Solar Power for Small Sensors

Wireless sensors are becoming more pervasive as we move toward the “Internet of Things” that futurists have been telling us is on the horizon. But for these sensors to work, they have to have power. In some cases, the sensors can piggyback on items that are already hooked up to the grid (like refrigerators). In others, though, the sensors either need battery power or some other form of energy, and that has traditionally mean that the sensors themselves have to be large enough to accommodate a power source. Those size considerations, in turn, limit design possibilities. Continue reading

Solar Drone Flies for 9 Hours

In July, I wrote about Alta Devices’ thin-film photovoltaic material, which the company pitched as a green energy source for unmanned drones. This week, the company announced that AeroVironment had performed an outdoor test flight of a solar-powered Puma AE unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Using the solar material and AeroVironment’s long-endurance battery, the UAS flew for nine hours and 11 minutes. Continue reading

Thin-Film Solar Cells Could Power Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

A Sunnyvale, CA-based company claims to have come up with lightweight, solar-based solution to keeping unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the air for longer periods of time. Alta Devices provided an overview of the technology at the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo in San Francisco last week.

Continue reading

Solar Toilet Could Save Lives

If you’ve visited the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website lately, you know exactly where the Microsoft founder’s mind has been: the toilet.

In July, the Gates Foundation rolled out its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, an international effort to bring alternative sanitation technology to the developing world. Improper sanitation and waste disposal lead to millions of deaths each year, with the lack of suitable toilets leading to the spread of disease and fouled drinking water. The Gates Foundation has tasked teams of engineers and scientists with developing low-cost, sustainable toilets that don’t require electricity, running water, or a sewer hook up, and that can operate on 5 cents per day or less.

Continue reading

MIT Does Solar Energy in 3D

Solar energy is one alternative to energy production that we’ve covered here before. The sun isn’t likely to run out any time soon, and, even better, doesn’t require spending money on transportation to use, which makes it green as a blade of grass.

But it has its challenges. One of the problems with the technology is the size of solar panels required to power anything useful. Enter MIT’s three-dimensional solar panel design. In place of the usual flat design, the MIT research team has created stacks of photovoltaic cells that are able to capture more sunlight, particularly in areas that are frequently cloudy or during the winter.

Continue reading


Become a fan of DE on Facebook