DAILY NEWS Nov 13, 2012 11:13 AM - 4 comments

Looking to the day when windows are power generators

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According to a nano-energy expert who spoke in Toronto last week, in the future the glass walls on our buildings could be generating the energy we need to run those buildings, while "e-boxes" would enable us to transmit that power wirelessly from building to building and beyond.

Justin Hall-Tipping is an "energy-evangelist" who spoke at H.H. Angus and Associates' first "Ideation" event held November 8 in downtown Toronto. The mechanical-electrical engineering company held the breakfast event for an invited audience of executives in the buildings, property, government, education, finance and energy sectors.

Hall-Tipping is the chief executive office of Nanoholdings, a U.S.-based company of entrepreneurs and scientists who work in partnership with university researchers around the world. They develop new technologies that they believe will help solve our global problems of overconsumption and depletion of resources.

"We're pushing the earth to its breaking point," Hall-Tipping warned, pointing out that the 7 billionth person was now being born. He said the earth takes 1.5 years to replenish the resources we use, and global population growth is "unforgiving."

"I look at finding answers to the world's biggest problems with the smallest," said Hall-Tipping.

He held up what he believes is one of those answers — a small, extremely thin almost transparent piece of material no bigger than his palm — which he said could help us to stop "burning up our planet." He said he would pass the nano-device round the audience for people to look at, except that it cost $3 million to make the first one.

Incorporating carbon nanotubes "100,000 times thinner than a hair" the nano-device could be affixed to a window to convert light into energy. At night it can do the same with infrared light.

Instead of relying on huge central power plants, said Hall-Tipping, in the future we could be using these extremely localized technologies to condition our interiors.

As for storing energy on site, Hall-Tipping suggest the "eBox," an idea which he said he'd plotted out on a hotel napkin and which went on to be developed by scientists at the University of Dallas and the University of Toronto.

The eBox is a device that can store, manage and transmit electrons. "Now that looks very much like the computer business to me," said Hall-Tipping. A prototype has been running for over 2 years. The device would be small enough to be stored in a home and would allow you to store power smartly at off-peak hours.

Combining these kinds of "puzzle pieces" opens up all kinds of possibilities, he said. He can see a time when we could beam the energy we generate in our homes and buildings via wireless transmission to other locations where it's needed. In this brave new world we might not need a conventional grid at all and the energy produced "on the margins" would be available free.

These concepts may seem far-fetched and impossible now, he said, but he reminded the audience of the rapid pace of technological change that took place last century. His own grandfather had watched Louis Bleriot land after being first to fly an airplane over the English Channel in 1909, and just 60 years later we had landed a man on the moon.

Nanotechnology — playing with the building blocks of the universe, building technologies from the bottom up — "will probably save our world," he said.


Justin Hall-Tipping. Photo (c) by Duncan Davidson /TED Global. http://duncandavidson.com
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Caption: Justin Hall-Tipping. Photo (c) by Duncan Davidson /TED ...

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Quote: "energy produced "on the margins" would be available free."

Given that all new technologies need lots of capital, investors want and need return of and on capital. It's not helpful to call energy free, or else J.P.Morgan will put you out of business as was done to Tesla!

Just put an affordable price-tag on it!

Posted November 14, 2012 07:16 AM


Nice to hear Mr. Hall-Tipping with the courage to state the world population at [an unsustainable] SEVEN BILLION, which is "unforgiving". If his technological breakthroughs become a practical reality as he describes, I hope he and then many others will continue to have the courage to say the same thing about human population demographics. In the future, with these new types of revolutionary technologies COUPLED WITH a careful, conscience, & significant reform in human population demographics & migration, perhaps a sustainable existence---and significantly greater quality-of-life for all---will actually be achieved on this planet.

Right now, sadly, most "Green" priorities seem to be agenda-driven (socially), political, hypocritical, and completely unfocused. Example: Toronto has the most construction cranes in North America building skycrapers, which require vasts amounts of energy just to be livable, and new developments have incredibly high population densities compared just over a decade ago---what is "Green" about that??

Look to Switzerland right now, national "Green" groups are calling for a reduction in immigration (population) for the sake of environmental sustainability & quality-of-life... Somebody's got it and they're not "far-right"!

Posted November 13, 2012 03:29 PM


Many knowledgeable scientists have suggested that the Earth's carrying capacity is closer to three billion. That coupled with the fact that very few resources renew themselves within anywhere near a human time frame makes one wonder what type of resources renew within 1.5 years (typo?).

It's still widely believed by most geologists that it took about 500 million years for petroleum to be stored and another few more to convert it into a useable product.

Even typical trees take considerably longer to replenish.

As an applied scientist (professional engineer, 46 years), my belief in the triumph of technology to solve our population and lifestyle problems is rapidly waning.

Solving complexity with more complexity usually follows the laws of diminishing returns.

Posted November 13, 2012 03:14 PM

Peter Rochester.

I feel that '' building from the bottom up...'' is certainly the way of the future and it sounds more exciting that the prospect of large central generating units with transformers & transmission lines (the grid). We live in an exciting time, despite all the troubles in our politics & on the international scene.
Inventions like this will certainly profit all of society eventually & hopefully the time to market will surprise us with its short span.
Also, I wish to mention Chris Ives of Hudson, QC,retired from CHMC who has been adapting the breathing window concept, developed in Holland, to our Canadian weather. This device is an ingeneous air to air heat exchanger, mounted in a window, which exhausts inside air & at the same time brings in outside air, originally without power input. The trick is to use a minimum of power to move and heat air to avoid icing & increase efficiency of air movement in our winter conditions. Possibly the use of photovoltaic units for heat & power could make this a truly self sustaining unit.

Posted November 13, 2012 02:45 PM

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