Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience

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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Ensuring that the food we eat is locally and sustainably grown is not always easy, especially in cities where crop-growing space is at a premium. Firms like Freight Farms and Cropbox, however, have a solution to this problem. They offer shipping containers that are kitted out as self-contained farms.

blog freightfarm

Check out this truly farm-to-table approach – and when I say farm, I mean freight container:

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Another newbie in this arena is Cropbox, which appears to have a lot of the same features at a reduced cost.  They claim that you can grow the equivalent of an acre of field grown crops or 2,200 square feet of greenhouse space within a 320 sq ft footprint.  The business is scalable as you can expand vertically by stacking the containers 5 high – especially useful if setup in an urban area.

Sustainability features:

90% less water use than conventional and greenhouse cultivation

80% less fertilizer than conventional cultivation

Automatic record keeping for optimization

34% less inventory loss through simpler logistics

And both of these products enable consistent optimization of the growing process via a smartphone.

It kind of makes you want to try out your “green thumb”!


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June 27th, 2015

…red fish, blue fish”.  If you’re not familiar with this cant, it’s lifted from the children’s book of the same name written by Dr. Seuss.

1fish etc

While we’ve managed to eradicate any number of our finny friends, the oceans, lakes and streams still abound with amazing life.  And there’s a new app, created by students at the University of Minnesota, that’s designed to help catalog their local ‘denizens of the deep’.  The aim: to provide valuable data for managing fisheries’ resources.

Sharing your fish tales


And visit their website iFishForever, to learn more about this joint effort bringing together the talents at University of Minnesota, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The App Door!

iFish Forever


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June 26th, 2015

Usually when we hear about the properties of geckos being applied to human technology, it’s the reptiles’ sticky feet that are in discussion. Now, however, scientists in Australia are looking at the manner in which a particular type of gecko is able to stay clean. Their findings could pave the way for things like water-repelling electronics, or clothes that never need washing.

blog gecko

Australia’s James Cook University, University of the Sunshine Coast, The University of Queensland, and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, along with the University of Oxford in the UK are studying the box-patterned gecko, which typically lives in semi-arid environments. While you might expect the creature to be dusty much of the time, it’s virtually always quite clean.

Take a look at this fascinating video that shows how the box-patterned gecko’s skin actually repels liquid:

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Hundreds of thousands of tiny hair-like spines cover the gecko’s body. Air pockets are trapped underneath these, keeping water droplets from adhering to the skin. Instead, those droplets bead up and roll away, grabbing particles of dirt, microbes or other contaminants as they go. What’s more, when two of the droplets merge and release energy, they actually jump off of the spines like popcorn.

The new findings could lead to benefits for people. The scientific team is now working with materials that mimic the gecko skin to study its properties. The science of inventing new technologies based on materials in nature is called biomimicry. Copying the non-wetting, dirt-resistant, antibacterial properties might lead to safer surfaces in hospitals. Or engineers might develop materials that protect the electronics on boats. And who wouldn’t want self-cleaning clothes?

Check out this article to see all of the details surrounding this latest discovery.


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