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Student Invents Solar Tree

On a hike through the Catskill Mountains in New York, seventh-grader Aidan Dwyer noticed that the branches of oak trees seemed to grow in a certain pattern. Inspired to try his hand at biomimicry, he created a tree-like arrangement of small solar panels capable of generating 20-50% more energy than traditional flat designs.

Dwyer’s solar tree is based on a mathematical concept called the Fibonacci sequence, which was discovered in the late middle ages.

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Energy-Generating Waterfall Proposed for 2016 Olympics

Last year we reported on the sustainability efforts of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which made the games the greenest yet. Vancouver was outfitted with solar panels, green roofs, and mechanisms to collect and recycle rainwater. Award medals were made from re-purposed electronic waste.

Now, Rio de Janeiro is aiming to create the first games with a zero-carbon footprint when it hosts the Summer Olympics in 2016.

To help the city achieve this goal, Swiss-based RAFAA Architecture and Design has proposed a Solar City Tower, which features a visually stunning energy-generating waterfall.

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Crazy Skyscraper Uses Lightning to Make Hydrogen Gas

The structure may resemble a postmodern radio tower or perhaps the lair of a James Bond supervillain, but it’s actually designed to be a hydrogen power plant.

Hydra, named after a tubular freshwater creature, is listed as an honorable mention in this year’s eVolo Magazine Skyscraper Competition (see more winning designs here). Its creators hail from Serbia, and include Milos Vlastic, Vuk Djordjevic, Ana Lazovic, and Milica Stankovic.

The most remarkable aspect of this structure is its ability to harvest energy from lightning bolts, which is then stored in several huge batteries at the base.

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New Reactor Turns Sunlight into
Hydrogen Fuel

Every hour, the sun beams down more energy than the whole planet consumes in a year. Although solar cell technology has advanced considerably in recent years, many challenges related to reliably capturing and storing the sun’s energy still remain.

Sossina Haile, a professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering at CalTech, is developing a new approach to solar power. Using cerium oxide (or ceria), a metal most commonly found in self-cleaning ovens, Haile and her research team have created a prototype reactor that has the power to transform sunbeams into clean fuel.

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Notable Hispanic Scientists and Engineers

Americans of Hispanic descent have made notable contributions to science, engineering and technology. They include a 1968 Physics Nobel laureate, the current head of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the first Latina astronaut, now Number 2 at NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), here are the stories of a scientist and two engineers of Hispanic descent who have made a significant impact in their fields.

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