Two Cool Window-Washing Robot Prototypes

March 24 2008 / by Accel Rose / In association with Future
Category: Technology   Year: 2008   Rating: 7

Ever since I bought an iRobot vacuum Roomba (it works very well in most rooms), I’d been wondering when someone would build one that works outside buildings as a window washer. Therefore I was psyched to discover not one, but two such prototypes during my latest foray through the wonderful world of YouTube.

The first one is the cooler looking of the two and has been in testing for a few months. It’s an experimental model created at the University of Nebraska and actually sticks itself to the glass. See for yourself (but turn down the volume a little as the sound of the motor is a bit annoying):

The second robot is a more serious industrial machine that appears to be much closer to hitting the commercial market.


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MIT Introduces New Windows That Harness Solar

July 18 2008 / by justinelee / In association with Future
Category: Environment   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

Lucky for us the sun is a wonderful source of clean energy. Its rays can be harnessed and transformed into electricity using semi-conductor-based solar cells that power homes, buildings, and even transportation. Researchers have spent decades trying to refine this process.

Recently, MIT researchers have made a significant mark in this endeavor. Associate Professor Marc A. Baldo, leader of the project, and a team of four graduate students of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, have constructed a cost-efficient solar concentrator device based on a failed 1970s model that uses glass and dye. In practical terms, the concentrator device is a high-efficiency window.

Currently, solar concentrators on the market track the sun’s rays using large mobile mirrors that are both expensive to arrange and to maintain. Furthermore, Baldo explains, the solar cells that house these concentrators must be cooled, thus the entire assembly wastes space.

Baldo’s new solar concentrator increases the amount of usable energy by a factor of 40, all while cutting costs by reducing the amount of solar cell, which because its base is silicon is rather expensive.

The device consists of glass coated with a mixture of relatively inexpensive dyes that absorbs the light and re-emits it on a new wavelength into the glass to be collected by the solar cells, which are located on the edges of the glass.

Baldo says the 1970s model failed in two ways: the collected light was absorbed before it reached the edges of the glass and the dyes were unstable.

Using optical techniques developed for lasers and other diodes, the MIT engineers found the perfect ratio of dyes that would allow the light that is absorbed and emitted to travel a longer distance before reaching the solar cells. (cont.)

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