The Weather Station At The Top Of The World

The crown jewels of the Earth’s mountain ranges, the Himalayas, are unsurpassed in their beauty, their height, and their deadly attraction to adventurers, both professional and amateur. The gem of the Himalayas is, of course, Mount Everest, known as Sagarmatha to the Nepalis and Chomolungma to the Tibetans. At 8,848 meters (29,029 ft) — or more; it’s a geologically young mountain that’s still being thrust upward by tectonic activity — it’s a place so forbidding that as far as we know the summit was never visited until 1953, despite at least 30 years of previous attempts, many of which resulted in death.

The conquest of Everest remains a bucket list challenge for many adventurers, and despite advances in technology that have made the peak accessible to more people — or perhaps because of that — more than 300 corpses litter the mountain, testament to what can happen when you take the power of Mother Nature for granted.

To get better data on the goings-on at the Roof of the World, an expedition recently sought to install five weather stations across various points on the route up Mount Everest, including one at its very peak. The plan was challenging, both from a mountaineering perspective and in terms of the engineering required to build something that would be able to withstand some of the worst conditions on the planet, and to send valuable data back reliably. It didn’t all go exactly to plan, but it’s still a great story about the intersection of science and engineering.

Continue reading “The Weather Station At The Top Of The World”

DIY Solar Panels

solar

Reader [unangst] pointed out to us an article in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, where a teenager from Nepal had managed to create a 9v, 18W solar panel using human hair rather than the usual semiconductors (usually crystalline-silicon). The complex silicon in solar panels are what keep the prices out of reach of developing nations, and while there are a number of new technologies that are helping ¬†bring down the cost, [Karki] managed to make his solar panel for only ¬£23 (roughly $38). He also claims that when mass produced the price could drop substantially down to under $10 a panel, which would shatter the $1/watt sweet spot.

The melanin in hair acts as an organic-semiconductor, and while the hair does not have the longevity that silicon panels have (months rather than years), these panels can be made cheaply and serviced with little to no complex knowledge. Using melanin as an organic semiconductor seems to be a newer idea, because information seems hard to come by, but we managed to find a research paper from 2007 that explored the energy absorption attributes of melanin, as well as some good background info for the science types.

Research Paper (Warning: PDF)

So, Hack a Day readers, which one of you is going to make your home-brew solar panels first? Let us know when you do.

Thanks [unangst].