Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience

As we use more and more electronic equipment and continually upgrade to newer, faster, sleeker versions of these items, the amount of toxic, non-biodegradable material we produce grows alarmingly.  Health concerns and unsightly piles of useless and forgotten old computers, televisions, cell phones and other electronics can be likened to the rat-infested wharfs of old -  havens for rotting garbage and disease.  There may be a way to change that…

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a surprising way to make tossing out future smartphones and tablets easier on the environment and the conscience. They’re replacing the bulk of toxic and non-biodegradable materials in modern microprocessors with wood.

Specifically, the researchers’ method replaces the rigid base or substrate material in smartphone and tablet chips, often comprised of the arsenic-containing compound gallium arsenide, with cellulose nanofibril (CNF). CNF is a flexible, transparent material made by breaking down the cell walls of wood to the nano scale and forming it into sheets, much like paper.  The team has investigated methods to combat the moisture accumulation inherent in wood products.

When scaled up … the costs for creating CNF from renewable wood should be inexpensive as well, helping entice device makers to switch from more traditional substrates. After all, wood is abundant, and doesn’t need to be mined from the ground like gallium. The pliable nature of CNF will make it a good fit for the emerging field of flexible electronic devices.

Read the full article here:

Click on the picture to read the abstract and full paper:  High-performance green flexible electronics based on biodegradable cellulose nanofibril paper (originally published in Nature Communications)

Maybe being a more eco-friendly garbage dumper will make us less of a drain on our planet in the years to come?  Think about it…

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Audi is making a new fuel for internal combustion engines that has the potential to make a big dent when it comes to climate change – that’s because the synthetic diesel is made from just water and carbon dioxide.

The developer, Sunfire, claims that analysis shows the properties of the synthetic diesel are superior to fossil fuel, and that its lack of sulphur and fossil-based oil makes it more environmentally friendly. The overall energy efficiency of the fuel creation process using renewable power is around 70 percent, according to Audi.

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“The engine runs quieter and fewer pollutants are being created,” says Sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen.

It’s reassuring to hear that great strides are being made in this energy field.  We can probably all admit that we are way too dependent on fossil fuels and would love to find a permanent solution to this massive problem.  Bravo, Audi, it looks like you are forging the way for a great fuel revolution!

Do you have any skills that can contribute to this burgeoning field?

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July 3rd, 2015

What do you get when you mix salt water and fresh water?  The answer: ENERGY  (or at least that’s one possible answer…)  While this isn’t exactly new technology, it has been underdeveloped and underutilized.  Maybe that’s about to change?

“Blue energy was first proposed in 1954 by a British engineer named R E Pattle. It is sometimes called osmotic power, because it exploits the phenomenon of osmosis. To understand how this works, picture two solutions of water with different concentrations of a dissolved substance like salt. If these two solutions are separated by a thin “semi-permeable” membrane that lets water through but not salt ions, then water will naturally pass from the less- to the more-salty side. The flow of water across the membrane builds up pressure on one side that can be used to drive turbines and generate power.”

Read this highly informative article on to learn how the ability to generate power from water may be ‘awash’ across the globe:

Blue Energy: how mixing


water can


create electricity


Researchers at both University of Utrecht (Netherlands) and University of Granada (Spain) are exploring refining the original processes to make them more cost effective.

Click on the picture to learn a little about the history of one such power plant.

osmotic power

One advantage of osmotic power over wind and solar power is that a constant supply of electricity can be generated 24 hours per day independent of weather conditions, and no emissions are released. (Picture credit:


How will you participate in this innovative planning to “energize” the planet?

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Philips has announced that it plans to make 110,000 LED street lights in Los Angeles connected. The company will bring the lights online using new plug-and-play CityTouch technology. It is said to be quick and easy to install, and will allow the city’s lights to be monitored and controlled via the web.  Los Angeles will reduce its street lighting energy consumption by up to 70 percent, by switching to LEDs.

blog LA lights

The plug-and-play nature of the technology reduces the time and cost of programming and commissioning each fixture. Philips says the device can also reduce maintenance costs by around 20 percent, by automatically reporting faults.  And with reduced energy consumption comes reduced costs.

It would be pretty cool to be able to modify the lighting around my town!  Some streets aren’t well lit which makes it hard to detect the wildlife that may be lurking in your path.

Not only is this technology saving our planet by reducing our energy consumption, but it’s making it safer for it’s inhabitants!

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Smart cities understand they must continue to tap innovative solutions to ensure the protection and well-being of their citizens. Read how real-time alerts and advances in data technology are helping communities and residents play it safe.

fireman with hose filled by the cloud

Using the Cloud to Help Battle Fires

Firefighters often must make split-second decisions, the result of which can have life-or-death consequences. One of the keys to a successful outcome is for firefighters to have accurate, up-to-date information — such as building layouts and locations of fire hydrants and nearby hazardous materials — readily accessible as soon as emergency situations occur. Three Princeton University students believe the solution lies is in the cloud. They have developed FireStop, a cloud- and iPad-based software that helps firefighters share critical information in real time. Since the data, including satellite imagery and Google’s StreetView, is stored on the cloud, it’s accessible at any time during an emergency call, eliminating the need for servers and networks. The system also can instantly share locations, waypoints and photos with other responders, such as medical personnel and police.

Tackling Transit Crime Through Texts

To help give police a heads-up about crime on public transport, San Francisco wants citizens to keep their heads down — and send police a text. The Bay Area Rapid Transit agency, or BART, has developed BART Watch, an application that allows transport users who observe criminal activity such as vandalism and theft to discreetly send police a text description of the event. Riders can select from locations and categories to help give police a clear idea of where the activity is taking place and the nature of the crime with a simple click, all while remaining anonymous, if the user chooses.

text bubbles

A Neighborly Watch for Crime

Keeping communities informed about local crime as it’s happening — not after — is the aim of Village Defense Alerts. The online platform sends real-time notifications to users through texts messages, phone calls and e-mails about any reported criminal activity in the their community. The application, which has a free and paid version, connects neighbors through live chats and allows the sharing of real-time videos and pictures. Billing itself as Neighborhood Watch 2.0, Village Defense’s platform also features a dashboard that allows users to track and visualize trends of local criminal activity.

What type of public-safety innovations would you like to see in your community? Sign up here, tell us about it and help change the world for the better.

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