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Art Design

Solar-Powered Air Balloon by Tomás Saraceno Shatters Records, While Protesting Lithium Mining

February 18, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Aerocene Foundation. Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno

In late January in Salinas Grandes, Jujuy, Argentina, artist Tomás Saraceno (previously) launched a black air balloon powered only by the sun and air, forgoing lithium, helium, or fossil fuels. By absorbing ultraviolet rays to heat the air and allow it to raise, the balloon can hold 250 kilograms, or about two people. The project, titled “Fly with Aerocene Pacha,” became the world’s first sun-powered flight with a pilot and was exhibited as part of Connect, BTS, an arts initiative organized by the South Korean boy band. The global project has connected five cities with 22 artists who have helped fulfill the mission of redefining “the relationships between art and music, the material and immaterial, artists and their audiences, artists and artists, theory and practice.”

Breaking six records with the World Air Sports Federation,  Aerocene Pacha eclipsed previous markers in altitude, distance, and duration for both men and women, thanks to pilot Leticia Marques. During its flight, it reached an altitude of 272.1 meters above ground and crossed 2.56 kilometers. The longest flight lasted an hour and 21 minutes.

In a statement, Saraceno added context to the project that falls at the intersection of art, culture, and environment, speaking to the abundance of lithium in the area that’s being mined for use in batteries. “This extractivist attitude is evidenced in the Salinas Grandes by the recent rush to mine lithium, furthering the man-made violence that incites climate change and mass extinction, the race to colonize space and disturbed balance of interconnected ecosystems,” he writes. The ballon prominently displays the phrase, “El agua y la vida valen más que el litio,” or “Water and life are worth more than lithium.” Activists from indigenous organizations attended the launch of the balloon, protesting the extraction process.

The Kirchner Cultural Center in Argentina is hosting a special exhibition, which includes video of the historic flights, devoted to Saraceno’s work through March 22. To see more of the artist’s ethically minded projects, check out his Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)

Aerocene Tethered Human Flight, launches in White Sands, NM, United States, 201.5 Courtesy of Aerocene Foundation. Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2015.

 

 



Design

Solar-Powered Chicken Caravan Keeps Farm Birds on the Move

December 11, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Designed by Tom Gottelier and Bobby Petersen, who work together as Designers on Holiday, the Chicken Caravan is a solar-powered chicken coop. The lightweight, automated, mobile unit was created for The Ecology Center farm in San Juan Capistrano, California. Activated by solar sensors, the aluminum-clad cabin doors automatically open at sunrise to allow the hens out. The coop itself can be towed by a tractor to help fertilize new areas of the farm with the chickens’ manure—it also comes with a portable fence to keep the birds in the desired zone. Lastly, a solar battery keeps everything charged and ready. See more of Designers on Holiday’s innovative projects and explore their collaborative camp for designers on the company’s website. (via Inhabitat)

 

 



Design

Uplift: An Endlessly Rotating Stair Sculpture Powered by the Sun

May 21, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

Uplift is a architecturally-minded desk sculpture that slowly rotates using the power of the sun. The walnut work hovers inside a glass bell jar, powered by a steel and brass mechanism that allows the staircase endlessly rotate. The mesmerizing design was invented by friends Tom Lawton and Ben Jandrell, seasoned inventors who spent the last two years optimizing the technology behind the spinning object.

The first generation of Uplift sculptures are currently produced by the pair in Lawton’s home town of Malmesbury, UK, and are being funded through Kickstarter. You can see more of Lawton’s inventions, like this motion-activated running light he co-invented with Jandrell, on his website.

 

 



Photography

A Sea of Glistening Solar Mirrors Photographed at the Nevada SolarReserve by Reuben Wu

September 2, 2016

Kate Sierzputowski

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Chicago-based photographer Reuben Wu (previously here and here) recently photographed the Nevada SolarReserve, a grouping over 10,000 mirrors which power nearly 75,000 homes both day and night during its peak season. Wu photographed the mass of reflective panels during nightfall, allowing the brilliant colors of the sunset to be doubled into the shining surfaces below. Wu likens the energy facility to a topographic ocean, considering it one of the greatest land art installations ever built.

One of Wu’s previous series “Lux Noctis” recently won a grand prize in Photo District News’ The Great Outdoors Photo Contest. You can see more of Wu’s natural and manmade landscapes on his Instagram and Facebook.

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Design

A Solar-Powered Glow-in-the-dark Bike Path by Studio Roosegaarde Inspired by Van Gogh

November 12, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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This stunning illuminated bike path in Nuenen, Netherlands was just unveiled tonight by Studio Roosegaarde, an innovative social design lab that has risen to prominence for their explorations at the intersection of people, art, public space, and technology; most notably their research with Smart Highways that could potentially charge moving cars or intelligently alert drivers to hazards. The swirling patterns used on the kilometer-long Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Bicycle Path were inspired by painter Vincent van Gogh (who lived in Nuenen from 1883 to 1885), and is lit at night by both special paint that charges in daylight and embedded LEDs that are powered by a nearby solar array. You can read more about the project over on Dezeen.

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Design

A Glass Sphere Solar Energy Generator Capable of Converting Sun and Moonlight into Usable Power

August 24, 2012

Christopher Jobson

Barcelona-based German-born architect André Broessel of rawlemon has constructed an enormous glass ball lens filled with water capable of harnessing power from the sun and even the moon (last image), and converting it into usable energy. I have no idea about the practicality of its use, but it sure is gorgeous. Broessel proposes that the spheres could be embedded in buildings allowing for natural light to stream through while capturing valuable energy. See much more over on Designboom.

 

 



Design

Markus Kayser Builds a Solar-Powered 3D Printer that Prints Glass from Sand and a Sun-Powered Cutter

June 24, 2011

Christopher Jobson

Industrial designer and tinkerer Markus Kayser spent the better part of a year building and experimenting with two fantastic devices that harness the sun’s power in some of the world’s harshest climates. The first he calls a Sun Cutter, a low-tech light cutter that uses a large ball lens to focus the sun’s rays onto a surface that’s moved by a cam-guided system. As the surface moves under the magnified light it cuts 2D components like a laser. The project was tested for the first time in August 2010 in the Egyptian desert and Kayser used thin plywood to create the parts for a few pairs of pretty sweet shades. But he didn’t stop there.

Next, Kayser began to examine the process of 3D printing. Merging two of the deserts most abundant resources, nearly unlimited quantities of sand and sun, he created the Solar Sinter, a device that melts sand to create 3D objects out of glass. Via his web site:

This process of converting a powdery substance via a heating process into a solid form is known as sintering and has in recent years become a central process in design prototyping known as 3D printing or SLS (selective laser sintering). […] By using the sun’s rays instead of a laser and sand instead of resins, I had the basis of an entirely new solar-powered machine and production process for making glass objects that taps into the abundant supplies of sun and sand to be found in the deserts of the world.

In mid-May the Solar Sinter was tested for a two week period in the deserts of Siwa, Egypt, resulting in the amazing footage above. It’s incredible to think that the solar energy generated for both machines is used only to power electronics, servos and the mechanism that tracks the sun, while the power used to cut wood and melt sand is just raw, concentrated sunlight. While I fully understand the mechanics and science at work in Kayser’s devices, there’s something about them that just seems magical. Definitely head over to his website to explore more photos and info. (via stellar, sorry can’t link the post for some reason)