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Energy Efficiency in Your Home Matters

April 26, 2018

Ever wonder what it takes to make a home or building more energy efficient or why energy efficiency even matters? Well, consider these statistics from the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and its Building Technologies Office:

  • The U.S. spends more than $400 billion each year to power our homes and commercial buildings, consuming approximately 74 percent of all electricity used in the U.S., about 40 percent of our nation’s total energy bill.
  • Much of this energy and money is wasted—over 30 percent on average.
  • If we cut the energy use of U.S. buildings by 20 percent, we could save approximately $80 billion annually on energy bills and help create jobs.

Besides wasting energy and money, inefficient homes and buildings also harm the environment. Since most of our electricity comes from power plants that still burn fossil fuels, the energy that we use in our homes, offices, and facilities can be linked directly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that pollute our air and water. For example, when a building’s inefficient air conditioning system must work twice as hard to keep spaces cool, it draws more electricity from the power grid than a newer, more efficient system. To keep up with the demand, the power plant must then produce more electricity by burning more fuel. That inefficiency in turn causes the plant to emit more GHGs, which can contribute to global climate change, poor air quality and acid rain.

Consider also that a typical U.S. home in 2016 consumed an annual average of 12,148 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and emitted approximately 6.67 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That’s equivalent to the amount of GHGs emitted when you drive a passenger car 16,353 miles or 314 miles a week for 1 year.

So when it comes to energy efficiency in homes and buildings, yes, it does indeed matter.

Building Science Research at UCF

Many variables affect a building’s energy efficiency, such as its architecture and design, the materials used to create the structure, and the kind of energy used to generate electricity. Other factors, such as heating and cooling systems and even appliances contribute to a building’s overall energy use. That’s why the UCF Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) has a team of research scientists dedicated to studying, testing and analyzing innovative strategies to enhance a building’s energy efficiency. Learn more about FSEC’s building science team and their ongoing local, state and national projects.

Start Saving Energy and Money

FSEC, DOE and EPA have LOTS of information to help you improve the energy efficiency of your home or business, and you can save money in the process. Here are some links to help you start saving:

  • Energy-Saving Buildings is FSEC’s guide to cost-effectively reducing energy expenses in Florida.
  • Energy Saver is the DOE’s consumer resource on saving energy and using renewable energy technologies at home. Check out their Energy Saver Guide.
  • ENERGY STAR is an EPA-backed voluntary labeling program for helping consumers and businesses buy energy-efficient, money-saving products, including appliances, heating and cooling systems, and new homes.

Meet an FSEC Building Scientist and Inventor

Danny Parker with the Anywhere Fan blade.

Principal Research Scientist Danny Parker has been studying how houses use (and waste) energy for the past 30 years. Through is work, Parker has invented numerous technologies that improve a home’s environment and energy efficiency. To learn about Parker and his work, read this month’s Faculty Feature.

One of Parker’s most recent inventions is a portable, lightweight, PV-powered fan that quickly and easily sets up anywhere. Originally designed to ventilate homes, the invention works wherever personal cooling is needed—from outdoor events to disaster recovery areas. Learn more about the Anywhere Fan.


Wearable Technology Expected to Grow and Morph

September 1, 2017

smiling woman wearing virtual reality glasses

Faster, smarter, and lighter than ever, computers today are shrinking in size, and in the booming wearable tech world, that’s a good thing. From fitness trackers to medical implants, the demand for wearable technology is rapidly increasing. Earlier this year, CCS Insight, which analyzes the mobile and wireless industries worldwide, forecasted that the wearable tech market will grow from approximately $10 billion in 2017 to nearly $17 billion by 2021. The forecast highlighted the smartwatch market, which is expected to see shipments of 43 million units in 2017, and sales doubling over the next four years to 86 million units in 2021.

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the wearables market is not only growing, it is also morphing as well as evolving. The global technology media, events and research company says that although health and fitness remain a major focus of wearables, companies are working to merge the capabilities of separate single-purpose devices into multi-purpose devices. In addition, once the devices connect to cellular networks and the internet, IDC expects unique applications and communications capabilities to become available.

So what qualifies as wearable tech? Broadly speaking, wearable tech is any electronic device worn on the body or inside it (as an implant, for example). Many devices have intelligence behind them; they can take input, process it, and provide meaningful output. For example, a fitness tracker takes raw data from one or more sensors, processes it, and reports the number of steps a wearer has taken over a given time. The sensors are smart enough to track a person’s motions and differentiate between steps and other kinds of body motions.

Other wearables, such as smartwatches, have almost all the features and capabilities of smartphones. Newer models include fitness trackers, allowing users to do things like send and receive phone calls and texts, take pictures and videos, search the internet, pay bills, get directions, and check their activity levels. Smartglasses offer similar smartwatch features, but display information onto the lenses of eyeglasses or a heads-up display. Though not as common, but still trending, smart clothing and shoes can record a wearer’s biometrics using sensors attached to fabrics and insoles. Examples of implantable wearables include life-saving pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), retinal implant chips, and even microscopic sensors inside ingestible pills that relay data about a patient and the effects of prescribed medication.

Wearable tech innovations at UCF

UCF researchers continue to stay ahead of today’s trends, creating innovations in wearable technology for both future as well as current products. For example, one UCF researcher and his team have invented a skin-like display that can conform to any shape and dynamically change colors when applied with different electrical voltage. The groundbreaking technology developed by Debashis Chanda, Ph.D., enables makers of wearables to produce multi-color, high resolution images for a variety of devices, including lightweight (even stylish) virtual reality eyeglasses that replace the bulky helmets used in gaming and simulated military training. The technology is also ideal for making different kinds of smartwatch displays and smart clothing that combines multiple display, biometric and sensing capabilities.

Even more impressive is the fact that the invention needs only a fraction of the energy required by current technology. Often times, the displays on wearables are big drains on batteries; thus, many users have to recharge their devices at least daily. With Chanda’s invention, wearables can go much longer without a charge, greatly extending a device’s battery life. To learn more about Chanda and his work, read this month’s faculty feature coming soon.

Besides Chanda’s work in dynamic displays, UCF researches have made other significant advancements in wearable technology. For example, one invention enables the creation of implantable, deep brain stimulation devices. Another invention provides weavable filaments that harvest and store solar energy.

For more information about UCF’s latest wearable technology inventions, additional potential licensing or sponsored research opportunities, refer to the following list:

Technology

Contact

Optical Technology Offers High Diffraction Efficiency and Polarization Sensitivity

New Process and Applications for Flexible Electronic and Optoelectronic Circuits

More Color and Brightness for Compact Displays

High Performance, Structured Granular Composite Materials

Resonant Cavity Enhances Efficiency of IR to Visible Light Conversion

Brain Surgery: Improvement of Deep Brain Stimulation Methods, Systems, and Devices

New Electrode Contact Improves Targeted Electrical Current Flow from Deep Brain Stimulation

Low Voltage Up-converting IR-LEDs for Battery Powered Displays

John Miner
407.882.1136
New Filament Combines Solar Energy Harvesting and Storage Capabilities

Tunable, Uncooled Infrared Detector with Narrow-Band Wavelength Selectivity

Raju Nagaiah 407.882.0593
Synthetic Biodegradable Materials for Biomedical Applications

New Coating for Prosthetic Implants Helps to Reduce Inflammation and Bone Loss

Brion Berman 407.882.0342

 

By: Kathleen Snoeblen


Women’s Health Week Starts May 14

May 4, 2017

Diverse group of smiling womenThis year, the 18th annual National Women’s Health Week starts on Mother’s Day, May 14 and runs through May 20. Led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (OWH), the annual event empowers women to make their health a priority. According to the OWH web site (womenshealth.gov), women can take steps to improve their health by scheduling a well-woman visit (checkup) each year. OWH also recommends that women undergo screening tests  for diseases such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and osteoporosis, and ensure that their vaccinations are up-to-date. The World Health Organization reports that some of the top issues affecting women’s health are cancer, reproductive health, maternal health, HIV, violence against women and mental health.

According to the National Institutes of Health, many issues affect women differently from men, for example:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, and women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men are.
  • Stroke affects more women than men, and though the risk factors for both are similar, women have additional factors, such as taking birth control pills, being pregnant, and using hormone replacement therapy.
  • Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are more serious in women than in men, even though men are more likely to become dependent on, or addicted to, alcohol. The health effects include an increased risk for breast cancer and heart disease. Women who drink during pregnancy run the risk of their babies being born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which causes brain damage and learning difficulties.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be more serious in women, causing infertility in at least 24,000 women in the United States each year. STDs/STIs (such as HPV, which can cause cervical cancer) often go untreated in women because symptoms are less obvious than in men. Also, women may mistake an STD/STI for another less serious condition, such as a yeast infection.

Women and cancer

Two of the most common cancers affecting women are breast and cervical cancers, and early detection is key to keeping women alive and healthy. Globally, approximately half a million women die from cervical cancer and half a million from breast cancer each year.

Cervical cancer starts in the cervix, the lower, narrow part of the uterus, and is the easiest gynecological cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and vaccination. It is also curable when found and treated early. A major cause of cervical cancers is the human papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife, with most cases being detected in women between ages 20 and 50.

Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control and usually form a tumor. The tumor can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. If the cells invade surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body, then the tumor is malignant (cancerous). Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too. Though breast cancers can start from different parts of the breast, most begin in the ducts.

In its “Cancer Facts & Figures 2017” report, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. and about 4,210 women will die from it. The society also estimates about 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and that 40,610 women will die from it. Though the statistics are not ideal, the cervical cancer death rate has dropped by more than 50 percent over the last 40 years, due to increased use of the Pap test (also called the Pap smear). As well, the female breast cancer death rate declined by 38 percent from its peak from 1989 to 2014. This is due to improvements in early detection and treatment, translating to 297,300 fewer breast cancer deaths.

UCF efforts to fight cancer

To help improve and speed the diagnosis of cervical cancer, UCF researchers have invented a new all-in-one imaging probe that eliminates the old cervical cancer screening techniques, assuring efficiency and a better chance of recovery for patients, including pregnant patients. The new probe offers a real-time three-dimensional colposcopy diagnosis using low-coherence laser light to conduct spatial imaging and spectral sensing for tissue diagnosis, and the detailed guidance to physically biopsy suspicious lesions. You can learn more about one of the UCF researchers who developed the technology, Peter Delfyett, Ph.D., in this month’s Faculty Feature.

Additionally, UCF breast cancer researcher, Annette Khaled, Ph.D. has developed a nanoparticle-based technology for targeted treatment of metastatic breast cancer, for which the current five-year survival rate is just 22 percent. Many of the currently available treatments generally involve chemotherapy, which can have toxic side effects due to a lack of specificity. With her immunology expertise, Khaled is getting closer to transforming metastatic cancer from an inevitable death sentence to a curable disease.

For more information about UCF’s cancer-fighting initiatives, contact Brion Berman.

By: Kathleen Snoeblen