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Solar coffee shop?

I was intrigued by your articles on solar power in the May issue and have a question I hope you can help me with. I am a member of a Hewlett-Packard survey group that discusses topics such as various aspects of technology. One discussion broached the subject of solar-powered technology; e.g., laptops and cell phones.

Although not as practical as it is expensive, it occurred to me that perhaps one could use solar to provide the needed power for laptops and the like at a Wi-Fi hot spot such as a coffee shop. Is solar technology far enough along that one could deploy panels – say, at a coffee shop – to provide power to outlets for such a hot-spot locale? Better yet, is it cost-effective?

Jaime Sanchez
Albuquerque, N.M.

Editor’s response: Solar-powered consumer products such as laptops and cell phone chargers are available online, in stores and through popular mail-order catalogs. Solar Wi-Fi spots currently exist in several cities, and many of these types of applications are in use in underdeveloped areas of India and Africa to bring electricity and connectivity to those for whom it is intermittent or unavailable. We are eager to learn of more stand-alone solar applications and welcome input from readers.

What’s with the battery?

I read Anne Fischer’s article “Lighting up the Underdeveloped World” on page 35 of the November 2008 issue of Photonics Spectra and was wondering about one thing: the battery. There was not much information about the most vulnerable item in the solar setup regarding life expectancy, recharge cycles, type of battery and how all those batteries could be replaced/recycled.

Ome Willem
Los Angeles

Editor’s response: We focused on the photonics technology, which is why we didn’t go into detail on the batteries. However, there is much ongoing research into faster-charging, longer-life batteries that are cleaner and safer for the environment. IEEE, for example, has an Emerging Battery Technology Working Group; information can be found on the association’s Web site. You may also be interested in the follow-on article in the July issue (“Lighting up lives,” page 39), which describes how solar lighting in India has had a social and economic impact.

About bin Laden

I enjoyed David L. Shenkenberg’s review of the University of California, Los Angeles, study on the location of Osama bin Laden (“Can Remote Sensing Find bin Laden?” May, p. 48). One error should be noted: bin Laden was credited with the 9/11 attacks by our government but denied involvement.

I tend to believe his denial because, traditionally, terrorists trip over themselves to claim responsibility for attacks. And according to the FBI, he is not connected to the 9/11 attacks because there is no mention of them on his page. Take nothing for granted.

Mark Morey, Senior Scientist
Optical Systems Development Group
Special Technologies Laboratory
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2009
cell phonesConsumerenergyimagingLettersResearch & Technologysolar power

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