Researchers develop novel method to turn footsteps into usable electricity

New York: Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed an inexpensive, simple method that allows them to convert footsteps into usable electricity. The method puts to good use a common waste material -- wood pulp.

The pulp, which is already a common component of flooring, is partly made of cellulose nanofibers.

They are tiny fibers that, when chemically treated, produce an electrical charge when they come in contact with untreated nanofibers.

When the nanofibers are embedded within flooring, they are able to produce electricity that can be harnessed to power lights or charge batteries.

And because wood pulp is a cheap, abundant and renewable waste product of several industries, flooring that incorporates the new technology could be as affordable as conventional materials.

While there are existing similar materials for harnessing footstep energy, they are costly, nonrecyclable, and impractical at a large scale.

"We've been working a lot on harvesting energy from human activities. One way is to build something to put on people, and another way is to build something that has constant access to people. The ground is the most-used place," said Xudong Wang, Associate Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The team's method published in the journal Nano Energy is the latest in a green energy research field called "roadside energy harvesting" that could, in some settings, rival solar power -- and it does not depend on fair weather.

Researchers like Wang who study roadside energy harvesting methods see the ground as holding great renewable energy potential well beyond its limited fossil fuel reserves. Source:
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China operates world's biggest radio telescope to discover 'laws of universe'

World's largest radio telescope has become operational in southwestern China, with officials in Beijing saying that the project will help scientists search for alien life.
Since the early 1930s, when the first primitive radio telescopes began operating in an attempt to hunt for alien radio signals, astronomers have been busy sifting through the data collected from the immensity of the space to detect the faintest radio signals transmitted from a supposed alien civilization and to help the mankind feel, at last, that its loneliness in the incomprehensible universe is finally eased. The latest of such scientific endeavors is the world’s biggest radio telescope made by Chinese scientists and unveiled on Sunday.
The Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), measuring 500 meters in diameter, is erected in a scenic karst valley in Pingtang county, a mountainous area in the southeastern province of Guizhou in China.
The gigantic telescope, which took five years and devoured some $180 million to complete, clearly demonstrates China's growing ambitions in outer space explorations and its vigorous pursuit of global scientific prestige. 
The new Chinese telescope, whose massive dish is made of 4,450 panels, dwarfs the half-a-century old Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico as the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, since its sensitivity is twice as the old pal with a reflector as big as 30 football fields. The speed of FAST in surveying is also five to 10 times more than that of the Arecibo Observatory.
The 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) is seen at the final stage of construction, in the mountains in Pingtang county, Guizhou province, China. (Photo by Reuters)
“The ultimate goal of FAST is to discover the laws of the development of the universe,” said Qian Lei, an associate researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in remarks broadcast by state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday.
“In theory, if there is civilization in outer space, the radio signal it sends will be similar to the signal we can receive when a pulsar (spinning neutron star) is approaching us,” Qian added.
The huge Chinese cosmic ear requires a radio silence within a five-kilometer radius, therefore the 8,000 residents of the eight villages in the vicinity of the telescope site were forced to abandon their homes.
According to state media, the displaced villagers would be compensated, in the form of cash or new houses, from a budget of $269 million.
The CCTV report said that FAST managed to receive radio signals from a pulsar as far as 1,351 light years from the Earth during its recent test. Source:
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