String Hype vs Reality

   
   
   
   
   

Next Gen Power Source?

Last week OLPC's claimed a leap in dual-mode display technology that, if able to achieve production level scale, would revolutionize laptops worldwide.

Reading the Draconian Software Bolg I realized that OLPC's other advances will have far-ranging impact too, provided the technology can scale and adapt. To wit, DSB's comments on the newest Squid Labs power design, hand crank foot pedal strings:

I immediately see a benefit for IT-related applications, especially for the backup power sources found at many datacenters, and I wonder how well the technology would scale up. Consider the major cost savings that could be realized for datacenters that rely on diesel generators as backup power sources.

As fuel costs rise, and the need for backup power systems remains critical, saving money by generating electricity for extended durations on the cheap could be huge. Higher-efficiency generators could save datacenters a lot of money.

Datacenters? I can see this applied to any power generation technology, from the lowly emergency flashlight to hydroelectric or wind power stations.

Which is exactly why the OLPC string power idea gives me pause. How did Squid Labs, which still hasn't revealed the exact design specs, achieve what generations of electrical engineers and millions of R&D by GE or Westinghouse did not - a more efficient power generator?

Possible? Yes. Plausible? Maybe not.

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Except they haven't made any advances in generator efficiency. The advances have been made in reduced computer power requirements.

The developments on the generator side have been about making it more reliable and cheap.
The hand crank wasn't reliable - it put too much strain on the computer.
The foot crank seems to have been to expensive although it could be used to generate more power (that's why bicycles use foot power).

The technology doesn't need to be much more complicated than the ones used for bicycle lights because the power consumption is so low.

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