Heliofloat is a flexible, football-field-sized solar panel that floats in the ocean

solar power heliofloat heliofloat1
Offshore wind farms are growing in popularity as energy providers look for different ways of harvesting power from the sun without using valuable land resources. One unique idea being developed by engineers at Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) is a floating platform called a Heliofloat that would function as a sea-based solar power station.

As detailed by the Vienna engineers, the Heliofloat is an open-bottom, flexible float as large as a football field and covered from edge to edge with solar panels. Heliofloats can operate as standalone platforms for smaller operations with moderate energy requirements. Multiple heliofloats also can be connected together, forming a floating solar-harvesting power grid.

Each 100-meter heliofloat is designed to stay upright even in the worst weather. Like most platforms, the Heliofloat is constructed using barrels to provide flotation, but it differs in one major way  — each Heliofloat barrel is made from a soft flexible material that is open to the sea. This open-bottom, flexible material traps air at the top of each barrel, operating much like a ballast tank at the bottom of a sub. This system creates an air pocket that acts like a shock absorber in rough weather. The soft sides of the barrel also flex when hit by waves, allowing the system to remain stable in high seas.

Not only is the heliofloat stable, its open-bottom design makes the structure lightweight and affordable to build. A similar sized, closed-bottom platform made of rigid air-filled barrels would sway and break under the pressure of massive waves. And to withstand rough water, the closed bottom structure would need to be so large that it would become impractical to build and use at sea.

Researchers found the Heliofloat technology to be so promising that they created a spinoff company to develop the platform idea for a range of industries. “Heliofloat platforms offer new possibilities for desalination plants and biomass extraction processes for salt water,” said Dr Roland Eisl, a Vienna University of Technology graduate and director of Heliofloat GmbH.

Emerging Tech

Your smartphone could be the key to predicting natural disasters

A challenge for atmospheric scientists is gathering enough data to understand the complex, planet-wide weather system. Now a scientist has come up with a clever idea to gather more data using smartphones and Internet of Things devices.
Home Theater

HDMI ARC and eARC: What they are, and how they can simplify your home theater

HDMI ARC is one of the coolest TV features at your disposal. But if you're like most folks, you have no idea how it works, if you even know what it is at all. Here's our primer on HDMI ARC, as well as the next-generation technology, eARC.
Mobile

Protect your new smartphone with one of our favorite iPhone XR cases

Apple's new iPhone range was the toast of 2018, with beautiful style and more power than you can shake a stick at. But beauty can often be fragile -- keep the damage to a minimum with the best iPhone XR cases.
Smart Home

Walmart will put your grocery order in your refrigerator when you’re not home

How do you like the idea of having your online grocery order delivered to your refrigerator when you're not in? Walmart is launching such a service in the fall, though Amazon has offered a similar delivery option for a while now.
Emerging Tech

This drone with hands looks like a nightmare straight out of Black Mirror

This unlikely drone-with-hands creation is the work of Federico Ciccarese, the brains behind YouBionic, a bionic hand project that has evolved far beyond its original brief. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

This crazy-looking robot uses microspines on its legs to climb up walls

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have built a bioinspired robot, which uses microspines on its feet to grip onto rough surfaces. This allows it to climb up very steep gradients. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Got $400 million to burn? The world’s largest airplane is up for sale

Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane, is up for sale. All it'll cost you is $400 million dollars. The brainchild of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the plane was supposed to make space travel more accessible and affordable.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.
Emerging Tech

Ex astris, scientia: Star Trek logo spotted on the surface of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going to Mars and capturing images since 2005, and now it has spotted something where no man has gone before: a structure on the planet's surface which will look familiar to Trekkies.
Emerging Tech

Adobe develops tool to identify Photoshopped images of faces

With deepfake videos making headlines, and campaigns against the Photoshopping of models, people are more aware than ever of the digital manipulation of images. Now Adobe wants to give tools to users to let them spot faked images.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will pave the way for manned missions to Mars

Survival on Mars is a massive challenge for humanity. To cope with the highly variable temperatures, lack of oxygen and water, and high levels of radiation, the Mars 2020 rover will carry instruments to pave the way for human exploration.
Emerging Tech

Facebook builds virtual homes to train A.I. agents in realistic environments

Researchers at Facebook have created Habitat, which is a platform that enables rapid training for A.I. agents. They will receive thousands of hours of training in just a few minutes in the virtual homes.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods struggles to keep up with Impossible Burger demand

Red Robin and White Castle have reported Impossible Burger shortages, as it appears that Impossible Foods is struggling to keep up with demand. The company will be selling its meat-like patties in retail outlets within the year.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!