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Requested in Science & Technology by a contributor
edited by Dreamer

6 Ideas

0 votes

Dam Efficiency

Hot foot, hot foot, ouch ouch ouch.

The following article appeared in a copy of New Scientist a couple of weeks ago.


To damp down problem vibrations in aircraft, cars, buildings and power tools researchers working for the US army in Virginia have designed a material that dissipates the vibrational energy as heat (US 2005/0073222).

The plastic or concrete materials contain particles of piezoelectric ceramic and a web of conductive wires. When the ceramic vibrates, the particles generate electricity, which heats the wires. The heat is absorbed by the surrounding material and dispersed into the air. The loss of energy to the piezoelectric material damps the vibrations before they build and begin to resonate."

Skimming through the patent I couldn't find any suggestions that they should use the generated heat for anything. This is understandable since they were looking to reduce vibrations and not generate power. It does give rise to a couple of possible applications though.

1. Line the floors in hydroelectric plants with this material to take advantage of the vibrations generated by the huge turbines in there. If nothing else, there might be enough energy to cut down on the power needs of the dam itself.

2. Line the body of aircraft with this material in such a way that if the plane lost electrical power the system could be quickly converted from dissipating heat to converting it into electrical energy.

Of course, both of these ideas might already be tucked into the patent somewhere (or left out because they were unfeasible). I'm just adding the idea here in case the oversight was accidental.

Might help stop cavitation damage too

Shared by JFR (6,080 points)

0 votes
Double-Hulled Levees

Now that a lot of the land behind the breached levees has become close to uninhabitable it might be a good idea to build a second levee system behind the first (with a concrete floor between the two to help keep any break from drilling a hole in the backup levee) for flood control. That way the city would have the same kind of backup system that a lot of modern ships do.
Shared by TakeFive (8,280 points)
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The "Always There" Elevator

Ever get tired of waiting for an elevator? The invention of a universal remote elevator call button would speed things up. It would work like the remotes used to lock and unlock cars from a distance, only in this case it would press the call button if you clicked it when you were within 50 feet of an elevator (on the same floor). That way when you reached the elevator and pressed the call button the elevator would usually be right there waiting. Some sort of timer would have to be in place though so anyone waiting on the other floors wouldn't have to wait forever if you changed your mind and didn't take the elevator. About 20-30 seconds should do it.

A lot of public buildings would benefit from installing these to speed up the flow of the foot traffic passing through them (which would encourage public financing for the devices). There would also be two other versions of these remote call buttons. One would be for emergency personnel. When they clicked it every elevator within 50 feet would head towards the floor they were on, saving them precious seconds, because the one closest to their floor would open first. This remote would override every other call, whether they were manual or remote.

The other would be for the private sector. It would be a priority remote given only to a company's top officers. This would override the generic remotes giving them first call on the elevators, but only for those in their own building. In other buildings they would revert to generic mode. Even this model would have less priority than the emergency model though. If you're wondering why the executives should be given a priority remote, it's simply a matter of motivation. If they can get first call on the elevators with the system then they're much more likely to put a line item in the budget to install it in their building.

Shared by a contributor
edited by Dreamer
0 votes
A new kind of lightweight road roller should be designed for construction sites since the current ones are so heavy. It could still be high-power but use a tank of sand or water instead. That'd increase its capacity (and weight) at the the site but it'd be a lot easier to transport. Then the same roller could be used for a number of different weight categories too. The heavy ones now are hard to move from site to site.
Shared by ewarup (480 points)
0 votes
It would save power to mount sensors on the sides of escalators. They would detect whether somebody was using it or not (the infrared signal would be obstructed by the body). If no one was using it for a minute or so it would stop (and only restart again if someone got back on it).
Shared by ewarup (480 points)
0 votes
Liquid Nitrogen Airplane

Fill the tanks with liquid nitrogen instead of kerosene. The nitrogen would propel the plane by vaporizing through nozzles. It would be lighter since no engines and since there would be no fire danger it would be safer. No noise pollution or air pollution either. Another option would be to use compressed air.
Shared by LWBaum (5,620 points)

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