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Japan approves construction of maglev bullet train that will travel 178 miles in 40 minutes

When it comes to building high-speed trains Japan is continuing to embarrass the rest of the world, with the latest line, approved by the government this Friday, capable of travelling the 178 miles from Tokyo to Nagoya in just 40 minutes.

This is less than half the time it currently takes the celebrated Shinkansen bullet train to travel the route, with trains on the Chūō Shinkansen line reaching speeds of 300 mph thanks to their maglev (magnetic levitation) technology.

Maglev uses extremely powerful superconducting magnets to float the train 10cm above the track, allowing for frictionless movement. The technology has previously been used to build short demonstration lines in cities including Tokyo, but the Tokyo-Nagoya route will be the first functioning intercity route.

A 43-kilometer test track that will be opening up in November this year proved so popular with the Japanese public that more than 150,000 individuals applied for 1,200 pairs of seats, with the winners to be decided by lottery.

Central Japan Railway Co (JR Central) plan to finish the work by 2027 before extending the line from Nagoya to Osaka  before 2045. This second route will travel 331 miles in just 67 minutes, shortening the current travel time of 138 minutes.

The Tokyo-Nagoya route will reportedly pass by Mt Fjui, but commuters hoping for a breath-taking (if blurred) view the whole way round will be disappointed – with 86 per cent of the line run through tunnels, with some travelling 40 metres below ground when passing under urban areas.

The estimated cost of the line to Nagoya is ¥5.5 trillion (£32 billion) with the full Osaka line running up a bill of around ¥9 trillion.

Central Japan Railway will be funding the project entirely through cash generated by its current bullet train lines (the most popular in the world); a sensible move for a company that reported a higher operating profit margin than even Apple in the fiscal year ending March 31.

Original Source: http://ind.pn/1vUm4hs

Germany opens first renewable energy storage facility

Germany has launched what it claims is Europe’s first and largest commercial battery plant, which will help to store renewable power sources. Such sources can prove erratic, as they are dependent on the elements, such as wind and the sun.

The new plant, opened by Wemag AG, will be able to store five megawatts –enough to power roughly 2,500 homes. With Germany committed to going green, one of the country’s biggest problems had been where to store excess energy. The country currently produces around 25 percent of its energy from green sources.

“This is an interesting alternative to conventional power plants and the regional utilities have come up with an interesting project here,” German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel told German television at the plant’s opening in Schwerin, around 100km east of Hamburg in the north.

The installation cost 6 million euro and is the size of a school gymnasium, while it’s powered by 25,600 lithium-ion batteries, which were produced by Samsung. The plant will service an area of 8,600 sq. km, which already receives 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources. However, by the end of the year the region should be totally dependent on green energy, according to Reuters.

“The first commercially operating battery storage plant of this size is an important step to realize the German energy switch,” said Gabriel, who also added that the German Environment Ministry had contributed 1.3 million euro to the project, Bloomberg reports.

Following the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011, German President Angela Merkel made a commitment to phase out nuclear power by 2022 and concentrate on generating a higher percentage of renewable sources.

Germany hopes to raise the amount of green energy it uses from one-quarter at present to as much as 60 percent by 2035.

While Germany’s green energy drive has won plenty of plaudits for caring about the environment and moving away from fossil fuels, it has come at a cost. Over the next 26 years, Berlin will spend 550 billion euro on developing renewable energy, however, the average German consumer is seeing the price of energy bills rocket.

“It’s being sold on the message it’s either wind energy or radioactive catastrophe, this plays on fear, and makes money for wind energy providers,” Petra Dahms, an anti-wind power activist, told RT in October 2013.

Germany subsidizes renewables to the tune of about $16 billion per year, an innovation that comes at a cost to consumers and industry. After her party’s election victory, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and her cabinet would be reviewing the country’s subsidy program.

“One day I saw it almost doubled, I can’t understand how this bill can be so expensive for two people,”Aminta Seck, a single mother, told RT from her Berlin home.

“Responsibility lies with the government and the power companies, they are so expensive. One of the reasons for price rises is the subsidies being paid out for solar and wind energy,” said Seck.

Original Source: http://rt.com/news/188372-germany-energy-renewable-batteryplant/

McLaren to build £32m Rolls Royce tech centre

McLaren Construction has landed the contract to deliver a new £32m Technology and Logistics Centre forRolls Royce near Bognor Regis.

The contractor is getting under way now on the site for developer Bericote Properties.

The 30,000 sq metre scheme is being built at Oldlands Farm Business Park and will take 48 weeks to complete.

The latest win follows on from McLaren’s successful delivery of Jaguar Land Rover’s new manufacturing plant in Solihull.

David Murphy, Regional Managing Director (South), McLaren Construction  said: “We are extremely proud to have been appointed as the main contractor to deliver this exciting new development for a loyal and respected customer such as Bericote.

“We look forward to furthering our track record in the automotive sector and bringing our expertise to bear on the delivery of what will be a high profile facility for Rolls-Royce and a prominent development in the context of the ‘Enterprise Bognor Regis’ plan.”

Lee Pettit, Bericote Properties said, “We are pleased to be working again with McLaren Construction who have successfully delivered major projects for Bericote throughout our long-standing relationship and we look forward to the new Technology and Logistics Centre for Rolls-Royce to be completed to the same industry-leading standards.”

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1sAANMU

Clean Energy Production Breakthrough Extracts Hydrogen from Water 30 Times Faster

Scientists at the University of Glasgow have made an exciting clean energy production breakthrough: they’ve discovered a new method for extracting hydrogen from water that is not only safer than current methods, it’s also an incredible 30 times faster. The process, published in the journal Science, also resolves issues associated with storing electricity generated by renewable resources by using that electricity to produce hydrogen, which can then be stored for later use.

Hydrogen fuel Glasgow

In nature, photosynthesis splits water molecules to provide protons and electrons for plant growth. Oxygen is a byproduct of the process and it’s released out into the atmosphere, where it kind of comes in handy. However, chemists are more interested in splitting water to produce hydrogen and create fuel. The trick to the process lies in keeping the highly reactive hydrogen and oxygen produced separate, otherwise things can get a little, ahem, explosive. When the separated hydrogen gas is intentionally burned as a fuel, however, it is considered to have zero emissions, and therein lies its appeal.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1qKG1DG

Foster & Partners to design New, Sustainable Mexico City Airport

The contract for an ambitious new airport in Mexico City has been awarded to Pritzker Prize–winning British architect Norman Foster of Foster & Partners. Foster joined forces with Mexican firm FR-EE, led by Fernando Romero, son-in-law of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, and NACO (Netherlands Airport Consultants) on the winning submission.

Foster’s team aims to make this the world’s most sustainable airport. The LEED Platinum design imagines a building outfitted with innovative systems to collect rainwater and sunlight to produce energy. Building materials are to be sourced domestically and sustainably wherever possible. Construction will be completed by locals, creating jobs in the surrounding area.

Mexico City International Airport

Initial renderings reveal one large central terminal—more eco-friendly than powering multiple structures—under an undulating ceiling. Foster + Partners have some experience with weaving local aesthetics into airport designs: the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, features shapes inspired by Bedouin tents, and Beijing Capital International Airport’s Terminal 3 reimagines the dragon motif ubiquitous in Chinese imagery.

Original Source: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/blogs/daily/2014/09/foster-partners-mexico-city-airport

Hitachi developing reactor that burns nuclear waste

Hitachi is developing a new reactor that burns transuranium elements, such as those produced by this advanced test reactor (above) at Argonne National Laboratory.

The problem with nuclear waste is that it needs to be stored for many thousands of years before it’s safe, which is a tricky commitment for even the most stable civilization. To make this situation a bit more manageable, Hitachi, in partnership with MIT, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Berkeley, is working on new reactor designs that use transuranic nuclear waste for fuel; leaving behind only short-lived radioactive elements.

In popular imagination, nuclear waste is a wildly radioactive goo that glows like the back end of a lightning bug. But in real life, the real problem of nuclear waste isn’t the “hot” stuff, but the mildly radioactive elements with atomic numbers greater than 92. That’s because highly radioactive elements have short half lives. That is, they burn themselves out very quickly – sometimes in a matter of minutes or even seconds.

On the other hand, mildly radioactive elements, such as plutonium, have half lives measured in tens of thousands or even millions of years. That makes storing them a very long-term problem, and is a particular difficulty in countries like the United States that don’t recycle transuranium elements by fuel reprocessing or fast-breeder reactors.

Diagram of Hitachi's nuclear-waste burning reactor system (Image: Hitachi)

What Hitachi and its partners are trying to do is to find ways to design next-generation reactors that can use the low-level transuranium elements as fuel; leaving behind the high-level elements to quickly (relatively speaking) burn themselves out in no more than a century or so.

That’s not a particularly new idea. Some modular nuclear reactors already use nuclear waste as fuel. But what sets Hitachi apart is that it’s looking into designs based on current boiling-water reactors that are known as Resource-renewable Boiling Water Reactors (RBWR) and are being developed by Hitachi and Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy Ltd.

The idea is to develop a new fuel element design using refined nuclear waste products along with uranium that can be installed in a standard boiling water reactor. This would not only make such reactors more economical to build, but would also use decades of safety and operations experience to achieve efficient nuclear fission in transuranium elements.

Hitachi says that it’s already carried out joint research with its partners starting in 2007 and is now concentrating on the next phase, which deals with more accurate analysis methods, as well as reactor safety and performance, with an eye toward practical application of what’s been learned.

Original Source: http://www.gizmag.com/hitachi-reactor/33585/

Apple ‘leads the way’ on reducing environmental harm

Apple is doing more than any other electronics manufacturer to address the negative effect it has on the environment, according to Greenpeace, but the industry as a whole still faces major challenges to ensure a “toxic-free future”.

With sales of electronics gadgets set to reach 2.5 billion this year the charity’s Green Gadgets report underlines the need for global companies like Apple, Samsung and Dell to act with urgency to meet the “growing environmental crisis”.

Greenpeace says that the electronics industry still needs to embrace renewable energy and eliminate hazardous chemicals from its manufacturing processes.


Last month Apple bowed to pressure and banned two dangerous chemicals that were exposing hundreds of thousands of staff in China to a greater risk of cancer, nerve damage and paralysis from its final assembly plants.

The toxins, still widely used by other manufacturers, include n-hexane, which is usually used to clean smudges from screens prior to packing them in boxes, and benzene, which is used to coat certain electronic components.

Some companies are moving slowly despite increasing pressure to adopt more “green” manufacturing processes, but Greenpeace International campaigner Tom Dowdall said that Apple had made greater steps than its competitors.

“Apple has shown us a glimpse of what is possible, leading the industry on the elimination of the worst chemicals and starting to address the huge environmental impact of electronics manufacturing,” he said.

“But this is just the beginning – major industry players should take up the challenge to create truly sustainable products and help us build a greener future.”

More than half of the mobile phone market – represented by Samsung, Apple and Nokia – is now free from the worst hazardous substances: Polyvinylchloride (PVC) and Brominated flame retardants.

However, Apple remains the only company to have eliminated the use of these substances in all its products.

Greenpeace said that Samsung, the world’s biggest electronics company, has failed to meet its elimination goals for products beyond mobiles, joining Dell in backtracking on previous public phase out commitments. Samsung did not respond to a request for comment.

A Dell spokesman said: “We actively consider the environment at every stage of the product lifecycle and seek sustainable materials when viable alternatives exists. Our sustainable approach to design has been validated with awards such as ISRI’s 2014 Design for Recycling Award and earlier this year we worked with UL Environment to achieve the first third-party validation for our closed-loop recycling system. There’s always more that can be done, and we’ll continue to work alongside our partners and suppliers to advocate for sustainable business practices in line with our 2020 Legacy of Good Plan.”

Overall, electronics companies are failing to address their growing carbon footprint, said Greenpeace. The manufacturing of phones, laptops and other devices requires a huge amount of energy and is concentrated in East Asia where coal dominates energy production.

Some companies, like Lenovo and Huawei, have taken first steps with small solar installations on Chinese factories, while Apple is planning the first 100 per cent renewable energy factory to make iPhone screens.

“As a hotbed of innovation, the electronics industry is perfectly placed to reimagine how our phones, laptops and TVs are made and sold. Companies should be designing for the future, not the dump. Toxic-free, durable electronics made with renewable energy shouldn’t be a dream but a reality,” said Dowdall.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1w5q6R2

Apple iPhones Get (a little) Less Toxic

This spring, Green America’s Bad Apple: End Smartphone Sweatshops campaign, in partnership with China Labor Watch (CLW), called on Apple to remove toxic chemicals including benzene and n-hexane from its supplier factories in China. Five months after the launch, with 23,000 petition signatures, Apple announced on August 14 that it would “prohibit the use of benzene and n-hexane” at 22 of its final-assembly supplier factories, 18 of which are in China.

What are Benzene and N-Hexane?

A known carcinogen, benzene can cause leukemia, a blood cancer, and leukopenia, a dangerously low white blood cell count. The chemical n-hexane is a neurotoxicant that can cause nerve damage and paralysis. The dangers of these vaporous chemicals are compounded after long exposure, as is almost universally the case for workers in the electronics sector who work on average 11 hours a day. Of course there are thousands of other chemicals used in electronics manufacturing, some of which lack adequate testing and many of which are not disclosed by Apple.

What does this commitment mean for workers?

Apple’s commitment, effective September 1, 2014, means that the estimated 500,000 workers who work in Apple’s final-assembly, or “first-tier,” suppliers can no longer work with or be exposed to benzene and n-hexane. These factories represent roughly 5% of Apple’s suppliers in China. Apple’s 331 other suppliers in China are second- or third-tier suppliers, who make and assemble the parts of Apple’s products, such as the plastic encasement of an iPhone or laptop, the buttons, or chargers. An estimated 1 million workers work deeper in Apple’s supply chain, where chemical monitoring and safety measures are believed to be less controlled than in first-tier facilities.

Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics”, a 10-minute documentary, profiles several of the millions of migrant electronics workers in China.

How does this commitment affect the toxicity of cell phones?

Thanks to a 2007 Greenpeace campaign, Apple committed to reducing or banning a number of toxic substances in its iPhones, including brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and chlorinated plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC)—which had been linked to thyroid problems, learning disabilities in children, and other health issues. Apple has also banned lead and mercury from its final products. However, these bans apply only to the final products and not to the manufacturing processes, which means workers still run the risk of being exposed to these chemicals.

In 2012, HealthyStuff.org published a study that ranked 36 phones on their hazardous substances content. You can check how your phone scored here.

What’s next?

With production set to ramp up this fall with the release of the iPhone 6, Green America and CLW are now calling on Apple to extend the chemical ban to substances other than benzene and n-hexane, and to all of its supplier factories, including early-production facilities. We will also ramp up the pressure on Apple’s competitors.

If you’ve ever wondered if signing a petition can really make a difference, this campaign has shown that it can. In just 5 months, with the backing of thousands of Apple customers, we’ve been able to push one of the biggest companies in the world to change its ways and protect workers from hazardous chemicals.

You too can thank Apple for taking this step and help Green America keep up the pressure on Apple. Take action!

Green America is part of Safer Chemicals’ coalition to push Congress and retailers for more sane laws and policies on toxic chemicals.

Original Source: http://saferchemicals.org/2014/08/18/apple-iphones-get-a-little-less-toxic/

Beijing Doctors Implant World’s First 3D-Printed Vertebra into 12 Year Old Boy

Doctors from the Peking University Third Hospital (PUTH) in Beijing, China, have become the first in the world to use 3D-printing in complex spinal cord surgery, after replacing a section of cancerous vertebra in a boy’s neck with a piece created on a 3D printer.

Minghao, 12, had developed a malignant tumour in his spinal cord, which was discovered when he injured his neck playing football, state broadcaster Chinese Central Television reported.

He was in so much pain that he was only able to stand up occasionally, and only for a few minutes at a time, during his two-month stay in hospital before the surgery.

The procedure to remove this form of cancer is so complex that only five hospitals in China are equipped to perform the surgery. The tumor affects the top of the spinal cord in the neck, but also the internal and external carotid arteries, and the patient’s windpipe.

PUTH’s orthopaedics department conducted the surgery last Friday, and successfully implanted the 3D-printed piece of vertebra.

Minghao is still not able to speak, and has at least three months of recovery time ahead of him, but the hospital says he is in a good physical condition and is expected to make a full recovery.

Doctors from the Peking University Third Hospital (PUTH) in Beijing, China, have become the first in the world to use 3D-printing in complex spinal cord surgery, after replacing a section of cancerous vertebra in a boy’s neck with a piece created on a 3D printer.

Minghao, 12, had developed a malignant tumour in his spinal cord, which was discovered when he injured his neck playing football, state broadcaster Chinese Central Television reported.

He was in so much pain that he was only able to stand up occasionally, and only for a few minutes at a time, during his two-month stay in hospital before the surgery.

The procedure to remove this form of cancer is so complex that only five hospitals in China are equipped to perform the surgery. The tumor affects the top of the spinal cord in the neck, but also the internal and external carotid arteries, and the patient’s windpipe.

PUTH’s orthopaedics department conducted the surgery last Friday, and successfully implanted the 3D-printed piece of vertebra.

Minghao is still not able to speak, and has at least three months of recovery time ahead of him, but the hospital says he is in a good physical condition and is expected to make a full recovery.

“Using existing technology, the patient’s head needs to be framed with pins after surgery. The patient’s head cannot touch the bed when he is resting. This lasts for at least three months. But with 3D printing technology, we can simulate the shape of the vertebra, which is much stronger and more convenient than traditional methods,” Liu Zhongjun, director of orthopaedics at PUTH told CCTV.

“This is the first use of a 3D printed vertebra as an implant for orthopaedic spine surgery in the world.”

Making sure the 3D-printed vertebra implant matches the vertabra in the patient's neck
Making sure the 3D-printed vertebra implant matches the vertebra in the patient’s neck
Peking University Third Hospital

According to 3Dprint.com, this is just one of several clinical trials being held at PUTH using 3D-printed technology.

The hospital’s surgeons used 3D-printed implants last year to help a woman suffering from cervical spondylosis: a degenerative ‘wear-and-tear’ condition of the vertebrae and discs in the neck, which causes the discs in the neck to become thinner and rougher.

A 32 year-old man also received a 3D-printed implant from PUTH. He had been unable to walk due to numbness in his limbs from a spinal condition, which caused vertebrae to press on nerves that controlled his walking.

Chinese hospitals have been researching the medical uses of 3D printing since 2002. In 2008 surgeons at the General Hospital of Guangzhou Military Command began using 3D-printed models to rehearse complex surgeries in advance.

Original Source: http://bit.ly/1oWLn9t

London buses to get free wifi and cycle safety sensors

London’s buses look set to get safer and more tech-savvy, as TfL trials free WiFi and cyclist safety measures.

WiFi has been installed on a bus on route 12 between Dulwich and Oxford Circus, and route RV1, between Covent Garden and Tower Hill.

If the trial goes well, TfL are hoping to get sponsorshop to roll WiFi out across the fleet. TfL are also trilling screens on the lower deck of buses, informing them if there are seats available on the top deck, which should eliminate the effort and embarrassment of walking upstairs only to find that all the seats are taken.

TfL aren’t just concerned with passenger comfort; they are also protecting passenger safety.

Two buses on route 25, which goes through Stratford, and two buses on route 73, which goes from Victoria to Stoke Newington via Oxford Circus and King’s Cross, have been fitted with ‘CycleEye’ and ‘Cycle Safety Shiled’ technology.

CycleEye radar senses when pedestrians and cyclists are moving close to the vehicle, and alerts the bus driver so that they can avoid a crash. Cycle Safety Shield provides a a bright sign, flashing light, and alarm to alert pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists of the dangers of getting too close to buses.

The new technology shows Transport for London’s commitment to protecting Londoners from harm. TfL’s Managing Director for Surface Transport, Leon Daniels, said: “We are all pedestrians, and the number of people cycling in London is increasing, therefore it is vital that we continue to make London’s streets as safe as possible.

If the schemes are successful, and a sponsor is found for WiFi, the technologies could be rolled out across the fleet of 8,700 buses.

Original Source: http://www.london24.com/news/transport/london_buses_to_get_free_wifi_and_cycle_safety_sensors_1_3715688

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