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This week, MIT Technology Review highlighted a 19th century idea that could potentially have a 21st century application and quite possibly lead to cleaner cars and larger-scale renewable energy. London-based company- Highview Power Storage has raised $18 million to build a pilot plant that will use liquid air to store power from the grid. Electricity can be used to liquefy the air by cooling it to nearly 200 degrees Celsius below zero. The plant then warms up the air, which expands to drive a steam turbine generator. While the process isn’t quite as efficient as other technologies like batteries, it has the benefit of using waste heat from other processes. That’s one reason why liquid air may prove useful in cars and trucks and could be a great way to store energy.
Elsewhere, The Financial Times reported on how city infrastructure can be improved using data to inform decisions and monitor changes in real-time. Cities are testing different ways to incorporate wireless sensors into their urban areas. In San Francisco, for instance, the city has upgraded its street lighting system to incorporate energy efficient dimmable lighting. The wirelessly enabled communication network will monitor street lighting as well as electric power supply meters and vehicle charging stations, using technology to maximize efficiency and savings. As new technologies like this become increasingly available, the city of the not-too-distant future will increasingly be a smart city. And it wouldn’t be possible without advances in understanding data.