The Texas State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) is piloting a solution for colonia residents who do not have access to the utility grid. The colonias are patches of improvised, do-it-yourself homes along the Texas-Mexico border with little or no basic infrastructure for utilities. They are occupied mostly by impoverished families.
In November 2007, SECO established a micro-grid consisting of a hybrid generator, energy storage, main distribution panel and temporary power outlet providing clean energy as well as safety lighting for 12 homes at La Presa, near Laredo. The system is environmentally efficient, operating on biofuels, wind and solar power.
“The micro-grid is a bridge technology, providing power to colonia residents until they can access electricity from the power grid,” says Dub Taylor, director of SECO. “This is a cleaner and more cost-effective alternative to using portable generators, and it provides basic electric service we all take for granted whenever we flip a switch.”
SECO officials will collect data to determine specifics regarding the feasibility and economics of the system and how it could be used in other remote areas, including disaster relief sites.
For more information, contact Dub Taylor, firstname.lastname@example.org, (512) 463-8352, or visit www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us.
Fighting cancer with a microscope
Scientists from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered a way to use a highly advanced microscope to better identify and diagnose cancer.
The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) is used to examine and measure structures on scales of a fraction of a nanometer (one-billionth of a meter), through the use of a tiny probe that “feels” the material through direct contact. Under a conventional microscope, cancer cells are often hard to differentiate from healthy ones. Using the AFM, the UCLA team found that cancer cells offered less resistance to the probe – were softer, in other words – and thus were easily distinguishable.
Team members say the new technique may lead to ways to personalize cancer treatments based on the mechanical properties of malignant cells.