Mother Earth Living

On The Green Horizon

Hot new technology to lighten your life
By Kelly Smith
May/June 2008
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These easy-to-assemble lights prove that emulation is the sincerest use of battery.


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Designer LEDs

DEKs, short for Designer Emulation Kits, are easy-to-assemble, eco-friendly and artistic light fixtures you create yourself. New York–based industrial designer Mark McKenna’s tribute to his heroes, the diminutive, innovative, easy-to-ship lighting imitates lamps by design greats Ingo Maurer, Achille Castiglioni, Richard Sapper and Philippe Starck.

Flat-packed lamp components, stamped from a circuit board, are simply popped out of the lamp’s shipping envelope and assembled. Attach the lamp to a 9-volt battery, add an LED bulb and— voila! a working light fixture. An LED bulb will shine for about 100,000 hours, for more than a decade of continuous operation.

The lamp kits retail for $30 each and are available at museum shops nationwide. Visit www.MMcKenna.com/products/dek to find retailers near you.

Solar, Size Small

Some say it’s solar’s time in the sun. Sunlight is being harnessed around the globe to drive generators, provide electricity and heat water. Even so, solar power provides a mere sliver of the total energy the world uses; conventional photovoltaic panels are still pretty awkward and expensive and are not all that efficient at harnessing the full potential of the sun’s rays.

Somenath Mitra, a New Jersey Institute of Technology professor, has developed a method to create solar cells that can be applied to flexible plastic sheets. Through nanotechnology, millions of nanotubes—cylindrical carbon molecules that are 50,000 times smaller than a human hair—combine with tiny carbon structures called buckminsterfullerenes (affectionately called "buckyballs"), which conduct solar electrons inexpensively and efficiently.

All very scientific. The miracle, Mitra predicts, is that consumers may someday be able to print solar cells from their home computers or paint roofs and walls with an energy-generating finish. She hopes that the technology will be commercially viable in the next five years. 








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