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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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Yuki-taro: the Cutest Snowplow Ever

So far, 2011 has been full of winter storms and a whole lot of snow. And as a massive blizzard that just slammed the Midwest U.S. moves eastward, Japan might have a cute and innovative solution for scooping up all the snow.

Not only can shoveling be too strenuous for some people, such as the sick or elderly, but it can also leave massive piles of snow in roads or sidewalks.

Instead, winter storm victims could enlist the help of the self-guided robot Yuki-taro, which eats up snow and then excretes little snow-bricks.

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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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Giant Uber-Bus May Come to the U.S.

We’ve written about more than a few creative transportation ideas on this blog, but this one takes the cake: a huge, road-straddling vehicle that operates like a type of bus-subway hybrid.

Originally created by Chinese engineers and set to arrive in Beijing in 2011, this super bus will be powered by electricity combined with rooftop solar panels. It will travel at speeds of 25-50mph and sit about eight feet above other vehicles, allowing them to pass underneath the passenger compartment.

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