• WHEN the clock strikes 8.30pm this Saturday, Logan will once again plunge into darkness.

    In a bid to save energy, many residents will switch off their lights and home electronics to participate in this years Earth Hour event.

    One person who is particularly looking forward to the night is avid environmentalist Leigh-Chantelle Koch from Rochedale South.

    “I think Earth Hour is a great idea to get the public involved in saving electricity,” Ms Koch said.

    “The whole concept is to make people more aware and encourage people to be more active in helping the planet.”

    The idea began in Sydney in 2007 when thousands of people turned off their lights for an hour to take a stance against climate change.

    According to the Earth hour website, more than 5200 cities and towns in 135 countries switched off their lights for Earth Hour in 2011.

    But while the idea of spending a Saturday night without electricity may seem hard to some, Ms Koch said there are numerous ways people could still enjoy the evening.

    “Sometimes when the power is out, it can actually be quite relaxing,” Ms Koch said.

    “How about lighting some candles and reading that book you have been wanting to read for awhile.

    “For Earth Hour, some of my friends organise a pot luck dinner and we have a nice meal by candle light and just talk.

    “So my tip would be to make it more of a community thing instead of sitting at home by yourself.”

    Eco–firm Living Fuels praised the town for its success in the cooking oil recycling scheme, which helps rid residents of the difficult waste at the same time as saving the environment.

    The Luton Borough Council scheme, in partnership with Waste Recycling Group (WRG) and Living Fuels offers a waste–cooking-oil recycling serivce at no cost to the tax payer, where people can deposit oil in the tanks at household waste recycling centres in Eaton Green Road and Progress Way in Luton.

    Once collected, the oil is taken to Living Fuels’ state-of-the-art recovery facility and there recovered 100 per cent naturally into clean, green electricity that is fed into the National Grid at times of unexpected power demand.

    Living Fuels operations director Rob Murphy said: “Luton residents should all give themselves a huge pat on the back, it’s brilliant to see such enthusiasm for used cooking oil recycling. It’s great to think that such a difficult waste product is being turned into something so beneficial for the environment.”

    Cooking oil costs UK taxpayers an average of 15 million a year in bills for blocked drains as people pour oil away to dispose of it, which also causes damage to wildlife and watercourses.

    Councillor Dave Taylor said: “The scheme has shown what can be achieved when partners work together to tackle a specific environmental challenge and has made an important contribution to Luton’s waste recycling performance. I would encourage everyone in Luton to recycle their household oil in this way.”

    Just one litre of oil can produce enough green electricity to power an energy-saving light-bulb for 225 hours, run a plasma computer for 50 hours or a DVD player for 440 hours.


  • Creating semiconductor structures for high-end optoelectronic devices just got easier, thanks to University of Illinois researchers.

    The team developed a method to chemically etch patterned arrays in the semiconductor gallium arsenide, used in solar cells, lasers, light emitting diodes (LEDs), field effect transistors (FETs), capacitors and sensors. Led by electrical and computer engineering professor Xiuling Li, the researchers describe their technique in the journal Nano Letters.

    A semiconductor’s physical properties can vary depending on its structure, so semiconductor wafers are etched into structures that tune their electrical and optical properties and connectivity before they are assembled into chips.

    Semiconductors are commonly etched with two techniques: “Wet” etching uses a chemical solution to erode the semiconductor in all directions, while “dry” etching uses a directed beam of ions to bombard the surface, carving out a directed pattern. Such patterns are required for high-aspect-ratio nanostructures, or tiny shapes that have a large ratio of height to width. High-aspect-ratio structures are essential to many high-end optoelectronic device applications.

    Unfortunately, these materials can be difficult to dry etch, as the high-energy ion blasts damage the semiconductor’s surface.

    To address this problem, Li and her group turned to metal-assisted chemical etching (MacEtch), a wet-etching approach they had previously developed for silicon. Unlike other wet methods, MacEtch works in one direction, from the top down. It is faster and less expensive than many dry etch techniques, according to Li.

    The process has two steps. First, a thin film of metal is patterned on the GaAs surface. Then, the semiconductor with the metal pattern is immersed in the MacEtch chemical solution. The metal catalyses the reaction so that only the areas touching metal are etched away, and high-aspect-ratio structures are formed as the metal sinks into the wafer. When the etching is done, the metal can be cleaned from the surface without damaging it.

    “It is a big deal to be able to etch GaAs this way,” Li said. “The realisation of high-aspect-ratio III-V nanostructure arrays by wet etching can potentially transform the fabrication of semiconductor lasers where surface grating is currently fabricated by dry etching, which is expensive and causes surface damage.”

    To create metal film patterns on the GaAs surface, Li’s team used a patterning technique pioneered by John Rogers, the Lee J Flory-Founder Chair and a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois.

    Their research teams joined forces to optimise the method, called soft lithography, for chemical compatibility while protecting the GaAs surface. Soft lithography is applied to the whole semiconductor wafer, as opposed to small segments, creating patterns over large areas - without expensive optical equipment.

    Tags: ,

  • led light 08.11.2011 No Comments

    Model by model, the electronics in a car are being moved closer to the engine block. This is why the materials used for the electronics must resist increasing heat - so the glass solder being used as glue must be continually optimised.

    For the first time ever, a robot takes on the task of developing new types of glass and examining their characteristics. Researchers will introduce this robot at the ”productronica” trade fair to be held in Munich, Germany, from 15 - 18 November.

    For the laymen, glass looks like glass - it might be a window, a drinking vessel, a lens for an automotive headlight. But there is much more in and to the transparent material: glass can consist of 50 to 60 different elements.

    Experts are constantly being asked to create glass with certain characteristics out of these elements, since new applications require new materials quite often.

    Let’s take the car as an example: the electronic components in a car’s engine compartment are being brought ever closer to the engine and so must increasingly be resistant to heat and corrosive gasses. This also applies to the glue, a glass solder. In the development of fuel cells, the demand for new types of glass is also great: the use of new metals requires that the glass solder also be adapted. In addition, over a period of approximately 100,000 hours, the glass must withstand thermal heat of 900 degrees Celsius without being damaged.

    In order to develop glass with new characteristics, experts select about ten compounds from potential elements, mix them and then heat the powder. They heat it in a furnace until it is soft, then they pour it into a mould and let it cool slowly and in a controlled fashion, down to room temperature. During that process small samples from the viscous glass are taken to test it: how viscous is it? How well does it wet metals? How does it crystallise out? To produce the glass samples by hand and to test them requires a lot of time: one employee needs approximately two weeks to process 16 samples.

    Researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Würzburg have developed a unit that carries out all these steps automatically.

    “It needs only 24 hours to process 16 samples”, says Dr Martin Kilo, manager of the expert group for glass and high-temperature materials at the ISC. “For this reason we are able to develop glass elements more cost-effectively than previously, by up to 50 per cent.”

    The core piece of the unit is a robot: it puts a mixing cup on a scale and moves it under 14 storage vessels, from which a certain amount of powder is filled into the cup. Then the robot mixes the individual ingredients by closing the cup and shaking it, just like a bartender does with a cocktail shaker. The robot arm then grabs a crucible, puts it onto the scale, fills it with a certain amount of the mixed powder and puts the crucible into one of the five furnaces available in total. The robot repeats this steps several times, since gases build up when the powder is heated and foam could form otherwise.

    Tags: ,

  • The Volkswagen Scirocco R comes with an audio system that will simply blow your socks off.

    Even before starting up the engine for the first time, I checked out the DynAudio digital sound system, which consists of, get a load of this: 6-disc front-loading CD with MP3 compatibility, touch screen, eight speakers, eight-channel amplifier and to top it off, a sub-woofer.

    Yep, it all adds up to oodles of sheer listening pleasure of the highest degree.

    Problem is, I used this impressive feature only once in a week behind the wheel of the Scirocco!

    Why? Simply because, once you hear the jukebox of tunes coming from the 2.0 turbo engine, you hear the sweetest sound of all.

    Open the sunroof, lower the one-touch automatic windows, and the symphony that filters in to the interior from under the bonnet relegates any musical artist to a definite runner-up position.

    As you keep your foot to the floor and the revs build up, you can hear and feel as the turbo kicks in with that distinctive “ping” sound coming through at about 7000 rpm.

    Make no mistake, the “R” is full-on hardcore.

    That said, there is no way it is one-dimensional and its design definitely equals its performance.

    In fact, at times, I had to remind myself I was actually driving a vehicle that shares the same manufacturer’s badge as runarounds like the Vivo and Polo!

    The Scirocco is low, wide and has dollops of aggression in its lines.

    Exterior features that combine to make such a strong motoring statement, include colour-coded door handles and bumpers, flared side sills and LED daytime running lights positioned in the lower front bumper.

    And last, but by no means least, my favourite - two centred chrome exhaust pipes that provide the stage for that symphony of music from the four-cylinder engine lurking under that attractive, sloping bonnet.

    Subtle hints that this is no ordinary Scirocco are the small “R” logos front and rear and the noticeable brake callipers painted gloss black with the “R” logo proudly displayed.

    One wants for nothing when it comes an interior with cruise control, tinted windows, dual-zone air conditioning, onboard computer and multi-function steering wheel all standard.

    But it’s also little things that make this car memorable … time-delay interior light, lights-on warning buzzer, lockable glove compartment and of course, the “R” logo embossed in the leather seats.

    To round off the package, the Scirocco requires a range of safety features worthy of a performance vehicle.

    Tags: , ,