Daily TIPs: Bad Biofuels, Chatty Hospital Machines, Hot LEDs, A Wind-Loving Oilman, & More

Hospitals Want Machines to Talk to One Another

Hospitals are taking on a vast array of new high-tech medical devices, but because the machines can’t interface, an opportunity to improve patient care is being lost. Now, Technology Review tells us, the Medical Device Interoperability Program at Massachusetts General Hospital is looking at ways devices can be linked together for the patient’s benefit. In one, an x-ray machine is synchronized with a ventilator, so that the ventilator does not have to be manually switched off for an x-ray. In another, a computer compares data from different monitoring devices, to cut down the rate of false alarms.

Data Mining Can Track Health Threats Online

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston have created a data mining system called HealthMap to use the Internet to track infectious diseases and other health threats. According to Scientific American, the automated system looks at news services and online discussion forums to pinpoint pockets of potential disease outbreaks, before health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control notice them.

Telecoms Sue Cities Over High-Speed Links

Telecommunications companies are suing cities to stop them from building publicly owned fiber-optic systems, Law.com reports. The companies say that, because cities can borrow money cheaply through municipal bonds, they’re gaining an unfair advantage over private companies.

Are Biofuels Eating Up Food Supply?

There’s a spin battle going on over whether increased demand for biofuels is driving up the price of food worldwide. As outlined by the Environmental Capital blog at the Wall Street Journal, the World Bank said, in a report supposedly suppressed for political reasons, that 75 percent of the recent rise in food prices is due to biofuels. Now the author of the report tells the Journal that was just a draft, not an official World Bank position.

Pickens Plan is Based on Wind

Oil mogul T. Boone Pickens is proposing a plan to produce 20 percent of the country’s electricity by building wind turbines in a corridor from the Canadian border to West Texas. The Business Journal reports that Pickens’ plan calls for taking the natural gas now used to fuel electrical plants and using it instead for transportation fuel, reducing dependence on the Middle East. Pickens believes his goals could be accomplished within a decade.

Lithium-Ion Batteries Used to Store Grid Power

Two giant lithium-ion batteries, each designed to handle one megawatt of electricity, can store up to 15 minutes worth of electricity from the power grid, a demonstration has shown. CNET News reports that the batteries, from Altair Nanotechnologies, were tested by Indianapolis Power and Light, to see if they were feasible for utility-grade energy storage. Such storage becomes important when variable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, are introduced to the grid, and experts expect lithium ion batteries would be better than currently used lead acid batteries.

Venture Capitalists Flock Toward LEDs

Venture capitalists are seeing LEDs as the next big thing in lighting, according to a San Francisco research company. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the Cleantech Group noted $100 million of investment into LED lighting technologies in the first quarter of 2008. That puts LEDs third in cleantech investments, behind biofuel and solar energy.

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  • Re: Storing grid power

    When the US car market includes 50M plug-in hybrids, I’d guess at any one time 5-10M of them will be plugged in somewhere. A tiny fraction of that total capacity would provide all the grid power storage that is needed. Utilities might even pay the car owner a few cents for every KW it “borrows”, encouraging owners to keep their cars plugged in when not in use. The metering and micropayment system would be easy to set up.