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LOW-TECH SOLUTIONS

The velomobile: high-tech bike or low-tech car?

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Recumbent bikes with bodywork evoke a curious effect. They look as fast as a racing car or a jet fighter, but of course, they’re not. Nevertheless, thanks to the recumbent position, the minimal weight and the outstanding aerodynamics, pedalling a “velomobile” requires three to four times less energy than pedalling …

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Hand powered drilling tools and machines

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Hand-powered devices have been used for millennia. However, during the last quarter of the 19th century a radically improved generation of tools appeared. These tools took advantage of modern mass production machinery and processes (like interchangeable parts) and an increased availability in superior material (metal instead of wood). One of …

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Back to Basics: Direct Hydropower

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All hydropower plants today produce electricity. Transforming energy to electricity seems to be the only way to harness water power, but it is not. For almost two thousand years, water wheels powered machines directly via mechanical transmission. Some small direct hydro powered systems in South America present a strong case …

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The Revenge of the Circulating Fan

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The steadfast rotating fan has been employed to keep people cool since the eighteenth century, and it remains highly effective, requiring much less energy and providing more comfort than air-conditioning. Cooling people by increasing local airflow is at least ten times more energy efficient than refrigerating the air in a …

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Reinventing the Greenhouse

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The modern glass greenhouse requires massive inputs of energy to grow crops out of season. That’s because each square metre of glass, even if it’s triple glazed, loses ten times as much heat as a wall. However, growing fruits and vegetables out of season can also happen in a sustainable …

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How to Build a Low-tech Internet

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Wireless internet access is on the rise in both modern consumer societies and in the developing world. In rich countries, however, the focus is on always-on connectivity and ever higher access speeds. In poor countries, on the other hand, connectivity is achieved through much more low-tech, often asynchronous networks. While …

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How to Get Your Apartment Off the Grid

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The typical solar PV power installation requires access to a private roof and a big budget. However, wouldn’t it be possible to get around these obstacles by installing small solar panels on window sills and balconies, connected to a low-voltage direct current (DC) distribution network? To put this theory to …

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