The incredibly steep slope of northern Italy’s Muro di Sormano (“Wall of Sormano”, a mountain road perceived as a “wall” by many determined cyclists) was a part of the course for the Giro di Lombardia from 1960-62, and is considered to be one of the most difficult cycling tracks in the world. Following these famed races, the road was closed for many years and fell into disrepair. In 2006, designers working to resurrect the site devised a clever way to integrate the site’s cultural history with the course itself.
Now re-opened as a public space for recreation, the Muro di Sormano is painted with striking stencils of local plants, viewing spots that contextualize the surrounding mountain peaks, and altitude markers to measure the climb. In addition, large-printed quotations from Italian cyclists inspire the site’s new users to push on despite the grueling topography. These efforts to graphically engage visitors effectively redevelops “the wall” into a narrative for the changing landscape.
Inspired by the natural process of photosynthesis, the Nocera group in the chemistry department at MIT claims to have successfully produced “artificial leaves,” small and inexpensive solar cells that can convert sunlight and water into energy.
About the shape of a poker card but thinner, the device is fashioned from silicon, electronics and catalysts, substances that accelerate chemical reactions that otherwise would not occur, or would run slowly. Placed in a single gallon of water in a bright sunlight, the device could produce enough electricity to supply a house in a developing country with electricity for a day, Nocera said. It does so by splitting water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen and oxygen gases would be stored in a fuel cell, which uses those two materials to produce electricity, located either on top of the house or beside it.
Unclear in this report is the volume of water required to generate power for that house, and its availability (and clarity) at in the developing countries where the application might be ideal. Still, a promising development.
(via Science Daily)