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Power Technology Science

IBM Models Human Blood System To Build Solar Power Prototype 87

coondoggie writes "IBM today said its researchers are developing a solar power system that concentrates solar radiation 2,000 times by using a human-blood supply modeled way of cooling and converting 80% of Sun's heat into useful energy. IBM says the system can also desalinate water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where such systems are often in short supply."
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IBM Models Human Blood System To Build Solar Power Prototype

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This development is soon to be delayed by politicians, warring factions in third world countries, corrupt governments, and corporate interests intent on developing the best method of monetizing the new prototype.

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Monday April 22, 2013 @04:43PM (#43518883) Homepage Journal

    causes rust accumulation on components, so they substituted with copper. And the green-blooded IBM became very cold and inhuman.

  • But can you power a Cray 2 with it?

    • You need blood from horseshoe crabs to power a Cray. Human blood is only suitable for IBM solar power plants.

    • Re:Cray 2 (Score:4, Informative)

      by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Monday April 22, 2013 @05:04PM (#43519041)

      A Cray 2 requires 200KW. The panels claim 80% efficiency, so you'd need 200/0.8 = 250KW. Sun intensity, ignoring atmosphere and with optimal panel orientation, is around 1.3KW/M^2. So you'd need 192 M^2 of panels. In practice you'd need space for panel orientation gear, plus atmospheric attenuation would reduce power, so you'd need rather more than that, but it's entirely practical. However, no running the Cray at night.

      The Cray 2 had 1.3GF of floating-point processing power. A single i7 chip has 109GF, double-precision. The Cray 2 was without doubt one of the coolest looking computers ever built, but the technology is rather dated. You could comfortably emulate it on a modern desktop.

      *European, not handegg.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Sun intensity, ignoring atmosphere and with optimal panel orientation, is around 1.3KW/M^2.

        [citation needed]

        But let me help you with that, since most solar power advocates can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that there is a physical limit to the amount of solar radiation that makes solar power a non-starter for baseload power generation:

        Insolation [] article on Wikipedia

        The relevant excerpt, with the critical information in bold:

        Over the course of a year the average solar radiation arriving at the t

        • You may want to give up. I dont think the average couch potato will ever get it, they all think solar is the way of the future. Most seems to believe we will someday put a simple put a 2m^2 panel on your roof and get all your power needs.

          You know what, I take that back. Most could not tell you how big two square meters is. They are expecting one of them blue panel thingies will some day power the house.

        • You're quite right: I didn't account for atmospheric attenuation. I mentioned that. I just gave very rough calculations. I also didn't account for cloud cover. But even if you need ten times my estimate, that's still only 1,920 M^2 of panels. It'd be far more expensive than grid power, but if for some reason you feel the need to run a cray 2 off of solar (I cannot imagine why you would) then it could be done. You won't need to pave over a continent, bankrupt a country or anything like that. Maybe as an art

      • You could comfortably emulate it on a modern desktop.

        You could comfortably emulate it on a modern cellphone.

        I like pointing this out to anyone who'll listen, today for a small monthly fee any cell company will GIVE you a device that 20 years ago would have cost millions of dollars.

  • "are often.. scarce". Sorry, but it's a pet peeve of mine. If I could count the number of times people say "in short supply" rather than "scarce" in a month, I'd be a rich man. Well, if someone would pay me to do that sort of thing, of course...
    • So why is "scarce" so much better than "in short supply"? I grant you, it's shorter, and that's a valid reason to prefer it, but it doesn't seem a grave enough sin to be a pet peeve.

    • So, you don't like idioms when other people use them?

    • "are often.. scarce". Sorry, but it's a pet peeve of mine.

      My pet peeve is when folks place contradictory words too close together. Thanks for the double dot, that was awfully... kind of you.

  • Coming soon in 3-5 years just like every other solar breakthrough. And where is my flying car?
  • by PhamNguyen ( 2695929 ) on Monday April 22, 2013 @05:17PM (#43519129)
    This is really cool, pun intended, their cooling system really is similar to human blood flow (fractal capillary structure). See video here [] as the article just discusses the application to cooling solar cells (which is cool in its own right), but not how the cooling actually resembles bloodflow in humans.
  • by Blaskowicz ( 634489 ) on Monday April 22, 2013 @05:22PM (#43519181)

    Let me say I'm excited that IBM is building a Dyson sphere powered by human blood, first, to get 80% of the Sun's output is tremendously effective and secundly who knew the blueprints were somehow sitting in our DNA?
    It comes at a surprise that IBM is so technologically advanced, now it ain't gonna easy to launch all that stuff and assemble it in heliocentric orbit.

  • The cost of energy with this system is " ... less than 10 cents per KWh ... cost at coal power stations is 5 - 10 cents per KWh ... "

    And it will be on-line at most eight hours per day.

    Other than that, it's a good deal.

    • So, environmental responsibility doesn't matter at all? It's not just dollars, you know.

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        So, environmental responsibility doesn't matter at all? It's not just dollars, you know.

        But those dollars are an important part of environmental responsibility. I think one of the great tragedies of the modern era is the considerable economic ignorance of people in the environmental movement.

      • Solar panels require energy to create. People never think about that. These magic devices don't just magically appear on your roof. They have to take raw materials, break them down enough to get the raw components, and then convert those into solar panels. All of that takes massive amounts of energy. Lets not forget that they then have to ship them from the other side of the world. In fact, it wasn't until earlier this month that solar panels []
        • The idea is that the large power requirement is centralized, so that higher-efficiency higher-efficient processes could be used to provide said industry.

          Not everyone can have a hydroelectric generator in their back yard, but it makes sense that a panel plant might.

          • Yeah, cause we all know that the environment and sustainable energy are China's number one priority. Sure, you could buy panels in the USA, but once the demand gets high enough, you KNOW manufacturing in China will squeeze the domestic manufacturers till they crumble. Which leaves us back at destroying the planet to build solar panels that take years too have a net positive effect on the environment.
    • by dagarath ( 33684 )

      Perhaps they can find a way to store the heat energy for use during darkness.

      (I guess the blood system analogy reads better than just saying they made a radiator.)

    • by sulimma ( 796805 )

      End customers often pay more than those 10ct due to transportation losses and other overhead. So if you are connected ton the grid and have a minimum power requirement higher than the peak output of this system, the system is profitable.

      Coal has seen very little cost improvement over the last decades while solar is co stantly improving at 30% per year since the sixties. It is intermediate steps like this system that are likely to make solar one of the least expensive technologies around.

      (BTW: A recent s

      • by jewens ( 993139 )
        30% cost improvement per year 19 works out to about $500,000/kWh in 1969.
        • by sulimma ( 796805 )

          My fault, wrong wording. If you go backwards you see a 30% price increase per year which is a 23% cost reduction when you go forward (1/1.3 = ca. 0,77) which equates to a factor of about 10000 over 44 years.
          Photovoltaics system costs in 1969 where about 3000$/kwp compared to about 1.4$/kwp in 2013. This is a factor of 2150 (19% improvement per year). Together with shorter module liveteam and higher maintainance cost and much higher installation area you get the 23% improvement.
          I currently can't find 1969 da

  • Evolution is a very powerful force. I recall an evolutionary software design system that was used to create the most efficient antenna discussed here on Slashdot some years ago. It was a pretty cool concept and it worked pretty well as I recall. But to straight up model a system after the human circulatory system? Really? I would think there were far better systems than the human system. Humans have stopped evolving physically and one could say we are devolving as our survival is no longer so dependen

  • Any such system had better be damn simple to operate, maintain, and service if it's to be used in remote areas.
  • One pet idea of mine is we should generate ammonia (NH3) from water, air, electricity and heat. You would need nuclear power or efficient renewables for that ; it's wasteful as you need electrolysis of water, then use the Haber process to combine hydrogen and nitrogen into ammonia but the end result is a non carbonated liquid fuel you can easily enough handle, with about a third the energy density of diesel fuel by volume - that's way better energy storage than H2 and batteries!
    Ammonia can be burnt in conve

    • by Thagg ( 9904 )

      Ammonia is terribly useful in its own right. The amount of energy used making ammonia for fertilizer is huge, and is growing. You can stop right there, and have a very useful process -- even if it only runs on sunny days.

      • Ammonia is terribly useful in its own right. The amount of energy used making ammonia for fertilizer is huge, and is growing. You can stop right there, and have a very useful process -- even if it only runs on sunny days.

        That word is obsolete. We now use "terrorist WMDs" instead.

  • Simple fact. There is no heat engine that can convert heat to mechanical energy with 80% efficiency (with reasonable source/sink temperatures). They must be playing fast and loose with the definition of "usable energy".
    • It's obvious they refer to using the heat itself, whether that is "usable energy" depend on your needs but heat can be pretty useful, if only for cooking, making tea and taking a shower.
      I think the 80% figure is the sum of electricity and useful heat, leaving 20% as heat wasted away.

      • Even concentrating heat is not all that efficient. If you have two huge lakes with a 10 degree temp diff (one at 35 deg C and another at 25 deg C) you still can not even boil a liter of water, certainly not with 80% efficiency.
        • Isn't that how Geothermal HVAC works? I know it requires other inputs (AC Power), but it uses the ground or even a lake as it's source of heating and cooling.
  • Can Kevin Costner save us from Big Blue?
  • The solar power system using human blood works much better at Twilight.
  • That leads to nothing as it is too expensive or unrealistic to work. With silly claims of efficiency etc... How many of these do we get on slashdot per year, for how many years. You would think by now we would all be running 100% solar power by now.

    So put me down for skeptical.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.