Show for August 6, 2011

This week’s show looks at technology and how it can help us and the environment. From measuring radiation on the other side of the world to generating power right here at home, sometimes tech works for us.

Within a week of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan last March, the people behind Safecast realized the information on radiation levels that was being published was questionable. So they decided to do something better. They decided to go there and do some digging. They deployed a network of stationary, hand-held and mobile Geiger counters to measure radiation levels, and made all collected data free and open to anyone. Sean Bonner, co-founder & acting director of Safecast, talks about the project that is making a huge difference to families in Japan.

Over 300 CPM air contamination here

One go-to technology for supplementing or replacing fossil fuels is solar. Standard photovoltaic systems do one thing…convert sunlight to electricity…and they don’t do it terribly efficiently. But what about the rest of the solar spectrum? Can solar technology become more attractive to consumers if it provides additional cost savings by better utilizing available sunlight? That’s the question posed by Dr. Jason Lu and his team at Enfocus Engineering who have developed a new array of “daylighting” solar cells. Each optical module in the array is able to track the sun, accomplishing multiple tasks. It converts heat and sunlight into electricity, at much higher efficiencies than conventional PV arrays, and it acts as an intelligent skylight, piping diffused sunlight into commercial spaces.

Finally, landfills can sometimes get a bad rap in the green community, but until we all achieve zero-impact living, they’re going to be a reality. Far from being the holes in the earth of yesteryear that were simply filled and covered, today’s landfills are designed with minimum impact and sustainability in mind. Susan David is with landfill operator Republic Services. At the Republic Services website you can find the company’s sustainability report, which has more about some of the exciting projects they’ve undertaken.

You can listen to the full show here: The Earth Train – August 6, 2001