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Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Low Cost Carrier advantage in India

The concept of low cost airlines came to India with Air Deccan founded by Captain G.R. Gopinath. It was an instant success since back then only 4% of India used flights. The ticket prices of full service airlines at that time was very high. Air Deccan provided people an opportunity to take flights at ticket prices that were lower than train's first class fares. 

Most flyers in Air Deccan back then were first time flyers. At that time the oil prices were much below $30 per barrel. Looking at the success of Air Deccan many other low cost carriers started their operations like Kingfisher Airlines, Spicejet, Go Air, Indigo etc. 

But things stopped going smoothly as earlier, the oil prices kept rising, forcing the airlines to increase fares. The airlines had to hire new people as well, trained people, ready to work for an airline were not available easily. So they had to dish out high salaries. This combination of factors increased the operational costs of the low cost airlines and many of them made losses. 

Air Deccan's model was too fragile and it was acquired by Kingfisher. Kingfisher airlines business model in face of high oil prices resulted in very high losses and ultimately it shut down. The ones that survived were SpiceJet, Go Air and Indigo. 

After many years of very high oil prices, the prices started coming down in the last 18 months and now the price of crude is as low as $28 per barrel. The airlines that managed to survive the days of high oil prices now have the advantage. All of them are making profits. Even a laggard like Air India is making profits.

It is likely that the price of oil may come down in the near future. Also researchers are working on technologies to make oil from coal and water in an economical way. Efforts have been made to generate fuel out of carbon dioxide and water. A German company has made diesel out of water and oxygen. So it is very likely that in the near and distant future aviation turbine fuel would be cheaper, enabling cheaper and more affordable flights. 

So one can safely say that the future of airlines  in India is very very bright. We will see many more people using airlines in the future and the very high number of planes would be purchased from India. So Boeing and Airbus must focus on making planes that cost less and consume less fuel. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Google - Project ARA

The mobile phone or tablet you use has different functionalities in addition to phone conversation. It has a camera, speakers, processing unit, storage, wifi etc. Now if any of the functionality of a phone or tablet goes wrong, you are forced to buy the entire set again in place of replacing the defective part. 

Suppose that your phone's processor speed is lower than what you require. You just can't open up the phone and replace the processor. You have to buy a new phone and throw away your old one. Phones today are not built to last for a long time. This creates a problem of increasing electronic waste. Also the consumer has to shell out more money.

Project Ara aims to change all that. It has a block type modular design. Every component is a removable block, be it the processor, storage, speaker, microphone, camera, LED display. The blocks can easily be removed by the user and replaced with newer and advanced ones. This gives a user freedom to customise his or her phone. 

Whenever an upgrade of a component is needed replace the necessary block. You may chose to upgrade the camera or the processor, just replace the necessary block. The following video will give you more details about Google's Project ARA. 

This project is bound to save you some money and its eco friendly as well. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Love Science, Love Technology

Knowledge is power. When it comes to our materialistic needs, knowledge of science is of great use. Take food for example. When we know what to do to soil, how to sow the seeds and how to properly irrigate a piece of land for a particular crop, we get maximum yield of crops. We are also able to avoid waste, by utilizing the entire agricultural produce in a better way.

Take for example a farmer growing wheat in his field. Only the top portion of the plants contains the grains that are of any use to people. However rest of the wheat plant cannot be consumed by people. So that is used as cattle food. Now the wastes from cattle is hazardous since it can be a breeding ground for many diseases.

However our scientific knowledge of gases and fuels has helped us to utilize the wastes from cattle in a better way, at the same time making it safer as well. The same cattle waste, if introduced in a bio-gas plant can produce methane CHgas. This gas is highly combustible and can be used as a fuel. The residue is a high quality, germ free manure. So something that earlier polluted the environment and was the cause of various diseases, now becomes a source of free fuel and manure.

Now what made the transformation possible? The knowledge of science. This is a very small example of what is possible through science. Nations after nations have transformed themselves through the power of science and technology. Look at the examples of countries like Israel and Japan. They have very little in terms of natural resources but they have invested heavily in science and technology research and results are there to be seen.

Both countries are developed with high per capita incomes and the quality of life of the people in both the countries is also very high. Making science popular  among masses can potentially produce more innovations and inventions. We must remember that some of the greatest inventors were neither scientists nor engineers. Examples are Wright Brothers- the inventors of aeroplane and Thomas Alva Edison - who gave us so many inventions.

The inventions given to humanity by them has changed the world. If they didn't exist the world would have been totally different today. There would have been no planes, spacecrafts, bulbs, TVs, music players and so on. 

Of course everyone will not become like them, but by awakening interest in science among people, we can at least drive away superstitions, that often comes from blind religious beliefs. This would be a great achievement as well.

So read and know more about science and technology. If you don't enjoy reading a lot there are lots of videos available on the Internet that explains various scientific concepts in a funny and interesting way. People learn faster from videos and animations than from reading. 

Science represents man's continuous search for truth regarding his own and universe's existence. Technology is the intelligent application of various scientific principles for a man's needs. 

Science and technology has transformed the world for the last few hundread years and it will keep driving the changes in our world for centuries to come. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Green Energy from Energy Kites

Today is January 6,2016. Eight days from now, on January 14th, the festival of Makarsankranti will be celebrated across India. In this festival kites are flown across the nation. The sky is filled with kites of different colors. But this simple kite, that has been flown by people for centuries for recreation and sport has a potential to change the world. However the kites that I am talking about are going to be more advanced than the kites that are used on Makarsankranti.

Kites fly by harnessing the power of winds. Earth is covered with a gaseous layer known as the atmosphere. Due to pressure variation in different parts of the atmosphere, air flows from an area of higher pressure to an area of lower pressure. This is flow if air is known as wind.

The speed of Wind varies at different places on the surface of earth. Wind has been utilized for a long period of time as a source of energy. In ancient times Europeans used windmills to grind wheat and lift water from wells. After dynamos and electric generators were made, engineers and scientists realized that the windmills can be used for electricity generation as well. So many windmill towers were set up for energy generation. The windmills started getting taller to harness more and more energy. However it is not possible to economically generate wind energy from every part of the planet.

Setting up the wind tower involved huge initial costs. Also there is a limit to how high a tower can go. Now, it is a well known fact that the higher we go, the speed of wind increases and that is the reason why windmill towers were made taller to generate more and more energy.

However engineers and scientists have come up with more cost effective ways of generating electricity using the power of wind. They are trying to tap into the power of high altitude winds using kites, that can rise up to heights of 800 - 1000 meters. At this heights wind speeds are high enough for economical generation of electricity almost everywhere in the world.

In this blog I have already discussed technologies that are focused on harnessing the power of high altitude wind like Alteros BAT(Buoyant Airborne Turbine) and Google Makani kites. However they are not the only ones who are trying to tap into the energy provided by High Altitude Winds there are others as well here is one more :-

The energy kites don't require any expensive and heavy tower, so the amount of material needed for construction of such energy kites is way less than that of a wind tower. The energy obtained from such energy kites will be very cheap.

In the 50s,60s and 70s arrogant things were said, like "Pollution is the price that humanity has to pay for development". We know today that it is not true. There far more green energy available in nature than the polluting energy from fossil fuel. 

Many countries are forced to support oil rich Middle East nations because of their need of oil. This technology can liberate nations from such dependence. There is enough energy nature has provided for all, only thing we need to learn is to tap it economically.

Climate Change and Renewable Energy

Climate Change is the single biggest threat to our beautiful planet. Earth is the only planet we know, that can harbour life. Other planets in the solar system cannot support life forms like us. The ecological balance can shift if the composition of the atmosphere changes.

Carbon dioxide is a gas that is released when fossil fuel like petrol, diesel, kerosene or coal burns. Too much combustion of fossil fuel leads to increase in the proportion of carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a gas that traps heat. So if carbon dioxide increases in air, the result will be more and more heat will be trapped, thus increasing the atmospheric temperature of earth.

Since the industrial revolution the amount of carbon dioxide has constantly increased and this has led to global warming. The impact of global warming is immense. Since ice at the poles is fast melting this is leading rise in the global sea levels. So many coastal areas of earth are under the threat of getting submerged in water. 

The increase in air pollution levels has adversely affected the health of people in cities. The mixing of industrial waste in river waters have made the water of many rivers highly contaminated and unfit for human consumption. It has also badly affected marine life. Even some fishes are highly contaminated because of this. This fishes are ultimately consumed by humans. 

The fossil fuels are burnt for various energy requirements. However non polluting sources of energy exists and the amount of energy they can provide surpass the levels of energy that is provided by fossil fuels. Solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectricity, tidal energy, wind energy etc are ideal solutions to mans energy requirements with 0 pollution. 

When I started writing this blog as a hobby, the global oil prices were at a all time high. Great amount of research was going on around the world for alternative sources of energy that does not pollute. Tremendous amount of work is being done in this field and the global fall in oil prices is all because of this. 

One just hopes that the pace of renewable energy research continues with this excellent speed and soon we are powered by these green energy sources globally. This would reduce the utilization of fossil fuels, so that we can prevent and save ourselves from adverse impact of Global Climate Change. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

3D Printing

We all are aware of the term printing. What we really know about is 2d printing. Pouring ink on a specific area on a sheet of paper, that would generate a pattern which stands for a letter in any language,or number or it can resemble an image.

In a traditional 2D printer, the printhead pours ink over the paper, cloth or other material only once. 2D printing essentially transfers information.

However when it come to 3D printing, the print head would pour the material step by step creating a 3 dimensional physical object. The movement of the print head is controlled by a computer so the the material is poured with great levels of precision. 

3D printing has existed since 1984. However in the last 3 or 4 years, the 3D printers have become affordable and more widely used. Many different kinds of things are made from 3D printing in all shapes and sizes.
Prosthetics are made from 3d printing that are customised to the fit the user. In case of physical deformity customisation is very important since every person may have a different need. With 3D printing better prosthetics are made at a fraction of a cost. 

NASA is planning to 3D print food in space. Scientists have 3D printed tissues and are planning to 3D print organs in the future. Patients have been implanted 3D printed skull, 3D printed bones. Portions of houses are made by 3D printing. In fact engineers are working on technologies to 3D print houses out of concrete.

The 3D printed houses will be cheaper and they would offer greater amounts of design flexibility as compared to traditional methods of home construction. Technologists working on the technology claim that a 2000 sq ft two storied house can be constructed in 20 hours. Since the walls of the house need not be rectilinear, the house can more artistic, aesthetically appealing, stable and resistant to earthquakes and other natural calamities. Rectilinear walls that we have in traditional methods of construction are not very earthquake resistant.  

On YouTube you can easily find examples of 3D printed bicycles, 3D printed cars, 3D printed artefact's, 3D printed shoes, 3D printed skirts etc.

The great advantage with 3D printing is that machine does not make any discrimination between simple and complex objects. 3D printing is really an exciting field of technology that gives individuals power to create anything they like,all they have to do is to design it in the computer and let the machine do the rest. 

Its like a dream coming to reality, you imagine a design in the mind, put it in computer graphics and then ask the printer to create the object for you. A home 3D printer normally uses ABS plastic. If an individual does not design well, he can simply chose to copy other designs. 

3D scanners are available that can scan a product and create its replica, if you want you can make modifications in the original design as well. With 3D printing people don't have to depend on designs made by others.

For industrial 3D printers, the cost savings they provide can be huge. According to this article, Prodrive saved huge amount of money it otherwise had to spend for modification of its tools. Modifying their tools would have cost them £10,000, however they were able to 3D print their tools for £10. That's a cost saving of 99.9%. 

In this post I have shared a video as well which describes how 3D printing can potentially change our world. There are lots and lots of 3D printing videos available online, you can find hundreads of them on youtube.