Archive for December 2007

The Eco-boulevard: Cooling public spaces through “air trees”

December 28, 2007

The Ecoboulevard is an interesting idea by the young architecture firm “Ecosistema Urbano” (also involved in the Philadelphia Urban Voids program). The project got one of the first prizes at this year Architectural Review (AR) Awards for Emerging Architecture.

The neighborhood of Vallecas, in Madrid (Spain) was looking for innovative ways to have more social activitity in the streets and more greenery at the same time. The winning project was the Ecoboulevard.

The idea is simple (see picture): a round structure in public square that acts like a nursery with “air trees” going up providing shade and cooling the atmosphere. These “mini-forests” are ‘easily dismantled and energetically self-sufficient’, as they are connected to solar panels at the top of the structure to be used in social gatherings and events.

Originally uploaded by
Juan Freire

When the metallic structures are no longer reliant on air conditioning, they can be disassembled, and left as ‘clearings’ in the urban forest. The AR judges liked the combination of ideas: the tree, the container in which it might sit, solar power and the flow of air through a given structure, with a visually impressive appearance.


Spanish Group FCC buys two US oil waste treatment firms from Siemens

December 13, 2007

FCC has acquired from Siemens Water Technologies Corp. (SWT) its two US subsidiaries specialised in treatment and recovery of industrial oils and other ancillary services to the oil industry: Hydrocarbon Recovery Services Inc. (HRS) and International Petroleum Corp.

The two companies will be integrated into FCC Ámbito, the group’s industrial waste management division.

The operation cost 182.5 million dollars. As a result, FCC will become the second-largest player in this field in the USA. FCC is a diversified group with business areas that range from construction to environmental services to infrastructure management.

HRS and International Petroleum operate in 21 states in the Mid-Atlantic, South-East and South Central regions of the USA, an area with a total population of 160 million.

The acquired group, which is based in Houston, Texas, has 38 industrial plants, a fleet of 362 vehicles, and 528 employees. It is expected to obtain 140 million dollars in revenues in 2008.

The group makes a major contribution to sustainability by converting waste into products that act as an alternative to fossil fuels.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that recycled oil uses just one-third of the energy of the equivalent amount of crude. It also states that 64 litres of oil are required to make a litre of lubricant oil, but that it takes only 1.6 litres of used oil to make 1 litre of usable recycled oil.

Based on the EPA’s figures, the 300 million litres of reused oil and the 250 million litres of hydrocarbon-contaminated water that are recycled and reused avoid the use of 13 billion litres of fossil fuel per year, i.e. equivalent to 130 supertankers full of crude oil each year, or 2.5 supertankers each week.

Additionally, the recovery of metal components from over 30 million oil filters that are processed each year produces 5,300 tonnes of steel, and the over 1.2 million liters of solvent used in the process are recovered for reuse.

The acquisition is a further step in the FCC’s strategy of expanding in the USA and strengthening its environmental management activities. FCC currently employs 1,800 people in its industrial waste division, which manages more than three million tons of waste and generates turnover of $439.7 million in 86 plants.

Pedal Power for your Laptop

December 8, 2007

Intel Corporation launched in April a challenge to European universities to design a device capable of powering laptops by using renewable, sustainable energy sources.

The jury judged entries from universities from Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands and Spain. Each entry was judged according to several criteria, from ecological value to ingenuity of design to commercial viability.

dispositivo1.jpgThe winning solution, by the Spanish team (UPM – Polytechnic of Madrid), is based on a pedal machine powered by human energy. The cycling action produces energy which is turned into the electricity necessary to power the laptop by a power electronics converter. According to the press release from Intel, the solution demonstrates the team’s systematic approach to deal with all aspects of the challenge: from its ease of implementation to the innovative quality of its electronic components with special features to allow for a realistic usage model.

The device is particularly user-friendly as it enables the user to adopt a flexible, customizable rhythm including any required breaks. Original features include the power electronic converter specifically designed to minimize charging time and keep energy flow at a constant level.


The press release, unfortunately, does not specify the performance of the device. Looking at the picture I was wondering if it would be an option for doing exercise while writing posts for the blog. haha.gif

The runners-up, the Polytechnic of Milan (Italy) and Delft’s University of Technology (Netherlands), were also be recognized on the respective merits of their solutions. The Italian team devised an ingenious way to utilize hydrogen fuel cell to power a laptop, which is particularly noteworthy by its duration and for being environmentally clean.

Delft University’s design is also innovative and consists mainly of a rocking-motion pedal mechanism. An integrated design approach, drawing knowledge from a range of disciplines, was used to optimize the design.

The ideas bring to mind the design of the XO in the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) project, that includes “human power” options such as a crank, a pedal or a pull-cord.

Spanish solar company Isofoton looking for US headquarters

December 8, 2007

During a recent visit to the Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator at the University of Toledo, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland said he´d met with Spanish-based solar panel company Isofoton the day before, and they’re looking for a North-American headquarter location.Mr. Strickland spoke in Columbus with representatives from Isofoton, a 26-year-old company in Malaga, and one of  Europe’s largest producers of solar cells.

The governor said he told the company about the University of Toledo’s solar research and companies that have blossomed because of it, including Phoenix-based First Solar LLC, the world’s largest producer of thin-film solar panels. Most are made at the company’s plant in Perrysburg Township.  


One technology being developed by a company at the UT incubator is thin film photovoltaic strips – a cost-effective and light-weight way to create solar panels. The company is Xunlight Corporation and was recently featured in NewsweekThe CEO and founder of the company of the company, Xunming Deng, was present at the event, and told the governor he was attracted to Toledo because of UT’s solar research.


Isofoton representatives told Mr. Strickland they will choose their site from a list of states that includes Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and Ohio. 


The opening of a facility from Isofoton will undoubtedly be good news for the state that is finally chosen. Isofoton is a strong player in the solar field, with a global presence and products in every industry segment, from solar thermal, to cells and modules to High Concentration Photovoltaics. Isofoton has had an office for some time in Washington, but it is looking to increase its presence in the US market.


New anti-germ biodegradable plastic

December 1, 2007

polimero.jpgA team of Spanish researchers has developed a germ-destroying plastic  that degrades by itself once it has come to the end of its useful life.

The team from CSIC (Spanish Council for Scientific Research) sees many possibilities for the experimental procedure in the field of food packaging, although it may also have applications in medical supplies such as syringes, catheters and biosensors.

logo-csic1.jpgThe director of the Research project, Marcos Fernández, has highlighted its commercial viability for the plastics industry.

The sought-after properties were obtained using a photo-catalyzer based on a modified titanium oxide, directly incorporated in the molding process of the plastic component.

The oxide uses sunlight as the energy source to degrade the plastic material at the end of its lifecycle.