Daily TIPs: Gore-Tex for Platinum, Batteries From Waste Water, Low-Speed High-Speed, & More
California Considers Cyberbullying Law
Using the Internet or text messages to harass one’s fellow students could become illegal under a bill making its way through the California legislature. The Associated Press reports that the cyberbullying bill passed the state Senate on a 21-11 vote and is headed to the Assembly.
U.S. High-Speed Internet Not All That Speedy
The U.S. is lagging behind other countries in providing broadband Internet access to its citizens, a report from the Communications Workers of America has found. According to Information Week, the CWA report showed that the median download speed in the U.S. is 2.35 megabits per second, compared to 63.6 Mbps in Japan. Of the 50 states, Rhode Island has the fastest connections at a median of 6.8 Mbps, while Alaska is slowest, at only 0.8 Mbps.
Cross-Country Tour Promotes Hydrogen Vehicles
Eleven hydrogen-powered vehicles left Portland, ME, this week on a two-week road trip that will wind up in Los Angeles. As CNET News reports, the idea of the tour is to educate the public about hydrogen as a fuel source for cars. It’s sponsored by the U.S. departments of transportation and energy, hydrogen and fuel cell associations, and nine automakers, but experts warn hydrogen as a fuel source still faces many hurdles.
GPS Snares Criminals, Troubles Privacy Advocates
Police are increasingly using global positioning system devices, placed surreptitiously on suspect vehicles, to track suspected criminals and catch them in the act, the Washington Post reports. Police say the GPS devices are a new investigative tool that helps fight crime, but privacy advocates worry that they’re being used without warrants, and may violate suspects’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Waste Water Could Build New Batteries
Using technology developed in collaboration with scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a Texas company is proposing to sift through brine and waste water streams to pull out lithium carbonate for use in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Wired tells us that Simbol Mining has received $6.7 million in venture funds to develop its technology, which the company won’t discuss in detail, but which could be used in conjunction with a geothermal power plant. Right now, much of the world’s lithium comes from Chile, and the growing demand for batteries for laptops and electric vehicles could lead to a shortage.
Company Drills For Heat Energy
With all the focus on biofuels, wind power, and solar cells, one alternative energy source that remains largely untapped is geothermal power, which draws energy from the heat under the Earth’s surface. Earth2Tech reports on several companies raising millions of dollars to expand their geothermal operations. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, geothermal energy currently provides only one half of one percent of total U.S. energy consumption.
Fuel Cell Design Trades Platinum for Gore-Tex
One of the challenges in using hydrogen fuel cells to power cars is that the fuel cells contain a fair amount of expensive platinum, enough to make the fuel cell cost more than the engine it powers. GreenerDesign reports on a novel approach to designing fuel cells that replaces some of the platinum with Gore-Tex, the same fabric used to make lightweight winter jackets and gloves. With a thin layer of conductive plastic attached, the Gore-Tex is used to build a new kind of electrode and catalyst for the fuel cell.
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