Eight Ways Solar Power Is Driving New-Gen Computing

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2016-03-28
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    Eight Ways Solar Power Is Driving New-Gen Computing
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    Eight Ways Solar Power Is Driving New-Gen Computing

    As solar technology advances, it's becoming clear that solar is a vital part of the equation that will grow tech's future.
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    Solar-Powered Data Centers
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    Solar-Powered Data Centers

    Researchers from the University of Massachusetts and MIT made waves when they announced their new 6-kwh net zero facility. The center is not just powered by solar; it will also complete research on more sustainable solar batteries. But it's only the next iteration in a long line of renewable data centers. Earlier this year, Switch—a data center builder serving DreamWorks, Google and Fox, to name a few customers—also announced two solar projects.
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    Advancing Mobile Charging
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    Advancing Mobile Charging

    Advances in solar materials may soon fit in your hand. For example, Ubiquitous Energy has developed a clear film coating that contains photovoltaic properties. That not only means it could make mobile charging much easier, but that it could also be applied toward powering other small displays and signs. It may even one day sit in windows and harvest energy to power homes.
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    Powering IoT
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    Powering IoT

    Solar products may be instrumental in expanding the growth of smart objects. While solar cells work well for residential power, they're stiff and inflexible. Organic photovoltaics, which are made from plastic, are much less rigid. This means they could be useful for powering smart outdoor objects. Soon you may see organic photovoltaics tracking railroads, monitoring reservoirs and working in numerous other use cases.
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    Driverless Cars
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    Driverless Cars

    Engineers have been testing rooftop solar panels for electric cars for years, so adding the panels to driverless cars was the next logical step. Recently, Elon Musk declared that he wanted to make a self-driving Tesla. Meanwhile, Ford has been developing a solar-powered model that gets a hit of extra charging power from a Fresnel lens.
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    Increasing Global Internet Access
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    Increasing Global Internet Access

    Early this year, Google announced plans to deliver Internet via drones that are powered by solar panels. This comes after Facebook launched a similar initiative that would provide WiFi to remote areas. CEO Mark Zuckerberg's plan would incorporate laser technology that would allow signals to be transmitted 10 times faster than they are today, which certainly seems to point to developments in WiFi speed.
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    Growing Data
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    Growing Data

    Big data sounds scary, but it can be used for more than just creating the first Skynet. Solar-powered smart trackers have the potential for all kinds of uses, from keeping your pet safe to providing data about animal behavior. They might even be able to help us tell how diseases progress and spread. This technology also will get a boost from solar cells.
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    Bolstering Wearable Tech
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    Bolstering Wearable Tech

    Wearables can do much more than just track movement. Google recently filed for a patent for a contact lens complete with tiny solar cells. These cells would harvest electricity from light and camera flashes, as well as sensing environmental and biological data about the user. Google imagines it having medical applications; it could monitor a diabetic's glucose levels, for example.
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    Developing 3D Printing
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    Developing 3D Printing

    Solar may not need to rely on sunlight much longer. With the help of 3D printers, researchers have developed solar cells that function better in cloudy conditions. Materials for ink have long been an issue plaguing the 3D community, but by dissolving solar cells in solution, researchers broke them down to the molecular level. That way, they can be printed into any shape you can imagine, including the solar trees shown in this photo.
 

As we know, power from the sun and clouds do not coexist well, but when it comes to cloud computing, the future may be powered by photovoltaics. Data centers are increasingly becoming renewable power projects, and with massive centers such as the new net-zero facility in Holyoke, Mass., coming online, solar power and the cloud are becoming inexorably linked. In fact, the race for a smaller, more efficient solar cell is highly reminiscent of the search for better and more compact chip technologies that started in the 1980s and continue through today. Developments in one field often translate to another, and as solar technology advances—from big data and the Internet of things to providing drone-powered WiFi—it's becoming clear that solar is a vital part of the equation that will grow tech's future. To explore this a bit deeper, this eWEEK slide show features industry information from Erin Vaughan of Modernize.com, a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. Modernize.com is an online service based in Austin, Texas, that matches professionals with home-improvement projects.

 
 
 
 
 
Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz
 
 
 
 
 
 

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