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Soft Rocker with its Own Power Generation

By Christine Ethier (Energy Trace)

A very creative and forward thinking team at MIT have developed an interesting chair. It's a very cool looking chair in many people's opinion and many claim it's comfortable as well. It's also wonderful that the chairs are available outside where there are limited places to sit in such comfort. However, this is all beside the point. One of the main impetuses behind the design and promotion of the soft rocker is to make some of the power needs of the community the responsibility of its members, reducing reliance on non-renewable resources and simultaneously involving the consuming population in the provision of its own power needs. Each time someone pulls on the handle of a soft rocker to readjust the chair's orientation to the sun, that person participates in the solution. In power terms, the idea makes a small contribution to living off the grid; in empowering terms, this idea and others like it, may be the key to saving the planet.

The design is at once simple and deceptively complex. The technique that makes the design possible was originally pioneered under the name ZipShape by SchindlerSalmeron in Germany. Here it is extended into a multi-sheet system that allowed the designers Sheila Kennedy, Professor of Architecture at MIT and team members Phil Seaton, Shevy Rockcastle, Jungmin Nam, Kate Bogunschutz, and James Baylessto produce the continuous, custom-formed 29' curve that comprises the chair.


Across the landscape of any available space and carefully set for the correct local latitude, these chairs provide the power to both recharge devices like cell phones and computers and to radiate attractive lighting in hours of darkness.

Bravo to the team at MIT! The soft rocker may actually provide an answer to that nagging question "But what can I do about it?

Images reproduced with the permission of team member Phil Seaton. More are provided on his site under the heading 'soft rocker'.


December, 2014

Solar Cell Efficiency at 46%

A new world record for the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity has been established. The multi-junction solar cell converts 46% of the solar light into electrical energy and was developed by Soitec and CEA-Leti, France, together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Germany. Multi-junction cells are used in concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) systems to produce low-cost electricity in photovoltaic power plants, in regions with a large amount of direct solar radiation. It is the cooperation’s second world record within one year, after the one previously announced in September 2013, and clearly demonstrates the strong competitiveness of the European photovoltaic research and industry.


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Energy Trace is a global leader in online energy news. Our aim is to inform professionals, educators, students, and members of the public. In order to maintain a good, steady supply of up-to-date information we are keen to publish original articles. We are particularly interested in articles from engineering professionals in any of the energy areas Energy Trace covers. More