The Best Of Tech In 2022

The Best Of Tech In 2022

Best Of Tech In 2022 : What’s new in the field of innovation this month? Dry cleaning for solar panels; wind-blown sensors and robotic ostrich legs.

Make Way For Dust-Removing Electrodes

By 2030, solar energy is expected to account for nearly 10% of global energy, using solar panels mainly located in deserts. However, the worst enemy of the solar panel is none other than dust. By accumulating, it blocks sunlight and limits the performance of the system. Cleaning is therefore required… which requires a little less than 40 billion liters of water each year! A method of dubious durability, especially in desert areas. 

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have chosen to favor a water-free approach to remove dust particles from solar panels. By generating an electrostatic field, they first estimated the charge of the dust particles. The goal? 

Determine the threshold of the electrical potential at which the dust will be repelled by induction charged electrodes. On March 11, 2022 in Science Advances, the MIT team revealed the development of a prototype.

 It is actually a glass plate coated with aluminum-doped zinc oxide on the bottom – the first electrode – and aluminum on top – the second electrode. All this is mobile in order to prevent the cleaning plate from hindering the contribution of solar light. Laboratory tests showed that with the application of a voltage close to 12 kV, the dust was removed from the panel in such a way that the system recovered up to 95% of the lost power. A first step towards dry cleaning that could also be of interest to space agencies and their Martian rovers, which also run on solar energy.

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Robot Seeds Inspired By Dandelions

Deploying a myriad of sensors over a large area is a daunting task, costly in both time and money. To develop their sensors, researchers at the University of Washington were inspired by a very effective natural method: the dispersal of dandelion seeds. Weighing just 1 mg, these sport a bristly filament structure that greatly slows down their free fall once the wind has carried them into the air. Presented on March 16, 2022 in Nature, the millimeter sensors of the Washington team have a mass 30 times greater than that of the dandelion seed! Which is ultimately little: just 30 mg. 

Deprived of batteries, they work only thanks to the energy captured by solar cells. As for the transmission of data (temperature, humidity, pressure, sunshine), it is carried out without wires and with a range of up to 60 meters. But the road to these little tech prodigies has been long, with no less than 75 different designs being tested by scientists! 

Now, robot seeds drop to about 0.87 m/s and successfully land more than 95% of the time. In addition, the results obtained in the outdoor environment show a dispersion by the wind of 50 to 100 meters away. This is of interest to areas such as digital agriculture or climate monitoring in the future.

BirdBot: An Ostrich Robot Version

Although they sometimes exceed 100 kg, ostriches travel the savannah at a speed of around 55 km / h! A performance that would be due to the structure of their paws, and which has enough to make the eye of roboticists . Indeed, one of the ongoing challenges in the design of robotic legs is that of energy efficiency – a good part of consumption consists of simply supporting one’s own mass by holding the posture. The dynamic locomotion group of the Max Planck Institute for Complex Systems, associated with the University of California, set out to copy the natural example offered by the ostrich. This is how BirdBot was born, robotic legs whose operation was detailed in Science Robotics On March 16, 2022. When it is stationary,

BirdBot’s design allows it to distribute its mass over the various joints that compose it. In addition, its network of elastic tendons stores energy and allows for fast and coordinated movement. The end result is a bipedal robotic locomotive directed using four cylinders, with high energy efficiency.

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