Daily TIPs: Power from Heat, Robots Over Beijing, Watch Those Passports, & More

Car Exhaust Could Be Turned Back to Power

Several cars companies, including General Motors, are looking for ways to turn the heat that comes out of a car’s tailpipe into electricity that can be used to power systems in the car and improve gas mileage. The Discovery Channel reports that researchers are working on thermoelectric technology, which converts heat to electricity, to meet a challenge from the U.S. Department of Energy. A Chevy Suburban produces 15 kilowatts of exhaust heat energy during city driving, enough to power three or four air conditioners.

21 Cities to Measure Carbon Footprints

In a step toward managing their emissions, 21 cities, including New York, Las Vegas, and Denver, will measure their carbon footprints using a system many corporations use. Reuters says the cities will gather data on municipal buildings, fire and police departments, and the like, to see how much carbon city government produces. They’ll also assess emissions for the whole city. The hope is that cleantech companies will use the data to sell carbon-cutting services in the cities.

Wireless Data Use on the Rise

The market for wireless data is growing, with a revenue increase of 40 percent between the second quarter of 2007 and that of 2008, says a report from Chetan Sharma Consulting. Spending reached $8.2 billion for the quarter, driven by flat-rate plans, increased 3G coverage, and the iPhone. According to GigaOm, the report shows that the U.S. is moving toward ubiquitous broadband but still has a way to go.

Motorola Pushes for Use of White Space

Motorola is hoping the Federal Communications Commission will soon approve the use of unused portions of the television broadcast spectrum – frequencies known as “white space” – to deliver high-speed broadband to mobile devices. The New York Times reports that the company has been working with the FCC to test a system that checks locations for portions of the airwaves that aren’t being used, then tunes a mobile device to those portions. Motorola argues that this technology virtually eliminates that chance of interference with broadcasters, one of the sticking points over the use of white space.

Robots Test Air Quality Over Beijing

A researcher from the University of California, San Diego, is using unmanned aerial vehicles to gather data on pollution during the Beijing Olympics. Atmospheric scientist V. Ram Ramanathan tells Wired that China’s efforts to curb pollution during the Olympics, by reducing the use of cars and curbing industrial activity by as much as 30 percent, provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study how a sudden drop in particulate emissions affects a large region of the atmosphere.

Passport Chips Not Secure, Hackers Warn

A number of governments are implanting radio frequency identification (RFID) tags into passports as a way of making them more secure. But a pair of researchers at last week’s Black Hat conference in Las Vegas showed the Wall Street Journal’s Business Technology Blog that they could hack into the chips and change the data. One said it took about four hours to break the encryption key and get the data contained in a passport chip.

Anthrax Attack Spurred New Branch of Science

If Bruce Ivins, the scientist who killed himself last month as the FBI was closing in, was indeed the person who mailed deadly anthrax in 2001, he at least left a legacy that could help the nation in a future emergency, the Associated Press reports. The attacks spurred a new branch of science, microbial forensics. Investigators used it to identify the unique genetic signature of the spores from the attack and trace them back to a specific flask, which they then linked to Ivins.

Using the Sun to Stay Cool

The U.S. Navy and a McDonald’s restaurant are testing a new solar-powered air conditioner, the Environmental News Network reports. The air conditioner, made by GreenCore of Rancho Cucamonga, CA, runs on a 170-watt solar panel and can either heat or cool a 600-sq-ft. room. It runs on direct current from the panel, avoiding the losses of converting to alternating current, and has a battery to keep it going when there’s no sun.

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