Searching for sense and trends in oceans of data and information.

Solar trains

Published 1.19.2017
Offline life impeded this week's publication schedule, but here are some recent items of internet in optics and solar energy.

Trains in the United Kingdom (UK) may soon be powered with solar power. Track side solar panels to be used to power trains.

Currently Network Rail is investing billions in electrifying the UK's train lines, this combined with increased renewable energy generation means train travel could be significantly decarbonised by 2050. However in many rural areas the electricity grid has reached its limit in both integrating distributed energy generation and supplying power to the train companies.

The plan is to connect the panel directly to the train line, bypassing the grid. These trains apparently run during the day, so power is provided when it is needed. This would be the first attempt on the globe to make this work.
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Guessing Trump's Direction

Published 1.16.2017
On Friday of this week, the course of US politics and policies is going to change dramatically, for good or for ill. No one knows what a Trump administration will do, and this seems to be by design. Neither the man nor those on his team are very forthcoming regarding plans. However, that hasn't stopped analysts from making their own guesses as to what Trump will do. There is no way to make a comprehensive list of all the predictions made in the past month, but the following are a few deemed noteworthy.

Casey Research (CR) is negative on almost all things related to government, but they supported Trump over Clinton, so it’s interesting to see how fast they turned on Trump, or at least his trade policies. It may be interesting, but this is no surprise, the boys of CR (and they are all male) fancy themselves as “world citizens” landing wherever the best tax policies are currently in play. They are nihilists who care only about themselves and how much they have in their wallets.

Why read them? Not sure there is a coherent argument at this point, they have been wrong on so much for for so long, eventually (like a blind squirrel finding a nut— the first metaphor was a stopped clock, but that gives those guys too much credit) they will wind up being right. Still, they put their predictions out there for good or for ill. Clearly they are not Wilbur Ross fans. Not going to lie, Trumps trade “plans” such as they are, and they are nebulous at best, don’t engender much confidence around these parts either. Time will tell.
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Feeling the virtual future at CES

Published 1.12.2017
For 2017, haptics and haptic technology will be a focus for LWRAS. Haptic technology was on display at CES last week, though this editor did not attend. Below are a few noted technologies.

  • Ultrahaptics demonstrated a system that allows the user to fell without touching anything. Ultrahaptics is working Bosch to develop a virtual dash that can be adjusted without touching any knobs or buttons. The goal is to keep the driver's eyes on the road. The system uses ultrasound. The system can be used in VR and gaming, and now they are extending the concept (and that’s all it is) to autos. Bosch is adding the system to infotainment systems. So you can change the volume without touching the knob. The switch on the steering wheel does that pretty well already.
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The Storage Bottleneck in Renewables

Published 1.11.2017
Solar power generation is intermittent, there is not way around the fact. Each day the sun irradiates the earth with enough energy to power everything humans use, if only humans could collect that energy and store it. Cloudy days happen as does nightfall.

Current power generation schemes that incorporate renewable energy tend to force utilities to take the renewable energy when it's generated, whether there's demand for the energy or not. In addition, power companies need to meet the power needs of customers when they happen— and demand for power is not constant through out a 24 hour period. Demand surges happen, and those must be accounted for as well.

If renewable power could be effectively stored— and effective storage is by definition low cost and low loss— then renewable power advocates would have a stronger argument to make to communities. With adequate storage technology, renewable power sources would provide power as fossil fuel source do now: on demand and without interruption, and at lower cost.
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Why don't smart phones have AR coatings on their covers?

Published 1.10.2017
Optical coatings are a value-added feature for many components or devices, designed to change the optical characteristics of a surface and improve the look or function of the device or component. Coatings must be deposited on a substrate, typically glass or polymer. In mobile or smart phones, the substrate tends to be glass, though this may change with organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens. However, the top surface of even those phones will remain glass for protection.

An uncoated pane of glass reflects 4% of the light incident on it (from both sides), which explains why smart phones and touch screens are so difficult to read in sunlight. To compensate, users increase screen brightness, which increases the power needed to operate the screen and decrease battery life. If the screens were coated with anti-reflection coatings (ARC), they would be easier to read in sunlight, and battery life could be extended. The same is true of tablets.
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For optical components such as lenses, ARC are ubiquitous, if the goal is to have the most incident radiation possible pass through the lens. The wavelength of the radiation in question will determine the type and material of the coating to be applied.
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New Year, new peak across the pond at Brexit

Published 1.9.2017
Britain's withdrawal from the European Union will have an immense effect on the global economy. Precisely how it will affect the global economy is unknown and unknowable, but that does not stop analysts and pundits from making predictions— LWRAS included. This is the first installment of 2017 regarding the status of Brexit.

This morning's news brought more evidence that all those proclaiming that the evidence is in and Brexit effects won’t be negative are talking out of their bung holes. No one knows how Brexit will affect anything, because British Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May has been very vague to date about what she means. As she becomes more clear in her intentions, as she must in time, then the effects will be known.

Though in fact, all this article indicates is that when she said “hard Brexit,” she meant it. She wants to negotiate a deal where the Brits keep control of their borders, but still have an agreement with the European Union (EU)— not individual countries. The appeal for Britain is obvious, but it’s precisely the outcome the EU has indicated it won’t accept.
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IMMR: Buzzing again?

Published 1.5.2017
Haptic technologies and the market opportunities are an ongoing interest here at LWRAS, and Immersion Corporation (IMMR), as a key market player has been subject to periodic analysis. Immersion's primary business is licensing its intellectual property (IP), with its primary markets being mobile phones and gaming consoles. Haptics software that uses the motors and actuators in the phone to create the haptics. They also have software for the pressure sensing (which is one area they are attacking Apple in their lawsuit.)

Short interest in IMMR stock began to rise in June of this year, with record high short interest in December, which declined in the face of the rally in stock prices. Short interest in IMMR is certainly a bet that the company is going to lose its IP challenge against Apple. Should that happen, it is likely a long way to the bottom of this stock.

On the other hand, the issue won't be decided in the current court action. Whichever side comes up short in the pending decision will undoubtably appeal, and the entire process— barring a settlement— will continue. Settlement probability at this stage is practically nil. Apple has the bigger pot of money to play with, but for Immersion, this could be life or death.
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Perovskite Solar Cells

Published 1.4.2017
Since 2009, perovskites have been a hot topic in solar cell research because they promise to increase the cell efficiency. This entry represents the inauguration of coverage here. Future coverage of this potentially significant technology is assured. Most of the sunlight hitting a solar cell is not converted into electricity, in fact, most cells currently in use convert only about 15% of the incident energy. The drive to increase cell efficiency is almost as critical as the drive to engineer and low cost storage system.

Storage remains the largest impediment for renewable energy adoption. Because solar energy is intermittent, energy generated when the sun is shining must be used, or stored for later use. Currently, utilities are forced to use the energy when generated, which often coincides with the lowest period of demand. When energy demand is highest after dark, solar makes no contribution. Even absent a storage breakthrough, higher efficiency cells would mean greater power generation with lesser land usage, an important cost and environmental consideration.
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Time Marches On

Published 1.3.2017
The calendar has advanced and another new year dawns. As at the beginning of on 2016, a bit of self-reflection on the state of the site and its future is the order of the day. The past year was a more productive one here at LWRAS with over 60 pieces published, which averages out to more than once a week. However in the new year the goal is that a regular publishing schedule will be established and followed. The general areas of focus here will remain primarily optical materials and technology, solar energy (which encompasses everything but nuclear), haptics, and world economic conditions.

LWRAS has never had an official editorial calendar or publishing schedule, but for 2017, an official publishing schedule (if not official calendar) will be implemented. Unless otherwise updated, the plan here is to address economic issues on Mondays, optics on Tuesday, energy on Wednesdays, and with Thursdays intended for haptics or any other topic of interest. As always, the editor can be contacted using editor_at_lwras(dot)com if you have information or a comment to share.
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