau in terms of the improvements that can be made to seat-belts and the frame of the car.

Instead, companies like Toyota are investing in technology that has the power to prevent crashes to begin with. Toyota chief safety technology officer Moritaka Yoshida described autonomous driving as “a technology that will change the concept of the car.”

Licensed under CC - credit Flickr user: Clydeyello
Licensed under CC – credit Flickr user: Clydeyello

The part of the tech that still needs development is communication systems, both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure, known as ‘intelligent transportation systems’ (ITS).

The development of ITS is also a potential catalyst for a different vision of our mobility system. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Growth Within report factored in the development and widespread adoption of autonomous driving technology into an alternative vision for mobility in Europe, where the cost per passenger-kilometre could be reduced by up to 60-80%.

Several leading car manufacturers are now expected to release autonomous vehicles in the not too distant future, including Nissan, Audi and General Motors.

Source: Toyota Unveils New Self-Driving Safety Tech, Targets 2020 Autonomous Drive

The post Toyota Aiming For Self-Driving Vehicles By 2020 appeared first on Circulate.

Source: Circulate News RSS

Novice cavers find marvels beneath the fissured limestone

Selside, Yorkshire Dales The young potholers re-emerge into sunlight, blinking like startled moles and buzzing with the marvels they had seen

The cavers peer into their hands to check the bright discs of yellow light that show their headlamp beams are switched on. These twentysomething novices then follow their instructor into Lower Long Churn, a classic caving trip in the Three Peaks country of Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent.

If only I could follow suit. But I am still recovering from my hip revision procedure of two years ago. I can at least use my trekking poles to enjoy the limestone countryside, though. The sedimentary rock hereabouts is riddled with caves etched over aeons by acidic rainwater running into the ground and attacking the fissures and cracks below the turf where aromatic wild thyme grows – and where the cavers have disappeared.

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Source: Guardian Environment

True love: tiny Australian desert fish travel vast distances to find new mate

The 6cm long goby is an ‘average swimmer’ but can travel hundreds of kilometres through Australia’s red centre in just a trickle of water

A trickle of water running over parched earth is all the encouragement the desert goby needs. The unassuming little fish, reckoned by researchers to be a poor to average swimmer, only needs a few centimetres of water to follow a rivulet from one isolated, muddy puddle to the next. In the desert rivers region on the southern edge of Lake Eyre in Australia’s red centre, a few centimetres of water may be all it gets.

But their ability to move quickly and opportunistically when floodwaters hit has caught the attention of researchers.

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Source: Guardian Environment

France launches global drive for climate deal

Diplomats mobilised for unprecedented PR push, with Paris summit seen as last chance to reach agreement

France has launched an unprecedented diplomatic drive to shepherd nations big and small towards a major climate change deal, ahead of a Paris summit next month that is the next major make-or-break moment for the movement against global warming.

Every one of France’s ambassadors, in embassies and consulates around the globe, has been educated on the demands of climate change, and instructed in how to communicate the messages to the governments they deal with, ahead of the summit, which starts on 30 November.

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Source: Guardian Environment

UK solar power industry proposes emergency plan to save renewables

Trade body says scheme would add just £1 to bills by 2019 and comes in response to government plans to cut subsidies for rooftop solar panels by 87%

The solar power industry has proposed an emergency plan to rescue renewables, which it says would add just £1 to consumer bills by 2019, on top of the £9 a year that clean technology subsidies cost bill payers.

The scheme is a response to government plans to cut subsidies for rooftop solar panel installations by 87% from 1 January. The Solar Trade Association (STA) has warned the move could cost up to 27,000 jobs and waste public money already spent on supporting the technology.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Mystery and beauty in the smoke of garden bonfires: Country diary 100 years ago

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 21 October 1915

The mists have been unusually heavy these last few days, and, mingling with them, the chief feature of our village landscape has been the garden bonfires. These burn all day and every day, but sunset and the hour after it is the time they make peculiarly their own, when the light, fragrant smoke drifts horizontally over the fields and threads its way through the hedges, and the whole countryside disappears in a dream of pearl-coloured vapour from which trees and shrubs emerge like islands from a sleeping sea. Only immediately overhead is the sky visible, and the edge of the haze surrounding the narrow circle of blue above us catches dimly the last beams of reflected sunlight in a charmed ring. Under it the earth in its melting folds of mists not only dreams but aspires also. Trees and mists and the solid ground itself seem to breathe and to gaze skyward. Is it because the flat planes of mist and smoke give a new value to every upward-pointing line – chimney or tree? Perhaps so, and perhaps the impression is more deeply grounded. Let us not analyse it too closely. At any rate, the mystery and beauty of the whole remains, as always, beyond all our analysis.

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Source: Guardian Environment

David Cameron dismisses risk of rift with US over China

Prime minister says state visit of Xi Jinping and ‘golden era’ between two nations will not harm transatlantic special relationship

David Cameron has insisted that the UK’s new “golden era” with China will not harm the special relationship with the US, as he prepares to roll out the red carpet for a historic state visit by the country’s president, Xi Jinping this week.

Xi’s first official visit to London, beginning on Tuesday, is expected to be marked by protests by activists against human rights abuses, and concerns that the UK is jeopardising national security by allowing Chinese state companies to invest in British nuclear power plants. His state visit to the US in September was marked by tensions over security, and a threat by Barack Obama to pursue sanctions against Chinese entities carrying out a series of cyberattacks.

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Source: Guardian Environment

A glimpse of a dipper brightens the day

A long weekend in the western Highlands of Scotland gave me the opportunity to catch up with several species I rarely get the chance to see. This was enhanced by our host’s desire to show us as much of this beautiful landscape as possible, which entailed going on very long walks, often involving dauntingly steep climbs. As I pointed out – in vain – I come from the lowlands of England, and “don’t do up”.

En route, in the wilds of Perthshire, we took an eight-mile hike around a valley. Even though autumn can sometimes be rather quiet, the place was thronged with birds. Meadow pipits sprang up constantly; bouncing through the air as if hanging on invisible strings of elastic, while uttering their distinctive “sip” call. They were joined by tight little flocks of siskins and redpolls, which I rarely see at home on the Somerset Levels.

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Source: Guardian Environment