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Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology,  Harvard University

Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University

By Alán Aspuru-Guzik

What if you could capture and convert sunlight into electricity with a material as inexpensive, versatile and easy to produce as the one used for plastic bags? What if a liquid version of this material could be used to coat surfaces for solar energy production? What if these materials were light enough and thin enough for use in portable devices? And finally, what if these materials were so inexpensive that they could help provide electricity to people in the developing world and others without access to power grids?

Organic solar cells offer us the potential to realize these highly desirable outcomes. With that in mind, we launched the Clean Energy Project at Harvard to discover suitable materials from which to develop devices for generating electricity from sunlight. The Clean Energy Project uses massive amounts of computing power to screen an unprecedented number of organic compounds in an attempt to identify potential high-performance materials.

(This story originally appeared on Citizen IBM.)

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Vince Ward, Project Officer at the Southern Housing Group

Vince Ward, Project Officer at the Southern Housing Group

By Vince Ward

What started out as a community-based energy project on the Isle of Wight has morphed into a bona fide social movement.

Encouraged by the work of IBM Distinguished Engineer, Andy Stanford-Clark, who created a “smart” house that monitored, managed and optimized energy use, three years ago the Village of Chale created the Chale Community Project, which seeks, among other things, to reduce home energy costs by up to 50 percent. While the project has indeed raised awareness and helped residents lower costs, it has also had a serendipitous outcome – it has brought the community together.

From the very beginning of the Chale Community Project – during planning and roll-out phases – we worked on ensuring the local community was on board. Going from door to door, the team would communicate with residents about the plan of action, encourage participation and try to boost morale. Continue Reading »

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Andrea Pedretti, CTO, Airlight Energy

Andrea Pedretti, CTO, Airlight Energy

By Andrea Pedretti

It would take only two percent of the Sahara Desert’s land area to supply the world’s electricity needs. Unfortunately, current solar technologies are too expensive and slow to produce, require rare Earth minerals and lack the efficiency to make such massive installations practical. To address this, scientists at Airlight Energy have teamed up with IBM and Swiss university partners to develop an affordable photovoltaic system that is capable of concentrating, on average, the power of 2,000 suns, onto hundreds of 1×1 cm chips.

The prototype system uses a large parabolic dish made from a multitude of mirror facets. The dish is attached to a tracking system that determines the best angle based on the position of the sun. Once aligned, the sun’s rays reflect off the mirror onto several microchannel liquid-cooled receivers with triple-junction photovoltaic chips. Each 1×1 centimeter chip can convert 200-250 watts, on average, over a typical eight-hour day in a sunny region. 
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Dr. Anna Topol, CTO, Energy and Utilities, IBM

Dr. Anna Topol, CTO, Energy and Utilities, IBM

IBM today christened a new generation of technology innovators, naming 66 new Distinguished Engineers from across the company. The DE rank recognizes people for their outstanding technical accomplishments, as well as their potential for breaking new ground in key areas such as cloud and mobile computing, Big Data analytics, social business, and many more.

This year’s class includes Dr. Anna Topol, IBM’s Chief Technology Officer for the Energy and Utilities sector. A native of Poland and mother of two young boys, Topol holds a doctorate in physics from the State University of New York Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and has earned nearly two dozen patents. She joined IBM in 2001. The Smarter Planet editorial team recently sat down with Topol for an inside chat with one of the company’s newest DE’s.

Smarter Planet: Where do you see the biggest potential for breakthroughs in your current area of specialization?

Anna Topol: There is a lot of innovation happening in the energy and utility sector. What has been learned from other industries such as telecommunications and retail, where the use of data analytics has had transformational benefits, is now being applied to help us be smarter about how we generate, consume and conserve energy.
Right now, there is a focus on automation and the use of smart meters, devices and sensors. For energy consumers, this translates into a decrease in change-related outages through increased efficiency and reduced mean time to repairs. Continue Reading »

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Anders Rhod Gregersen, Senior Specialist Plant Siting and Forecasting, Vestas Wind Systems

By Anders Rhod Gregersen

Deciding where to put a wind turbine is a lot like planting a tree: where you plant it is critical to its long term health and effectiveness.

For wind turbines, pinpointing the optimal location enables energy producers to maximize power generation at reduced energy costs. It’s something we at Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark have been working on for several years.

To do it, we mine Big Data and leverage predictive analytics for deep insights. We analyze literally petabytes of information, ranging from weather reports and tidal phases, to geospatial and sensor data, as well as satellite images and weather modeling research. In all, 160 factors are analyzed that influence location, plant performance and service life. Continue Reading »

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By Richard Silberman, Writer/Researcher, IBM Communications

During the past year, we’ve profiled nine exceptional “People for a Smarter Planet” who exemplify the spirit of change, innovation, creativity and curiosity that lie at the core of building a smarter planet. They are inventors and researchers, academics and executives, thought leaders, dreamers, risk-takers, pioneers.

These individuals come from a wide range of fields and possess an array of interests and expertise. What they all have in common is a passion for their work and a commitment to make the world a better place.

They include Ruhong Zhou, whose avian flu research may help prevent a global pandemic; Dave Bartlett, IBM’s smarter buildings guru; Bill Reichert, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist with novel advice for entrepreneurs; and sustainability expert Sarah Slaughter.

If you haven’t met them yet, here are nine People for a Smarter Planet you should know.

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Klauss Gottschalk, Senior IT Specialist, IBM Germany

By Klaus Gottschalk

The Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ), nestled on the outskirts of Munich in the town of Garching, was established 50 years ago by the Bavarian Academy of Science, to provide supercomputing resources to researchers and scientists across the Munich Scientific Network of universities.

Since then, the Centre has been the home of such systems as the HLRB and HLRB-II and has grown to become the premiere computing operations center for researchers across Europe, as they work to answer computational-intensive scientific questions.  

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Volker W. Fricke, Solution Architect, Telematics & Telemetry, IBM Germany

By Volker W. Fricke and Clay Luthy

What would Scotsman Robert Anderson say if he could comment on the history of electric vehicles? As the supposed inventor of the first vehicle with an electric motor back in 1836 he might have been a bit frustrated over the triumphal procession of the combustion engine for the last 100 years. However the progress and raising interest in electric mobility in the last couple of years might put a smile on his face.

Driven by technology breakthroughs, increasing oil prices and a raising environmental awareness, electric vehicles (EV) are moving into the center of interest for consumers, enterprises and governments. For example, the European Union (EU) has set an ambitious goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 60 percent by 2050.

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October 26th, 2012

Ron Ambrosio, Global Research Executive, Energy & Utilities, IBM

By Ron Ambrosio

Over the last few years, an interesting transformation has been taking shape in the Pacific Northwest.

Research laboratories, product developers, testing companies, utility engineering departments, and universities have been working together to design and implement a new and smarter approach to managing electricity delivery.

This approach, being developed by the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Project (PNW-SGDP), called for devising ways to move electricity from generation plants through customer equipment, such as smart meters, heating and cooling systems, and just about everything in between.

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October 4th, 2012

Charles Vincent, Chief Architect, IBM Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities

By Fabienne Guildhary, IBM Communications, Energy & Utilities/Media & Entertainment

Often, history serves as a tool to teach us valuable lessons and help us avoid repeating the same mistakes. As Chief Architect of the IBM Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities, Charles Vincent is leveraging his considerable knowledge of Electric Vehicles (EVs) to better shape the future of transportation.

Charles’ passion for EVs was sparked long before his career in electronic transportation took off. Fascinated by the technology at an early age, Charles devoted a lot of time poring over vintage publications on the subject, such as American Electric Vehicle Association newsletters from the early 1900’s. Then in the 1980’s, Charles got the opportunity to put his knowledge and passion to work.  

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