Tag Archives: Windows

KTH researchers develop transparent wood for use in building and solar panels

Wood, one of the cheapest and most widely used construction materials humanity has ever employed,  just had its range of uses expanded: researchers at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology developed a method that makes wood transparent. The method is suitable for mass production, making it even more attractive.

A close-up look at the transparent wood created at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
Image credits KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Optically transparent wood is not a new thing, says Lars Berglund, professor at the Wallenberg Wood Science Center at KTH. But it’s usually only been done in microscopic samples intended for wood anatomy studies. Their new process would allow for transparent wood production and usage on a much larger scale than anything ever before attempted.

“Wood is by far the most used bio-based material in buildings. It’s attractive that the material comes from renewable sources. It also offers excellent mechanical properties, including strength, toughness, low density and low thermal conductivity,” Berglund says.

“Transparent wood is a good material for solar cells, since it’s a low-cost, readily available and renewable resource. This becomes particularly important in covering large surfaces with solar cells.”

These transparent panels can also be employed as windows, or used to create semitransparent facades to allow light in while also maintaining privacy.

Optically transparent wood is actually a type of wood veneer from which lignin, a structurally-important component in the cellular walls of trees, is chemically removed. The resulting porous veneer substrate is saturated with a transparent polymer and the optical properties of the two materials are then matched.

“When the lignin is removed, the wood becomes beautifully white. But because wood isn’t not naturally transparent, we achieve that effect with some nanoscale tailoring,” Berglund adds.

“No one has previously considered the possibility of creating larger transparent structures for use as solar cells and in buildings.”

Wood is a renewable resource, but that doesn’t mean we’re doing it substantially  — we have to grow and harvest it accordingly, not by logging away, chainsaws blazing, at the forests around us. The KTH team is now working on ways to improve the transparency of their material and on scaling-up their production method.

“We also intend to work further with different types of wood,” Berglund concludes.

The full paper, titled “Optically Transparent Wood from a Nanoporous Cellulosic Template: Combining Functional and Structural Performance” was published online in the journal Biomacromolecules and can be read here.

What Happened in Mobile Tech Last 2012

Another year has passed and another step towards mobile technology evolution has been taken. It looks like the world is going digital right before our very eyes and this trend is expected to continue until 2013.

From smartphones and tablets to cloud technology, 2012 has been a year of advancements and improvements.

To give you more idea, here are some significant things that happened in mobile tech last 2012:

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Android Catches iOS

The Android vs. iOS debate has been going on even before 2012 but Apple’s iPhone and the iPad has always been the standard that other OEMs have looked up to. But when the Samsung Galaxy S3 came out, the game changed. Suddenly, there is a phone that is not only good enough to compete with the iPhone, but also has the brand name to attract consumers. After that, more people gave Android a chance which gave other devices like HTC One X more attention. And with the underwhelming improvements of the iPhone 5, iPad 4 and the iPad Mini, and the success of Google’s own Nexus brand complete with the latest Jellybean updates, the debate over which OS is better has become more heated than ever.

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Windows is back in the Game… Sort of

Windows tried to make a big splash with their new operating systems for mobile devices. First there is the Windows phone 8 OS for smartphones. Though it was also featured on other devices like HTC Windows Phone 8+, it was really the Nokia Lumia 920 that represented the new operating system. Nokia and Microsoft banked on it to bring them back to contention but the sales have been modest. Same goes for Microsoft’s first foray to the tablet market. Unfortunately, the Surface RT was not the iPad killer Microsoft has touted it to be. A lot of it can be attributed to the confusion over what Windows RT is in the first place, especially when people were expecting a full out Windows 8 device. That said, though Microsoft is still a step behind both Android and iOS, I think they made enough splash to get some attention to their brand. What they do in 2013 should be interesting.

 

Hardware and Software under the Same Roof

Looks like a lot of the major players are following the Apple route, which is developing software and hardware under one company. As mentioned above, Microsoft has already produced their own tablet in Surface, much to the chagrin of some partners like Acer. Google is following the same route as well. Though their mobile devices were produced in partnership with other manufacturers, it already carries their Nexus brand. And with the acquisition of Motorola, Google might be poised to produce their own devices in-house in 2013 or 2014.

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The Rise of Cloud Technology

Cloud technology has been around for a long time but with the rise of mobile technology through tablets and smartphones, there are now more and more cloud providers popping up to provide different services. From online storage apps like Box and Dropbox, to online PBX services like RingCentral, it seems like hosting and creating your own solution is really turning to something impractical and expensive. And with the frankenstorm Sandy hitting the East Coast and disrupting a lot of business operations, it looks like third party cloud service providers will be a common business technology route for a lot of companies from here on out because it can be accessed anywhere as long as there is Internet connection.