As the price of solar panels continues to fall, more and more places find it economical to build solar farms that might not have been able to at higher prices. High latitude locations, places with more clouds than sun, and other challenging build sites all are seeing increased green energy development. The modules being used have one main downside, though, which is that they’re essentially a black box encased in resin and plastic, so if one of the small cells fails a large percentage of the panel may be rendered useless with no way to repair it. A solar development kit like this one from a group called Biosphere Solar is looking to create repairable, DIY modules that are completely open source, to help solve this issue.
The modular solar panel is made from a 3D printed holster which can hold a number of individual solar cells. With the cells placed in the layout and soldered together, they are then sandwiched between a few layers of a clear material like acrylic or glass with a seal around the exterior to prevent water intrusion. Since the project is open-source any number of materials can be used for the solar cell casing, and with the STL file available it’s not strictly necessary to 3D print the case as other manufacturing methods could be used. The only thing left is to hook up a DC/DC converter if you need one, and perhaps also a number of bypass and/or blocking diodes depending on your panel’s electrical layout.
The project is still in active development, and some more information can be found at the project’s website. While the “recyclability” of large-scale solar farms is indeed a problem, it’s arguably one which has been overblown by various interests who are trying to cast doubt on green energy. A small build like this won’t solve either problem anytime soon, so the real utility here would be for home users with small off-grid needs who want an open-source, repairable panel. It’s a great method to make sure solar technology is accessible and repairable for anyone that wants it, and in a way this approach to building hardware reminds us a lot of the Framework laptops.
Modern building techniques are relying more and more on passive elements to improve heating and cooling efficiencies, from placing windows in ways to either absorb sunlight or shade it out to using high R-value insulation to completely sealing the living space to prevent airflow in or out of the structure. One downside of sealing the space in this fashion, though, is the new problem of venting the space to provide fresh air to the occupants. This 3D printed vent system looks to improve things.
Known as the AutoDuct, the shutter and fan combination is designed to help vent apartments with decentralized systems. It can automatically control airflow and also reduces external noise passing through the system using a printed shutter mechanism which is also designed to keep out cold air on windy days.
A control system enables features like scheduling and automatic humidity control. A mobile app is available for more direct control if needed. The system itself can also integrate into various home automation systems like Apple’s HomeKit.
There are plenty of reasons to install solar panels on one’s home. Reducing electric bills, reducing carbon footprint, or simply being in a location without electric service are all fairly common. While some of those might be true for [Dominic], he had another motivating factor. He wanted to install a charger for his electric vehicles but upgrading the electric service at his house would have been prohibitively expensive. So rather than dig up a bunch of his neighbors’ gardens to run a new service wire in he built this off-grid setup instead.
Hooking up solar panels to a battery and charge controller is usually not too hard, but getting enough energy to charge an EV out of a system all at once is more challenging. The system is based on several 550W solar modules which all charge a lithium iron phosphate battery. The battery can output 100 A DC at 48 V which gives more than enough power to charge an EV. However there were some problems getting this much power through an inverter. His first choice let out the magic smoke when it was connected, and it wasn’t until he settled on a Growatt inverter capable of outputting 3.5 kW that the system really started to take shape.
All of this is fairly straightforward, but there’s an extra touch here that makes this project noteworthy. [Dominic] wanted to balance incoming power from the photovoltaic system to the current demands from the EVs to put less strain on the battery. An ESP32 was programmed to only send as much power to the EVs as the solar system is producing at any given time, and also includes some extra logic to make sure the battery doesn’t drain itself from the idle power requirements of the inverter. Right now the system works well but the true test will be when it goes through its first winter. Even though solar panels are more efficient at colder temperatures, if the amount of sunlight or the angle of the panels aren’t ideal there is generally much less production.
Self-watering planters are low-maintenance, and common DIY projects. What we like most about [Tommy]’s design is that it reuses empty jars to create self-watering planters. After all, jars are fantastic at reliably holding water, so why not put them to work? Incorporating jars as part of the design means fewer worries about leakage, but it also means less 3D printing is needed overall.
[Tommy]’s planter screws onto the threads of a jar’s neck. Getting water to the plant is helped by a small piece of string, which acts as a wick between the soil at the top and the water in the jar at the bottom. This design works best with small plants, but on the plus side there are no moving parts or other complexities. Got a 3D printer? Models for the planter are available here.
If you find yourself needing to further customize your own version to fit a particular container’s threads, there’s no need to start from scratch. Unsurprisingly, threads and lids are highly standardized so chances are there exists a calculator, tool, or existing model for exactly what you need.
This is an improvement on a previous project which automates watering and lighting of a small area or single pot. This latest creation, called FLORA, includes a LoRa module for communication up to 3 kilometers, and the ESP32 on board also handles monitoring of soil moisture, humidity and other sensors. It also includes a pump driver for managing irrigation systems so that smart decisions can be made about when to water. Using this device, the water usage when testing was reduced by around 30% compared to a typical timed irrigation system.
Using a smart system like this is effective for basically any supply of water, but for those who get water from something like an off-grid rainwater system or an expensive water utility, the gains are immediate. If you aren’t already growing your own food to take advantage of tools like this, take a look at this primer to get you started.
There’s been a movement in architecture over the past couple of decades to help tie together large urban developments with plant life and greenery. We’ve seen a few buildings, and hundreds more renders, of tall skyscrapers and large buildings covered in vegetation.
The aesthetic is often a beautiful one, but the idea is done as much for its tangible benefits as for the sheer visual glory. Naturally, there’s the obvious boost from plants converting carbon dioxide into delicious, life-giving oxygen. However, greenery on the roofs of buildings could also help improve the output of solar installations, according to a recent study from Sydney, Australia.
Alumni from Innovation Design Engineering at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art want to raise awareness of a road pollution source we rarely consider: tire wear. If you think about it, it is obvious. Our tires wear out, and that has to go somewhere, but what surprises us is how fast it happens. Single-use plastic is the most significant source of oceanic pollution, but tire microplastics are next on the naughty list. The team calls themselves The Tyre Collective, and they’re working on a device to collect tire particles at the source.