Using kites and drones for renewable energy generation

via Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Researchers present a new software for the analysis of airborne wind energy systems

A group of researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) has recently developed a new software aimed at the analysis of energy generation systems based on kites and drones. In a recently published scientific article, they used the software to study the behaviour of these systems while transforming the kinetic energy of the wind into useful electrical energy.

Airborne Wind Energy Systems (AWES) are a new kind of technology to harvest wind energy. The expensive and heavy tower and rotor of a conventional wind turbine are here substituted by a light tether and an aircraft (flexible giant kites or large drones), respectively. In the so-called ground generation scheme, AWES use the tension force of the tether to move an electrical generator on the ground whereas, in fly generation scenarios, the electrical energy is produced by wind turbines onboard the aircraft and transmitted to the ground by a conductive tether. In both cases, AWES present low installation and material costs and operate at high altitude (over 500 metres) where winds are more intense and less intermittent. They also present a low visual impact and their easier transportation make them suitable for producing energy in remote and difficult access areas.

“AWES are disruptive technologies that operate at high altitudes and generate electrical energy”, explains Gonzalo Sánchez Arriaga, Ramón y Cajal research fellow at the department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering at the UC3M. “They combine well-known disciplines from electrical engineering and aeronautics, such as the design of electric machines, aeroelasticity and control, with novel and non-conventional disciplines related to drones and tether dynamics”, he adds.

Within this framework, the UC3M researchers have presented a novel flight simulator for AWES in a scientific article recently published in Applied Mathematical Modelling. “The simulator can be used to study the behaviour of AWES, optimise their design and find the trajectories maximizing the generation of energy”, explains Mr. Ricardo Borobia Moreno, aerospace engineer from the Flight Mechanics Area at the Spanish National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) and studying a PhD in the department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering at UC3M. The software, owned by UC3M, is registered and can be freely downloaded and used for research purposes by other groups.

Along with the simulator, the researchers have developed a flight testbed for AWES. Two kitesurf kites have been equipped with several instruments and key information, such as the position and speed of the kite, attack and sideslip angles, and tether tensions, have been recorded throughout many flights. The experimental data were then used to validate different software tools, such as the aforementioned simulator and an estimator of the different parameters characterizing the state of the kite at each instant. “The preparation of the testbed has required a significant investment of time, effort and resources, but it has also raised the interest from a large number of our students. Besides research, the project has enriched our teaching activities, as many of them have carried out their undergraduate and master final projects on AWES”, comments Gonzalo Sánchez Arriaga, who teaches the Flight Mechanics course in the Aerospace Engineering Degree at UC3M.

A growing sector

Research activities and the creation of new companies related to the generation of energy at high altitudes, that is to say, at over 500 metres, by using kites and drones have grown significantly in the last few years due to the financial support from the European Commission and private companies such as Google, among others.

UC3M group. launched in 2015 thanks to a Leonardo Grant funded by the BBVA Foundation, is pioneering in Spain. Afterwards, it has been supported by the GreenKite project (ENE2015-69937R), funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, that is currently underway. “Our activities include the flight tests and the estimation, control and simulation of AWES”, points out Gonzalo Sánchez Arriaga. “In the project, an interesting transfer of technology and knowledge is being carried out, from the world of aviation, such as the flight test methods, to the world of airborne energy”, notes Ricardo Borobia Moreno.

Learn more: Renewable Energy Generation with Kites and Drones

 

 

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Could energy from Wi-Fi signals be turned into electricity that could power electronics?

Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have designed the first fully flexible, battery-free “rectenna” — a device that converts energy from Wi-Fi signals into electricity — that could be used to power flexible and wearable electronics, medical devices, and sensors for the “internet of things.”
Image: Christine Daniloff

Device made from flexible, inexpensive materials could power large-area electronics, wearables, medical devices, and more.

Imagine a world where smartphones, laptops, wearables, and other electronics are powered without batteries. Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have taken a step in that direction, with the first fully flexible device that can convert energy from Wi-Fi signals into electricity that could power electronics.

Devices that convert AC electromagnetic waves into DC electricity are known as “rectennas.” The researchers demonstrate a new kind of rectenna, described in a study appearing in Nature today, that uses a flexible radio-frequency (RF) antenna that captures electromagnetic waves — including those carrying Wi-Fi — as AC waveforms.

The antenna is then connected to a novel device made out of a two-dimensional semiconductor just a few atoms thick. The AC signal travels into the semiconductor, which converts it into a DC voltage that could be used to power electronic circuits or recharge batteries.

In this way, the battery-free device passively captures and transforms ubiquitous Wi-Fi signals into useful DC power. Moreover, the device is flexible and can be fabricated in a roll-to-roll process to cover very large areas.

“What if we could develop electronic systems that we wrap around a bridge or cover an entire highway, or the walls of our office and bring electronic intelligence to everything around us? How do you provide energy for those electronics?” says paper co-author Tomás Palacios, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of the MIT/MTL Center for Graphene Devices and 2D Systems in the Microsystems Technology Laboratories. “We have come up with a new way to power the electronics systems of the future — by harvesting Wi-Fi energy in a way that’s easily integrated in large areas — to bring intelligence to every object around us.”

Promising early applications for the proposed rectenna include powering flexible and wearable electronics, medical devices, and sensors for the “internet of things.” Flexible smartphones, for instance, are a hot new market for major tech firms. In experiments, the researchers’ device can produce about 40 microwatts of power when exposed to the typical power levels of Wi-Fi signals (around 150 microwatts). That’s more than enough power to light up an LED or drive silicon chips.

Another possible application is powering the data communications of implantable medical devices, says co-author Jesús Grajal, a researcher at the Technical University of Madrid. For example, researchers are beginning to develop pills that can be swallowed by patients and stream health data back to a computer for diagnostics.

“Ideally you don’t want to use batteries to power these systems, because if they leak lithium, the patient could die,” Grajal says. “It is much better to harvest energy from the environment to power up these small labs inside the body and communicate data to external computers.”

All rectennas rely on a component known as a “rectifier,” which converts the AC input signal into DC power. Traditional rectennas use either silicon or gallium arsenide for the rectifier. These materials can cover the Wi-Fi band, but they are rigid. And, although using these materials to fabricate small devices is relatively inexpensive, using them to cover vast areas, such as the surfaces of buildings and walls, would be cost-prohibitive. Researchers have been trying to fix these problems for a long time. But the few flexible rectennas reported so far operate at low frequencies and can’t capture and convert signals in gigahertz frequencies, where most of the relevant cell phone and Wi-Fi signals are.

To build their rectifier, the researchers used a novel 2-D material called molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which at three atoms thick is one of the thinnest semiconductors in the world. In doing so, the team leveraged a singular behavior of MoS2: When exposed to certain chemicals, the material’s atoms rearrange in a way that acts like a switch, forcing a phase transition from a semiconductor to a metallic material. The resulting structure is known as a Schottky diode, which is the junction of a semiconductor with a metal.

“By engineering MoS2 into a 2-D semiconducting-metallic phase junction, we built an atomically thin, ultrafast Schottky diode that simultaneously minimizes the series resistance and parasitic capacitance,” says first author and EECS postdoc Xu Zhang, who will soon join Carnegie Mellon University as an assistant professor.

Parasitic capacitance is an unavoidable situation in electronics where certain materials store a little electrical charge, which slows down the circuit. Lower capacitance, therefore, means increased rectifier speeds and higher operating frequencies. The parasitic capacitance of the researchers’ Schottky diode is an order of magnitude smaller than today’s state-of-the-art flexible rectifiers, so it is much faster at signal conversion and allows it to capture and convert up to 10 gigahertz of wireless signals.

“Such a design has allowed a fully flexible device that is fast enough to cover most of the radio-frequency bands used by our daily electronics, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular LTE, and many others,” Zhang says.

The reported work provides blueprints for other flexible Wi-Fi-to-electricity devices with substantial output and efficiency. The maximum output efficiency for the current device stands at 40 percent, depending on the input power of the Wi-Fi input. At the typical Wi-Fi power level, the power efficiency of the MoS2 rectifier is about 30 percent. For reference, today’s rectennas made from rigid, more expensive silicon or gallium arsenide achieve around 50 to 60 percent.

There are 15 other paper co-authors from MIT, Technical University of Madrid, the Army Research Laboratory, Charles III University of Madrid, Boston University, and the University of Southern California.

Learn more: Converting Wi-Fi signals to electricity with new 2-D materials

 

 

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3D bioprinter produces living human skin for transplants to burn victims and other skin conditions

This is a prototype for a 3-D bioprinter that can create totally functional human skin. Source: UC3M

This research has recently been published in the electronic version of the scientific journal Biofabrication. In this article, the team of researchers has demonstrated, for the first time, that, using the new 3D printing technology, it is possible to produce proper human skin.

One of the authors, José Luis Jorcano, professor in UC3M’s department of Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering and head of the Mixed Unit CIEMAT/UC3M in Biomedical Engineering, points out that this skin “can be transplanted to patients or used in business settings to test chemical products, cosmetics or pharmaceutical products in quantities and with timetables and prices that are compatible with these uses.”

This new human skin is one of the first living human organs created using bioprinting to be introduced to the marketplace. It replicates the natural structure of the skin, with a first external layer, the epidermis with its stratum corneum, which acts as protection against the external environment, together with another thicker, deeper layer, the dermis. This last layer consists of fibroblasts that produce collagen, the protein that gives elasticity and mechanical strength to the skin.

Bioinks are key to 3D bioprinting, according to the experts. When creating skin, instead of cartridges and colored inks, injectors with biological components are used. In the words of Juan Francisco del Cañizo, of the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón and Universidad Complutense de Madrid researcher. “Knowing how to mix the biological components, in what conditions to work with them so that the cells don’t deteriorate, and how to correctly deposit the product is critical to the system.” The act of depositing these bioinks, which are patented by CIEMAT and licensed by the BioDan Group, is controlled by a computer, which deposits them on a print bed in an orderly manner to then produce the skin.

Learn more: Spanish Scientists Create 3D Bioprinter to Print Human Skin

 

 

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Simulator aims at artificial intelligence behavior almost indistinguishable from people

via UC3M

via UC3M

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid is investigating how to build a system that recreates human behavior. This technology could be applied to anticipate behavior in socioeconomic crises, create more human-like robots or develop avatars of artificial intelligence which are almost indistinguishable from those that represent people.

The research project, called IBSEN (Bridging the gap: from individual behaviour to the socio-tEchnical Man), is part of a call for “novel ideas for radically new technologies” (FET-Open) by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. The UC3M coordinates the project and scientists in Spain from the Universitat de València and the Universidad de Zaragoza also participate, as well as other British, Finnish and Dutch researchers.

“We are going to lay the foundations to start a new way of doing social science for the problems that arise in a society that is very technologically connected,” explains the head of the project, Anxo Sánchez, from the UC3M Interdisciplinary Mathematics group.

The goal of the project is to understand the behavior of people on an individual level, especially when they are connected by new technologies like mobile telephones or social networks. To this end, this group of scientists is preparing experiments which will present certain problems of cooperation, social problems and economic games simultaneously to thousands of people to try to decipher the hidden patterns behind their decisions.

With this information, researchers will afterwards be able to create a simulator of human behavior, a technology that will provide a basis for socioeconomic simulations that will radically change many fields, from robotics to economics, with technological and social impacts like the formulation of policies and decisions about pressing social issues.

“The greatest difficulty is to design a new experimental protocol that allows us to ensure that all the participants in the experiment are available at the same time and really interact, because you are not observing them in a laboratory,” say the researchers, who are used to doing this kind of experiment in laboratories where they work with groups of 50 to 60 people, when in this case there are more than 1,000 participants.

The challenge posed by this project, once the experiments are done, is to obtain a repertoire of human conduct that makes it possible to simulate the behavior of a person and apply it to a robot or recreate what large groups of people will do in certain circumstances. “On an individual level, it could be used to improve the realism of characters in video games and humanize the avatars one interacts with in the help section of web pages,” said Sánchez. “And with regard to the simulation of collective behavior, it would allow us to try to understand the evolution of the economy and the appearance of social disorders.”

Read more: UC3M researches simulator of human behavior

 

 

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Device created for faster skin biopsies without anesthesia

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the Institute for Health Research of the Hospital “Ramón y Cajal” (IRYCIS have patented a new device for performing skin biopsies.

With this new tool a skin biopsy can be performed with fewer instruments and the length of the procedure is shortened from thirty minutes to less than five. Neither local anesthesia nor specialized personnel are required. As a result, faster diagnosis of pathologies such as skin cancer is possible.

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the Institute for Health Research of the Hospital “Ramón y Cajal” (IRYCIS have patented a new device for performing skin biopsies. With this new tool a skin biopsy can be performed with fewer instruments and the length of the procedure is shortened from thirty minutes to less than five. Neither local anesthesia nor specialized personnel are required. As a result, faster diagnosis of pathologies such as skin cancer is possible.

Currently a skin biopsy involves cutting the base layer of the skin manually, removing it with forceps and sewing up the incision with one or two stitches. Thanks to the new automatic device, a simple click will be enough to obtain a sample, explains Jesús Meneses, one of the inventors from the MAQLAB Research Group at the UC3M Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Earlier detection of skin cancer

This invention will aid in earlier detection of pathologies such as skin cancer and will also allow doctors to see a greater number of patients, which is of the utmost importance in fields such as dermatology which are overwhelmed by high patient demand, assures Emiliano Grillo, a dermatologist at Ramón y Cajal Hospital and an clinical research associate at the IRYCIS. In his own practice, Grillo identified the potential benefits of such an invention “in a doctor’s office overwhelmed by patient demand, such as a dermatology clinic.” The invention would “make it possible for the patient to leave the doctor’s office with the diagnostic tests already done, and to begin earlier treatment if necessary.”

Read more: Device created for faster skin biopsies without anesthesia

 

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