April 18, 2010

IBM and Saudi Arabia Government to Collaborate on Developing New Technology to Reduce Water and Energy Costs

On April 8, 2010, IBM and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Saudi Arabia’s national research and development organization, “announced a research collaboration aimed at creating a water desalination plant powered by solar electricity, which could significantly reduce water and energy costs.” (Photo of a concentrated photovoltaics unit at IBM Research courtesy of IBM)

IBM’s announcement explains that “a new, energy efficient desalination plant with an expected production capacity of 30,000 cubic meters per day will be built in the city of Al Khafji to serve 100,000 people.” Moreover, “KACST plans to power the plant with the ultra-high concentrator photovoltaic (UHCPV) technology that is being jointly developed by IBM and KACST; this technology is capable of operating a CPV system at a concentration greater than 1,500 suns. Inside the plant, the desalination process will hinge on another IBM-KACST jointly developed technology, a nanomembrane that filters out salts as well as potentially harmful toxins in water while using less energy than other forms of water purification.”

Reverse osmosis and thermal technology, operating at a cost ranging from 2.5 to 5.5 Saudi Riyals per cubic meter, are the two most commonly used methods for seawater desalination, according to KACST scientists. The goal of this project is to significantly reduce the cost of desalinating seawater at these plants by combining solar power with the new nanomembrane.

“Because over 97 percent of the world’s water is in the oceans, turning salt water into fresh water cost effectively and energy efficiently offers tremendous potential for addressing the growing worldwide demand for clean water. One of the most efficient means of desalination is reverse osmosis. But there are obstacles to unlocking this reserve -- principally bio-fouling, degradation by chlorine and low flux challenges. The KACST / IBM joint research focuses on improving polymeric membranes through nanoscale modification of polymer properties to make desalination much more efficient and much less costly.”

April 6, 2010

AT&T ZERO Charger Helps End Wasted Electricity and Reduce Landfill Waste

According to the United States Department of Energy, the total amount of electricity that flows through internal and external power adapters is nearly 470 billion kWh per year or about 12 percent of the nation’s annual electricity consumption. During the process these devices consume about 120 billion kWh per year of electricity and turn it into heat, costing the nation over $12 billion in electric bills. Continuing the theme of energy conservation in this blog, AT&T announced that it will make available in its U.S. stores in a mobile phone charger that “does not waste power when left plugged in, and improves charging efficiency when powering a device.” (Photo: AT&T)

According to a March 17, 2010 press release, “The AT&T ZERO Charger will also make life easier for customers, with a ‘block and cable’ design for maximum interchangeability, allowing them to use the same charger for future handsets and will, over time, cut the number of chargers produced, thus reducing future landfill waste.” Partnering with Irwindale, California-based Superior Communications, “the AT&T ZERO charger works by automatically sensing when a mobile phone is not plugged up to the charger and cutting the power supply from the wall socket. The charger will be sold in packaging with 100% recycled paper. AT&T recently announced a transition to smaller and more eco-friendly packaging for the wireless device accessories sold in AT&T stores. This change will eliminate more than 60 percent of the paper and more than 30 percent of the plastic previously used for AT&T’s accessory products.”

AT&T notes that when conventional chargers are left plugged in, even when not actively charging a mobile device, can draw as much as 5 to 20 times more energy than stored in the battery. “Adding to its efficiency, the AT&T ZERO Charger can be used to charge many existing and future handheld devices — all from one outlet,” explains a Superior Communications press release. “Over time, this will help reduce the number of chargers produced and discarded to minimize impact on the environment.” This innovative device has a 5-star efficiency rating, which exceeds the standards set by GSMA and the ZERO charger is AT&T’s first step toward full GSMA compliance. (Photo: Superior Communications)